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What to do about Windows XP

Today, April 8, 2014, Microsoft will issue their last update to Windows XP. They will update the Microsoft Security Essentials anti-virus for another year, but a) traditional viruses are no longer the majority of security and malware problems, and b) Microsoft has been explicit that Microsoft Security Essentials was a minimal anti-virus system, anyway, and formally recommends getting a better anti-virus.

So, what to do, especially if your system is not powerful enough to run Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 and the new free and required Update 1 for it? That's the subject of this post, for a well trusted website, ZDNet, has a checklist of things you can do. That inspires my post today; I'll summarize that checklist for you.

Here's the tl;dr:

1) Use the Firefox browser (a free spamfree download from firefox.com ) with free extensions NoScript, Better Privacy, Self-Destructing Cookies, Ghostery, Web of Trust, AdBlock Edge, BugMeNot. Firefox is the same on the Mac, Windows and Linux.

Make Firefox the default browser, and avoid using Internet Explorer from now on.

Make software updates automatic wherever possible. 

Uninstall Java, don't reinstall unless you Really need it. (Java is different from JavaScript). 

3) Get a firewall; Windows Firewall at the very least. There are better free firewalls.

4) Go to http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com and apply all updates except for the Bing Bar and any Language Pack for languages you don't read. If you are using Office 2003, go to http://LibreOffice.org and install it (free, spamfree) and let it choose to automatically open Office files, as Office 2003 also has security problems.

5) Make a new user in XP, but don't make it an adminstrator. Move all the data from your old (administrator) account to the new user. Use the new user for all web surfing.

6) Replace Microsoft Security Essentials with another antivirus. http://free.avg.com/us-en/homepage is free among many others.

7) Avoid the Internet if at all possible when using XP. 

8) Migrate to Win7 or Win 8.1 Upgrade 1 whenever possible. A free utility from Microsoft downloadable from http://www.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/xp/transfer-your-data.aspx makes it easy to move your data to the new Windows, and http://www.laplink.com/ (not free) does that and lets you move compatible Windows XP programs, as well as data. 

9) If you can't afford the new versions of Windows, your PC won't run it, or you're tired of the update merry-go-round, choose a major distribution (version) of Linux.  

Linux?  It's no longer the complex bugaboo it once was, and it's free.  

Mint Cinnamon, Fedora, and Xubuntu are my favorite versions for new users. You can install all on a garden variety USB Flashdrive from XP for free with a free and spamfree Windows program, and try them before you install. You can also install any Linux version side-by-side with XP without having to reinstall XP or its programs. Use Linux and Firefox for the web, and XP for your offline games.

Some Windows apps will work under Linux with Wine once properly configured, if there's a Windows program you must have; check the Wine Applications database for how well it runs. There's also a non-free improved version of Wine, CrossOver.

If you want to pass this on to a friend, the easy web address to use is http://j.mp/farewellxp .


Proof that SSDs are a good upgrade for modern PCs



Gadzooks! How to get more legroom for free in the air



New and Improved yet still free: Libre Office 4



What do you do about XP?

http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/european-technology/ok-so-stick-with-windows-xp-but-how-big-a-risk-do-you-run/1627 explains the risks of staying with XP when, a year from now. Microsoft stops support it with security fixes. 

Useful USB drive tips

http://www.flashdrive-repair.com  seems to have some useful stuff.


Goodbye Google Reader

So Google announced the impending death of Google Reader. What else will they jettison to shave another tenth of a percent of profit? Now is the time to find a replacement for every Google based service (including this one) because they're loyal to the dollar, not to the customer.


Hackers are relentless

http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/11/ff-mat-honan-password-hacker/all/ is a very scary story in hacking.


Free better Windows caching app



A+: If your Win7 Install Goes Wrong

If the system won’t start, you can still view log files. However, this depends on the type of installation and how far the installation got. If it was a clean installation, you should boot to the Windows 7 DVD; select Repair your computer, then access the System Recovery Options menu, and select the Command Prompt. If it was an upgrade that didn’t get far, and if Windows Vista/XP/2000 was previously installed on an NTFS drive, you can boot to the System Recovery Options in Vista, or the Recovery Console from a Windows XP or 2000 CD and view the log files from there.

 If you cannot start the clean installation or upgrade, check the following:
• Processor speed and memory size: Verify that your computer meets the minimum requirements for Windows 7.  Make sure you are installing the correct type (32-bit or 64-bit) and version of Windows 7.
• Windows type and version: Make sure you are installing the correct type (32-bit or 64-bit) and version of Windows 7 (Starter, Home Premium, and so on...).
• Free disk space: You need 16 GB/20 GB free for Windows 7 (for 32-bit and 64-bit editions respectively); the more space available, the better.
• Hardware conflicts or hardware issues: Use the Device Manager to ensure that all hardware works correctly before you start an upgrade.
• Installation media: Make sure that your DVD-ROM media is not scratched or damaged in any way. Verify that it is genuine Microsoft software and that you have the right type of media for your installation, for example, Windows 7 Full Version License or Upgrade DVD.



A+: Did your Win7 install go OK? Use the logs to check

When you complete the clean installation or upgrade, verify that your installation has gone smoothly by testing it. For example, attempt to navigate through Windows, access administrative functions, connect to the Internet, and so on.

 If you have confirmed that Windows is working normally, update the system. Install the latest service pack and additional updates as necessary. It is possible that the service pack was included on your installation media, but if not, download it and install it before going any further. Then, download any other updates that are necessary utilizing the Windows Update feature.

Installations usually go smoothly, but not always. If an installation fails for any reason, or if the installation completed but Windows doesn’t seem to be behaving properly, consider reviewing the log files to find out more about the problem and why it occurred.

The following table refers to variable directory called %WINDIR%. By default, the name of this folder in Windows 7 will be “Windows.” %WINDIR% is the new name of the variable previously called %systemroot%. Also, $windows.~bt is a temporary boot folder created during setup. It remains if the installation was not successful, allowing you to analyze the log files, but should be automatically deleted when the installation completes properly.

Windows 7 and Vista, as well as Server 2008, include the capability to review Setup events within the Event Viewer, or by way of a script. See for details: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd744583(WS.10).aspx.

Log File Location Description of Logfile
$windows.~bt\Sources\Panther Location before Setup can access the drive
$windows.~bt\Sources\Rollback If a fatal error happens, log location used if Setup does a roll back
%WINDIR%\Panther Setup actions after disc configured
%WINDIR%Panther\setuperr.log Info of errors diring install. A file size of 0 bytes means no install errors.
%WINDIR%Panther\setupact.log Shows setup actions during the install
%WINDIR%\Inf\Setupapi*.log Plug and Play devices installed
%WINDIR%Panther\Setup.etl Windows Setup performance evants
%WINDIR%\Memory.dmp Memory dump used for bug checks
%WINDIR%\Minidump\*.dmp Mini memory dumps used for bug checks
%WINDIR%\System32\Sysprep\Panther Logs made by Sysprep



A+: Win7 Clean Install

By far the most reliable Windows 7 OS is the one installed 'clean', not an update from a previous version of Windows. Differences between versions of Registry entries and DLLs can make an upgraded version less stable. You will lose your installed apps, but you can reinstall from the original source where you got the app, right?

Now that you have decided on the version of Win7 to use and have verified compatibility of hardware, it’s time to install. The Windows 7 installation is more simple than earlier versions of Windows. 

Here we cover the steps involved in a “clean” local installation of Win7. Keep in mind that this type of installation will remove any data currently stored on the computer’s hard drive. The following steps detail an installation of Windows 7 Ultimate.
Step 1. Begin the installation from the DVD-ROM. There are two methods to perform a clean install of Windows 7 from DVD:
• Install Windows 7 by running the Setup program from within the current version of Windows. (This is the recommended method.) Insert the Windows 7  DVD. The disc most likely autoruns and you see a setup screen. Otherwise, just go to the DVD drive in Windows Explorer and double-click the setup.exe file
to start the installation.
• Boot the computer from the Windows 7 DVD. This is necessary if no operating system exists on the computer. If you choose this option, do the following:
1. Make sure the DVD drive is configured as the first boot device in the system BIOS.
2. Insert the Windows 7 DVD into the system’s DVD drive. (If the drive won’t open while in the BIOS, insert the disc immediately after saving the BIOS during the next step.)
3. Save the BIOS and restart the system.
4. The DVD should boot automatically and start the installation, but if you are prompted to boot from the DVD, press any key. There is only a small window of time for this, approximately 5 seconds. This prompt is a protective measure; if you get the prompt, it means that there is data of some sort on the drive. 

Startup of the installation might take a minute or two; then you see a GUI-based window asking for information. (There is no text portion.) Setup will load Windows files for several minutes, and start the installation within the Windows GUI.
Step 2. Input the Language to install, Time and currency format, and Keyboard or input method. At this time there is also an option to learn more about the installation by clicking the What to know before installing windows link. After you input your settings for step 2, you must click Next, and then on the next screen click Install now. A few minutes or so will pass as files are copied and the installation is prepared.
Step 3. Accept the license terms.
Step 4. Select whether you are doing a custom install, which includes a clean installation or an upgrade. (Within these steps we are doing a clean installation.) If you install to a computer with no operating system, the Upgrade option will be disabled. For this exercise we are doing a clean installation so we will select Custom (advanced).
Step 5. Select where to install Windows 7. From here you can select the drive and administer partitions as you see fit. The proper disk preparation order when installing any operating system is to partition the drive, format the partition (or partitions), and start the installation (copy files).  

(The steps to create partitions during the install of Windows 7 are similar to Windows Vista). If necessary, you can also load third-party drivers for the media (hard drive) to be installed to by clicking on Load Driver.

These might be drivers for SATA or SCSI controllers, or other special hard disk controllers. These drivers can come from floppy disk, CD, DVD, or USB flash drive. Microsoft recommends that before you install, you check if the devices you want to use are listed at the Windows Compatibility Center: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/compatibility/ or at the Windows Logo’d Products List: http://winqual.microsoft.com/HCL. 

If you click on Load Driver and cannot supply a proper driver for Windows 7, or the computer cannot read the media in which the driver is stored, you need to exit the installation program. 

When you finish, click Next, and the system automatically copies files from the DVD, expands those files, installs features and updates, and completes the installation. The system might need to restart several times during this installation process (for example, after it installs updates and when it completes the installation), but you can let the Windows 7 installation work its magic until you get to the next step.
Step 6. Type a user name and a computer name.
Step 7. Type a password, confirm it, and type a password hint.
Step 8. Enter the Product key and decide whether to automatically activate Windows (can be delayed up to 30 days).
Step 9. Configure Windows Update to Use Recommended Settings, Install important Updates Only, or Ask Me Later. 
Step 10. Set the time zone, time, and date.
Step 11. Set the computer’s location: home, work, or public network. (This step may not be visible if the computer is not connected to a network.)

 Now it’s time to start Windows. Windows 7 checks the computer’s performance (which might take a while), prepares the desktop, and then logs you in.

Afterwards, you can continue with initial tasks such as connecting to the Internet or transferring files and settings.