Which antivirus is best?

Which antivirus program should I use?

Antivirus programs – Which one should I use?  I get this question all the time – really, just about every day.  So, as a computer guy, you might imagine that I see a lot of different antivirus programs, and you’d be right.  There are dozens in common usage, and more that most folks have never heard of.

It’s also true that *I* like or dislike any particular program for different reasons than the average user likes or dislikes it.   Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and I certainly have mine.  That doesn’t mean yours is wrong, but it is probably different, and likely just as valid.  Am I starting to sound like a politician yet?

For the average user, I would imagine that the main goal of any antivirus program they use would be to “keep out all the viruses”.    Simply put, keep the bad guys out of the machine.

Herein lies the problem.  There is no one program that stops all viruses.  There never was, there isn’t now, and there never will be.  That’s just a fact of life.  Some programs are better than others, but however it is that you measure that, if you look again next month, WHICH programs are better will likely be a different group.

This is because the whole concept is such a moving target.  There are [a LOT of] new viruses every day.  All of the antivirus companies spend enormous amounts of money and effort to identify these new viruses and modify their programs to stop them.   Here is a timeline of sorts:

  1. The bad guys make a new virus and release it onto the world
  2. Some time passes, and the antivirus company finds this new virus
  3. The antivirus company figures out how to prevent or identify and delete the new virus
  4. The antivirus company tests their changes internally
  5. The antivirus company does a limited rollout of the changes to test them externally
  6. Assuming no problems the antivirus company releases their changes to all of their customers
  7. Over some period of time, all of the end users using that antivirus program get the update and are protected from the virus released in step 1

The devil is in the details, though – as with most things.  In reality, we aren’t talking about one new virus at a time.  There can be hundreds of newly discovered viruses every day.  Step 2 above can take hours, days or weeks.   During that time, if you are unlucky enough to run into the new virus, you can get infected even if your antivirus program is running correctly and up to date.   Don’t forget YOUR protection doesn’t come until step 7.

More details: occasionally, something goes wrong and one of the updates released by an antivirus company doesn’t work right.  This can result in problems for the end user until such time as the antivirus company discovers its mistake, fixes the problem and releases the fix.   Sometimes, the problems are severe.  One such case last year actually broke the internet connection on the end users computers, so that every user of that antivirus software that loaded the bad update could no longer browse the internet.  AND because of this, couldn’t get the fix the antivirus company programmed.   That was a disaster.

Let’s talk a little bit about why *I* like or dislike any particular antivirus product.  The most important factor is that the product has to be generally regarded in my industry as “good.”  This usually means that it has a history of good results from the various places that test these things.  Also, it has a good reputation amongst the tech community.

A VERY close second factor for me is how good of a “citizen” that program is when living on your computer.  Does it get along well with most other programs?  Does it have an easy-to-understand user interface?  Does it demand a lot of the user’s attention, or does it do its job more quietly, in the background?  Does it place a high load on system resources – i.e. How much does it slow down the computer using it?  How often does it load updates, and how long does that process take?  These questions can only be answered by using and working with the product on one of your own machines.  I do some testing, of course, and I work with a lot of different programs on my customer’s computers.  I also use my relationship with other computer folks in my industry to gain this knowledge for a wide variety of products.

In order for me to feel comfortable recommending it, an antivirus program must do all of these things well.  Let’s say I found a very good antivirus program, but for whatever reason, it placed a very high load on the host system.  Sure, it may protect you from viruses, but if it slows your computer down by 50%, you are not going to be happy with the results.

As you can imagine, this landscape is constantly changing.  The products on my list are different today then 2 years ago, and will undoubtedly be different 2 years from now than they are today.  Things change all the time.

