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

Popular OSX (Mac) Antivirus tools tested

Yes, Macs are generally safer than Windows computers in terms of how many viruses are in the wild that target the operating system.  That being said, THERE ARE VIRUSES THAT TARGET MACS (some people mistakenly think that Macs can’t get viruses – they’re wrong!).  Just like with Windows antivirus apps, all are not created equal.  Here’s an article about a recent test/comparison of some of the most popular antivirus apps for Mac and which ones passed the test and which ones to pass on:

http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-13727_7-57618186-263/popular-antivirus-tools-for-os-x-tested-again/

Too little too late? – Microsoft publishes a Guide to Windows 8.1

I don’t hate Windows 8.  Ok, admittedly, I was not a big fan when Windows 8 was introduced, but I’m a much bigger fan now that Windows 8.1 is here.  By far the biggest problem I had with Windows 8 was the number of MAJOR DIFFERENCES that Microsoft introduced with this version of Windows.  I think they should have more aggressively created ways to ‘teach’ end users about how to use the new User Interface, but instead they were stuck with a bunch of people wondering – “What do I do?” and “Where is the Start Button?”  Now that version 8.1 has been released and there is more hardware support, touch screens, tablets, etc Windows 8.1 has finally gotten some market share.

Microsoft recently published a “Windows 8.1 Power User Guide for Business”.  It has a lot of great tips for everyone using Windows 8 (not just for business or power users).  But, it’s 2014.  Microsoft released Windows 8 in 2012!  There were no touch screen tabets (which Windows 8.1 works really well with) then.  There was just a missing Start Button and no built-in ability to boot to the desktop we all are familiar with.  Where were the Windows 8 Guides in 2012?  Given the steep learning curve moving to Windows 8, the manuals, the videos, the education SHOULD have been there, but just wasn’t.  Thanks for the nice new shiny guide Microsoft.  Thanks for some needed improvements with 8.1.  But is it too little, too late?

Download the new “Windows 8.1 Power User Guide for Business

You CAN setup Windows 8 without creating a Microsoft Account!

I received this email from a listener recently (sent from his iPhone):

Hi Dan
Just bought a new Toshiba laptop, turn it on started the setup process, up till now I’ve managed very well with out a Microsoft account, and don’t want to put my personal info out there.
But now I’m stuck win8 won’t let me go to the next level without putting my Email address and a password, of which I have to many, so how can I get to the point where I can use it?…
Help     -Jerry
 

Contrary to where Microsoft tries to lead you (to enter or create a Microsoft account), you DO NOT have to create a Microsoft account in order to go through  the initial setup of Windows 8 and start to use the operating system.  Here’s a few methods to get around the creation of a Microsoft account and just create a ‘local’ account on your computer:

Method 1:

1. Click on link Create a new account (near the bottom of screen, below the “Don’t have an account?” text)

2. When sign up form appears click on Sign in without a Microsoft account (also on the bottom).

 

Method 2:

1. Disconnect your Internet connection before installing Windows 8.1 (or after the first part of installation has finished). Windows detects at some point if there is an active Internet connection – if it isn’t available, it will skip the screen where Windows wants you to Connect this PC to your Microsoft account and offer you to create a local account instead. This is the simplest method of skipping this screen.

 

Method 3:

You can keep your Internet connection enabled. When a screen called Connect this PC to your Microsoft account appears it will ask you for Email Address and Password (for Outlook.com or similar Microsoft service). If you have one you may put it in or if you don’t have it (or use Gmail instead), you have an option to create one. I suppose you want neither otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this right?

1. If you don’t want to create Microsoft account enter some invalid email here for example:

Email Address: localhost@localhost.localhost

Password: whatever you like, it doesn’t matter (I entered 12345678).

2. Windows will now check this account and conclude that there was a problem with logging into this account (as it obviously doesn’t exist).

3. On the side a text will appear – “The email address or password is incorrect. If you don’t remember your password, create a local account now and set up your Microsoft account later.”

4. Click on create a local account now part of the text and you’re now creating a local account.

 

As always, if you need help with the setup of a new PC, data copying from a old machine or any computer issue, we have some friendly technicians at Discount Computer Service that can help you!  410-358-7300

Backdoor Found in Many Consumer Routers and Wireless Access Points

When’s the last time you updated the firmware in your router?  For almost all of you, the answer will be one of these:

  • Never
  • My router needs updates?
  • What’s a firmware?
  • router? what’s that?  I just connect to the Internet through that thingy over there.
  • I’m still waiting for this whole Internet thing to catch on before I decide to get rid of my 56K dial-up modem (if this is you, stop reading this article now and call an ISP!)

