Windows Vista, Windows 7 and 8 (+8.1)

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N.B.  Windows 7, 8.1 and 10 are the current replacements for Windows XP, 2000 and Media Edition.  All support and updates for Windows XP has now ceased. Vista is supported until 2017. Windows 7 and 8.1 support carries on until 2020.. If you buy a new machine you will get Windows 8.1 or 10 unless you can find a machine which has Windows 7 (just do a search). In July 2015 the latest version of Windows (10) was released. Users of versions 7 and 8 were asked to register interest in version 10. Those who agreed by July 2015 were given the upgrade free as an update.  Contraversially, Microsoft uploaded the Windows 10 files to people who registered an interest.  See the page on Windows 10 if you are tired of receiving 'nags' to upgrade from Microsoft.
The last copies of Windows 7 Home and Premium have now been issued to manufacturers. The last copies of the Pro version were issued in October 2016.

You cannot update Windows Vista and XP to Windows 7, 8 or 10. If you agreed to Windows 10 you don't have to install it immediately but when you do it will overwrite the version you have, although a copy of your old OS is made in case you want to go back to it.  Windows 10 is the LAST version of Windows.  Any further changes will by updates..

There is so much news on Windows 10 that I have created a new page at Help33b

See more at  Microsoft is hoping to make the latest version of Windows the hub of many devices around the home and have been cooperating with many manufacturers to ensure that, whether they are directly  or wirelessly connected they will just work. There will be up to nine kinds of Windows 10, though some vary only slightly. The basic version (Home) contains support for Windows Universal Apps, the Edge browser (as well as the latest version of Internet Explorer), Windows Hello facial recognition, Fingerprint recognition software and the Voice recognition software (Cortana).  The Pro version gives you tools for linking into Cloud Services (big deal!) and managing Mobile devices. Windows 10 Enterprise is like Pro but for those buying volume licenses. It also have Device Guard so uncertified apps can be locked out (by the boss). Windows 10 for Education (cheap academic volume licenses) plus some extras.
Mobile users may get Windows Mobile or Mobile Enterprise (for small screens) plus a light Office suite and the ability to connect to a large screen and keyboard.  There will also be versions for ATMs, robotics and yet another for those little machines with small capacities. Microsoft's Windows Marketing Chief is aptly named Tony Prophet

August 2014 Some new machines do not have a normal bios, so it is not possible to change the boot order to boot from a disk or USB, which has always been an open key to get at the contents of a PC without a password. Disabling what is called 'secure boot' is difficult. If you meed to do this put the question to Leo.

April 2014 A later update for Windows 8.1 was intended to make it easier to use with a keyboard and mouse. It will automatically detect if your machine is NOT touch screen.

Windows 8.1 and 10   includes automatic encryption of your hard disk. This means, if someone steals it or finds it they will not be able to get at your data without a password. One more password !  

For Microsoft Q & A about upgrading Windows 8.1 see   Also see

However, Windows 8, which is a complete redesign, is very confusing for people used to XP, Vista or Windows 7. The take-up must have disappointed Microsoft despite it being the Operating system being installed in most new Windows PCs.  In fact there are a number of programs one can download to enable you to make it look more like the older systems. Microsoft finally issued a free update to Windows 8.1 in October 2013 to address some of the complaints. 

You can upgrade a PC to Windows 8.1 (even from Windows as old as XP SP3 -( but this would mean a 'clean' install) by purchasing a Pro version. The student/teacher version was cheaper.  The specification  requirements are not especially high, with a chip speed of 1Ghz, 2Gb of memory and 20Gb of hard disk space. The graphics must be up to a certain standard but, although the Operating System is designed for a touch screen, this is not essential. It works fine with a mouse or laptop pad. 

So, what, apart from touch screen technology, made Windows 8.1 superior to its predecessors ? There are many on line videos which describe better than anything I can do. e.g.  and

WINDOWS 8 (and 8.1) Windows 8.1 is a complete replacement for Windows 8

Is it worth upgrading Windows 8 to 8.1?  Well, yes, if only to be able to get at a complete 'desktop' screen full of small icons showing what you could do with the machine. But elsewhere there are still problems.  Very difficult to get back to previous screens or ones favourite browser home screen.  But it just about makes Windows usable by normal humans again.  But do have a look at user's critical comments on Amazon HERE

