Why you should ditch your Windows XP laptop right now

Regardless of which computer publication you’re reading, or which family members you’re rubbing shoulders with, the chances are you’ve come across the Stubborn Windows XP User. Now there’s nothing wrong with being a devotee of anything. You name it, you can find a club for it. There’s a club for Canadian Tire Money, for Pete’s sake.

But being a real devotee is different from simply being ignorant and miserly when it comes to your computer, for there comes a time when real problems suddenly jump up and bite you. Microsoft’s Vista and Windows 7 operating systems are a good deal easier to use than XP. That can be a subjective judgment, of course, but you should know that the two newer OS’s are known to be more secure than XP, too. And more stable, and that’s something you ought to consider as you plug away typing a response on the keyboard of your sluggish and dangerous XP computer.

It gets worse. Your RAM for your XP is two generations older than the current RAM in laptops, DDR3. Computing publications always advise you that the best way to improve your performance is to add more RAM. With XP, there’s only so far you can go-two gigabytes of RAM, to be precise. Then, too, if your hard drive fails, would you like to buy a new one and install it yourself? So you get another drive. Now, if you do replace that drive successfully with the kind of drive that will work with your motherboard, your new drive will not be “4K-aware.”

Basically, starting in January of this year, new drives should be shipping with 4K-aware formats. Instead of being divided into 512 byte-sized partitions, the new drives are divided into divisions of about eight times that size. The newer drives will be faster. You’ll be able to cram more on them. They won’t crash as often. Then again, perhaps that’s the least of your worries: your new drive may be incompatible with the old technology in your motherboard.

But if you insist on holding on to that XP laptop, you will have something to worry about that’s far, far worse than a new drive that won’t work: if you don’t buy Windows 7 now (if you are not a Mac or Linux user-and if you’re reading this, you likely aren’t), you’ll probably end up stuck with the disaster that will be called “Windows 8.” What’s going to be wrong with Windows 8? Well, pretty much everything. The interface is as ugly as hell. Unless you really, really like the Office ribbon. That task bar? It’ll be a space-hogging ribbon in Windows 8. Not only that, but the ideas for the platform are to be shared with Microsoft’s OS for phones. Do you really want a tiny phone-OS-like operating system powering your laptop computer with its heavy, obnoxious ribbon?

The real deal-breaker, though, is that Windows 8 is to be released in a 128-bit format. When Vista was released, Microsoft walked into the biggest disaster since, well, since something awful happened somewhere. Nobody was ready for Vista 64-bit machines. (Microsoft still isn’t ready, judging by the disparity in speed between its speedy 32-bit and molasses-slow 64-bit versions of Internet Explorer 9.) If you pass up on Windows 7-a relatively lean OS that is MS’s best Windows OS to date-you’ll have to settle for a worse-than-Vista, confused and confusing Windows 8 when you really do have to buy a new computer.

The question, then, isn’t why to keep Windows XP; it’s what kind of laptop you’re going to buy in the next few months. Quite simply, you can’t afford not to buy one. When you’re zipping along with your DDR3 RAM and your 500GB (minimum!) 4-K aware hard drives running a user-friendly and attractive Windows 7 interface, you’ll be thanking me. Friends, let’s keep that ancient Windows XP for the curators of computing museums.

Nathan Bauman is a Liberal Arts and history-type with a penchant for learning about laptop hardware and the OS’s and browsers that run on them. “It’s all geek to me” is his newest favourite expression. Nathan hopes to publish more articles in the future, and hopes that his readers can learn about the technology on their laptops along with him.

PC World (US)

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