The Elder Geek Site Logo
Custom Search
TEG Home    |     Win XP Main     |     Win Vista Main     |     Win 7 Main     |     Win 8 Main     |     Forum     |     Commentary     |     Advertise     |     Contact TEG
Subscribe to The Elder Geek Content Update Notification          |||           The Elder Geek Windows Forums Are Open for Posting !
Recommended: Click here to run a FREE system scan

Operating System
Select System of Interest

Windows XP Main
Windows XP Main Page Graphic
Windows Vista Main
Windows Vista Main Graphic
Windows 7 Main
Windows 7 Main Page Graphic
Windows 8 Main
Windows 8 Main Page Graphic
Windows 8
Installation Scenarios
A lot of questions are being asked about different installation scenarios for Win 8 and what can and can't be done depending on current operating system.
Hard Drive Partitioning

How to make hard drives more useful and efficient by employing modified and advanced partitioning schemes.

Has The Elder Geek
site been useful?

Consider A Donation

Privacy Policy
TEG is hosted by:
Hosting Matters

Start Menu Replacement - Start8 by Stardock

November 25, 2012

In the early previews of Windows 8 the Start Button was still available. Then - inexplicably - it was gone and the complaints started. Fortunately there was a registry edit that made it a simple process to return the Start Button back to its rightful place, the lower left corner of the desktop. All was well -- until the next 'preview' when the registry hack was gone. That's when the cries of outrage reached a fever pitch. Surely Microsoft would relent and make the Start Button an option in Windows 8.

Long story short, they didn't relent. Software developers saw an opportunity and started putting together Start Button and Start Menu add-ons for Windows 8 before the final release hit stores and was being installed on new computers. These applications have taken a lot of different forms; some free, some paid, many good, numerous bad, and a few that are just plain horrible like the one that uses smiley faces on the menus.

The problem with most add-ons or replacement utilities is they try and reinvent the wheel, making them obtrusive and often adding performance sapping, ill conceived junky features instead of restricting themselves to what really needs addressing. There is none of that overkill in Start8 by Stardock. It's functional, customizable, and effectively provides the ability to save users from the nightmare that is the Windows 8 Modern (Metro) interface. The review and tutorial are here.

Installation Scenarios for Windows 8

November 15, 2012

Windows has reached the Release to Manufacturing (RTM) milestone with public availability scheduled for the end of October 2012. Reality is, a very small percentage of users will ever clean install or upgrade/migrate a system to Windows 8, the majority moving to Windows 8 by virtue of it being pre-installed on a new computer purchase.

This article is for the users that have perfectly good older systems or systems with higher end hardware, most likely systems that were previously running XP, Vista or Windows 7. This guide is not designed to debate the plusses and minuses of Windows 8. All I'm doing is laying out a few of the different installation scenarios.  Included are scenarios for clean, upgrade, dual boot and virtual installs using either native hardware or virtualization software. The article is here.

Windows 8 Released to the General Public

October 26, 2012

Microsoft formally launched Windows 8 at a press event held Thursday in New York City. I didn't attend (not that I was invited), but I did watch the live stream of the event to see if there were any notable announcements. In my opinion, the biggest (and oft repeated) theme was Microsoft putting forth reassurances they were still in the business of making operating systems for PC's while trying to convince millions of current users they are not abandoning them in favor of tablets, phones, and other touch and mobile devices. Truthfully, the reassurances were needed.

Windows 8 is a huge departure from what users of Windows have come to know, understand, and essentially take for granted; Windows 'is' the desktop. Since the Windows 3.0 release back in 1990 the desktop has been the focus. It only takes a few minutes using Windows 8 to see the desktop is no longer the front and center focal point of Windows 8 nor the direction Microsoft has planned for the future of Windows.

Microsoft has taken a huge bite from the Apple apple, focusing Windows 8 squarely on the newly minted Microsoft Store, the Modern (Metro) interface, touch, mobile, social and cloud services. The desktop is still there, arguably better than it has ever been, but it's no longer basks in the spotlight as in previous versions.

