Category: Windows XP

Obituary for Windows XP

Obituary for Windows XP

Obituary – Windows XP

Windows XP was born (released) in October of 2001. It was the first version of Windows for consumers that did not run on top of DOS. Windows XP wasn’t perfect, but it was very popular. So popular, in fact, that Microsoft didn’t follow its usual plan of releasing a new version of Windows every 3 years. Windows XP was THE operating system for workstations for 10 years until Windows 7 finally surpassed Windows XP as the most popular operating system for workstations in late 2011. Windows XP is survived by its siblings Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8. Another sibling, Windows 9, is expected to be born next year (2015).

At its death at just under 13 years old, Windows XP has had the longest life of any other Windows version. At the time of its death, Windows XP is still running on 27% of the computers in the world. That has never happened before in the history of Windows. Actually, it’s pretty scary. With that many computers still running XP, the hackers are going to have a field day. Why? Because hackers can find new security holes in XP and take advantage of them and those security holes will NEVER be plugged by Microsoft. And security software can only do so much. That is why we have been recommending for quite some time that anyone with a computer running XP replace it with a newer computer.

In case you are wondering about how many computers each version of Windows is installed on, Vista has about 3%, Windows 7 about 49%, and Windows 8 about 11% as of March 2014. If you noticed that only adds up to 90%, that’s because I’m just talking about Windows. The other 10% is made up of Apple/Mac (4%), Linux (1.5%), and a bunch of other miscellaneous operating systems make up the last 4.5%.

Microsoft has also put another nail in XP’s coffin by no longer supporting Microsoft Security Essentials on Windows XP.

For those of you who have at least one computer with Windows XP on it, here are the options for going forward.

If your XP computers are used for business purposes, you should replace them as soon as possible unless they only run internal software and are not used for email or accessing websites.

For residential customers, you have two options.

  1. Replace your computer now.
  2. Wait until your computer becomes infected, then get a new computer.

If you haven’t shopped around for computers in the last few years, you may be surprised to find that you can get a good computer for around $500 these days. You can get computers cheaper, but we don’t recommend those bottom-of-the-line computers. We recommend middle-of-the-road computers. You get better performance and, in the long run, you get more for your money. And if you are worried about Windows 8 being hard to use, don’t. We can make your new Windows 8 computer work a lot like Windows 7 so you don’t have to learn an all new interface.

But if you want or need to keep using Windows XP, here is a list of things you should do to help minimize the risk.

  1. If you are using Microsoft Security Essentials for your security software, you should uninstall it and, instead, install either AVG Free Edition or Avast Free.
  2. Run Microsoft Update and perform all of the critical updates until there are no more. Once you have all of the updates for XP, you can turn Windows Update off.
  3. Back up your computer regularly.
    For residential customers, we recommend Carbonite for online backups.
    For commercial customers, we recommend either Dr. Backup or CrashPlan.
  4. Don’t use Internet Explorer. Download and install Firefox (or Chrome) and use that instead. Going forward, be sure to keep Firefox up to date. Install the following two add-ons:
    1. Web of Trust (WOT)
    2. Adblock Plus (be sure to enable the malware blocking feature)
    3. Be vigilant about keeping all of your apps up to date. In addition to Firefox (or Chrome), this includes things like Adobe Flash Player, Adobe Reader, Java, etc.
    4. Be very careful when you use your computer!

 

Should You Upgrade Windows?

Should You Upgrade Windows?

Just because a new version of Windows comes out doesn’t mean you have to upgrade. If the new version has features you need or want, then that is certainly a compelling reason to upgrade. But most of us don’t have a compelling reason. And some of us have a compelling reason not to upgrade.

When Windows 95 came out, it was such a vast improvement over Windows 3.1 that it was very compelling to upgrade to Windows 95. Windows 98 wasn’t very compelling, but Windows 98 Second Edition had a feature that was very compelling. Plug and Play. Very helpful. Windows 2000 wasn’t all that compelling. Like Windows 95, Windows XP was a vast improvement over previous versions of Windows, so it was pretty compelling to upgrade to XP.

