Should you upgrade your older PC to Windows 7?

I received an email from a listener, Doug, about what he should do about the upcoming Windows XP support deadline:

“With the pending issues coming down with the discontinuance of support for XP are there options that we can use for older computers (10 yrs)which will enable them to be used for years to come yet not be vulnerable to computer hacking.  Windows 7 is available for a short time to come, but is it worth switching over to it?  Are there benefits to switching as well, like computer is quicker?…”

Great question Doug.  There are a LOT of people with Windows XP computers right now.  Should you upgrade, buy new, or just stay with Windows XP?  It’s not a clear cut answer, but here’s some thoughts.

1 – Will your computer handle Windows 7?  Windows XP was released in 2001.  The average computer today is significantly more powerful in terms of speed and capacity in comparison to the PCs we bought in 2001.  Today, most computers have multiple core CPUs (basically 2 or more ‘brains’ processing in your PC) and multiple gigabytes of memory.  Windows 7 was designed with these increased hardware resources in mind, so your slower, single core processing computer with 512MB of RAM might work fine with Windows XP, but may be painfully sluggish with Windows 7.  We also should find out whether your hardware is Windows 7 compatible.  When you load Windows, you also need to load software ‘drivers’ that tell Windows what type of hardware you have (for network, video, sound, etc).  Windows 7 generally has good compatibility, but you may discover that your sound doesn’t work after installing Windows 7 and there’s no Windows 7 compatible driver you can download to make it work.  This can also be an issue with older peripherals like printers and scanners (I have seen printers that are only 2-3 years old where the manufacturers do not make drivers for the new version of Windows – but, of course, they’re more than happy to sell you a new printer).

2 – There is no ‘Upgrade’ to Windows 7 from XP.  This means that you will have to backup any important data (documents, music, pictures, etc) and perform a ‘fresh’ load of Windows 7.  None of your programs or configuration can be saved or easily transferred.  You will have to re-install any applications you use (IF they are Windows 7 compatible) and setup your email, printers, network, etc.

3 – Most older computers that are upgraded from Windows XP to Windows 7 will NOT be faster, but slower.  If you do have a newer computer though with at least 1-2GB of RAM and a dual-core CPU, you may have good results with a fresh load of Windows (since your old version of Windows may be junked up and bloated anyway).  Any benefits you get from going to Windows 7 will mainly be compatibility with newer programs as some newer programs and hardware may drop support for Windows XP.

4 – You have to purchase a license key for Windows 7 which is not cheap (around $100) and maybe other hardware/software.  Consider this vs. spending a few hundred on a brand new one.  Keep in mind also though that many people spend hundreds above the cost of a PC when buying a new one (for new software versions and new peripherals).

5 – Your Windows XP computer will NOT stop working or self-destruct after April of 2014 when Microsoft will discontinue providing free security updates.  Because of the potential of a hacker releasing a nasty exploit that won’t be patched, you may not want to take the risk in keeping your XP PC as your main computer surfing the web.  Think Y2K though.  Everyone was predicting catastrophe, but it was a relative non-event.  So if you use an ‘alternate’ browser (i.e., Google Chrome will continue to update and work on Windows XP after April, 2014), a good, updated Internet Security product and use best practices on the web (don’t click every tempting link you see), you’ll probably be ok.

6 – Although I like Windows 8 much better since Windows 8.1 was released, I would NOT recommend you take that 10+ year old desktop, throw Windows 8 on it and expect it to go well.

7 – Keep in mind you CAN upgrade some components in your older computer to give it a boost.  You can get a newer, bigger, faster hard drive or add more memory (RAM) and give your PC that’s a few years old a new lease on life.

If we can help you with your ‘upgrade’, help move your data to a new computer or help you get that new PC setup, give us a call at Discount Computer Service.  We have technicians that can make the leap to a new PC as painless as can be!  410-358-7300.

Good luck with your decision.

Best Regards,

-Dan

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