It's true that the latest version of Windows is basically a two-in-one proposition; two distinct operating systems for the price of one. Unfortunately, you can't choose which one you want to install. It's an all or nothing proposition. Both operating systems are tied together via a clunky, tacked on and unintuitive user interface that more often than not leads to frustrating and unexpected results. Note that when I'm talking about two operating systems in one, I'm referring to the user interfaces and not a difference between Windows 8 and Windows RT. The RT version is a totally different animal and not part of these comments.

On the one side you have the Modern (Metro) side of Windows 8. Basically this is a closed source affair where only Microsoft approved applications (free or purchased) and downloaded via the Microsoft Store are allowed to run. The Modern side is optimized for a mobile, touch screen interface. It's possible to navigate it with a mouse and keyboard, but it's a chore. On a tablet or small laptop the Modern touch interface is usable. On a desktop system with a 21" or greater sized monitor, it's simply intolerable whether using touch or non-touch input.

On the other side you have the traditional (Desktop) where any legacy Windows application runs. Unless you've really been living under a rock you've read about the Start Button and Start Menu being eliminated. It makes for good click bait and stirs up readers into a frenzy, but there are already many third party utilities available that not only restore the original lost functions but improve and add to the user experience. Unless you have a specific reason to visit the Modern side, you can work the desktop side almost exclusively with very few exceptions.

I really don't understand why Microsoft decided to play hardball on the user interface issue. Surely they could have included a simple option screen providing the ability to select 'Desktop Version', 'Modern (Metro) Version' or 'Desktop and Modern (Metro) Versions' to accommodate a whole host of scenarios. It would have been a simple solution to avoid all the negative press that has been generated. In spite of the trend against choice and customization, I think Microsoft screwed this area up royally.

Had you asked me a year ago what I thought of Windows 8 I would have said I disliked it without any hesitation. Six months ago, I'd have said I wasn't thrilled because I'd try it for a day or two and then go back to Windows 7, but that would have been an uninformed decision based more on what I'd read than actual experience.  Now that I've had the chance to use Windows 8 on both touch and non-touch enabled desktops, laptops, and especially on tablets, my opinion has remained much as it was six months ago; I can appreciate what Microsoft has tried to do with Windows 8 but find it lacks any compelling reason for adoption.

Just because I don't find the latest Windows version compelling, I do like Windows 8. It's fast, stable, and secure. As a matter of fact, I like 'both' of the Windows 8 versions - the Desktop and the Modern (Metro) versions. When using a tablet the Modern touch user interface is capable, though I find the desktop side cramped and essentially useless on a tablet. On a standard laptop or convertible (14-17" display) I find both Modern and Desktop sides of the operating system to be equally usable with no issues. On full blown desktop/workstation computers with 21" or larger size monitors I seriously question the usefulness of having the Modern (Metro) interface as the elements are simply too large, but the Desktop side is a pleasure to use with the occasional foray to the Modern side something to be endured and exited at the earliest possible opportunity.

So what should you do regarding Windows 8? Obviously that's up to you, but accept the fact XP and Vista have both had good runs, but their time is coming to an end. Windows 7 is a great operating system and will be around, fully supported, for many more years. If you have it now, like it, and it serves your needs then there is little downside to not moving to Windows 8. On the other hand, Windows 8 does offer advantages even if they aren't readily apparent with just a cursory week or so trial. To honestly evaluate Windows 8 you have to spend time using it for a few weeks and be willing to pause and work through the conflicts between the old and the new methods.

Obviously my comments are directed to 'tech enthusiasts' when considering whether or not to move to Windows 8. The majority of people don't even know what operating system they are running and only switch to a new operating system when purchasing a new computer. However, for you 'techies' considering Windows 8 on your current hardware, it's hard to deny the $39.99 upgrade currently being offered by Microsoft is one hell of a deal, especially when compared to previous versions upgrade pricing.

My suggestion is to take advantage of the upgrade offer while it's at a rock bottom introductory price. When I say 'take advantage of the upgrade offer while it's at a rock bottom introductory price', that doesn't mean I think you should replace your current operating system with Windows 8. I mean buy the upgrade and try out Windows 8 in a dual boot or virtual machine scenario and see what you think. Even if you hate it and decide to stick with your current operating system, after the price goes up when the introductory offer expires, you can sell the upgrade and turn a modest profit.

