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Computer Care: Windows still rules, but there are other alternatives

POSTED: March 22, 2013 10:43 p.m.

I have been a fan of the Windows operating system since its inception. With Windows XP back near the turn of this century, things started getting better. Wireless and USB support were introduced and many enhancements were added with that edition. Improvements were made to the computer hardware, the operating system and software; it all began to run faster than ever before.

Windows, in one incarnation or another, has been on my computers since the ’80s (Win 3.1) at the time when I had DOS installed on it. Things have gotten progressively better with each release, with the exceptions of the Millennium Edition, or Win ME, as it was infamously known, and, of course, the much-maligned Vista.

Those two versions were an annoyance to consumers and must have been an huge embarrassment to Microsoft. Still, they created superior versions after each one of those fiascos.

I’ve had clients who hated Vista so much they downgraded back to XP. If you have the CD, you can legally put it on any one machine of your choice.

Windows XP Pro has caused me only a few problems over the years and I still have it on my desktop computer. Win 7 Ultimate is on my laptop and is a strong OS, although every now and then I think I’m using Win ME again.

Once in a while, I can’t initiate a system restore or find that the computer has an inability to rename a file or folder. Even with updates turned off, I find myself waiting at a reboot while my system configures updates. My 64-bit laptop has 6 GB of RAM installed and still, the mouse will freeze on occasion. I work on these machines for living and even I get stumped at times.

What to do? Usually things happen for a reason; sometimes though, they are unexplainable. The first thing to do is reboot. Oddly enough, that little fix does a lot of good for an operating system. It refreshes the memory and repairs little issues within the system. It takes only a couple of minutes, so try a reboot first.

Should that prove ineffective, do some scanning. Let your antivirus and malware utilities both run full scans of your C drive. All it takes is a virus or Trojan horse to make a computer run a little crazy.

Scan results may reveal unspecific intruders, often listed as PUPs, or Potentially Unwanted Programs. They should always be terminated and removed. If your utility wants to remove something and asks you for permission, always allow it.

After that, run Windows Check Disk. All of these scans may be time-intensive, so don’t be in a hurry. All totaled, they can take hours, sometimes many hours to complete.

A last-case scenario in times of large issues is to reinstall Windows. This alternative will not fix the problems on your computer; instead it will erase them and put a fresh copy of your operating system on the hard drive.

There are other alternatives. You could try another version of Windows. If you have XP, try upgrading to Windows 7; if you have Win 7, try Win 8. Should you not want to give up one for the other, consider a dual boot or a dual config. This option lets you choose which version of Windows to boot the computer to, without deleting the other.

Google this option for instructions. I could explain it, but it would be a column in itself. It’s really not that difficult to accomplish.

Windows 8 was clearly designed for a tablet or other computer with a touch-screen interface. If you already have Win 8 and are dismayed at the lack of the familiar start button, there is help.

There are legal hacks to make the interface more familiar, but why should we have to tweak a new system? It would have been better with options. But if you do want that start button back, there are apps out there to download, most free. One may be found at www.startbutton8.com.

You could also try a different operating system altogether.

Linux is a viable alternative. Ubuntu is a version, or distro, as it is called, of Linux that has been popular for years. Not only is it a good, solid operating system, it’s not any harder to learn than Windows, and it’s free. This open-source Windows replacement also comes with various free utilities and applications, with more available to download. Find it at www.ubuntu.com/download/desktop.

Chromebook is yet another choice. Google released it a few years ago as an alternative to Windows. It’s lighter and cheaper than most laptops. With Chromebook, the operating system is Chrome OS and everything, including your data, is in the cloud. Security is built in and updates are automatic. Made for online computing, they start at $249.

OK, then there’s the Mac. There, I said it. But why buy an expensive Apple device when you already probably own at least one or two Windows CDs? Plus, Chromebook is inexpensive — and Linux is free.

Arthur Glazer is a freelance writer and computer technician in Gainesville. His column appears biweekly on the Business page and on gainesvilletimes.com.


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