Tips for Upgrading to Windows 8

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If you have just upgraded your computer to Windows 8 and are disappointed at the performance, don’t blame Microsoft. The problem may be with your computer manufacturer and/or with your upgrade preparation. Here are a few tips to get you on the road to happy computing with Windows 8.

In the past two weeks, I have upgraded three computers from Windows 7 to Windows 8 with a wide variety of results. On the first computer, an older Gateway desktop, the upgrade was seamless and Windows 8 works beautifully.

The second was a very recently purchased Lenovo that was advertised as “Windows 8 ready” and came with the $15 upgrade to Windows 8 offer. You might expect that this upgrade would be the smoothest, but it was the most problematic. The Windows 8 installation went smoothly and things seemed pretty good until I tried to start Internet Explorer, which refused to work at all. Then I found that the Picture folder wouldn’t update and the Epson printer wouldn’t work.

A little trouble-shooting was definitely in order. As I delved into the problem, what I found was amazing. The Gateway didn’t have any Gateway programs running in the background. But the Lenovo had more than twelve programs that were starting along with the computer and running in the background. These ranged from power management programs to programs that were supposed to speed up the computer to programs that seemed to have little use.

I set out to test each of these programs to see if they were interfering with Windows 8. After several hours of trouble-shooting, the answer was an emphatic “yes”. There were two Lenovo programs that were interfering. When I disabled these programs, all the Windows 8 functionality returned. Internet Explorer worked, the pictures updated, and the printer worked.

The aggravating thing was that these programs didn’t show up as incompatible when I ran the Windows 8 Upgrade Advisor in preparation for the upgrade. This computer was supposed to be “Windows 8 Ready”. So what happened? Well, many manufacturers load their computer with “stuff” to make them seem better than the competition. The irony is that most consumers don’t even know that those “special” programs are there. I never heard of anyone purchasing a Lenovo because it came with such great extra programs.

While Apple products are immune from this because Apple manufacturers both the hardware and the software, most computer manufacturers do this. Smart phone manufacturers do the same.

It is obvious that all of this “stuff” just complicated the computer and can obviously cause problems. Across the board, manufacturers should stop pre-installing all this junk. Since we now live in a world of apps, if a manufacturer wants to give me some free programs that are worthwhile, they should offer this to me in the form of an app that I can choose to install or ignore.

This is one case where I put the blame fully on the shoulders of the manufacturer. I must say that the Gateway really excelled in this endeavor because it was not infested with all of the proprietary programs that the other computer had.

The bottom line is: don’t make the mistake of thinking because you have a new computer that was purchased under the $15 upgrade offer, that it is really “Windows 8 Ready”. Before you upgrade, check the manufacturer to see if they have special instructions for getting your computer ready for the update.

While Lenovo’s website was pretty useless in this endeavor, I found several other manufacturers had some good instructions.

The next computer that I upgraded was a Toshiba laptop. Toshiba, like Lenovo has a lot of proprietary programs running in the background. Toshiba, however, had excellent upgrade instructions on their website. I was told to upgrade the BIOS before installation and to remove several Toshiba programs. With that preparation, the upgrade went smoothly.

I still believe that computer companies should not put so many extra programs on their computers. I actually can feel Microsoft’s pain in having to try to deal with a PC ecosystem where this is allowed. In Windows 8, Microsoft produced a good operating system that works fine when other integrated programs don’t interfere. Yet, most home users who have problems upgrading to Windows 8 will blame Microsoft and tell everyone that Windows 8 is a terrible program.

If you decide to upgrade to Windows 8, be sure to search the website of your computer manufacturer first. Get your computer ready.  See if there is a BIOS update available. Update all the software on your computer, and turn off unnecessary programs that may be running in the background. If there are problems after the upgrade, look at the manufacturer’s proprietary software as your first line of trouble-shooting.

Another tip that I can give from my upgrade experiences is that if you are upgrading a laptop, plug it in so you won’t run out of battery power during the upgrade. Also, allow yourself enough time. You can speed up the process by using a wired connection, rather than wireless, but you can still expect the upgrade process to take at least two hours. Good luck to all of you upgraders out there! And be sure to let me know how it goes.

Sandy Berger, CompuKISS