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back to article Friends don't do tech support for friends running Windows XP

You're a Reg reader so chances are you're also informal, and unpaid, tech support for all manner of family members and friends. But with fewer than 60 days left until Microsoft more-or-less pulls the plug on Windows XP, Redmond wants you to stop sharing your expertise and just tell those you know and love to buy a new PC. …

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This time Microsoft has gone too far

I can't help thinking about Ebenezer Scrooge. Not sure why...

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Re: This time Microsoft has gone too far

Because they're stopping providing free support for an 12 year old product?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This time Microsoft has gone too far

> Because they're stopping providing free support for an 12 year old product?

No, because as we all know Windows 8 is not a destination, and what is being promised for Windows 9 would make for a far easier transition for those who are happy with the features offered by XP. Pushing non-technical end-users onto a product with a big learning curve is bad, doing so with a product that will in 18 months' time be replaced by something else is repugnant.

Of course vendor promises are perhaps even less reliable than politicians' promises.

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My Documents

But Redmond is discouraging that, pointing out that those who chose to do so “... will not be able to keep any files, settings, or applications when upgrading Windows XP, so they will need to back up all their files and locate any installation discs (or purchase confirmation emails) prior to doing the upgrade.”

because, to Microsoft, the idea of separating your OS and data partitions is an unknown concept. It is the norm in Unix since around '75, and other platforms before that. Admittedly, professional Wintel admins do it, kind of, by creating a D: drive, but that is plainly not what Microsoft assumes.

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Re: This time Microsoft has gone too far

I don't know why because thanks to their boneheaded charging of $100+!!! for Win 7 and 8.x their pulling the plug on XP is gonna be giving a LOT of folks "free upgrades" to Win 7 thanks to piracy.

The stupidest thing they EVER did was kill the $50 Win 7 upgrade as for the first time I had actually seen piracy drop like a stone, after the price went back up? The local papers were filled with PCs running Ultimate. If there was a functioning brain left in Redmond they'd offer Win 7 Starter for $35 and your choice of Win 7 or 8.1 for $50 to get the XP users to switch, instead between those that end up getting tablets and those that get pirate 7 they won't get squat, stupid.

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Re: This time Microsoft has gone too far

"Because they're stopping providing free support for an 12 year old product?"

No - a 4 year old product - when m$ were very anxious to displace Linux as the OS of non-choice on netbooks and take your money.

Throw away a perfectly good modern netbook? Maybe m$ values landfill more than their green credentials. Downgrade to Win 8.x as they don't fully support the screen size and pay more than the original netbook cost?

Well no. M$ have forced me to leave their tender embrace. Which reminds me I must get to grips with Python ...

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Re: My Documents

because, to Microsoft, the idea of separating your OS and data partitions is an unknown concept

That's why, on all my Windows computers whether XP, 7, or even 2000, I have the C: drive for the OS and programs, and I partitioned a D: drive for data only.

Computer is faster, defragging makes sense, and nasty software doesn't know where to find my data files. Migrating to a new computer is a breeze.

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Linux

Re: This time Microsoft has gone too far

"The stupidest thing they EVER did was kill the $50 Win 7 upgrade as for the first time I had actually seen piracy drop like a stone, after the price went back up? " -- Piracy works in $MS's favour. If Piracy was hurting their bottom line; they would actually do something to prevent it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: My Documents

Also add to the fact that Windows likes to force the Windows registry down peoples throats and wonder what when wrong because a petty registry entry has stopped Windows from booting..

What was that old wisdom about not keeping all your eggs in one basket? Windows (unlike Linux) really is that stupid

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Re: My Documents

That's why, on all my Windows computers whether XP, 7, or even 2000, I have the C: drive for the OS and programs, and I partitioned a D: drive for data only.

I have had the same /home partition going since 2007, while on another portion, Linux has been upgraded about 10 times.

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Re: My Documents

"That's why, on all my Windows computers whether XP, 7, or even 2000, I have the C: drive for the OS and programs, and I partitioned a D: drive for data only."