Common Fact Banner

Windows Service Pack 1 for Windows 7 Released

February 9, 2011

Microsoft has released Service Pack 1 for Windows 7. There really isn't anything compelling that makes it necessary to rush out immediately and get it installed as long as you keep up with updates and patches as they are released monthly. If you do so, SP1 offers little more than a compilation of the updates and hot-fixes that have been published since Windows 7 hit the market. SP1 will be rolled out via Windows Update in the coming weeks on a schedule that should be sufficient for the majority of users.

Slipstream [Image] Windows 7 SP1 into Windows 7

February 10, 2011
With the release of Service Pack 1 for Windows 7 it's time to look at how to slipstream it into a Gold or RTM version you already own. Some of the gurus out there call this imaging, others slipstreaming, but frankly I don't give a damn what it's called. The point is, you end up with a Windows 7 version that includes Windows 7 Service Pack 1 along with some selected applications, drivers, and to have that image available in three different formats; a USB Flash Disk (UFB), an .iso file, and a DVD.
With XP you integrated or 'slipped' the Service Pack into the original XP files. With Vista you created an 'image' of Vista that was updated with the new service pack. Now it's time for the Windows 7 Service Packs and the situation is fairly similar to what it was with Vista. You still have to create an updated image and use it for the Windows 7 installation. There are a number of programs available that automate the process, and as far as I know, some may well do an excellent job of creating an updated image. I haven't tested them and can't say if they work or what changes they make to your system. I do know I've received a substantial number of e-mails asking for troubleshooting help when users have experienced unexpected results or failures while trying to create a slipstreamed image. So, I'm going to take a different path and show you how to manually create a standard slipstreamed image of Windows 7, basically from scratch.
I'm not going to tell you this is a quick and simple procedure. It isn't. At the same time, it isn't overly difficult either. There are a lot of steps involved, you have to work carefully, and there are numerous opportunities to screw up and have to start over from the beginning. However, if you're willing to spend the time and carefully work through the process you'll actually learn something about the 'images' that are used to install Windows 7 and you'll be able to customize that image specifically to your taste.
Two Different Versions of the Tutorial
The first version of the tutorial is for users that have two computers and at least one of them is bootable from a USB Flash Disk (UFD). It's easier, doesn't involve quite as many steps, and you end up with a bootable UFD containing the slipstreamed Windows 7 operating system.
Windows 7 SP1 Slipstream - Two Computer UFD Bootable Version
The second version of the tutorial is for users who find yourselves with only one computer and that computer isn't capable of being booted from a USB Flash Disk (UFD). The procedure isn't nearly as convenient as having two computers, but it's possible. You'll have to incorporate some workarounds into the procedure and do some extra software installations as well as create a bootable CD to restart the computer instead of booting from a UFD.
Windows 7 SP1 Slipstream - One Computer Not UFD Bootable
Uniblue Banner RBmsg24-LB
The Windows 7 Edition Lineup
If you remember back to the days of XP, there were two choices available; Home and Professional. Along came Vista and the number of editions ballooned. Suddenly there was Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, Ultimate, and Enterprise as well as a couple of other editions that most have never even heard of, much less seen.
Even with the limited choices available with XP there was confusion about what features were included in the different editions and which edition was right for individual scenarios. The confusion was exacerbated with Vista. One camp felt the broader choices were a good thing, making it easier to obtain just the needed features. Another group thought the additional choices were confusing and added nothing over the XP naming conventions. Now it's time to look at the Windows 7 lineup.
XP, Vista, or Windows 7 - Does It Really Matter ?
With Windows 7 on the horizon, the 'which is better' debate this time around is going to focus on the merits of Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7. There is little doubt in the consumer end that what operating system is currently in use is determined by what was on the system when it was purchased. Business and enthusiast users are a whole different ballgame, but truthfully, a very small percentage of home users ever upgrade or change their current operating system unless they are buying a new computer. They could care less whether the splash screen says XP, Vista, or 7 - they just want to get on the internet, check their e-mail, and listen to their music or head for one of the social networking sites.
Then there are the rest of us; the ones that do care what operating system is running. We want to know how fast, stable, and secure it is and explore ways it can be tuned and tweaked. The danger we face as being members of this group is becoming so focused on the process we lose sight of the overall goal of usability. Far too often we find fault with an operating system where in fact it isn't a fault; rather it's something we would simply prefer to be different.
In the end it really doesn't matter if you are running XP, Vista, or Windows 7. XP and Vista are still supported operating systems to some degree and are being provided with, at the minimum, security updates. As long as you are happy with your system and it is capable of running the software and performing the tasks you find important, that's what matters.
[ Click For Full Article ]
Uniblue Caution Banner 
Windows 7 Released
October 22, 2009
Back in 2001 I was excited about the release of Windows XP. Although some will argue the point, XP was very different from any of the preceding Windows versions. It got a lot of bad publicity because of the cartoonish user interface, but under the hood there were a lot of changes. It's true the original XP release fell prey to a never ending stream of security exploits that threatened to bring it down to its knees. When Service Pack 2 was released the majority of security issues that plagued the initial two years vanished.
There was a lot of talk during the ensuing years about Longhorn, which was going to be the successor to XP, and all the great new technologies that were going to be implemented. Those intermediate years truly were a great time to be involved with IT and computers as the changes and developments were coming at a fast and furious pace. Sadly, for whatever reason (there are a ton of theories about what actually went wrong), instead of ending up with a great new XP replacement, Vista was brought to market. If ever there was a reason not to switch or upgrade operating systems, Vista was the poster child for sticking with the tried and true XP. Downgrading from Vista to XP was arguably the most popular option going, with major computer builders and sellers promoting a Vista to XP downgrade as a selling point to bolster sales.
All the problems associated with Vista do not fall squarely on the shoulders of Microsoft. Hardware manufacturers and software developers were equally to blame with the release of products and drivers that were absolutely horrendous, while support for legacy applications and hardware was equally as bad if not worse. Still, Vista carried the Microsoft name, and no matter how you divvy up the blame, as far as public perception goes, it was, and remains, a colossal failure that has tarnished the Microsoft name.

