You have some tech questions, I have some answers. Every Friday, I try to resolve these mysteries, succinctly and in plain language. Please send questions to walt@recode.net. Note that I won’t be able to diagnose your personal tech glitches and problems. I also reserve the right to edit questions for length or clarity, and to combine similar inquiries.

Q. I have heard that you can now set new Windows PCs to boot straight into the traditional desktop, bypassing the Start Screen. Is that true?

Windows 8.1 desktop

A. Yes. Microsoft announced this week that a new revision of Windows, called Windows 8.1 Update, will boot to the desktop by default on certain computers, to make life easier for people who prefer the desktop or mainly use the mouse and keyboard. “If you like using the desktop, you will be happy to know that select devices will now boot to desktop as the default setting,” the company stated. This new update will be available next week, and is one of a number of changes meant to make mouse and keyboard users, and desktop fans, happier. In the original version of Windows 8.1, released last year, there was a setting that allowed booting directly to the desktop, but it was buried and complicated.

 

Q. Are the new, costlier routers with the “ac” flavor of Wi-Fi worth the money?

A. Only if your computers, phones and tablets support the new ac standard (many don’t), and your local network speeds need boosting, especially for streaming high-definition video.

 

Q. I’ve got four expensive server-sized workstations running Windows XP that I bought for my business. Basically, I want to limp along with this equipment and use XP for a couple of years. I understand that could be a security issue after Microsoft ends support for XP on April 8. Can I eliminate the XP security problems with good antivirus software if I disable Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, and perhaps Windows Media Player?

A. I don’t know for sure, but I wouldn’t recommend it. XP wasn’t all that secure to begin with, and without any more security updates after April 8, it will be a tempting target for criminals, regardless of which browser or email program or other Internet-connected software you use. To keep using your PCs and be really safe, you’d have to entirely isolate them from all networks, local and Internet, and never even introduce data or apps from a disk or flash drive. That would mean cutting yourself off from even online software updates.

 




3 comments
gbp
gbp

Thanks Walt for the article.


Regarding XP, I have a solution.



1.Remove the internet connection (Ethernet or wireless).


2.Use the machine only the specific programs i.e. any software you paid that works on only XP  ( DVD burning software, automobile diagnostic tools, medical device software ....... )


3.Transfer the data to another computer using USB Flash or External hard drive.



The hardware is not powerful for XP machines. Forget DVD editing,even creating power-points or browsing will take hours. Its not worth the effort to do the above.   Best option is to upgrade to Win 8 or install a Linux variant.


Do not connect the XP machine to the Internet. It is highly dangerous. 

CNXTim
CNXTim

I saw today MS have agreed to continue support for XP to the British Government under a 'special agreement ' how can they do this and ignore the thousands of other corporate and government users of XP with equipment installed in serious numbers?

JasonH
JasonH

A1.

Yes, you can boot straight to desktop starting with Windows 8.1. Follow these steps to enable it or wait until Windows 8.1 Update which will enable it by default.

1. Right-click on the Taskbar, the bar typically at the bottom of the desktop that shows your current running programs.

2. Choose Properties.

3. Click the Navigation tab.

4. Check the box in the 'Start screen' section that says "When I sign in or close all apps on a screen, go to the desktop instead of Start'.

5. Hit Ok.


A3. 

I highly recommend against operating your business on an XP backbone. Isolating the computers from the network, USB drives, and other possible interfaces could eliminate the risk but I doubt those computers will be of much use then. Even though disabling the core products like Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, and others may reduce the footprint, the true problem comes down to vulnerabilities in the operating system itself. 


Typically, vulnerabilities are patched before they become known or quickly after they are being exploited. With XP's end of support, those vulnerabilities will not be fixed. Since a vulnerability is basically that the code is not behaving as it was designed or intended, all bets are off. A sophisticated attacker targeting your organization may be able to chain vulnerabilities in other applications to reach the operating system and then be able to use an exploit there to modify the system, steal data, or infiltrate your entire network. For a business, the operating system upgrade should be seen as a worthwhile technology investment.

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