Lastly, let’s look at the free programs.  If you can get good protection for free, why would you ever pay?  The first point here is to realize that no company can survive by making and distributing only a free program.  It takes money (sales) to pay for developers, testing equipment, office buildings, all the stuff you need to be a company.  Most all free programs have a paid counterpart, that usually has more features or automation.  The only reason most free programs exist at all is to sell the paid version of that program.  If you use and like a free program, then it is reasonable to assume that you will “convert” at some point to using the paid version of that program.  If no one converted, there would be no revenue and that company would cease to exist.  I have tried many of the free products, and while some of them provide adequate protection, most of those have a reason that I don’t particularly like them.  Updates too slow, too aggressive with advertisements, constant re-registering, too hard on system resources — any of these things can put a product on my ‘not recommended’ list.

The end result of this is that companies that produce the free programs monitor this conversion rate closely.  If enough people are not converting, then they get more aggressive at their efforts to convince people to convert.  The most popular ploy is to automatically install a “trial” of the paid version during one of the frequent updates.  This temporarily converts your program to the paid version so that you can see all of the benefits you are missing by using the free version.  Then, after a short while, say 30 days, your free “trial” of the paid product will expire and the program will start warning you about this and state that you have to sign up (= PAY THEM) to continue.

Because the “offer” to convert to a trial version of the paid program is often sneaked into a normal update, most folks miss the chance to say no to this offer and continue with the free version.  The more aggressive the companies get at their conversion efforts, the more sneaky they become at installing the “trial.”

It’s hard for me to get upset about their aggressive tactics here.  I get it that a certain percentage of the free users have to convert for them to make enough money to continue.  As a small business myself, it would hypocritical of me to recommend that anyone use free products forever.  If you are using a free antivirus and like its protection, then by all means I think you should upgrade to the paid version.  Reward that company for their efforts in producing a good product.  Karma will thank you and you will be a contributing member of this tech society we all live in.

Ok, Ok – that’s all well and good, but which antivirus program should I use?

There is one product I use myself and recommend above all others, for a reason that I haven’t discussed yet.  This is our own “managed” antivirus product.  It is a paid product, but it is cheaper than most all of the alternatives, and comes with the great feature of being “managed.”   So what is that?  A managed product will report back to someone (in this case, me) about the status of the product.  If you use our managed antivirus, then I get what amounts to real-time reporting about whether the product is currently active, if it has successfully loaded the most recent update, and if it has found any infections on your machine.

This allows me to bring my professional knowledge to bear every day for your protection.  If the product is not running, then I know about it and will probably call you to see what’s up.  If the latest update did not load successfully, I will issue a command that the update try again.  If it fails a second time, I know something is wrong and will call you.  If it detects an infection, I will see that and also whether or not that infection was successfully quarantined or deleted.  If it was NOT, then I can issue a command for that to be done.  If that fails, I will call you.

So, the managed portion of the product is like having me there to oversee the operation of your program, and making sure that it works correctly.   Also, because I chose carefully, this product is a good citizen on your computer.  It does its job quietly without requiring a lot from the users of the computer, it doesn’t place a large load on system resources, and it is generally regarded in the tech community as good protection.  Win-Win.  As a bonus, it is less expensive than the average Norton or McAfee you might pick up at the store.

If you’d like to know more, or discuss any of the points I have made in this article, give us a call @ (412) 480-9969.  That’s why we’re here.  We’re happy to help!

Should I upgrade to Windows 10?

Should I Upgrade to Windows 10?


Unless you’ve been living off the grid, you’ve seen the notices that Windows 10 will be released on July 29th this year.  You may have even noticed a new icon on your taskbar offering the chance to “reserve your upgrade.”  Additionally, it will be a free upgrade to folks already running Windows 7 or 8.  So, should you upgrade?  As with many things involving your computer, the answer is “it depends.”

First of all, let’s look at the “free” part.  Microsoft has announced that for a period of one year after July 29, 2015, anyone running any version of Windows 7 or 8 will be able to upgrade to Windows 10 for free.  If you’ve survived on this planet for any length of time at all, you know that nothing is free.  The cost may not be in dollars, but there will be a cost.  No one can stay in business by giving away their product.