I tend to take a very skeptical viewpoint on new releases of anything, especially operating systems, but as bad as Vista was and as great as I still think XP is to this day, Windows 7 is a fine operating system that deserves your attention. When you get right down to the bottom line, security, stability, and ease of use are the keystones of what makes a good operating system. Windows 7 has those qualities in spades. Don't get me wrong, there are areas for improvement and customization to tailor it to your specific needs and preferences, but the basic Windows 7 is a solid operating system and a pleasure to use. It more than reverses the downward spiral Windows experienced after the Vista debacle.

Uniblue Banner SPmsg13 
Windows 7 One Year Anniversary
October 22, 2010

Today is the one year anniversary since Windows 7 was officially launched. According to the Microsoft public relations machine, 240 million Windows 7 licenses have been sold in that one year period. When you stop and think about it, that's a lot of licenses. Granted, I don't know what the breakdown is of how the licenses were sold or who bought them, but still, there are a lot of licensed copies out there in the business and consumer marketplace. I can't even hazard a guess how many old cracked beta versions and pirated copies are also being used, but my guess is a substantial number.

I've been using Windows 7 on my primary system for just about the entire year since it was launched. Truthfully, I'm as pleased with it now as I have ever been with any operating system. Perhaps part of that is because I'm realistic enough to realize there are always going to be glitches and annoyances in any operating system. Don't mistake that realism as accepting something sub-par, but simply recognizing there is a maturation cycle in any new product while the kinks are worked out. In past Windows versions there was good reason to be wary until the first Service Pack appeared, but this time the show stoppers so prevalent in past versions were essentially eliminated. I said a year ago I felt Windows 7 was deserving of your attention. I stand by that statement one year later.

Testing Operating Systems On A Primary System

Quite a few years ago I wrote an article about hard drives, the different types of partitions available, and ways you can set up hard drives to suit different styles or work. While it has consistently been among one of the most visited areas of the TEG website, the series spiked to an all time high when Vista was released. The reason is pretty simple. A lot of users were either upgrading their system or purchasing new systems, and what better time is there to pause and rethink our setup to see if it can be organized more efficiently. Hard drives have continued to increase in size over the years while dropping to ridiculously low prices, but bigger isn't always better, especially when securing and protecting our data is of primary importance. Now that Win 7 has been released, traffic to the hard drive article is picking up again.