If you have wireless Internet or you have the capability of connecting more than one device to the Internet, you have a router.  This piece of hardware is connected to (or built in to) the modem (Cable/DSL/Fiber, etc) from your Internet Service Provider.

About a week ago, it was found that port 32764 is ‘open’ on many models of Linksys and Netgear routers (2 very popular router manufacturers).  This would potentially allow bad guys to get into your router and do things like reset it or add malicious monitoring software.  There has been a significant increase in traffic on this port since this exploit was discovered.  You can get find a list of many of the models that are affected here:

https://github.com/elvanderb/TCP-32764

You can use the ‘Shields Up’ website to check if this port, or other openings exist on your network by going here:

https://www.grc.com/shieldsup

The good news is that there are things you can do to ‘plug’ this hole.  You could set your router’s firewall settings, to specifically block this port.  There may actually be a firmware update that you can download that fixes this problem on your specific router (go to the support/download webpages for your specific router to find out – this may be good to do anyway).  There are also a few open source firmware options that may be available to install on your router that are safer and may add options to your network.   As a last resort, replacing your router is another option.

If you need any help to test for this security vulnerability or other security issue, we have experienced technicians at Discount Computer Service who can do this configuration for you and/or analyze your computers and network for other potential security problems.  410-358-7300.  Thanks!

Do you have one of the 154 Million compromised accounts?

There have been many high profile data breaches that have compromised millions of email addresses and their account information.

Adobe, Sony, Yahoo!, Gawker…

There is now a website that you can go to that will tell you if your email address is one that has been compromised:

http://haveibeenpwned.com/

If you have had your account hacked or want to prevent the headache and losses involved with a security breach, give us a call at Discount Computer Service.  We can help secure your digital world!  410-358-7300.

A Windows password does NOT keep your data safe!

If you have any sensitive data on your laptop, please do NOT think that data is safe if you have set up a Windows logon password.

If someone steals your laptop (this is and has been a big target for thieves), would you like them to have access to your personal data?

There are many relatively easy ways, that anyone with a little technical knowledge, can get access to all of the files on your computer.  For example, another administrative user on the PC can easy gain access to your file, someone could connect your hard drive to another computer and easily copy data, or they could use one of the many utilities out there that are designed to reset Windows passwords.

The answer – ENCRYPTION.  Encrypting your entire drive (or optionally just some data) WILL keep your data safe (ok, probably not from the NSA, but is there really anything they don’t have access to these days?).

This is NOT difficult or complicated to setup, is NOT expensive to implement and does NOT require the constant entering or remembering lots of cryptic passwords.  Just turn your computer on, enter your password and access everything just like you always have.

There are many FREE options for doing this.  Some versions of Windows have Microsoft’s BitLocker installed.  TrueCrypt is a free, open-source encryption solution I have talked about many times on Tech Solutions Radio.  It can encrypt your entire drive or just a folder.  Encryption is automatic, real-time (on-the-fly) and transparent.

If someone tells me that they lost their Windows password and they need me to get them access to their data – I say ‘No problem, give me a few minutes..’

If someone tells me that they lost their encryption password and they need me to get them access to their data – I say ‘Lots of luck to you…’ (any chance you backed up that data – I hope so!)

A word of caution – It is EXTRA important that you backup your data if you decide to encrypt your drive.  If you forget your password, have a data corruption or hard drive problem, the encryption may prevent normal recovery methods from getting your data back.

If you need help protecting your laptop or maybe even your whole network, we have friendly, knowledgeable technicians at Discount Computer Service that can help you with this at your place or ours.  Call us today at 410-358-7300.

I LOVE this browser Add-On – it blocks Ads!

Adblock Plus

AdblockPlus.org is the website.

What it does – Lets you surf the web without those annoying and sometimes dangerous ads (blocks banner ads, popups, even video ads).

What it is – Available for your favorite browser (Chrome, IE, FireFox, etc), you click on the Install button on their website and it installs a small add-on software program to your browser.  Simple as that.

Cost – FREE!

Result – Safer, happier web browsing!

Alternatives to iGoogle

As many iGoogle users have noticed, Google has done away with that ‘service’.  iGoogle was a customizable home page that gave you a lot of info right on your browser’s home page.  There are some formidable alternatives to this service that Google shut down effective November 1st (they are now re-directing you to their main Google.com page).

igHome.com is one of them

Here’s a good article that lists 8 alternatives, descriptions and links:

http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9243663/There_s_no_place_like_home_page_8_iGoogle_alternatives