If you think about this a bit, you can see that there are limits to this offer.  To get your free upgrade, you must have an existing computer, and that computer must have an existing version of Windows loaded on it.  Any existing computer is going to have a limit to its lifespan, at the end of which the user will have to purchase another computer, which will have a paid-for license for Windows on it.  So in reality, Microsoft is just deferring income for the folks who choose to upgrade their existing computers.

For most, I recommend NOT upgrading right away.  No matter how extensive the product has been tested, there will be some bugs that escape detection until it is released to the masses and millions of people start using it every day.   Unless you enjoy being an early-adopter and finding those bugs for Microsoft, I recommend you wait a while to upgrade.  Let other people find the problems, and let some patches be created to fix them before you jump in the pool.

This is not to say that you should be afraid of purchasing a new computer with Windows 10 pre-installed.  If you are going to be in the market for a new computer after July 29th anyway, there is no reason not to get Windows 10.  There just isn’t.  The one exception to this is if you are a business and have critical applications that do not yet support Windows 10.  Other than that, get it – enjoy it – and get on with more important things in your life.

Some other things you might not know about Windows 10.

  1. If you click on the icon to “reserve your upgrade now” your computer will have to download the upgrade. This may not happen until July 29th or after, or there may be some things that can start downloading now – I don’t know.  What I do know is that in total, the upgrade is over 3 Gigabytes in size.  This is a huge download.  If you have a DSL connection, this is going to take a long time.  Even with a cable connection you are probably looking at a few hours to download or more.  I say “or more” because this will be far from an ideal situation.  Millions of computers will be trying to download the update at the same time, so the Microsoft servers are going to be working overtime and will be slow.  I guarantee it.
  2. One of the changes with Windows 10 will be how updates are handled.  For home users (and perhaps all users who take advantage of the free upgrade) updates will no longer be voluntary.  They will download and install without your permission.  Currently, you can set your system to not download updates immediately – and you can put off the installation of updates if you want.  No more of this with Windows 10.  Ultimately, this is a better answer because it will force people to stay updated and overall systems will be more secure because of this policy.  Taking away your vote for when and how to install updates will likely not be appreciated, though.
  3. Windows 10 will not be able to play DVDs “out of the box.” You will need separate software for this.  This isn’t really a bad thing, just a difference from previous versions.  I highly recommend a free software called VLC Media Player for this task.
  4. If you sign up for the free upgrade, you will also get “Candy Crush Saga” pre-installed. This sounds like a bad thing to me and a very slippery slope they are walking on (remember that “cost” thing I talked about earlier?).
  5. The upgrade is a one-way ticket. There is no built-in way to go back if you don’t like it, or if it doesn’t work right.

Ok, Ok – I want the upgrade!  How do I get it?

There are two ways, the simple (but wrong) way and the more-complicated (but correct) way.

  1. The easy way. You can click on the offer icon to reserve your copy of Windows 10, then the software will download sometime after July 29th and at some point be ready to install.  Click on the offered “install now” button or whatever form it takes, then pray for a good result.  For the love of all things good in this world, DO NOT DO IT THIS WAY!   Seriously, don’t.  Please.
  2. The better way. Enlist the help of a professional (That’s me!).  Make sure your computer meets the minimum requirements of Windows 10.  Then, make sure your computer is clean, uninfected, and all of the hardware is working well.  If something is wrong now, loading the upgrade is unlikely to fix that problem.  Then, create an image backup of your current system before you upgrade.  This will guarantee that you can return to the way things were if something doesn’t go right.  This requires special software and an external drive big enough to hold the image.  Finally, load the upgrade.  When it is finished, test everything to make sure nothing went wrong.
  3. (Ok, I never said I could count) The best way. Backup your data and do a clean install of the new version of Windows.  Upgrading always sounds like a good thing, but you end up carrying baggage from your old installation over to the new one.   It’s always better to start fresh.  I don’t know if this is even possible with the free upgrade yet, but I suspect it will be.