When Vista came out, there was a compelling reason not to upgrade. The reason was Vista was slow had a lot of problems. Microsoft eventually fixed most of the problems with Vista, but the damage was done and Windows 7 was released. However, if you had Windows XP, there wasn’t really a lot of compelling reasons to upgrade to Windows 7. If you had Vista and were having trouble with it, that was a compelling reason to upgrade to Windows 7, but if your Vista system was working OK, there wasn’t much reason to upgrade.

One compelling reason to upgrade your version of Windows is when Microsoft stops releasing security updates for it. When that happens, it’s important to move to a newer version of Windows. Sometimes that means upgrading your current computer. Sometimes that means getting a new computer. Right now if you are using any version of Windows prior to Windows XP, you should get a new computer as soon as possible.

If you are using Windows XP, it’s a little more complicated. You should move to a newer version of Windows before April 2014 because that’s when Microsoft will stop releasing security updates for Windows XP. However, how you get to a newer version of Windows depends on how old your computer is.  If your computer is less than five years old, it might be able to run Windows 7. You might need  to upgrade the RAM, but it can probably run it. However, you can’t just upgrade. You have to backup your computer, wipe it clean, install Windows 7, and then restore your data and reinstall all of your programs. You can upgrade from XP to Vista without having to wipe out your data, but you may still have to upgrade your RAM. In addition, you can’t find the Vista Upgrade in local stores so you’ll have to buy it online. If you do upgrade your computer to Vista, be sure and install all of the Windows Updates.

Now we are on the cusp of the release of Windows 8. Is there a compelling reason to upgrade to Windows 8? In a word, no. There are some cool things in Windows 8, but there are some huge annoyances too. And the learning curve for your average computer user is going to be big. So big, it might be frustrating for some people. So for many people there might be a compelling reason not to upgrade to Windows 8. And you already know that we don’t recommend anyone upgrade to Windows 8 when it first comes out.

By the way, if you are planning on getting a new computer in the next year, I would recommend getting a new computer this year, once Windows 8 is out, it will get harder and harder to find new computers in local stores with Windows 7. It won’t happen overnight. But by March it might starting getting hard to find new computers with Windows 7 on them. That is, unless Windows 8 turns out to be another Vista. But I don’t think that will be the case.

Shutting Down or Restarting Windows

Shutting Down or Restarting Windows

When you shut down your computer it closes all of your programs gracefully, exit Windows and turns off your computer. If you want to turn on your computer again, you have to press the power button to turn it on.

A restart or reboot does all of the same things as a shutdown, except that it doesn’t turn off your computer, instead, it starts Windows back up.

When you shut down or restart Windows XP, it would pop up a little window for each program that wasn’t closing as fast as Windows thought it should. The little window would give you the option to “End Now” or “Wait”.

With Windows 7 or Windows Vista, you will instead see a black screen that tells you it’s waiting for programs to close down before it shuts down. It’s supposed to have a list of programs that it’s waiting on, but sometimes that list is blank. This screen has two buttons. One labeled “Force shut down” and the other labeled “Cancel”.

What is happening is that Windows has told all of the programs running that Windows is going to shut down. All of these programs should then exit normally and Windows waits for them to do so. However, sometimes a program can’t shut down because it is waiting for input from the user. For example, let’s say you had a Microsoft Word document open and you had made changes but hadn’t saved those changes. If you try to exit the program, it will ask you about saving the document. When you shut down and windows tells Microsoft Word to exit, Microsoft word will ask you about saving the file. But you can’t see it because of the screen I described above. In that case, you would click the “Cancel” button. Save the file, or exit without saving, and then shut down again.

Actually, the best thing to do is close all programs yourself before you shut down or restart. That way you won’t run into these problems.

The “Force shut down” button should only be used if your computer hangs on this screen for more than a minute or so. In general, it’s best to wait for Windows to close down on its own.

Businesses Should Plan Ahead for XP’s End of Life

Businesses Should Plan Ahead for XP’s End of Life

Microsoft released Windows XP in October of 2001. 6 years later, Vista was released in January of 2007. And due to problems with Vista and a bad reputation, two and a half years later, Windows 7 was released in July of 2009.

