How to best upgrade from Windows XP – Tech Daily debate

by , Technology Researcher Computing Helpdesk 13/03/2014
Windows Xp

After 12 years of existence, Microsoft is finally pulling the plug on Windows XP on April 8. After then, the operating system will no longer receive security updates – rendering it much more liable to viruses and malware. Unfortunately, the only solution to this problem is to spend some money and upgrade to a new version of Windows. But which one do you choose?

Our Which? Tech Daily writers Rob Leedham and Mike Plant have differing opinions on whether you should upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8. Here they debate the merits of both operating systems.

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‘Just like New Coke, few people want Windows 8′ – Mike

Mike Plant bylineWindows 8 might be the latest thing but, like New Coke before it, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better than its predecessor. Switching between the Start screen and the Windows 8 desktop can be confusing, and that’s a situation made worse by Microsoft’s introduction of apps. If you have to make the upgrade from Windows XP – I’d avoid this hassle and find yourself a copy of Windows 7.

‘Windows 7 is quickly gathering dust’ – Rob

Rob Leedham profile imageI do understand why you’d want to stick with what you know, Mike – Windows 8’s apps and different modes take a while to get used to. That said, I’m less sure why you’d want to upgrade from XP to a platform that’s constantly improving (Windows 8) or quickly gathering dust (Windows 7).

Since Windows 8 launched 18 months ago, it has already received a major update in Windows 8.1 and further enhancements are expected soon as Microsoft’s so-called ‘Project Threshold’ rumbles ever on. Simply put, Windows 8 is the priority for Microsoft and every major PC software manufacturer.

‘Windows 7 still works, and that’s good enough for me’ – Mike

Mike Plant bylineThat may be the case, but Windows 7 still works – and isn’t that what’s most important? It’s simplicity itself to use, especially if you’re upgrading from Windows XP. It has the same layout and menu system making it the natural, familiar choice for those who don’t want, or don’t have the time, to learn a new operating system all over again.

I’d rather avoid the hassle caused by such unnecessary design choices as releasing two versions of many popular programs – an app version, and a normal version. Take Outlook and Internet Explorer which ‘benefit’ from such treatment, so causing me to have to shuffle back and forth between both versions.

‘Classic Shell and Windows 8, a great compromise’ – Rob

Rob Leedham profile imageHaving lived with Windows 8, I really don’t mind it. Thanks to those apps, all the programs I want to use immediately are available on my Start screen. Plus, the desktop screen is still there if I ever get nostalgic. Honestly, it took about a week to get used to switching between the two screens – now it’s second nature.

And, for Windows XP users who are nervous about making that jump, I’d recommend the free to download Classic Shell, which smooths the transition even further.

‘I’m happy to wait for a better Windows 8′ – Mike

Mike Plant bylineI see where you’re coming from, Rob, but for my money, I’d rather hold-off on upgrading until Microsoft releases yet another operating system that bridges the gap between 7 and 8 entirely. Windows 8 to me is going nowhere quickly, so who’s to say that Windows 8 really does have a future any longer than that of Windows 7?

‘The PC era is over, time to embrace change’ – Rob

Rob Leedham profile imageDeferring from Windows 8 on that basis is a bit like King Canute trying to hold back the tide. The PC era is over, and tablets, hybrids and all-in-ones are now conquering the new computing landscape. Bearing this in mind, a return to the old traditional desktop-style Windows just won’t happen. I really do think its better to embrace the change and its benefits right now by upgrading to Windows 8.

More on this

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How we test laptops – watch the video

90 comments

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Rob

None of my 2 Pcs will upgrade to Windows 8 due to the CPU lacking some feature, so started the process of building a new PC so I can use the upgrade copy of Windows 8 Pro which I bought from MS for ~£25

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Steve B

I have XP desktop that holds my life and tax records for 8 years. A year ago I bought laptop with Win 7 to start migration. But Win7 has a mind of its own, it files Scans as Photos and the layout crams so many options on a header it is totally different. So rather than retrain properly for Windows I have investigated Apple and data transfer and my money is going into an economical iMac to join my iPad and iPhone that have been so nine to use.

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ann swain

i have windows 7 on my computer i got a laptop to use in the living room on the cold nights but the laptop has been a nightmare i hate windows 8 so id rather use my computer in the cold than suffer the annoyance of windows 8 id love to know how to download windows 7 onto it -to buy the cd is £100 i can’t afford that
we do make mistakes in our journey of life trusting
thank you ann

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Steve Ellis

Ann,

Stick with Windows 8 now you have taken the plunge.. there is an update coming in the next few weeks which will hopefully make Windows 8 a bit closer to Windows 7…

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Chris Greenwood

As the Scots would say

Ye can rub & rub as hard as ye like, but ye canna raise a shine on a jobby!

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JJMMWG DuPree

Ann:

Your problem represents the Linux conundrum almost perfectly. It’s obvious that Linux is what you need, it’s free, and somewhere amongst all the different versions is the perfect one for the you. The problem is, which one?

Linux people understand the system and readily try out different versions to see which they prefer, but when they’ve decided they become cheerleaders for that version. We’ve already had disciples of Linux Mint and Ubuntu on here, if you were considering switching I can guarantee that others would soon appear.

In addition Linux-heads have their own language which can get a bit baffling. Those versions I mentioned are called ‘distros’, which is short for distributions. Some people will refer to a thing called GNU/Linux, it’s the same thing as Linux, they’re just showing that they know it’s full name. Then there’s the front end, which is the same as the desktop, which is actually a GUI (Graphical User Interface), which is basically what you can see on the screen. There are several of them as well but the two most common are KDE and Gnome. Since you want a simple transition to your new desktop I would recommend KDE… which still leaves you with hundreds of competing versions to choose from. And so it goes.