No need even to do that. XP is/was perfectly happy to mount a second drive (or partition) on "C:\Documents and Settings". This approach makes it less likely that badly written software will put your data in the wrong place.

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Re: This time Microsoft has gone too far

It's true that providing support for software costs money. If we were talking about telephone support, quite a bit of money.

However, making security updates available for download for Windows XP involves a more limited cost.

If people's computers are still serving their intended purpose, neither the operating system nor the hardware needs to be replaced. Why gratuitously cause waste? New versions of Windows should sell on their merits.

And, of course, Windows XP should have been written properly in the first place, so that it did not contain any vulnerabilities whatever for hackers to exploit.

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Re: This time Microsoft has gone too far

'If Piracy was hurting their bottom line' ???? THIS is the company that took **6 months** to realise win 8 was not selling that well.... :O :P

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I'm tired of reading people who claim the only computers available are Windows 8

"No, because as we all know Windows 8 is not a destination,"

Windows 7 computers are widely available in Canada and the USA.

Retail and OEM copies of Windows 7 are widely avaiable.

Linux is widely available.

Macs are widely available.

MS says, "Buy a new computer".

Where in that do you find a requirement that that new computer be Windows 8 ?

And the common complaint about Windows 8 were the metro UI. As of Windows 8.1 that complaint is obsolete.

I have read zero complaints about stability or speed on Windows 8. Just, "Me too, other people are bitching about 8 so I should too."

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Re: This time Microsoft has gone too far

You got scammed by the person who sold you the 4 year old netbook running Windows XP.

That person wasn't MS was it.

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Re: I'm tired of reading people who claim the only computers available are Windows 8

That may be true wherever you come from, but where I am - you buy a new PC, you get Windows 8. There is no W7 option.

And even if there were, why is "buying an OS that's already officially obsolescent, and is itself scheduled for 'end of mainstream support' in less than a year" supposed to be an acceptable option?

No, when XP is finally terminated I'll just tell Steam I'm going offline, pull the wireless adaptor out of my old machine, and continue using it for games. We have tablets and phones for web browsing nowadays, so there's no real reason why it needs to be online at all. I'll consider buying a new PC in my own time, thank you so much, not on Microsoft's schedule.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: My Documents

The separate partition for data is relevant for XP, but subsequent versions have a backup program that requires another location and Action Center that flags the fact that you haven't run it. Which given that by default it requires one's DVD burner would make it more conscientious than any Linux version I've used, which I've never seen encouraging back-ups at all let alone one's safe from HDD failure, theft, and possibly fire too.

Unfortunately almost no-one makes said back-ups regardless.

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complaint about Windows 8 were the metro UI. As of Windows 8.1 that complaint is obsolete.

Please explain.

Does 8.1 address the horrible jarring jumping to full screen issues? (That is the show stopper, though I think non-techies don't like the loss of the start MENU, anyone who remembers Win 3.1 and DOS can handle that)

As far I am aware, the changes are that it allows you to start on the desktop and replacing the hot corner thing with a button.

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Re: My Documents

because, to Microsoft, the idea of separating your OS and data partitions is an unknown concept. It is the norm in Unix since around '75, and other platforms before that. Admittedly, professional Wintel admins do it, kind of, by creating a D: drive, but that is plainly not what Microsoft assumes.

I've always installed XP and XP x64 with an answer file on a floppy disk (for newer PCs, I bring along an external USB floppy drive, which also has F6 drivers on for new hardware - and that does the trick.) Documents and Settings, on any Windows PC I set up, is always on D:\.

Unfortunately, Microsoft never encouraged this or made the process practical for most end users. The Documents and Settings location should have been available with a practical default setting in the Windows installation procedure, just as it is with Solaris and Linux.