As of June 2010, Windows is the operating system for about 91% of computers. Mac OS runs about 6% of computers and Linux about 1%.

56% of computers run Windows XP, 18% run Vista, and 16% run Windows 7. Windows XP is by far the dominant operating system. This is primarily because XP was around for 6 years before Microsoft released the next version of Windows (Vista). Vista had a lot of problems when it was first released which caused a lot of people to go back to XP. Windows 7 has done much better than Vista and should do a good job of replacing XP.

Even though Windows 7 has been out less than a year, it has almost caught up to the number of computers with Vista on them, and Vista has been out three and a half years! That says something right there.

“That’s interesting.”, you say, “But why are you telling me this?” I’m telling you because Windows XP has a limited life. Microsoft will stop releasing security updates for Windows XP on August 4, 2014. And that’s important because your security software can’t protect your computer on its own. You need those security updates to help keep your computer from becoming infected.

This message is primarily aimed at Businesses who have a lot of computers and need to plan ahead for replacing them. Four years may seem like a long way away, but it will be here before you know it. That means that in the next 4 years, 56% of computers will need to be upgraded or replaced.

Can you upgrade your XP systems to Windows 7? You can, but we don’t recommend it. Most systems with XP just don’t have the hardware to run Windows 7 well. It will run, but it will be slow. Why upgrade if it’s going to be slower? A few XP systems may be OK with Windows 7, but most will need to be replaced.

New Computers Come Dirty

New Computers Come Dirty

If you decide to purchase a new computer, there is something you should be aware of.  When you buy a new computer you assume that it’s all clean, tuned-up, and running as good as it can. Unfortunately, this usually isn’t the case. New computers often come with a lot of junk software installed on them. Free offers, trial versions, advertisements, and so forth. Often times these junk utilities run when your computer starts up. Not all of them are junk. They might just be programs you don’t need or use. All of this extra stuff on your computer that you don’t want or need takes up space and slows your computer down.

The hard drives on new computers are usually very fragmented as well lowering the performance of your new computer down by another notch. New computers are also not really tuned-up and configured for the best performance either.

If you purchase a new computer from Cyber Tek Computer Pros, we take care of all of this for you before we deliver the computer to you. If you bought a computer from someone else, we can clean and tune your computer for you.

Screen Resolution

Screen Resolution

Screen, or display resolution is a term used to describe a setting in Windows that specifies how things will be displayed on  your computer screen. It specifies the size and quality of what is displayed on the screen. It is specified in two numbers. Height and width. These numbers are each in pixels.

A common screen resolution for a screen that is not a wide screen monitor is 1024 x 768. 1024 is the width while 768 is the height. Widescreen monitors are wider, so the first number is even bigger in comparison to a non-widescreen monitor. 1440 x 900 is a typical screen resolution for a widescreen monitor.

When it comes to display resolution, the higher the numbers, the smaller things will be, but the more stuff will fit on the screen at one time. And the lower the numbers, the bigger things will be and the less stuff will fit on the screen and you will find yourself scrolling left and right and up and down a lot.

If your eyesight isn’t too good, or you find yourself straining to read what’s on your computer screen, try lowering  your screen resolution. For example, if your screen resolution is 1024×768, try lowering it to 800×600. You can always change it back if you don’t like it.

Something else to be aware of is that just because Windows will let you change your screen resolution to a really high number, doesn’t mean your monitor can handle that resolution. If you change the resolution to something and your monitor goes black, that means your monitor can’t handle that resolution. But don’t worry. Just wait 15 seconds and it will revert back and you can try another resolution.

The flat screen monitors we have today usually have what is called a native resolution. This is the recommended resolution. It doesn’t mean you have to use that resolution. It just means that what the monitor was designed for. It will still work at other resolutions.

If you select the wrong resolution it can make things look distorted. Words and pictures might look stretched or squeezed. Or you may not be able to see everything on the screen.