What Linux enthusiasts need to do is to start talking in language that ordinary people understand, then they need to accept that what’s right for them may well not be right for everyone else and start offering people advice based upon what they need.

To be fair, the Linux users on here so far do seem to be trying to avoid ‘geek-speak’ so maybe we’re on our way. I, regrettably, am not sufficiently expert in enough different versions of Linux to really offer advice, as I’ve said before Linux XP sounds like the best introduction to the system but I’ve never tried it. Of those I have tried the most Windows like is Mandriva, but you have to remember to tell it you want KDE when it asks you at the end of loading.

I think your best bet is to go to distrowatch.com which is initially a very confusing site, but down the right hand side of the front page there is a top 100 list. Just go through the first 10 or so and look at the screenshots to see which you think looks the most like what you’re used to, then go to Ebay and put the name of that version into the search box. It’s almost certain that there will be someone on there selling a cheap DVD with that program on it. The DVD will probably have an option to try running the program from the disc (The advert should mention this). You can try it, but do remember that it will be much slower than when it works from your hard drive, the real benefit of these ‘live’ discs is that they do nothing to your computer, it’s all running from the disc, which also means that the things you can do with it are somewhat restricted, but you can do enough to know if you want to load it.

If you do want to load it you’ll also almost certainly find an option to “Dual boot”. What this does is to load Linux alongside Windows so that when you switch on you can select which operating system you want to use. This is a good idea because Linux can read Windows so it can still use the folders in which you currently store your music, photos, half-written letters, and… well, pretty much anything else.

As for day-to-day running, you’ll find that quite a few of the programs you usually use were developed on Linux in the first place, and the only browser that won’t work on Linux is Windows’ Internet Explorer (Actually it will, but it takes another program to do it and, really, why would you want to?).

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Derek Putley

Ann,

As Steve Ellis said, now that you have a Windows 8 computer, there is a lot to be said for persevering with it. By now there must be a lot of books along the line of “Windows 8 in easy steps…” in all good bookstores and some of them may come with handy “crib sheets”.

As with the resolution of all difficulties in computing, determination on the part of the user is the main key to success (often followed by “reading the fine manual”, because hitting the computer with a hammer does not usually yield entirely useful results).

I did use the free trial version of Windows 8 when that was available. Clearly it is very different from Windows 7, mostly because actions are triggered by moving the mouse to edges or corners of the screen, in cunning but far from obvious ways.

This, by the way, is supposed to be “an improvement” over Windows 7 and XP. However, I think the main party to benefit from this improvement will be Microsoft, because they can then use a single design of user interface across all of their home computing products (i.e. laptops, tablets and mobile phones).

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JJMMWG DuPree

Y’know, you can call me old fashioned, but I don’t think you should have to buy a book to tell you how to use your computer. I think the last ‘How to’ computing manual I read (Well, partly read) was for the ZX81.

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Chris Greenwood

F1 key was put next to Esc for a good reason!

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Derek Putley

No – please call me old-fashioned. I readily admit that I receive my monthly copies of Which? as paper copies, delivered to me by postman Pat.

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JABBERWOCKY

sign up to megaups dowload w7
easy free

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Stephen

What pompous ignorance Rob Leedham talks. “The PC era is over”, he says. Well it may be for him but it certainly isn’t for most of the rest of us who spent lots of money on Microsoft’s over-priced offerings and are reluctant to spend even more on ‘upgrading’ to something new.

Why, as an aside, is it called ‘upgrading’, when, in reality, it is nothing of the sort. It would be much better to call it what it is: another version of an original product which is working very well indeed, but which is now open to damage because the maker wants you to spend more.

“Tablets, hybrids and all-in-ones are now conquering the new computing landscape”, he goes on. How many people are throwing away their PCs and buying the new gadgets? I don’t know and neither does he. Which? should be employing people who represent the views of consumers, not promoting the greedy sales and marketing policies of a $250 billion company.

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BBSlowcoach

Totally agree.

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jabberw0cky1

spot on who is he really working for
i have an old desk top with xp doing fine no probs does what i require
i also have a new desk top running windows 7 also doers what i want
bearing in mind all a computer can do is send and receive information in pictures and or text or sound ..it does all these things ok oh yes playing games
it wont make sandwiches
or boil an egg or hoover the floors ..so why the hell would we want to keep [upgrading]
when the one we have aint busted….witch mag would be better serving the public if it employed people to give advice on how to PROLONG THE LIFE OF WHAT WE HAVE..
and save us all a load of money

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JABBERWOCKY

i agree who is this genius Rob Leedham who knows all about all systems and knows what everyone’s doing or planning to do
take his pen off him give him some crayon’s to play with got news for you
don’t generalise ever on anything..
we buy and use our tech stuff according to our needs ..and that is as individual as we all are
your an unhelpful annoyance with your own fixed ideas not related to reality
read the posts other folks are making …you might learn something
by the way i have in my house 3 laptops 2 with winows 7
and small pad thing my wife uses w 7
i have a desktop [i will stick with it they suit older people i reckon becauase we can sit down on an upright chair can have a big screen [monitor] we can see better ] dont get a stiff kneck bending over ..and all the stuff we need within reach headphones etc windows 7
i have an old desk top too with xp on it its not on line i use it to channel music wherever i want it
and for other stuff i can use for photos with progs that wont run on 7
that i need for my work never goes wrong does what i need
it aint broke ergo does not need fixing

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Alan

Supposing you took your car into a garage on a monthly basis to “upgrade” it because it did not work. This would be referred to as a “recall” and would discourage prospective purchasers from buying.
We expect OS not to work and in this respect Microsoft never disappoints-

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Jerry B

Being happy with Vista(yes,really!),I would much rather migrate to 7 than 8.I’m determined to stick with a laptop and eschew an all-singing-all-dancing tablet.Probably an age thing, but I don’t want to feel overwhelmed by technological”breakthroughs”.