The most useful Windows 8.1 Shortcut Keys

1. SECURITY IMPROVEMENTS (written before 8.1 became available)

1(a) Early Launch Anti-Malware.  In Windows 8, the integrated antivirus products can start earlier in the boot-up process to scan the system’s drivers for malware. This helps protect against rootkits that start before the antivirus program and hide from it. Windows Defender starts earlier in the boot process out-of-the-box.
1(b). SmartScreen Filter. Previously used only in Internet Explorer, the SmartScreen filter is now implemented at the operating system-level. It will be used to scan EXE files you download from Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, and other programs. When you download and double-click an EXE file, Windows will scan the file and send its signature to Microsoft’s servers. If the application is known-good, such as the installer for iTunes, Photoshop, or another popular program, Windows will allow it to run. If it’s known-bad, perhaps if it contains malware, Windows will prevent it from running. If it’s new and Windows doesn’t know what it is, Windows will warn you and allow you to bypass the warning. This feature should help less-experienced users from downloading and running malicious programs from the Internet. Even new pieces of malware will be detected by the SmartScreen filter as an unknown new program that should be approached with caution.
1(c). Improvements to the way Windows 8.1 manages memory. When a security hole is found, these improvements can make the security hole harder or even impossible to exploit. Some types of exploits that function on earlier versions of Windows wouldn’t function at all on Windows 8.
1(d). Sandboxed Apps. Apps downloaded from the Windows Store are 'sandboxed' and restricted in what they can do on your computer.This ensures that they cannot also load malware, even if they have been hacked
2. Boot Speed : Windows 8 uses some tricks to dramatically improve its boot speed. (it certainly needed it) Instead of shutting down normally, Windows 8 saves the state of low-level software such as the kernel and hardware drivers to the disk and restores them when you boot it up. It also uses UEFI which boots faster than systems using the old-style BIOS.
3. File Copying  in Windows 8 is dramatically improved. The new file copy dialog allows you to pause file-copying operations, view multiple file-copying operations in the same window, and more easily manage file conflicts.
4. The new Task Manager allows users to easily control the software that loads at startup. It’s also easier to understand at a glance, with color-coded resource usage columns and more human-readable program names. You can also quickly research a mysterious process online by right-clicking it and using the Search online option.
5. Windows Explorer is now named File Explorer. While some users may dislike the new ribbon interface, it makes it easier to access powerful options like viewing hidden files without digging through menus and dialog boxes. You can also easily collapse the ribbon if you never want to see it.
6. Hyper V. Windows 8.1 includes Hyper-V, which allows you to create virtual machines out-of-the-box.  So you can add another operating system (such as Ubuntu or XP) easily.
7..Restore to factory settings is easy and you will not lose your data  (photos, music, personal files or personal settings) unless you wish to. Some unrecognised apps will be removed.
8.. If you want to get back all of the Windows 7 games and put them in Windows 8, go to this link.
9. Battery life is promised to be better

Good video on Windows 7 HERE

PSR or Problem Step Recorder is available from Microsoft for Windows 7. If downloaded and turned on it will record the steps you take to solve a problem and even screen shots of every stage

The first Service Pack for W7 was from 44Meg to nearly a Gigabyte forcing people onto broadband if they are not already there., has a number of videos on DVD Maker, Movie Maker, Photo Gallery and Media Centre.  n.b. Many of these are only available to Windows 7 and Vista Home Premium Edition users (Not Home Basic)

Sharing printers and files on a home network with Windows 7 :  This is said to be easy using the Homegroup feature of Windows 7 See article HERE. However, if you also have an XP or Vista machine attached to the network the position is different.  Se the other article HERE

A good site about curing Windows 7 problems at

Windows 7 users weren’t be able to install Internet Explorer 9 until they downloaded Service Pack 1, according to the company.

Q. When I move a window to the edge of the screen in W7 it changes shape to occupy half the desktop

A. This is W 7 'feature' called Snap designed to make it easier to load two pages side by side.  If you would prefer this not to happen click Start, Control Panel, Easy of Access, click the Ease of Access Centre link and scroll down to Make the Mouse easier to use and put a tick against 'Prevent Windows from being automatically arranged!

Windows Vista Service Pack 2 (SP2) was an important update that included support for new types of hardware and emerging hardware standards, and it also includes all the updates that have been released since SP1. For more information about installing SP2, see Learn how to install Windows Vista Service Pack 2 (SP2).  and for reasons why it might not install.   n.b. In 2011 Support will end for PCs that do not have Service Pack 2.  So make sure you install it..
Here are some of the improvements in SP2:
Program compatibility. Microsoft works to ensure that your programs work seamlessly on Windows Vista. We also work with our partners to improve the reliability and compatibility of non-Microsoft programs. So, SP2 includes previously released updates that are available to you when you use Windows Update, and it also includes new compatibility fixes for individual programs.

Hardware support. Among other improvements, SP2 provides you with additional support for Bluetooth wireless technology and improved performance for Wi Fi connections after the computer resumes from sleep mode. Additionally, you can now record data to Blu ray Disc media.
General operating system updates. SP2 includes Windows Search 4.0, which has improved indexing and searching capabilities. SP2 also includes fixes that can improve recording TV using Windows Media Center.

June 2010 Most people have to reinstall their programs (such as their Office Suite) when upgrading from XP or Vista to Windows 7. The company Laplink do a program "PCmover Windows 7 Upgrade Assistant 5.0" which backs up your programs to an area on your hard disk, then reinstalls them correctly.  The download is 45Mb and the space needed is at least 200 Mb + the vast room required by Windows 7 itself.  But it could save you a load of time and hassle.

To check on whether your software will work under Windows 7 refer to

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