To change the screen resolution on your computer, use the following steps:

XP

o   Click on Start and then Control Panel

o   Double-click on Display.

o   Click on the settings tab

o   Move the slider to the desired screen resolution and click apply.

o   Windows will change the resolution and ask you to confirm you want to keep it. If you want to keep it, click yes. If the screen went black or is too distorted to read, just wait and Windows will set it back to what it was before if you do not confirm.

Vista

o   Click on the button formally known as start and then click on Control Panel

o   Type the word: display

o   Now click on “Change display settings”

o   Move the slider to the desired screen resolution and click apply.

o   Windows will change the resolution and ask you to confirm you want to keep it. If you want to keep it, click yes. If the screen went black or is too distorted to read, just wait and Windows will set it back to what it was before if you do not confirm.

It is possible to change a setting called Font Size. For example, if you have trouble reading what’s on the screen, you can keep the same screen resolution and make your font size bigger. However, we do not recommend using this setting because it totally messes up the formatting of most websites and computer applications. The best way is to just change your screen resolution.

Where’s My Desktop

Where’s My Desktop

The Windows desktop is the main screen in Windows that has all of your icons on it. At times, you may have several programs open on the screen, but you want to get to your desktop. You can minimize each program one at a time. But there is an easier way.

showdesktopxpBoth Windows XP and Vista have a feature called “Show Desktop”. It’s a quick way to minimize all of your running programs so you can see the icons on your desktop. There are two ways to engage the show desktop function.

Vista and XP, by default, have an icon next to the start button that you can click that will execute the show desktop function. The picture to the left shows the default location of the Show Desktopshowdesktopvista icon and what it looks like in Windows XP. In Windows Vista, the position of the icon is the same, but the icon itself looks different. The icon pictured to the right is what it looks like in Windows Vista.

Be aware, however, that this icon can be turned off or moved, so it’s possible you may not  have that icon turned on, or it may be hidden. Do you have any icons next to your start button? If you don’t, then you’ll need to turn Quick Launch on. To do that, right click on a blank area of the task bar (that bar at the bottom of the screen) and choose properties from the pop-up menu. Then place a checkmark next to “Show Quick Launch”.

Once Quick Launch is turned on, you should have some icons next to the start menu, but you still might not see the Show Desktop icon. If you see icons, but you don’t see the Show Desktop icon, click on the double greater than sign to the right of the icons near the start menu. You should see it in the pop-up list. If it’s in the pop-up list, click on it and drag it and drop it where you want it.

Having said all of that, there is actually a better way to execute the Show Desktop function. On your keyboard, look for the Windows button (looks like a flag and is usually located one or two keys to the left of the space bar. Press the Windows button and hold it down. Now press the D key on the keyboard. Viola!

Don’t Switch Users

Don’t Switch Users

You may know that you can have multipe users set up in Windows. For example, if there are 4 people in your family and you all share one computer, you may each have your own windows user so that each person can customize Windows the way they want, and also to keep their data seperate. When you have more than one user, you typically get the Welcome Screen which shows you a list of users. You can then click on yours to login to Windows. Some versions of Windows require you to press Control-Alt-Delete and then enter the name you want to login to.

 

See full size imageMany computers only have only one Windows user with no password. In that case, you never see the Welcome screen. It will just automatically login as that user and go right to the desktop.

 

For those who have multiple Windows users, I wanted to alert you to something. When a windows user is done, don’t switch users. Instead, log off. The reason is that when you switch users, it leaves the user  you are switching from logged in and taking up resources. This slows the computer down. I’ve seen computers where they had four Windows users and every one of them was logged in.

 

I recommend turning off fast user switching. This will prevent people from switching users. User will then logoff and it will go back to the welcome screen. Then the next user can login. To turn off fast user switching in XP, click on Start and then click on Contorol Panel. In the Control Panel, double-click on “User Accounts”. Now click on “Change the way users log on or off” Click on the box next to “Use Fast User Switching” to remove the checkmark and turn off fast user switching.

 

In Vista, for some strange reason, Microsoft made it difficult to disable fast user switching. Because of that, I don’t think it’s something that the average user should attempt, so I’m not going to include instructions for disabling it here. But never fear. Click here. Save this file to your hard drive. Then find the file, right-click on it, choose rename. Now change the word “download” in the filename to “reg”. The file should now be named “Remove_All_Switch_user.reg” Now right-click on the file and choose merge.

