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Monday, December 22, 2008

Maintain XP well until Windows 7 arrives

Important notice for users of Windows XP with Service Pack 3 (SP3): The support for this product ends April 8, 2014. To ensure that you will receive all important security updates for Windows you need to upgrade to a later version such as Windows 7. May2012 Update Microsoft may not have planned it this way, but XP could end up rivaling NT and 2000 as the version of Windows with the longest lifespan. According to recent news reports, Dell, Lenovo, and other computer manufacturers will continue to sell new PCs running Windows XP well past Microsoft's June 30 cutoff date.

Microsoft itself is going to fast-track Windows 7 to get customers to leapfrog over the unpopular Vista and go directly from XP to the next version.

Eight rules for extending XP's usefulness to 2010 and beyond.

Rule 1: The latest ain't always the greatest. As a rule, older operating systems were designed to work with older software. Unless you need some utterly indispensible feature found only in the latest Adobe Creative Suite or Microsoft Office 2007, stick to the preceding releases. Not only will the senior apps run faster, most of the kinks and bugs have already been worked out of them.

If your hardware and software work fine as is, don't bother upgrading any drivers, either. At the same time, driver upgrades often smooth out minor problems that you've just grown used to.

One way to check for out-of-date device drivers is to use the online scanner from Driver Updates. (Note that using this service requires running an ActiveX component in Internet Explorer.) or resort to Driver Utilities here notable Driver Magician.

Should you discover that one of your drivers is out of date, go to the manufacturer's site to find and download the latest version available (but skip any beta releases). Remember to back up your system before installing the new driver in case it causes problems.

Rule 2: Make an exception for security. Set Rule 1 aside when it comes to your security software and services. Update your virus and spyware definitions frequently. Get the latest security updates for your browser and for QuickTime, Flash, and other media players as well.

Rule 3
: Stay young and beautiful. The last exception to Rule 1 is to make a cautious investment in a handful of utilities that improve and modernize XP. You'll find a number of free and low-cost programs that approximate or even duplicate Vista's best new features without having to invest in a whole new operating system.

Free programs that approximate or even duplicate Vista's best new features
• Shadow copy. Vista's Shadow Copy applet is a file versioning tool that automatically makes backups of older and newer versions of your files while you work. This makes it simple to go back to a previous version of a file.
For a freeware equivalent, try FileHamster, which monitors files and folders you designate, automatically makes backups, and lets you annotate them. It's available from its makers at the Mogware Web site.

• Image-based backup. Neither XP nor Vista Home Premium have Vista Ultimate's tools for making a complete backup image of a disk drive or partition. For those with no budget at all, the freeware program DriveImage XML rates a score of 4.5 out of 5.0 from SnapFiles, an independent download site. But the product does not yet support Vista, if that concerns you. Another option is Acronis True Image version 10 & above Home, which also supports Vista and was given an "A List" rating by PC Pro.

• Faxing. Users of most versions of Windows have long taken faxing capabilities for granted. Unfortunately, this common feature was omitted from Vista Home Premium.Try RKS Fax send faxes from Windows Vista or XP... without a fax machine! (If you are using DSL or CABLE, please read this important information ) Dowload RKS MightyFax.v3.41_XP32bit.rar
*Whole drive encryption. Vista Ultimate comes with BitLocker Drive Encryption to protect your data if your computer is hacked or stolen. For a totally free product that's comparable to PGP Desktop Home , check out TrueCrypt. This encryption software garnered the highest rating from SnapFiles, an independent software download site. TrueCrypt also has a "hidden volumes" feature, which lets you create an invisible drive letter within an encrypted volume for even more security. Note that TrueCrypt cannot encrypt the folder that contains Windows.

