Replacing an XP Desktop

I received a great question by email from a radio show listener.  Here’s a brief description of his situation:

Q – With Microsoft discontinuing support for Windows XP in 2014, he is considering replacing his 10-year old Desktop PC.  He also has a newer laptop with Windows 7 and mostly does web surfing, checking and printing emails, Skype, typing letters and a very CPU intensive function of burning videos to DVD (now it takes about 4-5 hours to do this on his desktop, which runs overnight since the PC is practically useless for anything else while the rendering takes place).  If the Desktop is retired, he is considering a Tablet (with keyboard) for a second device.  Would a tablet be able to handle these tasks (minus the disk burning) or would it be under-powered and awkward to use? What would be your opinion as to the best brand/model for this flexibility? After all is said and done if the tablet could measure up it may be the same price as another laptop, but be more versatile and mobile?

A – First, keep in mind that your desktop will NOT stop working after Microsoft stops issuing updates for Windows XP in 2014.  You may want to consider keeping the desktop as a limited purpose machine (authoring and burning the DVDs and typing letters, for example).  This would alleviate the issue of not being able to use your laptop while the DVDs were burning if you got rid of the Desktop and used the laptop for this purpose.

In general, a tablet is GREAT for portability.  Most are small, light, and have a long battery life.  I highly recommend one as a ‘secondary’ device.  With the exception of the new Windows Tablets (which have frankly been a huge sales failure for Microsoft so far), a tablet will be running either iOS or Android.  Like your smartphone, it’s great, but has limited practical functionality.  Printing – VERY limited and spotty on most tablets (can be done with some newer tablets and printers, but not easy & versatile like from your Windows laptop).  Typing – awkward and slow with the on-screen keyboard and most of the external keyboards are just ok, and they add a bunch of bulk to the tablet (almost defeating the purpose of settling for a tablet in the first place).  Skype – great with most newer tablets (with a decent front-facing camera).  Web surfing – good, but many websites will send you the ‘mobile’ version because the resolution of many tablets is not nearly what a laptop will be (also, lack of Flash support on a tablet will make a few websites not useful).  Other tablet benefits – Instant On (no ‘boot up time’).  Negatives – very limited storage capacity compared to a new laptop.

You can get some great deals on both laptops and tablets.  For laptops, I really like ones with the Intel i3/i5 CPUs.  If I were buying a tablet, I would strictly stick with a popular model from a large ‘name’ (Google Nexus, Samsung Galaxy Tab, etc).  Stay FAR away from any ‘off-brands’ you may see advertised for a seemingly cheap price (they’re not as terrible as they once were, but still, stay away).  Also, keep in mind that most tablets are basically disposable and not made to be repaired/upgraded in any way (some can, but most, not really).  This may decrease their useful lifespan as compared to many PCs where it is not unusual to be in your situation of having a 10 year old one that is still useful.

We don’t fully know what will happen after the 2014 ‘Sunset’ of Windows XP.  Remember Y2K? (hint – basically everything still worked fine!).  You would be well advised though to limit any Windows XP computer’s Internet activities when the last updates are in the rear view mirror.  I’ll be talking more about that in the future.

Thanks for your email!

How to Erase your Smartphone before Trade-In/Selling/Giving Away

We store a lot of personal data these days on our smartphones (and about 60% of everyone in the U.S. has a smartphone!).  When it’s time for a new phone and you are considering selling, trading-in or giving away your old one, it’s very important to erase all of this data to protect it from getting into the wrong hands.  It’s not difficult to do and although most people receiving the phones are honest, it’s not worth taking the risk to let ‘them’ have your phone and all of it’s contents.


  • Performing this Reset/Erase will PERMANENTLY DELETE ALL of your data, settings, applications, etc. on your phone.  Please make sure this is your intention and any important data has been backed up.
  • A Factory Reset will NOT erase the data/files that are stored on the SD/memory card if you have one installed in your phone.
  • Make sure your device has a well charged battery or is plugged in when doing the erase or you risk breaking the device.

Android:  How to Erase All Contents and Settings

1 – Tap ‘Settings’, then tap ‘Privacy’

2 – Tap ‘Factory Data Reset’

3 – Select ‘Reset Phone’

4 – Tap – ‘Erase Everything’

iOS (iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad):  Erasing all Content

1 – Backup your device (iTunes or iCloud)

2 – Tap ‘Settings’, ‘General’, then ‘Reset’

3 – Tap ‘Erase all Content and Settings’

4 – Confirm, then it will perform the Erase.


Run your XP system in Windows 8

I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Microsoft is discontinuing support for Windows XP (no more security updates will be made available after April 2014).  Maybe you have some important programs that won’t run on a new version of Windows that make your old Windows XP system indispensable.  Here’s a way to ‘keep’ your old Windows XP machine without keeping the machine itself.  It turns your old operating system into a ‘virtual’ machine that runs within your new Windows 8 computer.

Here’s an article where you can get more info and goes through the process step-by-step:

It does involve a lot of steps, so if you need help with this, you could bring your Windows XP computer into Discount Computer Service and one of our technicians can take care of the conversion for you!

WiFi Security in a Public Location

Whether you’re on vacation in the hotel’s lobby, sitting in a coffee shop or having breakfast with a colleague in a local diner, free public WiFi is available everywhere.  What we should remember though is that these Public WiFi networks are UN-ENCRYPTED – meaning that you are potentially sending out into the air your passwords (if you are checking your email, for example) and lots of personal information.  These public WiFi hotspots are great places for criminals to hang out with their laptops and suck up all of this precious data because they can easily connect to the same network you are on.  So what do we do to protect ourselves while we take advantage of these WiFi networks to get some work done, check email, etc.  I use a service called HotSpot Shield.  Install their FREE downloaded app on your laptop and when you connect to a public, un-encrypted network, you turn on HotSpot Shield and it creates a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to protect your Internet session.  In return for their free version, they throw a couple Ads into your surfing session , but it’s a fair trade-off I’m happy to make to give me peace of mind when I’m using an un-secure Internet connection (they also have a paid, premium service available that I’d recommend if you use it often that removes the Ads and adds more privacy features).  The HotSpot Shield VPN secures your web session, protects your IP address, helps you surf anonymously and will even allow you to access websites and services if they are being blocked on some networks.  Find out more info and download this software on your laptop today at: