(Updated May 20, 2016)
Probably. Windows 7 support ends in January, 2020, so if you might keep your computer for
longer than that, it makes sense to upgrade to Windows 10, while it's free (until July 29,2016).
If you want to be cautious (like me), do a full "image" backup of your computer, onto an external
hard disk drive, using one of the excellent free backup programs, like Acronis TrueImage free
WDC Edition (if you have a Western Digital drive), or Seagate DiscImage (if you have a Seagate
drive), or Aomei, EaseUS, or Macrium Reflect. Do a backup before installing Windows 10, so
that you can revert to your old version of Windows, if necessary.
Do another backup after installing Windows 10, for recovering your computer to a working
Windows 10 installation if it ever crashes in the future.
If you wait until after July 29, 2016, upgrading to Windows 10 will cost $119 (Home versions) or
$199 (Pro versions).
You clicked "OK" without reading the fine print, which changed recently.
Pray Microsoft doesn't change it again.
It is not simple, but it is possible. Here are instructions:
1) Some names have changed. E.g., "programs" are now "apps," so "All programs" is now "All apps."
2) Some things have moved from the left-click-on-Start-button menu to the right-click-on-
start-button menu. Control Panel is one of them!
3) Some things have moved to different folders / categories. E.g., the old "Accessories"
folder is now "Windows Accessories," which moves it from near the beginning of All Programs
to near the end of All Apps.
4) Microsoft Security Essentials is now Windows Defender, and it is included, and it is free.
5) Ninite is a fantastic resources for safely and efficiently installing useful tools, like
Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and OpenOffice Suite (a free alternative to Microsoft Office).
Nothing speeds up a PC like an SSD (Solid State Drive), especially Windows 7 & later. But
if you upgrade from an HDD (Hard Disk Drive) to an SSD, it is important that the partitions
be properly aligned. You can learn about that here:
and here: http://www.intel.com/content/dam/www/public/us/en/documents/technology-briefs/ssd-partition-alignment-tech-brief.pdf
(Updated December 17, 2015)
Is Windows 8, 8.1 or 10 driving you nuts?
For Windows 8, the first thing you should do is to upgrade to Windows 8.1 (or 10).
For Windows 8.1, you should either upgrade to 10, or else install Classic Shell,
to get back your Windows Start Button. It is free, open-source, and wonderful.
Second, remember: The Windows Key Is My Friend. After you've installed Classic
Shell, pressing the Windows Key will return you to the regular Windows Desktop,
even when there's no obvious way to get there. (Alt-F4 to "close" is also worth
Third, you probably don't need a 3rd-party antivirus program. Starting with Windows 8,
Microsoft has dropped the old (mostly useless) Windows Defender, and renamed their (pretty
good) Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) to Windows Defender, and included it with Windows.
The link to run it manually is in Control Panel.
(But never forget: anti-virus software is not what keeps you safe on the 'web. It's more like
your seatbelt when you're driving a car. Paranoia is what keeps you safe, on the 'web or on
the road. Your antivirus software and seatbelt just improve your odds of survival if you make
a bad mistake.)
An annoying Windows 8 & 8.1 feature is Microsoft's heavy-handed effort to coerce
users into using “Microsoft accounts” (email addresses) for logging into Windows.
To avoid that, and use a traditional, simple “local account,” instead, follow these
instructions while setting up Windows 8 or 8.1 (or these instructions for Windows 10).
A major defect of Windows 8 and later versions is that they won't run Microsoft Office
2003 or MS Office XP (2002). (Actually, some people have managed to get Office 2003
to run on Windows 8.x, but Windows Update won't install updates/fixes.) Also, Microsoft
Office Starter Edition (which was free with Windows 7), doesn't come with Windows 8 or
Fortunately, there are several good free alternatives. The best ones are probably
OpenOffice, LibreOffice (which is very similar to OpenOffice), and Kingsoft Office
(a/k/a "WPS Office"), but there are several other alternatives available, too.
Here's a direct download link for Kingsoft Office 18.104.22.16850 (probably the best version):
This version is newer, but it adds "watermarks" to printed documents and exported PDF files:
This version is in-between; I'm not sure whether it adds watermarks or not:
If all you need is word processing (no spreadsheets, etc.), you might like the free,
open-source AbiWord word processor. It's a bit dated, but it is very robust, and
I've seen it recover a .doc file which was too damaged for Microsoft Word, itself,
to handle. Or, for simple word processing, try WordPad (which comes with Windows).
(Note: you don't have to pick just one. I installed & use four: Kingsoft Office, OpenOffice,
AbiWord, and genuine Microsoft Office.)
Other good, free tools can be found at the indispensible ninite.com site.
(Updated May 13, 2015)
Q: Microsoft has terminated support for Windows XP. Do I need to replace my
Windows XP computer, or upgrade the operating system?
A: No. It's not an emergency, anyhow.
Many XP computers are old and slow, and overdue for replacement. (I can help you
pick a good replacement, if you wish.) But if your computer is still running well, then
there's no immediate need to replace it.
Microsoft is no longer supplying fixes for Windows XP, but there's no immediate need
to replace the Windows XP operating system, either. Most computers which run XP
are not good candidates for upgrading to a newer version of Windows, anyhow.
However, if you use Microsoft Security Essentials ("MSE") for virus protection, you
should uninstall it and replace it with one of the free alternatives.
Microsoft promised MSE would still work through July 14, 2015. Here's the announcement:
Unfortunately, that was a "half truth." Despite Microsoft's promise, MSE is now displaying
a deceptive red "at risk" indicator on Windows XP computers, which masks its indication
of whether it has detected any real threats.
So I think it's best to uninstall MSE and replace it with one of the free alternatives. The
deadline to do so is July 15, 2015, but it's probably better to do it sooner, if for no other
reason than to get rid of the red "at risk" warning. So here's how to do it:
1. Go to: Start -> Control Panel -> Add and Remove Programs
2. Right-click on "Microsoft Security Essentials"
3. Left-click on uninstall, and uninstall Microsoft Security Essentials.
5(a). Using Internet Explorer, go to http://www.ninite.com/
7(a). Scroll down, click the big "download installer" button, and run the downloaded
"installer" file. That should install your new antivirus program (Avira).
5(b). Download and install Panda Free Antivirus, Ad-Aware Free Antivirus, or
BitDefender Free Edition.
Note that the order is important. You should never have two main antivirus programs on
your computer at once, so be sure to uninstall MSE before you install Avira, Panda,
Ad-Aware, or BitDefender.
(January 31, 2013)
To check your home network's router for the UPnP security flaw, use the
"Scan My Router" button on the Rapid7 Router Security Check web page.
Bob Rankin has more info here.
Steve Gibson's "Unplug-N-Pray" tool is handy for disabling UPnP on your
Windows computer, though it won't solve router vulnerabilities.
(This guy can.)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AW1Hj4eSlIA#t=26s