I don’t know if Microsoft will make a separately-downloadable installer available, but if they do I will be sure to get it.  That way, systems could be upgraded without requiring a huge download for each one.  Time will tell – I’ll keep you posted.  Easiest of all would be to just wait until you have to replace your computer.  The new one will have Windows 10 pre-installed and will be guaranteed to work with the hardware.  We will migrate your data and reinstall your programs just like any other new computer setup.  In the meantime, you can enjoy your current computer.  If you’d like to chat further about this or have any questions, please give us a call – we’re here to help.

Business customers teach us how to provide better service for everyone

6 Things we’ve learned from business customers



Here at  Home Computer Help, we have small business customers as well as individual residential customers.  When you are dealing with a small business, they often have different priorities than the average home computer customer.  For example:

  1. Backup is more important – As an individual, losing data on your computer will probably result in you having a bad day, but it is rarely threatening to your livelihood. As a business, however, it is critical that you prevent data loss.  Losing your customer database, or your Quickbooks file means you can’t do any business until you get it back or recreate it.  This could deal your business a blow from which it may not recover.  Backup is more than a good idea, it’s critically important.  Becoming familiar many different backup solutions for businesses has given me more options to offer to my residential customers.  For business customers…
  2. Computer maintenance is more difficult, and more important. It’s important to keep your computers running at their best.  For a business customer, downtime is not only an inconvenience, it means that employees can’t work until their computer is running again.  Depending on the employee’s rate of pay and importance to the business, downtime can be very expensive.  Finding a solution to this in automated monitoring and maintenance has provided me with a system inexpensive enough to offer to my residential customers.  Ask about our Sentinal Remote Monitoring service if you are intrigued by this idea.
  3. When setting up a new computer, a faster process is definitely better. Because of the higher cost of downtime for a business customer, I am continually searching for ways to speed up the process of getting a new computer up and running.  This helps residential customers, too.  Because we typically charge hourly for our services, a faster process means a lower cost.
  4. Remote access is the fastest way to provide service. I offer remote service, when appropriate.  For business customers, this is advantageous because I can spend my time dealing with their problem instead of dealing with traffic.  This applies to residential folks as well, and lets me provide a more flexible schedule.  It allows me to serve customers that are too far away for onsite visits.  As long as your internet connection is working, I can provide service across the country as easily as if it were next door.
  5. Business-class hardware is made better and often has a longer warranty than consumer-class hardware. For not much more money, anyone can purchase  a business-class computer, which is built more sturdily, and often has a 3-year manufacturer’s warranty on the hardware.
  6. Business-class managed antivirus is better than what the individual consumer can buy. Managed antivirus solutions mean that we get notified immediately if one of our customers gets infected, or has trouble with their antivirus software.  In addition, all customers on the system benefit whenever any one of them identifies a new threat because it is then blacklisted for everyone else on the system.  As a bonus, this software is less expensive than the consumer-targeted solutions.  I recommend this system to any customer that needs an antivirus solution – business or residential.

We love our small business customers, and we especially love that solving problems for them allows us provide better service for everyone.

Staying safe on the internet

Staying Safe on the Internet – Halloween Edition

Staying safe on the internet means avoiding the scary bad guys that are looking to steal your information or your money at every turn.  This is a cruel fact of life on the Internet.  It seems you can never let your guard down – you always have to be on the lookout for the tricksters…and they are everywhere.

In the old days (you know, back in the 90′s and 00′s) staying safe was easy.  You bought some anti-virus software, made sure it was working, stayed away from the underbelly of the Internet, didn’t open emails from folks you didn’t know, and you were good to go.  Boy, things were simple then.  :-)

Back then, viruses (“Malware” was a new concept) got to your computer by sneaking in and installing themselves.  They could come by email, or an infected floppy disk could install the virus on every computer that used the disk.  The key here is that the bad guy would install itself.  Additionally, viruses in the old days weren’t after your money.  They were more about disabling your computer, or using it as a means to cause problems for someone else.  The virus writers were more like graffiti artists or protesters.

