The Decline & Fall of Windows XP and a short video you can watch now

By | February 15, 2014
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Even more about the end of Windows XP this time. But I realised after I wrote it that this installment (all about what to look for in a new PC if you want to replace it) might be useful whenever you replace a PC, not just if you’re doing it now because of the end of Windows XP support.

So even if you don’t have Windows XP, you might want to have a read, then keep it to one side in case you want to replace your PC in the future.

(At any rate, later on there’s something that’s not about Windows XP – including a short video you can watch now)

Part 3 in “The Decline and Fall of Windows XP”
In the last couple of issues I’ve talked about what’s going on with Windows XP and what if you’re thinking about upgrading your Windows XP computer to Windows 7 or 8.

But I suspect a big proportion of the people with Windows XP will simply buy a replacement that already has Windows 7 or 8 on it.

It means you don’t need to worry about whether the PC is capable of dealing with a new version of Windows – because it already has it.

And although it will cost a bit more, the upgrades aren’t exactly cheap on their own… but if you buy a new PC, you get a faster, more powerful computer as well!

So here’s some help if you’ve decided to go out and replace your Windows XP computer. Come to think of it, most of this is good advice whenever you want to replace a PC – this might be an article to keep to hand for later!

Choosing a PC or a laptop
It largely depends on the space you have for it. At home, I use a laptop so I can use it in different rooms and it doesn’t take up much space when I put it away but if you have a desk already set aside, then a desktop tends to be a bit cheaper for the same level of performance… and slightly less likely to go wrong!

It can also be a more comfortable set-up, with a bigger monitor and everything spaced out a bit, so it can be easier physically to use.

It really depends on the space you have for it and how much you use it.

One thing to bear in mind is that if you have a desktop and you’re happy with the monitor with it, you don’t have to replace that – you could use your existing monitor with a new PC. That will often save about £100 off the cost of a PC that comes with a monitor.

Which actual model?
Most of the readers I speak to use their PC for things like browsing the internet, doing emails, maybe doing the odd Skype phone call and so on.

For that kind of thing pretty much any modern PC will be powerful enough. It’s only if you do things like lots of home video editing, modern fast 3D games or running huge business databases that you need something especially powerful.
So you can mainly choose based on the set up you like – the price, what it comes with and if it’s a laptop things like how the keyboard is laid out, how it feels to use and whether it has a CD/DVD drive (a few laptops don’t – you can buy one you plug in, but if you want one it’s probably easier to get a laptop that has one built in).

I often get asked to recommend a make and I find this really hard: a lot of them are built in the same Chinese factories anyway. I always used to recommend HP (Hewlett Packard) because their manufacturing quality seems pretty high to me – but there’ve been a lot of changes in the business and I’m not so sure they’re different from the others any more. I’ve used PCs from Acer, Dell, HP, Samsung and Aspire in the last week or two (not all mine personally!) and they’ve all been pretty well made!

So I’d concentrate more on the other things: does it come with everything you want, the price and so on.

What version of Windows:
The newest version of Windows is technically Windows 8.1.  Windows 8 is very similar and not very old at all… and if you buy a PC with Windows 8 it can automatically update to 8.1 anyway. So buying a Windows 8 or an 8.1 computer are effectively much the same.

Windows 7 is still available on some new PCs and for some people might be a better choice. It’s much more like Windows XP in how it works. It looks very different, with trendy modern designs, but it has much the same menus, buttons and icons.

So if you want something that works more like the Windows XP that you’re used to, you might want to go for Windows 7. If you want something that’s bang up to date, Windows 8 or 8.1 is the way to go – but be prepared to have to relearn quite a bit as it works in a very different way. (Go back through some of the older newsletters from around the end of 2012 if you want to see a bit about how it’s different… in fact in the November 2012 issue, there’s even a free ebook about it)

Printers, Scanners and bits and bobs
One thing to watch out for is that not all printers and so on will work with Windows 8. More of them will work with Windows 7, but still not absolutely all. It depends on how old they are.

If you have an older printer, scanner or so on, it might be worth searching the web for the model name along with “Windows 8” or “Windows 7” and see if there’s anything saying it does or doesn’t work with the new version.

Getting rid of the old PC
If you want to keep your old PC, there’s nothing wrong with doing that. If you unplug it from the internet, then there’s no risk in using it past the April 2014 “cut-off”.

But if you want to get rid of the old one, it’s worth thinking first to make sure whether there’s any sensitive data on the old PC that you wouldn’t want falling into the wrong hands. The most obvious example is if the computer remembers your credit card details.

If you are worried about it, there are programs you can run to completely clear (called wiping) your hard drive, so there’s no way to recover the information on them. They’re a bit tricky to use, though, as they get rid of Windows in the process…

Or you can take the PC to specialist PC recyclers and make sure they wipe the hard drive before passing it on.
I’ve even heard of people taking the hard drive out and drilling through it! Technically you could still recover the information on it from the bits that survive, but for a domestic hard drive, I don’t think anyone is likely to bother!

That’s the last in the series of three articles about the end of Windows XP, but as I’ve been writing them, I’ve come up with a few extra little snippets… and I’ve had a few interesting questions from different people, too. So watch out for a bit more, probably in the next newsletter…

If you had trouble with the “upgrade assistant” last time…
I mentioned last time how to use the upgrade assistant to check whether your PC was capable of running Windows 8. But it turns out that if you have a earlier version of Windows XP (yes, there are different versions within XP!), the program that tells you whether you can update won’t run itself!

Or at least it won’t until you upgrade Windows XP to the latest version of XP – which is free and I’d definitely recommend anyway (it makes you PC more secure, as well as less likley to crash).

So if you couldn’t run the upgrade assistant and it said something about needing “Service Pack 3”, you can get it here:
(If the upgrade assistant didn’t complain about it, you don’t need to worry about this!)

A bit more about the soon-to-be released videos (and something to watch now)
I mentioned recently that we’ve been hard at work on some new videos, all about Word, Excel & OpenOffice.

Well, I can announce that they’ll be available to pre-order on Monday 17th February at midday… but only to readers of this newsletter. They won’t be on sale generally until a bit later – and that means people who don’t read this newsletter will almost certainly miss out on something I’m keeping top secret until Monday!

But in the meantime, here’s something you can watch now – which helps to explain what you might use these programs for (some of them are quite surprising – in fact I have one on my desk as I type!)

Apologies for the rather peculiar background (including the pirate ship) – I’ll explain why in the video…
Click here to watch the short free video:

Right, it’s Saturday and I’ve got a fun day with the family planned, so I’m off. Have a good weekend!