Is Your Hard Drive Disorganized?

Is Your Hard Drive Disorganized?

You may have heard that you can do a defrag on your computer’s hard drive. Or maybe you have actually defragged your hard drive.

 

When something is fragmented, it means it’s broken into pieces and disorganized. For example, let’s say you are cooking in the kitchen and you need to use the hand mixer to beat some egg whites. Let’s say that the main unit is stored in the garage, one of the beaters is stored in the laundry room and the second beater is stored in the attic. It would take you a long time to gather the pieces so that you could use that hand mixer. In this example, the hand mixer is fragmented. If the mixer and the 2 beaters were stored together, it would be a much more efficient use of your time to get the mixer, put the beaters on, and use it.

The same can be said about a file stored on a computer’s hard drive. If the pieces of the file are stored on different areas of the hard drive, that file is fragmented and it will take longer for the hard drive to get all of the pieces than if they were all stored in one spot in the right order.

Performing a defrag on your computer will take that file, pull all of its pieces together, put them in the right order, and store them on one spot on the hard drive so that when you go to access it, it’s much faster. It’s important to note that a file on a hard drive can be anything. Sure, it can be a picture, a document, or a song, but there are lots of other things stored in files on your hard drive like programs. Windows is stored on your hard drive. Windows will run slower if the files and programs it needs are all fragmented on the hard drive.

So we see how a file can be fragmented, but in the world of computers there are other kinds of fragmentation. Even if every file on your hard drive is not fragmented, your hard drive can be considered fragmented. Why? If some files are stored in one part of the hard drive while other files are stored in another area of the hard drive, your hard drive is considered fragmented. Why is this important? If your computer accesses a file on the hard drive, the hard drive moves to that area of the hard drive. Then after that, it accesses another file on the hard drive, it has to move to a different area of the hard drive to access the second file. It’s all about minimizing the amount of movement and work the hard drive has to do.

Yet another kind of fragmentation is inside a data file. A lot of data on computers is stored in databases. These are kind of like mini hard drives themselves. The data inside them can be fragmented. There can also be wasted space within a file. Defragmenting the internal workings of a data file must be done by a utility program that understands the structure of that particular data file. So the defag built-in to Windows doesn’t do this kind of fragmentation. The reason I mention it is because there is a file, or set of files, in Windows known as the registry. The Windows Registry is a set of files where Windows stores a lot of settings. Windows doesn’t do anything without first accessing the registry. If the Windows Registry becomes damaged or corrupted, your computer will not function. Because the Windows Registry is often large and is accessed so frequently by Windows, it is important to not only back it up, but to defrag the contents of the registry to keep your computer running as well as it can.

Windows does not include a utility for defragging the Windows Registry. There are a few programs that will do it, but they aren’t cheap. For your average computer user, it’s probably not worth it to purchase one of these programs. When Cyber Tek Computer Pros performs a Deep Cleaning & Optimization service on your computer, we back up your registry and defrag it.

defragTo run a defrag in Windows XP or in Windows Vista, click on Start->All Programs->Accessories->System Tools->Disk Deframentor. In Windows XP you can click the analyze button to see how fragmented your hard drive is, or you can just go ahead and defrag it. You might as well just go ahead and defrag it. It will still show you a graphical representation of the fragmentation on your hard drive. The picture to the left shows to colorful bars. The top bar is before and the bottom bar is after. The red are the fragmented files. This fragmentation is still in process, so the bottom picture doesn’t represent the final result. The final result will show no red and all of the blue will be together in one area.

Vista allows you to set a schedule for automatic defrags and to select which drives will be defragmented, if you have more than one hard drive. You can also tell it to defrag now. But unlike XP, it doesn’t show you a graphical representation of the fragmentation of your hard drive and there is no option to just analyze.

It’s important to note that depending on the size of  your hard drive, the amount of data stored on it, the amount of free space on the drive, and the number of fragmented files, a defrag can take anywhere from half an hour to several hours.

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