Sunday, June 26, 2016
VOLUME -25 NUMBER 8
Publication Date: 08/1/2010
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ARCHIVE >  August 2010 Issue >  Tech-Op-Ed > 

Washing My Windows
Walter Salm, Editor
A recurring theme with my aging office computer — an H-P tower that dates back to 2004 — is a need for cleaning up the hard drive. Back in 2008, when the power supply failed (it failed one month before the end of the store-bought warranty — talk about timing!), the nice factory guy came and replaced the power supply, and when I asked for his recommendations about my updating the components, he referred me to newegg.com, a source that was right on target for all of my needs. I replaced the old 160GB hard drive, reasoning that it was long overdue for a catastrophic crash — putting in a new Seagate 500GB drive. I expanded the RAM from 512MB to 2GB — the max allowed by this motherboard — and I replaced the CD burner with a DVD/CD burner. I described all of this in detail on a Tech Watch page last year.

My reason for doing all of this instead of simply buying a new computer: I didn't want Vista. I use a number of legacy programs in my work, including an MS-DOS antique called "WordStar" for my work on U.S. Tech. I had already learned that Vista wouldn't support WordStar, and I really didn't need to update my 2003 edition of MS Word, or my other software of similar vintage. Bill Gates has enough of my money.

But old software becomes corrupted after a while; sometimes a virus gets in there despite precautions, and there are various spybots and cookies and other incursions that make a computer's performance go downhill rapidly. I tried buying one of the performance-enhancing cleanup programs online, and it kept finding and fixing a horrendous number of errors, and kept trying to sell me more software, but the computer still relentlessly slowed down to the point that every time I did something on the Internet, the hourglass icon would appear, and I could take a stroll, get a snack, go to the bathroom, waiting for it to finish whatever it was doing. It was maddening!

So before starting work on this issue of U.S. Tech, I decided to bite the bullet and reformat. First, I had to make certain that I had adequately backed up all of my files onto my external hard drive — a 160GB gadget that is also getting old and gray. This took a couple of days of copying and rechecking to make sure. I did not back up the software installations; most of them were corrupted beyond redemption. And I always save my current work on an 8GB dongle, so all of that was safe, but I made a backup of that as well.

Then I trotted out the original Windows rescue discs — all nine of them — and reformatted the HDD. Now those 2004 rescue discs also were loaded with software, Windows, and dozens of 30-day trial programs for things that I really did not want or need. There was even a 2003 version of Norton, which I quickly deleted.

Along about disc 3 or 4, an error message popped up. Install Wizard offered me several options, including "Ignore". So I chose Ignore, and the programs went on their merry way. After all this was complete, I found that my USB keyboard and mouse would not work, so I couldn't enter choices on the computer screen. Remembering that this was a 2004 vintage chassis, complete with two PS-2 connectors, I grabbed my Scorpius clickety-klack keyboard complete with built-in trackball and used its PS-2 connectors. That worked fine, and I was able to finish the installation.

But nothing worked right. I thought about that error message, and about all of the useless promotional garbage that had been installed by those nine CDs, and decided to try a different copy of Windows XP — a copy that I had purchased three years ago so I could have my annoying Vista computer reprogrammed. It slid in just fine and redid the hard drive with no problems at all. This was a plain vanilla install with no annoying H-P stuff, no trial period software, no special offers, no Norton. And everything worked!

Along about bedtime, I inaugurated a massive HDD-to-HDD copying sequence to recapture all of my stored backups, started the transfer, noted that it would take several hours, and went to bed with a smile on my face. The next morning, it was all there — all except the software, which took me another full day and a half to install. There was lots of room; after all, the HDD was an almost-new half-Terabyte in size, and my photo albums only occupied about 50GB.

I have yet to try out the new Windows 7. I recently purchased an ultralight netbook to replace my old, ailing travel computer, and I purposely ordered it with Windows XP. One of these days, when I have a few spare moments, I might give Windows 7 a trial — just to see if it really is as wonderful as Microsoft claims. But then, they said the same sort of wondrous things about Vista, and we all know where that got us.  

 1) Op Ed editorial about Windows

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