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Lesley Asman

‘How to best upgrade from Windows XP’ asserts that ‘the only solution is to…upgrade to a new version of Windows’. NOT TRUE! A brilliant alternative is the Simplicity Envelope which sits on a Linux platform, has ‘beginner’ & ‘advanced’ levels and is a doddle to use. (And there’s a 7-day free trial available too)

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Steve Ellis

Hmmmm… I think you’ve missed the point here…. Simplicity Envelope is not an alternative to upgrading from XP.

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Lesley Asman

It depends where you are coming from Steve. I appreciate that for all you techies it’s not an alternative BUT there are loads of folk out there just wanting to be able to send emails and do a bit of surfing. Simplicity Envelope is IDEAL for them – and a much cheaper option than a new laptop and much much easier to use than windows 8. Please don’t forget the ‘ordinary’ user who wouldn’t know (or care) what an operating system is anyway. They just want it to work.

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Steve Ellis

Lesley, yes I understand that but what I meant was that you still have to upgrade from XP to at least Linux before installing Simplicity Envelope…. if it is put over the top of XP, which I believe you can, you would still have the underlying security problem with XP itself. Sorry I should have made my point clearer in my first response….

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jabberw0cky1

two op systems can be run on same machine cant they ???
and security probs are mainly down to internet explorer vulnerabilities not the op sys
and of course plentry of free progs to keep you safe and free from viruses etc

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les morrow

Have pc with Vista and seven installed on separate drives.Have played with eight but find the others give castle free computing.local hardware engineers are like minded

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sorbus

Since my 1st PC 12 years ago (with XP installed) I’ve made a point of purchasing another PC a laptop and a note book all with XP installed despite Vista et al versions being available on them I am heartbroken that support for XP finishes in a couple of weeks. I recently bought a Samsung tablet but have not yet reconciled myself to the ‘ap’ system. Because I agree with other comments re MS’s attitude and the virus/hacking/trojan/bug problems associated with MS as well, I feel I should lookat Mac instead but I have no idea which to look at or consider. Where can I find this advice please?

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Mike

Me too, I am now thinking the unthinkable.. to give apple a try! Vista was horrible, too hungry and eat up all my memory, Windows 95 then 98 were the business but of course I had to upgrade eventually to XP. Now they are pulling the rug from under my feet, again they want me to upgrade I think they have taken all liberties possible and I have simply had enough. My kids all say Apple is better but I have been a stalwart in saying ‘better the devil I know’ with Microsoft but who says ‘you cant teach a ol dog new tricks’ should think again.

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ken

I agree with most points but has nonoe considered Edubunto or Avg (as a replacement for security essentials)
At 80 I cannot follow the complicated advice to change from xp to windows 7 and Microsoft swItchover cannot be compared with TV switch to digital

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ann swain

i too am 83 and love my computer but windows 8 drive me mad

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legacymjr

Given that it is a monumental pain to “upgrade” to Windows 8 or 7 if you can get it why not stick with XP. Just obey a few rules and you will be pretty safe.

1. Always use an account which is “limited” and not Administrator. One of the anti-virus companies recently analysed the Windows security flaws from the last year or so (think it was Fsecure) and found that if a user had been running in “limited” mode then 100% of IE8 flaws would have been stopped and 100% of what are called “remote code execution” flaws would have been stopped. Yes you read that right 100%. Of other criticals 92% would have been stopped.

2. Never open email attachments unless you are really sure what they are – but we all knew that anyway.

3. If you can, use Chrome or Firefox as you default browser instead of IE8. They are inherently more secure.

A moderately IT literate person could set all of this up on an XP system in about 10 minutes.

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PeteF

Windows 8 had a financial sting in the tail for me when I bought a new laptop.

I like to watch and record TV whilst working on my website or answering emails. There are no drivers for my current dual USB tuner so I had to throw that away. Then I couldn’t find a replacement with approved Windows 8 drivers and with reliable compatible software. Even after buying a new single tuner and trying MediaPortal and TotalMedia I will still need a £200 upgrade to Windows 8 Pro to get Media Center.

Windows 8 can’t see my networked storage ( except by ftp) either, as this cannot be upgraded to be Windows 8 compatible.

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Davy Nook

Several websites cater for live tv streaming. Using split tabs and a combination of iPlayer and similar gives the ability to stream and record in HD.

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Victor Leser

Users of Windows XP, and users of any other Microsoft or Apple system who wish to avoid paying for upgrades to those proprietary systems in future, should seriously consider switching to Ubuntu, which is the most accessable version of the GNU/Linux operating system. This operating system and all the associated programs are available for almost no cost, are much more secure by design than Microsoft and Apple systems and programs, and are kept up to date easily and at no charge to users.

This may sound too good to be true, but it is. There is plenty of material available about Ubuntu and GNU/Linux from the internet, magazines and books, and users who want what is generally a better and cheaper set of systems and programs than offered by Microsoft and Apple just have to look for it.