Windows 7 is readily available now and a lot of users are eager to take it for a spin. The downside to this eagerness is that inevitably a lot of users will just go ahead and upgrade their system with the new release, thinking it will be fine and later finding out it was a hasty decision. That's unfortunate, because although Windows 7 is no longer a beta product, in many ways you are essentially running a beta test. You're basically beta testing it to see if it's suitable for your system, the software you run, and your style of work. Chances are you're going to run into glitches that can cause serious problems, up to and including hosing an entire system. When that happens, and chances are pretty good it will happen if you're using your primary system as a test bed without any way of recovering your previous install or having your data backed up and easily restorable, you're in deep --  well, you know.

I'm no different from other users in that when a new version of Windows is released I want to take it for a spin on the newest, fastest, and most current system I own. Unfortunately, that system is almost assuredly going to be the primary system I use daily. So what can you do if you find yourself in that same situation. One option is a virtual machine. Not a bad option at all and a very safe one because it's isolated from the primary system, but unfortunately you don't get the full experience because of virtual machine limitations, especially in the area of graphics performance. I use many different operating systems on many different systems, but if you only have one primary system and want to test out Windows 7 before making a final commitment, take a look at Testing A New Operating System On A Primary System for one way I use that has served me well through a lot of operating system releases.


Single versus Multi Function Programs

Have you ever seen a news story where someone passes away and they discover 50 years worth of daily newspapers stacked neatly in the attic? I suspect I may be one of those news sidebars one day, but instead of newspapers, old shoes or empty coffee cans, the story will be about software. I was looking for something the other day and stumbled onto the area where dead software packages go when they are no longer active on any of my systems.

I got sidetracked and started browsing through the boxes. A number of things struck me. One was the amount of floppy disks, both 5.25 and 3.5 inch. Another was the manuals that were included with each product. Personally, I miss the manuals, but I'm also glad to see the digital manuals supplied today cutting down on the number of trees destroyed to produce them.

What really struck me though was the number of programs that were single purpose; programs designed to do one thing and do it very well. They weren't 'suites' or programs designed to do everything under the sun, a be all and end all for every user. I miss that. I see far too many programs being rolled out today that claim to do more than they are possibly capable of delivering. Or if they do deliver one aspect of what they promise with a high degree of efficiency, almost invariably they fail miserably in the other areas.

When I got back to my desk I sat down and looked at the programs I have installed. Not surprisingly, the majority of the programs I work with are single purpose applications. They don't have a ton of bells and whistles, fancy toolbars, or cute little sounds, and they are designed to address one or two functions. They do what they say they will and they do it with tight, lean code that allows them to work quickly and efficiently. Another benefit I find with the majority of the programs I use is they don't pester the crap out of me with annoying dialog boxes or by trying to second guess my intentions.

Here's a suggestion for all the companies planning to bring a software product to market. Take a step back and focus on what you really do well. Identify your strength and hone it to perfection. Don't assume I'd rather have three or five mediocre functions than a single function that works flawlessly. And more than anything, stop assuming you know what is best for an installation. Create an installer that lists every function your product provides - but - give me the option to manually select each function I want installed. Oh, and one more thing --  if the installer asks me if I want to install a toolbar like 'Yahoo" or 'Ask", chances are I'll cancel the install and find a different program. If installing the toolbar is selected as the default option and I have to uncheck it to avoid the toolbar installing, your program will never see the light of day on any system I use.

Most Popular Destinations
Quick Selector

Windows XP

Windows Vista Windows 7 Windows 8

Important Information

The Elder Geek sites contain many articles and suggestions for modifying the Windows operating system. I've tried these tweaks and tips on many systems. Sometimes they work, sometimes not. The point is, ensure you have a current, tested backup of all system and data files and understand how to restore the system in case something goes very wrong. You can still yell at me, but I assume no responsibility for your actions and use of the information and disclaim any legal responsibility for any consequences of such actions.

Copyright © 2002/2003/2004/2005/2006/2007/2008/2009/2010/2011/2012/2013, Jim Foley/The Elder Geek, All Rights Reserved Worldwide
 Reproduction, in any form, of information on this site is prohibited without express written permission.
 Microsoft is in no way affiliated with, nor offers endorsement of, this site.