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by JB Burke

Q. I'm undecided about whether I should upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 8. My computer is fairly new and runs well now with Windows 7. Any suggestions?

A. You are not the only one who has this question. Windows XP lasted almost 10 years, and is still going strong. Vista didn't do so well, so Windows 7 came out relatively quickly afterward. And now Microsoft has launched Windows 8, oriented toward touch screens, seeing that tablets are eating into the market for traditional laptops and desktops.

The reported advantages of Windows 8 are faster startup and shutdown, new apps, SkyDrive (Microsoft's cloud offering) integration, better security and easier updates and it works with both touch-screen and mouse. Note that Windows 8 does not have a start button – finding and launching applications is from the Windows 8 Start screen (Google "Windows 8 Start screen" for more).

Note that one reason that startup and shutdown are faster is because Windows 8 doesn't completely shutdown – instead it does a hybrid shutdown. It closes the user sessions and applications, copies the kernel (core of the OS) onto the hard drive, and then shuts off system hardware. Consequently, when it starts, it does a hybrid boot, reloading the kernel from the disk. Then you proceed as usual to start apps, etc. There is a workaround for this, in case you need to get into the BIOS.

First thing to do to determine if you want to go to Windows 8 is to run the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant. This site allows you to download and run the Upgrade Advisor, and if all is well, you can then download the Windows 8 Pro Upgrade for $39.99 (that price is only through 1/31/2013). You can then either install it immediately, or wait until you are ready. You should have a broadband internet connection to download it – it's large.

If you'd like to learn more about Windows 8, there will be a meeting of the Prescott Computer Society on January 26, 2013 at the Prescott Public Library devoted to that topic. Go to our Home Page for meeting details.

Published: Courier 1/20/13 - Page 3C