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JJMMWG DuPree

This is where you hit problems with Linux. Personally I don’t find Ububtu at all accessible. I’ve never tried it but I suspect that Linux XP might be the best one to switch to from MS XP. I don’t know why, just something about the name… :D

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jabberw0cky1

you should try it first ..with patience it does seem strange ..but then all new things do
if in doubt get hold of an old system someones getting rid of order the dvd from linux
and play around

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MetalSamurai

Linux is great, but cost isn’t a particular advantage any more compared to Mac. All Mac users running 10.6, 10.7 or 10.8 can upgrade to 10.9 Mavericks for free through the App Store. As previous upgrades cost only £13 and always made older computers run faster (rather than slower as you’d expect with Windows upgrades) it was always a better deal than Windows.

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JJMMWG DuPree

I think I can predict the L-head response to that.

With Linux you don’t have to pay fashion victim prices for the hardware!

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royk

For me the debate is over, I have decided to move to Windows 7. My antique laptop couldn’t handle Win 8 anyway. So it would be really helpful if Which? could produce a guide to how to actually do this, rather than simply discuss the merits or otherwise.

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Abdulhusein Akbar

Coming from WHICH, which prides itself for being independent, unbiased and consumer oriented, you should be discussing all the alternatives available to consumers, rather than restricting yourself to discussing the Pros and Cons of Windows 7 & 8.

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Andy Mennell

Don’t forget Linux, a much cheaper option than upgrading or buying Apple.

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Davy Nook

With my 256Kb ram laptop it runs XP quite well using a non-admin user login as legacymjr suggests and ubuntu on another partition on my 30gb hard disk suggested by others I add the cd version of puppy linux (careful – that’s a superuser version) confident that malware will struggle to infect. The puppy has been invaluable in removing malware fron friends’ machines.
MS is compromised by its backward compatibility attempts so disabling admin powers and understanding the role played by the notorious registry is key to usability and security. Free software is available for most purposes but my major expense has been the purchase of a Raspberry Pi to give me better graphics performance.

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Steve Ellis

I switched to a Mac 18 months ago because I was getting disillusioned with Microsoft and I use my MacBook Pro all the time now in conjunction with iPhone and iPad. I disagree with the notion that Laptops are dead… they are not! They are still a necessary part of computing for a lot of people. That said, there are many people who cannot justify, or afford to spend, any more on their computing needs. I have also been playing with Linux for about a year now and have tried quite a few distributions. The one I have been really impressed with is LinuxMint. It is a really complete package which I would highly recommend to anyone using XP at the moment. It has a very similar look and feel and I have helped several friends to convert to this using their old hardware and in all cases they have taken to it immediately. It is free to download and use or there are currently several magazines giving it away on a cover DVD. Either way, it can be run as a live system from the DVD so you can try it without installing it on your hard disk. It will appear slow off the DVD but you shouldn’t be put off by this as it will run faster than XP once installed on the hard drive. It is also very quick and simple to install which is more than I can say for Windows 8 (bitter experience here). There is also an excellent Linux Community out there with loads of people always ready to help. Go and give LinuxMint, or any other linux distribution, a try… what have you got to loose?

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JJMMWG DuPree

I would suggest that anyone contemplating a switch to Linux should visit Distrowatch and see which distribution of Linux most appeals to them. Just a word of warning. Ignore all the techie stuff, it’s just there to frighten you.

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Steve Ellis

Good suggestion… I would also add that if you are not sure about Linux after trying a live DVD version, you can always load Linux along side your old operating system so that you can choose between the two at boot up. Dual Boot is a good way to try the real thing without loosing your old system….

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JJMMWG DuPree

Firstly, I don’t see why Microsoft’s decision to end support for XP means that you absolutely have to switch to a newer version. There are dozens of other companies out there who will continue to support your security.

Secondly, unless you’re a bit of an adventurous techie Don’t Switch To Windows 8! It’s horrible and so obviously aimed at tiny touchscreens. For keyboard and mouse users it verges on completely unintuitive to the point of being pointless, and as many others have pointed out, if you’re going to have to make this big a jump you may as well switch to the far easier to get used to Mac or Linux operating systems.

All I can say is, given that whenever I buy a new laptop I have no choice but to buy the operating system that comes with it, I have always in the past tried to get my money’s worth out of it. For the first time in my computer buying history (Going back to 1991!) I have replaced Windows 8/8.1 after too many months of nearly throwing the computer at the wall once every 10 minutes. It’s now happily running Linux, and, I might add, running much faster for the change.

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Chris Greenwood

What a sad little Windows based world some people live in.

I have been supporting computer users since the early 1980s, when Xerox demonstrated their WIMP technology to manufacturers, and software houses. Messrs Gates, Balmer & Jobs were all on the guest list & plagiarised it into their own interfaces.

The development of Linux as a free environment, has slowly but inexorably progressed, to the point where it has now become a workable option for home and business users. Microsoft have persistently stolen money from users, to the point where the announcement of a CEO’s ‘retirement’ prompts a $1bn hike in his personal shareholding.

Apple at least have the decency to bundle hardware with it’s OS, so the user still has a negotiable & tangible item, after it’s retirement.

Windows XP has probably been microsoft’s biggest mistake, in that it’s use and viability has at least continued for a respectable period of time, until the current hype & panic has ensued, following the announcement of it’s abandonment by the tired and shabby perpetrators of ‘Me’ Vista windoze 8, and the incessant new versions of internet explorer.