Then – everything changed.  The entire raison d’etre of the virus writers shifted.  As more people used their computer to purchase things online, it became possible to steal credit card information or sell bogus products for profit.  Suddenly, the bad guys could get paid for their efforts – and paid well.  This caused explosive growth in this nefarious industry.

To avoid the anti-virus software, the bad guys also had to change the way they got to your computer.  They couldn’t sneak in and install themselves any longer.  Instead, they figured out they could trick the end user (that’s you!) into installing the software for them!  Unfortunately, anti-virus softwares treat software that you install with less suspicion than software that tries to install without your knowledge.  Malware writers take advantage of this fact, and are waging all out psychological war.  All they have to do is make you think that you need to install something, or click a button, or visit a website.  If they are successful, then you are actually doing their dirty work for them, and your risk of infection is much, much greater.

If you go to a website for some reason or another and you are greeted with a message that you need to install some video player or driver to see the content you are after, this should raise a red flag.  The first thing you should do is ignore or cancel the message.  If the content presents itself anyway, then whatever the message was talking about wasn’t necessary.

The take away here is that you should be suspicious of every single click you make while on email or the Internet.  Staying safe means not ever opening zipped email attachments, even if they come from people you know.  Don’t fall prey to those popup messages that implore you to install something.  Bonus points for using a safer browser than Internet Explorer; like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.  Don’t be scared, be smart!

As always, if you have any questions, give us a call – we’re here to help.

Upgrade or replace?

How Often Should You Upgrade or Replace your Computer?

I get this question a lot, Especially when folks purchase new computers…..“So…how long is this thing going to last?”

In my experience, on average, desktop computers last around five years before they need replaced. Laptop computers have an even shorter lifespan, mainly due to their portability and the way they’re built. It’s much harder to cool a laptop, and heat is the main enemy of electronics. Also, because you carry them around, they are much more susceptible to physical damage – getting dropped, leaving them in a frozen or way-too-hot car, etc. The lifespan is maybe three to four years on average for a laptop.

You’ll also notice I said “average.” Sometimes hardware fails early for no apparent reason (but probably because of a bad part installed at the factory). Conversely, sometimes it lasts way longer than you might expect – also for no apparent reason.  When you buy a computer, you always hope you will be in the latter group, but it’s a roll of the dice.

Sometimes, you can “upgrade” a desktop or laptop computer to help get more time before replacing it. This was much more common in the earlier days of computing, but there are still a couple of easy upgrades you can do. Upgrading generally involves swapping out older pieces of computer hardware with newer ones, which helps bring the system up-to-date while improving its intrinsic performance.

Older desktop and laptop computers are prone to slow performance, especially if their internal components can no longer keep up with the technological standards used to produce today’s software.

The most common hardware upgrade involves replacing the desktop graphics card and memory, hard drives, DVD or BlueRay drives, and other peripherals, such as adding an internal USB card (for additional USB ports). For laptops, you can replace the hard drive and add additional memory.

One thing to keep in mind: installing an upgrade an older desktop or laptop may not be enough to completely remedy its performance issues especially if it’s running a newer and more demanding software. For example, Quickbooks 2014 is never going to be fast on a 2007 computer. In this case, a total replacement would be a better approach.

Cost is perhaps the most important factor when considering a computer upgrade. Buying a new computer may make more sense, if the price of the upgraded hardware reaches and/or exceeds the new computer price. If a new computer would cost $700, it doesn’t make much sense to spend $400 upgrading an old one.

We can help you decide if an upgrade is right for you, or help you pick out a shiny, new computer if that is the best option.  Give us a call!

sleep mode

Sleep, Hibernate or Shutdown – Which is Best?

