Unless your Windows XP computer is disconnected from the Internet, which seems almost unfathomable, it’s time to upgrade. So what’s your next step?
Before you begin, recognize that you will have some challenges along the way, so expect them and leverage other folks' experience by searching the Internet. Once your upgrade is complete, hopefully you’ll be good for the next 5+ years.
Buy a new computer, laptop, or tablet.
I’ll start with the easiest path. Do you just want your computer to work and don’t like messing with it? Simply buy a new one, install the software you need, and copy your files over from your old machine. Yes, that’s oversimplified, but it’s the path of least resistance. Then you can get back to whatever else it was you were doing before this all happened.
Before you do buy a new device, think about what your needs are. If you just want to surf the web, check email, store pictures, and other basics, you may only need a tablet like an iPad. They are ultra-portable and are replacing desktops and laptops regularly. Many companies, such as Dell, are offering XP upgrade specials if you need a desktop or a laptop.
Why is this the easiest path?
- Even if your computer can handle upgrading to Windows 7 or 8, it will still probably be at the lower end of the performance spectrum. Every new operating system that comes out expects a bigger and faster machine. That doesn’t mean it won’t run, just that it may be painfully slow and perhaps unusable.
- Windows 7 and 8 do not have simple upgrade paths from XP, unfortunately. The installation process requires a number of steps, including backing up your data to an external device and using an application transfer tool, which will take hours, even if you know what you are doing. There are tons of tutorials out there so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel here. Just do a quick search for “upgrade windows xp to windows 8” and see if that gives you a headache.
- You can buy a used computer; however, the warranties may not transfer and you may not get support, which is similar to your current problem.
- Windows 7 or 8 will probably cost around $100 depending on where you get it. If you have someone professional help transfer the data and do the upgrade, you are looking at probably another $150 or so. If you do it yourself, think about the time investment. Upgrading will take longer than picking up a new machine, especially if/when you run into errors or incompatibility issues. If it takes you a weekend to get up and running, what’s that worth?
- While you may be able to fix the short-term problem with new version of Windows, it’s only a matter of time before you need new hardware, so instead of shelling out money for just a Windows upgrade, use it towards a new device so you can get a bundled deal that will last longer.
I understand all that but I'm still interested in upgrading my computer.
OK, so you are ready to give the upgrading a look. The first question is when did you buy your computer? XP was sold from 2001 to 2010. Unless you purchased your computer at the tail end of XP sales (October 2010), you could be using technology that is more than 13 yrs old. Even if it can run new version of Windows, it’s not going to be great. If you did, however, purchase your computer at the tail end of XP sales, you may be able to get away with upgrading. Try the Windows Upgrade Assistant to see if it’s an option: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/upgrade-assistant-download-online-faq.
If you fail that test and just need more memory (RAM), you can go to crucial.com and use their site to determine exactly what RAM you need and currently have. Depending on how old your machine is, RAM goes back up in price due to limited supply. Some memory has to be sold in pairs so it gets more complicated. Ebay may be a good option as well.
If you passed the test and are ready to give it a shot, Windows 8.1 is the latest and has the same hardware prerequisites as Windows 7. Windows 7 is more proven, since it’s been out for a while and is a more traditional version of Windows, whereas 8 is designed to also run on mobile devices and has a unique interface some don’t care for. There are plenty of comparisons out there.
Once you pick the direction you want to go, just look up a tutorial for upgrading by doing a simple search for “upgrade windows XP to Windows 7.” You will find a wealth of step-by-step instructions and videos to help you along the way, including this one: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/upgrade-from-windows-vista-xp-tutorial.
As always, computers are complicated. Hopefully now you have a better idea on a next step.
P.S. If you are upset about spending money on your computer, think about all those years you didn’t have to. Windows XP had a great run.
By Matt Longhouse, Co-president of Efficio, IT