I welcome the end of XP windows ‘updates’ as loyal users now have the freedom to enjoy the gradual retirement of a relatively successful OS, which can be simply and seamlessly integrated with Linux, and Apple Mavericks by use of shells.

Remember that the true definition of any self proclaimed computer ‘expert’ consists of X being an unknown quantity, and a spurt being a drip under pressure.

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jabberw0cky1

nice one

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Chris Greenwood

And don’t even contemplate an ‘upgrade’ to windoze 8, or the purchase of a new pc, unless you have The Samaritans phone number to hand.

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Dave Brum

I updated to Windows7 a few weeks ago. At that time there were a few retail copies of Windows 7 stil available, and seemingly quite a few dodgy OEM copies. As Microsoft stopped selling retail copies of windows 7 in October last year, I think the debate of 7 or 8 is probably irrelevant by now. I guess 8 is your only choice unless you can track down a legit copy of 7.

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chris leach

I have always used XP. Windows 7-8 dont come any where near to this programme. The problems that i have had with windows 7, you could write a book on it and still have enough information to complete another book.

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Simon Fanshawe

I WAS PROFOUNDLY SHOCKED when I got the regular e-mail from Which and followed the XP link as I have this problem. I had pretty much decided to go for a Linux distribution, probably Ubuntu. I can’t believe that an organisation like Which, which is supposed to be independant, presents the only options to be later Windows versions.

Like me, many XP users cling on to it because it is the only Windows version which comes half way to “working”. We started with Windows because it was the only alternative for people using specialist software unavailable for running under other operating systems.

Why would I want to pay a penitential price for a new licence for a version of Windows which is only 10% to 40% through it’s field trials. I know from past experience that I would spend days on end trying to find tools and options in the operating system which have been moved and/or restructured purely for changes sake. That stuff I rely on won’t work. That I will have to replace lots of my hardware because drivers aren’t available. That deadlines will be missed whilst I play with “undocumented features”.

Linux is now well establshed and free. There is the WINE emulator for programmes which would previously only have run run under Windows. There is plenty of high quality open source software to do the general tasks a PC is required for. Open source software doesn’t have to re-invent itself every five years to line the pockets of lumbering unregulated monopoly. This means that you can spend most of your time using the computer rather than all of it trying to work out how to make it work.

I repeat my original question. WHY HAVE WHICH PRESENTED THE ONLY SOLUTIONS AS WINDOWS 7 OR WINDOWS 8.

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Chris Greenwood

Cracking response Simon!

Well said

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jabberw0cky1

absolutely right …who are witch representing here ???

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legacymjr

Be very carefull about moving to Linux if you own peripheral s such as an all in one printer or a scanner. Check on the support and drivers to make sure they exist

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JJMMWG DuPree

I remember that there was a real problem with scanners and Linux, I’m a little surprised to hear that it still exists. As I recall one brand worked without problem, but with all the others it was very hit or miss. I don’t remember anyone coming up with an explanation,but since my scanner was working perfectly I probably wasn’t paying that much attention. :)

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Chris Greenwood

Use Linux Mint – very clean interface, finds most peripherals, with no trouble at all

If you post a request on a forum, some platform users will write a driver for you

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Simon Fanshawe

Thank you for that Chris. I haven’t come across Linux Mint, I’ll look at it. When I get to the point, I like to try and pick the rising star rather than the best established. I am not looking on end of support as a deadline. I think XP will be good for a while yet. As far as security is concerned, nothing is secure. End of support means loss of the occasional patch for the sieve the jumblies went to sea in.

For most non-professional users, I thinmkthe best point to upgrade is when they buy a new PC. One with a linux distribution will be better value and supported by the seller.

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Paul Smith

I switched to Linux many years ago, and agree with the Linux Mint recommendation. I’ve been using Mint for a few years now and it’s a fabulous operating system.

Ignore the person warning you about peripherals. If anything, they’ll work a lot better in Linux without you even having to install any drivers. The only issue I’ve ever had was with an old broadcom wireless NIC, but I replaced it with an Intel card which is supported “out of the box”.

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maxwild

Do you have fool proof step by step instructions for loading Linux Mint. I have an Acer Aspire E380 with Windows 7 currently installed along with a blank 16gb usb?
I have 2 or 3 different approaches but so far with no luck!

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DerekP

Hi max,

My short answer is: no! I cannot provide a fool proof set of instructions for putting mint on a stick so it will work on an E380.

I found some useful instructions “How To Create a Linux Mint Persistent Live USB” on the Tux Tweaks website. Two attemps to follow them did not result in a usb stick that my HP dc5100mt would recognise as bootable. A quick search suggests your E380 is a desktop pc designed roughly around 2006 – my HP is a little older than that but by not much.

From this I now have Mint on a stick that will boot on a newer laptop but not on my HP destkop. My HP is a bit fussy – it will boot antiX, Mozillux (and Clonezilla) from usb sticks but not many other versions that I have tried. (It will run also XP.)

Hence (other than giving up) easy options to explore would include running Mint from an optical disc or trying to install a different version of linux onto your usb stick.

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maxwild

Thanks for this quick response.
I have acquired a blank dvd so will have a go with that … but probably not until it starts raining again and I am back inside!!

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Simon Fanshawe

Hi Max. I think you’re right. I aquired a new PC a week ago which lacked a DVD. I was successful in creating a bootable USB stick but the only software that I could find to do it successfully came bundles with a pile of malware. It took me the best part of a day to get the sh1t off my XP machine but the Linux Mint installation went well.

