Can we talk? Based on the e-mail I get every day, I know a lot of you are still using Windows XP. I can understand why; it's like a comfortable old shoe. Plus, it's bought and paid for. Windows 7 probably seems stiff and scary, and it's not like Microsoft is handing out free upgrades.
That said, it's time to move forward. Time to put Windows XP out to pasture. Out with the old, in with the new. I hope you'll trust me that I'm not shilling for Microsoft, here, but rather nudging you toward a better overall computing experience.
Here are five reasons I think it's time you adopted Windows 7:
1. It will solve your networking headaches. Windows XP can be a major pain when it comes to connecting networked PCs. Windows 7, thanks in part to HomeGroup, makes it easy-peasy.
2. It's significantly more secure. Windows XP is like a leaky balsa-wood boat floating in a sea of malware. Windows 7 is more like a battleship. I say this based on experience; I'm running nothing more than Windows 7 and a couple free third-party security tools.
3. It makes finding stuff so much easier. Thanks to features like Libraries and the ubiquitous Search box, you no longer have to waste (as much) time hunting for documents, photos, MP3s, and the like.
4. Windows Media Center is awesome, especially if you pair it with the Ceton InfiniTV 4 card. Seriously, it's better than TiVo.
5. It's just...better! Remember, that's merely my opinion talking, but Windows 7 is packed with little conveniences that make life easier. You don't fully appreciate them until you switch back to an XP system and your productivity nosedives.
So there you have my five reasons. Do you have more to add? Or do you think Windows XP is just fine, thank you, and I should keep my opinions to myself? (Fat chance of that! :)
Fix Windows Picture and Fax Viewer--By Replacing It
Reader Bruce has a weird, weird problem with his XP-powered Toshiba laptop: If he tries to open any JPEG or PNG image file saved to the Windows Desktop, it appears momentarily in Windows Picture and Fax Viewer, then disappears.
Interestingly, if the pictures are located in any other folder, they open just fine. Likewise, if Bruce right-clicks a picture and chooses Open, they open just fine. It's only double-clicking them on the desktop that creates this problem.
I've done some research on your behalf, Bruce, and I'm sorry to say I don't have an answer. I do, however, have a workaround: Use a different image viewer. Though I can see the appeal of using Windows Picture and Fax Viewer, which is quick, compact, and built right into Windows, it's not good for anything other than, well, viewing.
My suggested replacement: IfranView. This free image viewer/editor has been my go-to for years. It's tiny, it loads in a flash, and it lets me crop, resize, and otherwise tweak images with ease. (When you install it, or any other image viewer, make sure to agree to it becoming the new system default for images, so those double-clicked files will open the new program and now Picture and Fax Viewer.)
The moral of the story is, if a program is giving you trouble and you can't find an easy fix, sometimes the best option is to replace it.
Fix a PC That Wakes Up 'Groggy' from Sleep Mode
Reader Donald is having a problem with his system: when he rouses it from sleep mode (aka Standby), his browser no longer works properly.
Specifically, he says that "clicking the Firefox start link results in nothing happening. Trying to open Firefox with any of the other shortcuts has the same result. It will open only after I do a reboot."
You know the old joke about the guy who says to his doctor, "It hurts when I do this," and the doctor says, "Well, don't do that." My advice is the same: If your PC acts flaky after coming out of sleep mode, don't put it in sleep mode!
I know that's probably not the answer you were hoping for, but PCs--especially older ones--are notorious for weird post-sleep-mode behavior. And you said your system runs Windows XP, which means it must be a few years old at least.
Granted, there might be a BIOS update that addresses the problem, but finding and installing it can be tricky. Instead, I think you're better off using hibernate instead. I'd be willing to bet you won't encounter the problem with that mode.
Alternately, maybe it's time to start thinking about a new machine. Most of the Windows 7-powered desktops and laptops I've tested are much better at waking properly. And with nicely equipped systems readily available for less than $500, upgrading isn't too expensive a proposition.
If you've got a hassle that needs solving, send it my way. I can't promise a response, but I'll definitely read every e-mail I get--and do my best to address at least some of them in the PCWorld Hassle-Free PC blog . My 411: firstname.lastname@example.org . You can also sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week