It’s the end of the day, you have the choice to put your computer in sleep mode, hibernate the computer, or do a shutdown. What is best option? Let’s examine each so you can decide:

Sleep – When you put a computer into sleep mode, it saves your current working environment to memory and then partially powers down.  Your computer is still running, but it uses much less energy than if it were completely on. Later, when you come back and “wake up” the computer, it powers up again and picks up right where you left off.  This process is faster than a regular startup.  Laptops often automatically go into sleep mode when you close the lid.  A potential downside of sleep mode is that sometimes things like scanners don’t wake up correctly.  I’ve even seen this problem with keyboards and mice.

Hibernate – the hibernate mode saves power and stores all your memory contents on your hard drive, including your running software and open files.  After everything is stored, your computer shuts completely off.  Then, when you power it up again, it loads your previous session and allows you to pick up right where you left off.  Like Sleep mode, this process is faster than a regular startup.  Because this procedure doesn’t clear your RAM, Downsides are the same as sleep mode.  Sometimes, everything doesn’t work correctly when the computer comes back out of hibernate.

Shutdown – This means closing all of your software and completely turning off your computer. Keep in mind that when you turn on your computer again, there will be boot up time, since you are starting fresh. This option is best for energy saving and for the longevity of your computer as long as you don’t mind the boot up time.  Additionally, your RAM is completely cleared when you reboot.

The best option really depends on how long you plan to go before using your computer again, whether you are interested in saving energy/power, and whether you’re using a laptop or a desktop. Now that you know the options, try each one to see how it works on your own computer.  Once you know that, you can choose the best option depending on your individual situation.

slow computer

Why Do Computers Slow Down Over Time?

If you’ve noticed that your computer has been awfully slow lately, don’t worry, you’re not alone. It’s very common that as a computer ages, it slows down and loses efficiency. In fact, even a year after purchasing a computer, it will typically act and run slower than it did when it was first purchased. So why does this happen? Well, there are few common reasons.

In most cases, software is the culprit for your slow computer. When you load the endless stream of (unfortunately necessary) updates your computer is constantly nagging you about, each one is giving your computer some additional work to do. Worse, these software changes can also introduce inconsistencies over time. This is particularly true with software that installs start-up components, these components load silently during the computer start up and unnecessarily use up memory and CPU cycles. So, as time passes, and you load more and more updates, you are asking your computer to work harder and harder. This means more of the computer’s energy is being devoted to maintaining its own infrastructure. This means LESS of the computer’s energy is available to devote to the tasks that you are trying to do: Check your email, edit a document, etc.

In some cases viruses and/or malware can also be responsible for the computers slow performance.  This typically produces other symptoms besides general slowness, though.

When your computer becomes noticeably slow there are a couple of options to consider: tune-up or reinstall.

A tune-up will get rid of all the temporary files, mismatched settings, and unnecessary startup items. A tune-up is less time consuming and will preserve the existing software, data and settings. Tune-ups can almost always be
completed in a single hour remote call, easy & fast. Give us a call to arrange a convenient appointment.

A reinstall on the other hand will involve backing up all the data on the computer and then reinstalling the operating system, software, peripherals, etc. This is obviously a more involved and time-consuming process but
in some cases this might be the only viable solution in order to get that new computer performance back.


It’s Time to Give Up Windows XP

If your computer is running on anything older than Windows 7, it’s time to upgrade. Microsoft is suspending its support for Windows XP in April of

2014, stopping all Microsoft security updates.

Software vendors are also likely to withdraw their technical assistance soon after, so this is the best time to ensure you’re not left behind. XP will still work, of
course, but it will quickly become impossible to protect it from the countless bad guys on the Internet.

What’s that? Don’t believe me?  Here is an good overview from an independent source.  It’s a little geeky, but still the point is made.

Replace or upgrade?

Upgrading is less expensive than buying a new computer, but it only makes sense if your computer is relatively new. Older computers likely will not have drivers available for the new operating system.