*Virtual computing. Vista Enterprise and Ultimate include Virtual PC, which lets you run multiple PC-based operating systems within Windows. This can give you backward compatibility with older software, a second environment in which to surf the Web more safely, and more. XP users can download this feature for free directly from Microsoft. Users of other Vista editions other than Enterprise and Ultimate may want to try out the free VMware Player,

*Vista Ultimate and Home Premium have some features that aren't found in Vista Business, Vista Enterprise, and other Windows versions. The most notable omission is multimedia playback, as is found in Windows Media Center. Vista Ultimate and Home Premium also have unique child-access and monitoring tools.
If your computer has a TV tuner card, you can record programs to your hard disc using SageTV Media Center. You can download a 15-day free trial version from the SageTV Web site.
Vista Home Premium and Ultimate come with built-in tools for controlling what Web sites your children can visit, what applications they can launch, and when they can use the computer. Microsoft's tools also provides monitoring, so you can get an activity report showing what your child has been doing with the computer.
Advanced Parental Control & CyberPatrol provides the same tools. These products can restrict instant messaging, the amount of time spent online, the downloading of programs, access to applications, and more. Both products have trial versions that you can install and use for free. If you have ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite it has some parental filtering features built in.
If you need to use a free product, your best bet may be the older (and therefore free) version 3.06 of iProtectYou. It lets you restrict Web sites, chat sessions, e-mails, and instant messaging as well as scheduling when children can use the Internet. iProtectYou Pro Web Filter 8.6.1 commercial version. Another freeware is Parental Filter -Dowbload link

Finally, XP owners who want more of the slick Aero appearance — and other desktop features that are part of every Vista version — free and cheap substitutes abound. For example:

• You can give XP a more modern look and feel by using "skinning" programs, such as StyleXP from TGTSoft or Stardock's WindowBlinds (US $20 each).

• You can add transparency to Windows elements with the free products Transbar, PowerMenu, and TransApps.

• To get Vista's "thumbnail preview" of a window when you hold your mouse pointer over a Taskbar button, check out the freeware product Visual Task Tips.

• Last, but not least, for something approaching the Vista Sidebar in functonality, try Desktop Sidebar or Yahoo's desktop widgets.

Rule 4: Shop carefully for new hardware. If your XP system needs a processor, memory, or other hardware upgrade to keep it from bogging down on your applications, there is no reason why you can't swap out an aging component or add some RAM.

However, since some new components are designed with Vista in mind, make sure the products you buy work as advertised under XP. Check the manufacturers' site for XP driver downloads before you make your purchase, and look for online reviews that mention the products' XP compatibility.

Rule 5: Don't let startup stuff slow you down. It seems like every program you install these days wants to start along with Windows. These auto-start apps are usually represented by an icon in your system tray (the area near your clock). Even if your system has oodles of memory, these little doodads can slow you down without offering any real value.

An excellent tool for finding what gizmos are starting up each time you log into Windows is Autoruns, available from Microsoft (originally from Sysinternals). Simply uncheck the item to disable it from starting, or select an entry and delete it to effect a more permanent removal.

If you can't figure out what a particular startup app does, right-click its entry in the Autoruns window and choose Search Online. This performs a Google search (rather than a Live search, which you might expect). Scour the results to find out whether the program has a legitimate reason for needing to run all the time.

If the Web search isn't helpful in rooting out a program's purpose, check the list of common startup applications maintained by Paul Collins to figure out what's getting started with Windows.

Finally, the free version of WinPatrol can warn you whenever a program attempts to add an item to your startup list.

Rule 6: Save on disk space.

Rule 6: Save on disk space. A problem that plagues nearly all aging systems is the pack-rat syndrome. Just using a PC day to day causes an ever-increasing amount of data to be stored in ever-shrinking disk space. These tips will help you recover some of that precious drive capacity.

* Eliminate hibernation files. XP's hibernation feature stores everything currently in RAM onto your hard disk, which allows you to return to your session more quickly after a period of inactivity. Unfortunately, hibernation needs about the same amount of disk space as your current amount of RAM (for example, 1GB of disk space if you have 1GB of RAM).

