If you were, or still are, a Windows XP user you’ll know that Microsoft support for this much loved operating system finished on the 8th April 2014 and your computer will no longer receive the monthly updates which were designed to fix vulnerabilities and bugs. This doesn’t mean you have to stop using your computer but it will, over time, develop more and more problems. For example you may decide to buy a new printer and find that it doesn’t work with XP or want to install software that isn’t compatible. More importantly the security flaws that previously would have been patched by Microsoft will be ignored, making it increasingly susceptible to malware infection and corruption.
So what are the options?
If the machine is running well and you want to continue using it to access your files, documents and photos, you could disconnect it from the internet and perform a general maintenance clean-up and virus scan to give it the best chance to run problem-free for as long as possible. (Don’t forget to have a back-up of all your personal files stored elsewhere too). This will be inconvenient if you want to continue to use online services such as email or Facebook or browse the web so there are several options worth considering.
Upgrade to Windows 7
Whether or not you can up-grade your existing machine to Windows 7 depends on several factors; how old the hardware is, what sort of processor is installed, the amount of RAM it has and the size of the hard-drive. There is a facility on the Microsoft website that can check your machine for you but this doesn’t always guarantee success. If you’re not sure, it’s always best to check with an IT specialist before you choose this option.
Upgrading is a reasonable solution if money is tight, but the older the machine, the more likely it is to fail due to its age.
Whether you decide to upgrade or buy a new machine Windows 7 is, I think, an easy step up; many of the functions will be familiar, most things are in the same place, and if you’ve used XP for a few years it will be a fairly trouble-free transition.
Buy a new computer – what’s available.
Despite the release of Windows 8, you can still buy a computer running Windows 7, although you may need to buy it online rather than in a local store. Prices for desktops and some laptops can be extremely reasonable, but bear in mind we tend to entrust all our precious photos and sensitive documents to these machines so it is worth thinking about spending a bit more – you do get what you pay for.
Many shops are now only selling new computers with Windows 8 or 8.1 installed which features the new start screen;
If you use a tablet you’ll be familiar with the graphical tile display, but if not, don’t be put off, you can easily get to the familiar windows desktop, and the free up-grade to 8.1 provides many features similar to Windows 7, albeit in a slightly different format.
It takes a bit of getting used to, but if you’re happy to experiment it’s worth sticking with it, as future versions of Windows are likely to continue in the same vein.
If you fancy a complete change you might consider buying a tablet from the huge range now available. The iPad still comes out top in many reviews but there are excellent less costly alternatives such as the Google Nexus. Being completely portable they allow you to maintain your online presence where-ever you are, and once you get used to the ‘apps’ they’re very easy to use. Bear in mind though that functionality can be lacking if you’re used to working on a desk-based computer.
Time to move on
Until April I had been using XP, Windows 7 and 8 concurrently and it was with a tinge of sadness that I finally shutdown my XP system for, what I thought was, the last time. It wasn’t until I fired it up again recently to check an archived file still saved to the hard-drive that I realised how dated it had become. So don’t be afraid to move on to a newer system, you can always keep your old machine in the corner to switch on just for old times’ sake, but chances are once you start using Windows 7 or 8 you won’t look back.
In a forthcoming blog I will be explaining many of the computer terms used in this and future articles.