These days, you really need to prep a system before you install Windows XP or XP x64 on it, because of Microsoft's idiotic decision to start the first MBR partition on sector 63. Modern hard disks have 4K sectors, which is a bit like installing on a single-volume RAID 0 setup. But a Windows 7 OPK disc/USB key will nicely do the trick of allowing you to partition the hard disk with a 1MB offset, make it active and format it - so once you've done that, you may as well go the whole hog and prep a D:\ drive for your Documents and Settings folder.

But anyone who installs XP or XP x64 without:

a) Partitioning their hard disk with a 64K+ offset

b) Installing AHCI and/or RAID drivers via an F6 driver diskette

c) Prepping the system and storage volumes first (best with an SSD for boot, and HDD for storage)

isn't really getting the best out of their hardware, unless the hardware is ancient.

Microsoft has not made the process for c) easier for Windows 7, unfortunately - and you actually have to install the system with the Users folder on C:\ and then move it later, which seems a tad retarded. Then there's the small fact that a Windows 7 system with a Users folder on anything other than the system drive is not supported when running a service pack upgrade (although, with only one service pack projected in its entire lifetime for Windows 7, maybe that's not such a problem anymore.)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: My Documents

You can install XP (x64 anyway) in IDE mode, then make a couple of reg changes and install the AHCI drivers from Windows, then reboot and switch to AHCI mode.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I'm tired of reading people who claim the only computers available are Windows 8

@WatAWorld

> Where in that do you find a requirement that that new computer be Windows 8 ?

We are really struggling to find inexpensive new machines with Windows 7 in the UK. Certainly machines that have Windows 7 "out of the box" - basically one is looking at the Thinkpad range to get a laptop with a 7 preinstall.

And a machine with preinstalled Windows is what the type of end-user mentioned in this article would be looking for.

So by elimination Granny is not going to install Linux or be able to afford a Mac or Thinkpad.

My comment is not related to performance or usability of Windows 8, it is the learning curve associated with the default UI (and the setup procedure that guides the hapless user to a Microsoft account).

But since you mentioned performance, to me Windows 8 does not feel any more responsive than 7 (animations and similar time-wasters are turned off on my system), both are noticeably less responsive than Linux (Mint). Linux has its own down-sides but one can elect to have a simple UI that results in a more responsive system. I'm not saying this is for Granny... Windows 7 is the right OS for her!

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PJD

You had me at...

You had me at "Friends don't do tech support for friends running Windows". Then you added some extreaneous letters.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: You had me at...

Thought you were struggling with the 'Friends' part...

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Windows

Re: You had me at...

I'm still trying to find out who I know that runs XP. The closest I can get is Vista on a friend's family computer. I am the XP user. Friends come to me for help with Windows 7/8.

>> posted from an XP machine

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I've been helping friends (and businesses) upgrade from XP to ...

... the Slackware distribution of Linux for about a decade.

As of today, nobody has asked to be returned to the Redmond fold.

::shrugs:: Horses for courses & all that.

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Holmes

Re: I've been helping friends (and businesses) upgrade from XP to ...

Do you have any specific Slackware experience with a ThinkPad X61? Most of my recent Linux experience has been with Ubuntu, but they have developed serious delusions of grandeur and can't be bothered with little old machines these days.

P.S. My usual evaluation of Linux is "Superior software, inferior business model."

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@Shannon (was: Re: I've been helping friends (and businesses) upgrade from XP to ...)

I put Slack on an X61 a couple-five years ago, for my youngest brother's eldest daughter. She's still using it, with slack-current (her call, not mine). I can't remember the details ... but I know I found all the hardware-specific info/code online way back then. Gut feeling is that slack-stable will be a simple load it & use it.

Give it a shot & report back?

Backup everything you find important before you start!

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Happy

Re: I've been helping friends (and businesses) upgrade from XP to ...

Hats off to Jake. I have moved several friends - and associates - from XP to Linux Mint, which seems to offer the most similar desktop experience to XP.

"Suggesting Linux to someone unable to wean themselves off XP would probably strain the friendship to a greater degree" No, does not work like that. I have had only thanks and, likewise, none of them have yet - over about 6 years, gone back to MS.