If you don't use XP's hibernate feature very often, you can save the space occupied by the hiberfil.sys file: choose Start, Run; type powercfg.cpl; click the Hibernate tab; uncheck Enable hibernation; and click OK.

* Don't let iTunes make you hear double. If you use Windows Media Player to rip CDs to your computer in the Windows Media Audio (.wma) format and then decide to give iTunes a try, beware! iTunes will convert those songs into its Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) format, resulting in duplicate files for every song iTunes manages. To avoid that, use a single music format (such as .mp3) that all media players can handle.

* Store stuff online. Another way to save on disk space is to transfer files to an online storage service. You may already store your e-mail and photos online. Yahoo's Flickr service lets you store as many photos as you like, but unless you upgrade to a paid account, you'll never be able to see more than the last 100.

Google's Picasa Web albums provide 1GB of free storage. And if you're willing to pay, you can get a whole lot more storage space than that.

Of course, you don't need to limit yourself to mail and photos. A number of sites offer free or low-cost online storage. For example, Mozy gives you 2GB of free storage through its MozyHome service. MozyPro accounts start at U.S. $4.50 per gigabyte per month.

Many sites, including ElephantDrive, and Box, provide only 1GB of free storage. Each service offers larger storage options at varying prices.

Finally, IBackup has economy plans that charge only $1 per gigabyte per month (and less for annual rates). By comparison, the popular Data Deposit Box charges $2 monthly for each gigabyte you use.

* Offload files to a new drive. Even if you've purchased a new hard drive to expand your storage space, you may still be running out of room on your Windows drive. Fortunately, you can move your virtual memory paging file, Internet Explorer cache files, My Documents, and other system files to another drive or partition.

*Offload files to a new drive. Even if you've purchased a new hard drive to expand your storage space, you may still be running out of room on your Windows drive. Fortunately, you can move your virtual memory paging file, Internet Explorer cache files, My Documents, and other system files to another drive or partition.

Rule 7: Keep it clean. It makes no sense to hang onto useless junk files that Windows uses for its own purposes. Fortunately, Windows' own Disk Cleanup tool can clear out this system clutter. Disk Cleanup also removes the outdated restore points created by System Restore that you no longer need. In the Disk Cleanup window, click the More Options tab. Under System Restore, click Clean up and confirm that you want to delete all but the current restore point.

Unfortunately, Disk Cleanup misses certain temp files. To make a little batch file that clears these folders, open Notepad and type the following:

del /s /q "C:\Documents and Settings\yourname\Local Settings\Temp\*.*"

Replace yourname with the name of the account you've logged into and adjust the drive letter or path as needed. Save the file with a .cmd or .bat extension (for example, killtemp.bat) and put the file or a shortcut to it in your Startup group (Start, All Programs, Startup). This way, it will run each time you log in to your Windows account. Alternatively use freeware CCleaner.

Rule 8. Do your chores
Get into the disk-maintenance habit: make backups, defrag your hard disks, and check them for errors. Fortunately, you can use XP's Scheduled Tasks utility (Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Scheduled Tasks) to automate or partially automate these chores by setting the program to give you a gentle reminder. See Related Post: Tuning and Optimizing System utility

Use AutoPatcher to preserve the latest Microsoft XP updates in CD for offline updating & should XP updates is no longer available at Microsoft site. This is useful when you need to another clean XP installation. See also Creating a new hybrid installation CD -WinXP Bootable CD.

Included excerpts from Scott Dunn column "Keep XP fresh until Windows 7 arrives"
Related Posts:
Windows XP Retirement Postponed, Again
Windows XP - the OS that won't die
Windows Vista's successor & predecessor
Go from XP to Vista only with 64-bit processor

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Nora said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nora said...

...and if you're looking for completely FREE CD/DVD & Blu-Ray/HD-DVD burning application you're welcomed to give a try to StarBurn from Rocket Division Software. Just in case here's an URL:


Nora Mc Will

festiva said...

Thanks Nora Mc Will! There is another good one which I have been using for sometimes, CDBurnerXP Pro

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