Replacing your old computer, on the other hand, will get you a current processor, lots of RAM, and a bigger hard disk than most folks will ever fill up. We can help you get rid of old equipment, transfer all data, and
ensure nothing is left on the old hard drives.  Note that old computers can be recycled at little or no cost in most cases.

Cutting costs on computer replacement

To cut costs when replacing old computers, opt for refurbished computers as opposed to brand-new ones. Refurbished computers may already have the Windows 7 operating system pre-installed and may also come with a hardware warranty.  However, ensure that you work with a reputable dealer, preferably one who is registered with Microsoft, in order to get quality products running genuine Microsoft software.

Assess what you have

If you’re not sure how to proceed, give us a call and we will do a quick evaluation of your computers and determine whether your computers have the necessary hardware specifications to give up Windows XP and upgrade to Windows 7 or 8.


Are Computers Going Away?

With all of the new smartphones and tablets available, I get this question a lot.  Personally, I don’t think that computers (desktops OR laptops) are going away anytime soon.  It’s true that tablets and phone have some amazing functionality – if you can think of it, someone has probably written an app to do it.  For example, I use a free app on my smartphone to measure wireless signal strength and detect wireless networks.  This app has replaced the need to use a laptop for this purpose, and previous handheld devices to do the same were very expensive.  Now, I have a free app with more functionality.  Amazing.

Tablets are also impressive pieces of technology.  They have pretty much all of the functionality of a laptop in a pound-and-a-half package that you can toss in your purse or briefcase, with double-digit battery life and amazing screen resolution.  Impressive.

Tablets and smartphones have one thing in common – they are great content browsers.  You can surf the Internet, read a book, play a game, watch a movie, listen to music, get directions, view a map, etc.  They are not good content creators.  If you want to create a spreadsheet, or write a letter, or edit a picture, or layout a newsletter, you will be most comfortable on a laptop or desktop with a real keyboard, real mouse and a big screen.  No one is going to write the next great American novel on an iPad (ok, cue the universe – someone  prove me wrong!)

Because of this simple fact – laptops and desktops are best for creating content, phones and tablets are best for browsing what others have created – I believe laptops and desktops will be with us for a long time to come.  They may look different than they do today, the programs we run on them will undoubtedly look different, but they are not going away.


Are You Afraid of Windows 8?

Unless you live under a rock somewhere, you’ve probably heard someone complain about Windows 8.  “The new screens are UGLY!,” or “I can’t use a computer without a ‘Start’ button!”

The truth is the screens are different and the Start button is indeed gone.  But the bottom line is that these two changes take about 10 minutes to get used to.  There are lots of improvements that come with Windows 8 – and they far outweigh the minor change in the interface.  Windows 8 is just an improved Windows 7 with a new wrapper.

Windows 8 is also the operating system you will get if you buy a new computer today (unless you buy a Mac.)  The real problem here is that people (me included) don’t like change.

Do you remember when Office 2007 came out?  Microsoft replaced the toolbars and menus we spent years committing to memory with the “Ribbon” – a context-sensitive system that offered different choices depending on what you happened to be doing at the time.  In the end, this was a much more workable system that required fewer steps to get to what you wanted – it made our lives easier.  The real reason that we all memorized the previous menu system in the first place was to make our lives easier!  You want to print an envelope?  That’s Tools, Letters and Mailing, Envelope.  I was able to rattle off most any combination over the phone without even looking at the menus after a while.

When the Ribbon came out, it made our knowledge of the menu system useless and we had to start all over again learning the new system.  This was frustrating to be sure – but we did figure it out.  And…after all was said and done, we were able to get all of our work done on the new system, usually with fewer trips through the labyrinthian menu system.

Windows 8 is no different.  We are in the difficult “my old knowledge has been devalued!” phase of the transition.  In a couple of years I’m sure we’ll all have forgotten that there used to be another way of doing things.  Well, all except the small percentage of folks that for some reason get stuck in the past.  I know someone who is still using Windows 98 and Lotus 123 on an ancient computer – there’s just no hope for him.  :-)