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Linux

Re: I've been helping friends (and businesses) upgrade from XP to ...

The only problem I have with Linux, is the lack of support with software on occasions which can be the back breaker for home users, and wine does not always work..

Once software developers realise Linux is a big market, and they need to support it, then we'll be in a better position to convert users to Linux!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I've been helping friends (and businesses) upgrade from XP to ...

No, they've not asked you to return them to MS, they've got someone sensible to either return them to MS or install a Linux distro which isn't utterly obscure. You know, like RedHat, CentOS, Debian or Ubuntu.

Slackware? It isn't 1994 any more, you know?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I've been helping friends (and businesses) upgrade from XP to ...

Slackware is not infected by the systemd cancer turning the Linux ecosystem into a opaque Microsoftian one, by basically the decree of a very small reduced number of people/companies who prefer not to have shell scrips floating around and prefer harder to build source code and services (ugh) that metastasize through the whole ecosystem and gives them an out of bounds leverage on user space..

It may not be the 90's but Slackware is quite relevant. I'm going back.

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Re: I've been helping friends (and businesses) upgrade from XP to ...

Bah... go ride the baloney pony off into the sunset. Modern Slackware has decent versions of everything, has a fully functional environment out of the box, for compiling things they don't provide and it's simple to administer for anyone clueful. Once that's done, it can be be used by Grandma and it won't change.

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Re: I've been helping friends (and businesses) upgrade from XP to ...

CentOS? Blech!

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Re: I've been helping friends (and businesses) upgrade from XP to ...

I've moved several of my friends from XP to Ubuntu (and now, Mint, because Unity).

Some tricks I have learned:

- buy a new hard drive and tell them their WinXP drive is untouched if they feel the need to go back

- install Virtualbox and a WinXP machine for Windows apps they can't live without

The results have been excellent. For users who mainly want email and web browsing, with a bit of photo sharing and iTunes, this works well (with iTunes on the virtual XP machine, of course).

I get very few phone calls for help and my "users" seem happy with Linux.

My tagline is that Linux doesn't suck any worse than Windows, and they should give it a try.

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Re: I've been helping friends (and businesses) upgrade from XP to ...

Do you have any specific Slackware experience with a ThinkPad X61?

No, but my sister, who got seriously pissed off with Ubuntu removing tools she used and with Unify in general, asked for help over Christmas. I replaced it with Mint and Cinnamon as the default desktop. Result: instant happiness.

The install was totally painless, so you might want to try Mint too.

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Devil

Re: I've been helping friends (and businesses) upgrade from XP to ...

"My tagline is that Linux doesn't suck any worse than Windows, and they should give it a try."

What, you mean that Linux should try sucking like Windows? I certainly hope not!

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Re: I've been helping friends (and businesses) upgrade from XP to ...

I'm so glad I found somebody for whom systemd has been a pain in the rear. It has been my biggest problem with openSUSE since the advent of version 12 and the latest version, 13.1, is so totally broken, especially with the changes to udev and other bits, that I'm now actively looking for alternative distros. Nice to hear that Slack is still about - haven't tried it since my early Linux days, and that was back when I was starting with Caldera!

To be honest, the timing of the whole systemd business couldn't be worse given that shifting users from WXP would have been a good way to expand the Linux user base. Using systems with major flaws in them such as systemd is not the way to go and while I have no problem using earlier, more stable versions (my preferred versions of openSUSE at time of writing, for example, would be 11.4 or 12.2 but both are coming to the end of their lives now) it is common to find that distros prefer you to keep up to date and provide little support for older versions.

In other words, Windows XP was something of an anomaly. The reasons may be different but the various Linux distros, especially the big ones, are just as rough on the user upgrade path as Microsoft or Apple (there are exceptions to this, though, where a distro prefers to go with an evolved path rather than a complete upgrade path - forget the distro names right now but they do exist).

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Re: I've been helping friends (and businesses) upgrade from XP to ...

Yes, just helped someone switch an infested windows machine to Mint (Mate) and they're very happy with it, they say it's much better.

