Why Upgrading a PC to Windows 8 is Not an Option

I saw your notice about Windows XP, both my laptop and my roommate’s desktop are running XP.  Can I buy one operating system with two licenses? Do you know if I can and where AND what will help me decide for Professional or Home Premium?

I wish I could give this client a simple, “Click Here to Buy new Windows” link.

The initial, huge problem is that Microsoft itself writes that, “Very few older computers will be able to run Windows 8.1, which is the latest version of Windows.” (see Microsoft’s page on upgrading from XP).

That Microsoft page gives lots of details and things to check.  One program will test your computers to see if they are beefy enough to run the new operating system.  (Download “Windows Upgrade Assistant” to see if your computer is physically able to be upgraded.)

Slaving over a computer upgradeMaking the upgrade of an existing machine more daunting, Microsoft’s upgrade instructions include buying an external hard drive and backing-up all of your files.  Your installation of the new operating system will be a “clean” one, meaning your current system drive will be wiped out and everything that’s there will be gone.

To upgrade your existing machine, you will have to save your data files to a removable drive, install the new operating system, restore your saved files, and reinstall all the programs you currently have installed on your PC.

But wait!  It gets worse!  Devices and programs you use now may not work under Windows 8.  You can check what Microsoft thinks will, and will not, work under Windows 8.1 by running a compatibility checker.

And, worser! You’ll have to pay a lot to upgrade.  Microsoft is charging $119 per machine to upgrade to Windows 8.1.  It’s $199 if you want Windows 8.1 Professional.  I think most people will need only the base version, but you can decide yourself by checking  this feature comparison chart.

So, to make an older computer safe to use on the Internet after April 8, you will spend money for an external hard drive (maybe $75?) and give Microsoft at least $119 for their latest software.  Your old computer will still be old and probably even slower than it is with XP.  You will also have to spend a lot of time backing up, installing, updating, restoring, and re-installing software.

Family unwrapping a new computerMost people will be better off buying a new computer.  You can find a low-end modern computer that probably will be faster than your old computer for not too much more than the cost of upgrading your old machine. When you start your new computer you can run an included program that will transfer all of your data to the new machine.

I admit there are potential extra costs for going to a new computer. Your existing word processing program, spreadsheet, email, and other productivity programs may not install on your new machine.  You’re especially likely have to buy new software if the old modules were bundled with your XP machine.

OpenOffice LogoBut, you can mitigate the cost of new software by changing to OpenOffice for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations.  OpenOffice is free and its word processing program reads and writes documents that are compatible with Microsoft’s Word.

Of course, you can choose to continue to use Microsoft’s Office products (Word, Excel, etc.). If you stick with Microsoft  you can now subscribe to the Office suite for $9.99/month.  A subscription will entitle you to use all the office suite modules.  Or, you can buy  — the one-time payment, traditional method of getting software — the office product you want.  See the purchasing options for Office.

The Bad Bottom Line

The situation Microsoft has created by discontinuing XP support is unlike any other in the scope of people affected and poor alternatives available.  I wish the solution was easier — or cheaper — than buying a new PC.  But, I truly see no better alternatives.

I understand you don’t want to be pushed, forced, or bullied into buying a replacement for your older, Man holding gun on a messengerperfectly functional computer.

But, you have to stop using XP machines online once Microsoft pulls its support.  The upgrade path for your existing hardware is uncertain, expensive, and not cost-effective.

Sorry.  Really.  And, please don’t shoot this messenger!

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