I haven’t much experience with Mint yet but there is a consensus is that it is the best solution for XP refugees. I would say that it is a bit more challenging than Windows 7 but you only have to go through the pain once, then it is just a matter of living with incremental improvements. Each time Microsoft bring out a new version of Windows you have to spend months finding all needles in the new haystack whi9lst paying through the nose for the privelege. I still have two machines on XP which I propose to upgrade to Mint within the next couple of months.

The DVD image from Limux Mint works fine and, if you have a DVD-RW, this is a safe solution.

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Simon Fanshawe

Very good point legacymjr. Linux isn’t the easy option. I am putting off the upgrade because I am expecting it to be as difficult as going for a new Windows version. However, I know I will only have to go through the pain once and that I will be joining a growing self help community for whom technical excellence is everything and profit is nothing.

Of course, the obvious solution would be for Microsoft to continue supporting XP, build on it and make it more robust. Their reason for not doing it ………. ?

Hi Simon,

Thanks for the interesting comments, particularly with regards to Linux.

As I’m sure you can understand, Which? caters to a range of people with very different levels of experience when it comes to using PCs. Hence why we suggest on this particular blog that some PC owners might be best advised to stick to the user ecosystem they know.

If you’re a confident PC user then there’s no doubt that Linux can be a good, and free, option when it comes to changing your Windows PC to a different operating system.

In fact, our most recent podcast discusses Linux as a more than adequate replacement to Windows 7 and 8, and talks about the relative merits of Macs and Chromebooks. Please take a listen: http://blogs.which.co.uk/technology/podcasts/which-tech-podcast-the-demise-of-windows-xp/

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Simon Fanshawe

Hi Mike. I have taken exception to the introduction to your comments, in particular:

“Unfortunately, the only solution to this problem is to spend some money and upgrade to a new version of Windows”.

This is absulutely untrue and a shameless plug for Microsoft, the largest, oldest and greediest of the unregulated monopolies which have been strangling progress in software development for the last 25 years.

I am looking at Linux precisely because the ecosystem I know will be coming to an end. To justify the penitential prices they charge Micrfosoft feel they have to comletely re-invent the ecosystem. I have been working with PCs at a programming level since they came into common use. I had the unpleasant experience of being told to pass my PC on to a new subordinate and to “get to know” Vista on a new PC that they had bought. I struggled for a week ultimately realising that most of the software and hardware we were using would have to be upgraded at great cost. It offered nothing new or useful. The hard disk was re-formatted and XP installed. I understand that Windows 7 is just a later version of Vista released after they had re-employed the single part time Polish student on a minimum wage whos job it was to test new Windows versions before they were released.

With XP, it took me ages to find the box hidden in a menu, hidden in a menu, hidden in a menu that you have to check to stop all your internet traffic beiung redirected via a VPN connection you have just created. Without checking I can confidently predict that in 7 & 8 it will be hidden in a diufferent menu hidden in a different menu hidden in a different menu accessed from an unrecognisable new interface designed to help you use facebook seamlessly but very little else. I know I will waste days having to deal with many other trivial but essential problems.

If you are a serious PC user, upgarding Windows is a pain in the arse worth avoiding at any cost. If you just bwant to browse and e-mail the standard Linux distributions do that just as well. For novice users I wouldn’t recommend upgrading the operating system on an existing PC at all. Just keep internet security up to date, BACK UP REGULARLY and replace the whole shooting match when it becomes too difficult to use. There are plenty of companies out there offering support for XP. IT’S YOUR JOB TO SORT THE GOOD FROM THE BAD AND THE CRIMINALS.

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Chris Greenwood

Excellent Post

Thank you for your well balanced response to the microsoft waffle

Do try Linux Mint, it is well worth the effort

If the scaremongers were to realise the pure reality of a well written OS, then perhaps we could see a greener future, where the Computer User finally gets the whip hand again

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jabberw0cky1

“Unfortunately, the only solution to this problem is to spend some money and upgrade to a new version of Windows”.
that’s what you said note the ONLY solution bit
no it is not ..dont be lazy be full and complete ..and cater for all levels of expertise
then you can justify your pay

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Steve Ellis

WHICH? has now posed the correct question on Twitter …. “Linux enters our debate into what OS you should replace Windows XP with. Is it too hard to use for beginners though?”

ANSWER….. No! The Linux Distro that beginners or novices (and anyone else) should really consider is, as most are saying in this discussion, Linux Mint. It is based on two other Distros either Ubuntu or Debian, two of the better base distributions. Linux Mint then add a front end which looks and feels like XP, a brilliantly simple installation and update process and loads of other software pre-installed and all free…. you can also try it before you install it (running from the Live DVD), add to that the brilliant community out there who are always ready to help (free) and what could be simpler, certainly not Windows 8… that is a nightmare and definitely is too hard for beginners to master!

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JJMMWG DuPree

I’m not a great fan of live distributions, they rarely give any indication of what the actual program is like. Ubuntu live couldn’t find my external drive or get my screen resolution right, and when it couldn’t even connect to the internet I began to think that maybe I wasn’t getting the full picture.

Mind you once I’d loaded it I didn’t like it anyway. Not intuitive at all. I’ve always found Mandriva the most friendly introduction to Linux, but then again, my sister, the computer genius, just couldn’t get along with it at all.