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JLH

Re: I've been helping friends (and businesses) upgrade from XP to ...

"(my preferred versions of openSUSE at time of writing, for example, would be 11.4 or 12.2 but both are coming to the end of their lives now) it is common to find that distros prefer you to keep up to date and provide little support for older versions."

Well - you really mean the 'community' distros like OpenSUSE and Fedora here.

And to be honest the line from OpenSUSE is that you can easily upgrade - just set your repositories and to a zypper dist-upgrade.

But perhaps of more relevance - check out the SuSE Evergreen project.

That is keeping older distros alive by providing updates. So you DO have support for older versions.

http://en.opensuse.org/openSUSE:Evergreen

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I've been helping friends (and businesses) upgrade from XP to ...

I've tried out a variety of Linuxes and PC-BSD, recently. On my laptpop, I've found Linux Mint XFCE, a fully supported Mint download, to be extremely easy to install and use out of the box. I'm also finding that using the Midori web browser seems to help keep memory usage low.

It is absolutely perfect for surfing the web, emails, facebook etc... and it comes with LibreOffice and, of course, the plethora of GNU/Linux apps that are available through the applications manager.

I think now I'll download Slackware and give that a go. Gotta say that I'm very happy with Mint XFCE though.

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Re: I've been helping friends (and businesses) upgrade from XP to ...

...infested windows machine to Mint (Mate)

That's one of my biggest "selling points", when I'm trying to get someone to try Linux. The antivirus programs on Windows can chew up a tremendous amount of processor resources, not to mention the purchase and update costs of such programs. On an older machine (because not everyone can afford to change machines) going to Linux can mean getting 25% of your CPU cycles back.

Oh, and the "doesn't suck any worse than Windows" was a joke...there's a perception that Linux is clunky and requires all kinds of nerdy skills to use. I just give my "clients" a short tour, and tell them to call me with any questions, reminding them that their old XP system is still there on the old hard drive if they feel they need to go back. With hard drives around $80, it's a lot lower cost than buying a new PC.

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bjr

Re: I've been helping friends (and businesses) upgrade from XP to ...

The obvious choice for an Ubuntu user who is unhappy with the direction that Ubuntu has taken is to go to Mint. Personally I'm a Redhat user, I use a combination of Fedora with Mate (thanks Mint people for creating the Mate project) and Redhat EL clones (primarily Scientific Linux and a little CentOS).

On the subject of moving WIndows users to Linux, I have experience with users on the opposite ends of the sophistication spectrum. About a dozen years ago I moved my sister from WIn98 to Fedora after I discovered that her laptop was a virtual pest house of viruses. She has 0 understanding of computers and only needs a browser and e-mail. I cofigured a basic system for her and she never knew the difference except the system never breaks. Currently I have her on Scientific Linux because it's unbreakable and she doesn't need any of the programs that are missing from RHEL (Redhat EL is aimed at enterprises so it doesn't try to be as full featured as it's sister Fedora). If I was doing it today I'd put her on a Chromebook because that would fully meet her needs and require even less support from me. At the other end of the spectrum is my girlfriend who is a software developer but who has always been a WIndows user never a *nix person. She had heavily customized her environment and she is a heavy Photoshop user and the Photoshop license is tied to the machine, and she really hates change. Every now and then I'd have to waste a bunch of my time repairing XP when something broke on it. The last straw was on Valentines day several years ago, we had plans to drive down to Cape Cod for the day, instead I spent the entire day removing a root kit from XP (which I finally did using a Fedora Live USB stick, the was unfixable from within Windows). Once I had the system back up I made an Acronis backup of the system and took it home and created a KVM virtual machine which was an exact clone of her system. As it turns out that was a very fortunate thing because her motherboard died a couple of weeks later. I replaced her motherboard, CPU and memory with an iCore5 and then put Fedora on it and then I put the XP VM on top of Fedora. After several years she is finally using a lot of native Linux apps but she still relies on a bunch of Windows programs so she has the XP VM running in a virtual desktop all of the time. The XP VM is frequently backed up so when it breaks it's always a simple matter of just overwriting the broken copy with a recent backup which takes a few minutes instead of all day. All of her licenses work just fine on the VM. Running an unpatched VM won't be particularly dangerous because it's much less vulnerable than a native system because it's never used for anything dangerous like web browsing, that's done on Linux, and because if something does happen you can fix it by overwriting the VM with a backup copy.

