Smithsonian


Windows 8 Revisited
CNET Community Newsletter responses to the 7 or 8 question



5 Reasons why you should upgrade to Windows 8, article



Turn ReadyBoost on or off for a storage device (works for Windows 8, too)



Amazon.com: 4GB SDHC Sandisk card



The Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant



Thomas Computer Services Web Site



The Windows 7 or Windows 8 question
Whether to spring for one of the remaining Windows 7 systems still available or to take the plunge and get a Windows 8 desktop or laptop was addressed in a recent mailing of the CNET Community Newsletter (see link). Most respondents who have been using Windows 8 for a while had positive things to say about it. Mostly, they like its stability and speed and they use a free application like Classic Shell to put the Start Menu back on the Desktop screen. Those with negative responses, mostly older folks, say that it takes too long to get used to it, that it's ugly, or that they have no intention of buying a computer with an expensive touchscreen display. Having used it for a while, it seems worth another look. It works just fine with no touchscreen and ugly is as ugly does.

Speed and security
New users will likely appreciate how quickly Windows 8 starts up and, with the new Internet Explorer 10, how quickly they can browse from web site to web site. The “5 Reasons...” article from PC Magazine (see link) describes the increase in speed. MicroSoft has included a program called SuperFetch that pre-loads commonly used applications into memory to reduce their load times. But there are some easy tricks you can do to make Windows 8 go even faster. Adding memory is the most effective way to speed up any computer. If there's no room in the memory slots if they're accessible, and if the computer has a slot for an SD card, the kind you pop out of the camera and into the computer to make it easy to transfer your photos, it (or any USB pen drive in an unused USB port for that matter) can be used with MicroSoft's ReadyBoost as extra system memory. Sandisk makes a reliable 4 GB SD card that's available from Amazon for about $6.25 plus shipping and sales tax.

Like earlier versions, Windows 8 comes out of the box with windows that animate as they minimize and maximize, with shadows under windows and mouse pointer, and about 15 other such bells and whistles, all of which slow the system down. Turns out it's very easy to switch them all off via: Control Panel | System | Advanced system settings | Advanced tab | uppermost Settings button | Adjust for best performance.

Microsoft's security improvements all have to do with infections available from the Internet. Most are programs that run in the background to prevent unwanted changes to Windows and are invisible to the user. The ones you have some control over include Windows Defender, the Action Center, Windows Firewall, Smartscreen and the Pop-up Blocker, all of which are revised versions of Windows 7 programs. Windows Defender is just Microsoft Security Essentials renamed and outfitted for Windows 8, but out of the box it is turned off to avoid lawsuits from Norton and McAfee. We are advised to delete these for-fee, third-party programs, and then turn on Windows Defender, which does a great job for free.

The setup
The Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant (see link) is a good place to start if you have a computer that runs Windows 7 or an earlier version, though 8 wants to run in a computer with an advanced processor and with plenty of RAM and hard disk space. To that end, the Assistant scans your system and then reports on present compatibility and provides specific steps you can take to get Windows 8 installed. David Pogue, New York Times Technology Columnist (2013), gives complete instructions on getting and installing Windows 8, and then advises that a more Windows 7-like experience can be had with the following additional steps that can be used even on a brand new Windows 8 computer:

1. Use Windows Easy Transfer to copy your files from your old computer
2. Download Windows Essentials, a suite of very useful programs that facilitate dealing with your email, photos, blog pages and more
3. Move the Desktop tile in the Windows 8 Start screen to the top-left position so you only have to hit the <Enter> key to get to the Desktop from there
4. Download and install Classic Shell, a free program that restores the Windows 7 Start Menu to the Desktop
5. Add a Shutdown tile to the Start screen- much easier than burrowing into the Windows 8 Charms bar every time your session is done
6. Delete Norton or McAfee and turn on Windows Defender.
7. For really safe Internet browsing, go to the User Accounts control panel, add a new account, make sure it is an Administrator-type account, give it a password that you write down and remember, and then change the account type of your original account to Standard, AND ONLY USE THE STANDARD ACCOUNT FOR INTERNET STUFF (more on this next month)

Reference
Pogue, D.W. (2013). Windows 8 the missing manual. Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly Media, Inc.
November 5, 2013

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