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Derek Nash

I’m 65 and recently decided to retire my desktop PC which had been running Windows XP since its outset and invest in a new laptop. Because of all the negative reviews everywhere, I was terrified of Windows8 having used and loved XP for so long, so I was prepared to buy a laptop with Windows7 (which my wife already has and I was used to). However my son persuaded me to go for Windows8, saying “its easy and nowhere as bad as people are making out!”. He was right, I have taken to it with no problems whatsoever and I actually enjoy using it, probably not to the extent as many IT high-tech ‘experts’ but certainly no issues at all. In fact I have far more problems with Microsoft Office 2013 than my old Office 2003 to be honest!
The only thing I miss from Windows XP is not being able to move files (photos) within folders in My Pictures, but you cannot do that in Windows7 anyway!

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Chris Greenwood

You can move pictures around, and access them via other OS

All hard disks should be partitioned, in order to segregate data from the operating system & installed software. Easeus Partition Master is free & works very well

The very idea of one honking great C drive under some cockeyed microsoft default install, is an insult to basic intelligence, and a recipe for disaster

Data location should be moved to a Data volume, in order to provide more secure storage & allow for restore of system files, following failure or contamination

A very simple process under vista & 7, using Location tab

This also balances storage & usage of the disk & allows faster disk access

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Terry

On 8th April 2014 Microsoft will not provide any support for Windows XP.
They say this will leave your PC venerable as security updates will not be made.
I run Windows XP as a virtual machine on Windows 7 Professional.
Will the security of this be affected in the same way as a ‘stand alone’ XP system?

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JABBERWOCKY

well i can assure you many many people are sitting at home using there trusty P.C.s
those same folks are not sitting at home with a pot of cash to spend on an upgrade
an unnecessary upgrade ..so they wont ..there xp system will continue to function as it always has
[more or less]
windows xp support for security will stop WHOOOO SCARY there security systems are shit always have been
thats why most people use AVG AVAST PANDA OR A REALLY GREAT FREE ONE
SPYBOT S & D I HAVE USED THEM FOR YEARS
so don’t let the bully boys scare you ……if you have a problem or a worry about you system
type it into google in plain english just as you talk to your freinds
read ALL THE ANSWERS and you will soon be much wiser and richer

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Chris Greenwood

Just work out how much microsoft have charged per user, over the years

By strangling the market place, they are no better than drug dealers

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Derek Putley

As already noted “Unfortunately, the only solution to this problem is to spend some money and upgrade to a new version of Windows.” is not really a comprehensive assessment of the situation.

For keeping a much loved older PC going, some other options are:
(i) keep XP, use good 3rd party software and “drive carefully” while using the internet and don’t use an “administrator” account as your default login to XP.
(ii) keep XP for your favourite home computing apps but dual-boot the PC into linux before surfing the internet.

New computers from shops like Argos and PC World will tend to come with the choice of Chrome OS, Windows 8 or Apple OS X; more specialist suppliers can supply new computers with Linux (and Windows 7 too?).

Tablets running Andriod may suit the needs of some users.

Also for some, the choice will be driven by the need to run a particular application, e.g. Excel or Photoshop etc.

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JJMMWG DuPree

Rob:

The reign of the PC may be over, but the era of the PC definitely isn’t. There will always be some of us who prefer to sit in a comfortable chair with a nice big screen in front of us and do our inputting with a keyboard and mouse (Or mouse substitute. I prefer trackerballs myself…).

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fre55die

Ann Swain if you do want to go for WIN7 Amazon marketplace have single user product from £40 for 32bit home premium.

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fre55die

On the security aspect Microsoft’s antivirus program is a Which best buy for free and one thing that I do is run TREND MICRO HOUSE CALL once a month also free. Don’t forget that if you bank with BARCLAYS, open an online account and you get a free 3 user licence KASPERSKY internet security for free. Spybot S&D is again free BUT MAKE SURE THAT YOU ONLY DOWNLOAD FROM OFFICIAL SITE as there are some dodgy ones on GOOGLE search in the “SPONSORED” listings.

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JJMMWG DuPree

I’ll never understand why Which? keep insisting that Microsoft’s security programs are free. Where do they think the money that MS charge for its operating system goes?

Personally I wish that MS would just sell me the operating system and leave out all the bloatware that I’ve already paid for and didn’t want in the first place.

Plus it seriously devalues the efforts of those who write genuinely free software.

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fre55die

Rob I agree also show me a Tablet, Laptop or other device that can efficiently use 3TB of internal storage.

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fre55die

Sorry above comment was for JJMMWG Dupree not Rob !!

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Ian Kenett

The value of my Windows XP machine is in the data and the software tools I use. The operating system is a minor consideration. I run Office and the Serif suite of programs and data from text to video.
So which new version of windows should I go for. Will I have to buy new software which will handle my current data? Or would I be better off biting the bullet and going Apple? Any idea of the rough cost of each option?

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Derek Putley

Ian,

If you just want to walk into a local chain store any buy a new computer and you want a machine that will run Office and Serif software, you will not really have any other choices than a Windows 8 PC.

Such a machine might directly run your existing Office and Serif software or you might need to buy newer versions. I have no direct experience of running older software on Windows 8. Both of my Windows 7 machines have run older versions of Office with no difficulty.

A new PC from the likes of Argos (etc…) will cost at least £260. There is probably no need to spend very much more than that if you are only looking to replace a fairly old XP machine.

Windows 7 PCs are (probably) still available from suppliers who sell for business use. I would not expect to have to pay a premium price just to have Windows 7 instead of Windows 8.

If you fancy a bespoke desktop PC, there are probably a number of small local computer shops near you who will gladly put one together for you – and they will install your choice of operating system.

