(Updated May 12, 2015)
Is Windows 8 or 8.1 driving you nuts? Then the first thing you should do is install
Classic Shell, to get back your Windows Start Button. It is free, open-source,
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
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). Also, Microsoft Office Starter Edition (which was
free with Windows 7), doesn't come with Windows 8.
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:
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/
6(a). Check either Avast or Avira (but not both!).
7(a). Scroll down, click the big "download installer" button, and run the downloaded
"installer" file. That should install your new antivirus program (either Avast or 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 Avast, 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