The bottom line is that if you have a friend with very simple computing needs the best solution is to have them buy a Chromebook or a Chromebox, they are barely more expensive than a Win8.1 license, and they will be easy to use and reliable. If you have someone who is strongly tied to XP for a good reason than a virtual machine on Linux is the best way to go. For someone in the middle just moving to Linux is a good solution. A Linux distro with a Mate desktop will be very familiar to an XP user. What's more Open/Libreoffice is much closer to and pre-2010 version of MS Office than the current version of MS Office is. The best Linux distro for a new user is whatever their LInux using friend uses. All Linux distros do mostly the same things so it's just a matter of having someone to lean on during the transition that's important.

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Linux

Re: I've been helping friends (and businesses) upgrade from XP to ...

"Suggesting Linux to someone unable to wean themselves off XP would probably strain the friendship to a greater degree" -- You would not believe the look of disgust that friends of mine that I have migrated to Linux desktops have given me after seeing my Windows 7 games machine at home. They almost feint when I tell them it's not even dual-boot o_O

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Re: I've been helping friends (and businesses) upgrade from XP to ...

I converted my 2005 IBM Thinkpad R60 from XP to LinuxMint 15 with Cinnamon. Boot time reduced from 5 minutes to one. With SSD I expect it would be 10 seconds, as fast as my first gen HP Chromebook 14. Also doubled the memory to 4 GB. Sweet ride. Disclaimer: I find I use the Chromebook more. Luv the short boot time, guv'nor.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I've been helping friends (and businesses) upgrade from XP to ...

What do you suggest? Windows? It isn't 1983 anymore!

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Re: I've been helping friends (and businesses) upgrade from XP to ...

That "strain the friendship" comment was meant in jest, as a comment about how Microsoft must see it, not a serious statement on the author's part that people would be more offended at being told to switch to Linux than to buy a new computer when they have a perfectly good one.

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Re: I've been helping friends (and businesses) upgrade from XP to ...

Use Xubuntu to stay clear of heavyweight Unity interface, it uses XFCE which is a lot less of a CPU hog.

Mint might be also worth a look as it's Ubuntu based, again , choose XFCE as the display manager.

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But a big trusted partner like Microsoft....

...wouldn't let their partners stand in the rain. They surely will bring out Windows XP 2.0. Otherwise they'd just act like any old commercial company putting profits in front of partnerships.

If you are a "gold partner" of Microsoft or any of those marketing things, pause and think about for a moment. You may currently develop your business critical applications in C#/.net, Silverlight or even VBA. You justify this by thinking that Microsoft would never pull the rug from under you and support your technology till infinity.

Now we are here, Microsoft pulls the rug from under Windows XP despite of it still being used on a third of Windows installations. Microsoft does not offer any kind of sensible upgrade plan, for example an XP 2.0. Vista and Windows 7 are no alternative for most companies.

If you are just using plain Win32 you actually have a small change you code might run on newer versions of Windows, but then Microsoft brought out Windows RT, a version of Windows incompatible with Win32.

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Re: But a big trusted partner like Microsoft....

Microsoft has supported their operating systems and most of their technologies much longer than other vendors (i.e. Apple, or even many Linux distros). Windows XP is now 13 years old and has seen at least three generations of successors (Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8/8.1), all of which are much better and much more secure.

And quite frankly, if in 13 years you haven't managed to upgrade your infrastructure even though XP's retirement date was well known you simply should not work in IT, period.

Expecting that products will be supported forever is stupid, especially in a fast moving sector like IT.

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