Windows 7 is still available as a piece of software and costs about £70 for a single licence. Some older machines could probably be directly upgraded by installing Windows 7. My experience is that Windows 7 needs at least 2GB of ram and a reasonably decent graphics card; hence it probably would not be a great upgrade to put on a machine with 1GB (or less) ram or with a Pentium 4 (or earlier) CPU.

Prices for Apple computers seem to start at about £500 for a Mac mini. I don’t think these will directly run Serif software under their own operating system (OS X) but I believe you can also run Windows programs on a Mac, if you set up a “virtual” copy of Windows in a program such as Virtual Box.

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Chris Greenwood

Or buy a little HP s/h, with a partitioned 500 gb drive in it

Load it up with Linux Mint, copy your old PC to a spare volume & run XP as a shell

The best thing about microsoft dumping XP, is that they won’t interfere any more

Surf & Email through Mint & carry on using everything as before

Remember that you are only as good as your last backup

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Derek Putley

Chris

That is pretty much what I do one one of my Linux machines – I have both Virtual Box and Wine installed so I can still run my favourite XP programs without have the power up the XP box.

Any machine capable of running XP should be capable of running the Xfce Version of Mint without the need for any hardware changes – and you could even have such a machine configured to dual boot either Mint or XP.

I can’t help feeling that this is “cheating” though. After all, Which? is the magazine of the Consumers’ Association. Where is the “rampant consumerism” in dealing with the demise of Microsoft support for Windows XP by using nothing more than a little bit of free software?

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Simon Fanshawe

Hi Ian.

If it works, don’t fix it! I can’t see any reason to abandon XP now. If you, like most people, connect to the internet through a home wireless or wired router, the increased risk is going to be minimal. Attacks from outside don’t even reach the PC because the most router firewalls block all inbound connections by default. Just keep your internet security up to date (Avast, Avira or AVG). Avoid the Microsoft internet applications like Explorer & Outlook (Mozilla Firefox, Thunderbirtd & Lightning are good). Be particularly on your guard when downloading new software. Because XP is so widespread, most software will continue to support it for ages.

If and when you do go for something new, a PC supplied with a Linux distribution (Mint does seem to have a good reputation) is going to be good value and unlikely to put you in the same position again. The advantage of open source software is that, being free, the authors don’t have to re-invent the wheel every five years to generate revenue. Improvements are incremental. Macs are expensive but I haven’t heard of anyone regretting the purchase Whatever you do will involve “biting the bullet” including Windows 7. Windows 8 sounds more like being shot by the “bullet”!

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Manni

Windows 8 sucks ass. I will keep using XP, come hell or high water.

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maxwild

What a lot of anti Microsoft comment!!
Great shame as Windows 8 – particularly with the 8.1 Update released this week does everything and more that the complainers want but have not looked for.
I encourage them to have a look then describe exactly what W8 does not do – they will struggle and, I hope, be delighted by what they have found to make their lives easier.

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Derek Putley

Personally I’m not particularly opposed to Windows 8 but, for example, here are a couple of specific things that Windows 8 cannot do:

1) It cannot run properly on an old XP PC with only 512Mb of RAM

2) It does not support the video capture card that I use on my XP desktop.

Also, at least at the moment, it is not a free option for anyone wanting to upgrade from XP, i.e. if decide they want to do that, because XP is no longer supported. I have seen news that a (limited?) free version may become available soon, to help further sales of the latest version of Office.

I did try out the free beta version of Windows 8 when that was available – it worked (but not brilliantly) on the Acer laptop I used for the trial and it would not run all of the software that I could run on either XP or Windows 7 so I did not spend too much time trying it out. The Acer machine I used for the trial was fine for running XP, Vista and several flavours of Linux, so I concluded that Microsoft had not given much attention to supporting anything but the latest chipsets when they produced Windows 8.

On the plus side, Windows 8 is probably the most secure version of Windows, but, even so,I believe it still needs anti-virus software, while the “free” alternative of Linux does not. As a tablet operating system, Windows 8 seems to be struggling for sales behind both Android and iOS, even in spite of the premium pricing of products carrying the latter.

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JJMMWG DuPree

Of course some people are going to like Windows 8, just as some people liked Vista and some people even liked WinME, but in truth all those OSs dodgy or not, were a fairly simple conversion from their predecessors. Windows 8, in the honest opinion of nearly everyone, is that it’s a pile of doggy droppings that requires you to start learning again right from the beginning and most of us don’t see why we should. As I’ve already said, I bought a laptop with W8 and for the first time ever I just gave up on it and loaded Linux.

Maybe the new upgrade will make it more suitable for grown up PCs, but I don’t see why I should have to wait that long, it’s too little, too late. Linux was a doddle, Win8 wasn’t.

Simples!

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JABBERWOCKY

linux mint 16 easy brilliant free

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briansg

I have access to Windows Vista, ’7′ and ’8.1 (with update)’ in my home and also a mothballed XP system. I normally use the Vista machine while my wife uses the ’7′ machine, and a laptop with 8 is used when away from home. I often cannot find a program or other facility (eg Windows Explorer as was) I want when using the laptop because the interface is so different. I have difficulty remembering where to move the cursor to find the button required, and I cannot see any advantage of the new system on a computer with out a touch screen. This is before one tries to sort out ‘permissions’ to access data files stored on the other computers in the homer network – I can understand that these problems may arise from attempts to meet genuine security concerns but the interface problems are presumably the result of a deliberate choice to produce a ‘clean’ screen for artistic rather than technical reasons.

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