Upgrading From Windows XP To Windows 8.1

If you want to avoid internet nasties you will have retired your old Windows XP machine and replaced it with a Windows 8.1 model.

Microsoft has been warning for years that it was going to end support on April 8 and when it did the 12 year old operating system suddenly became more risky to use since new vulnerabilities discovered by hackers won't be patched.

There's been several versions on Windows since XP and if you've skipped them for a new Windows 8.1 machine you may well be scratching your head right now. Windows 8.1 looks nothing like XP, or the two versions of Windows that followed it, when it starts.

The Modern Interface Microsoft once called Metro takes some getting used to, but it's not the only way of doing things in Windows 8.1 since the traditional Windows Desktop is still there too.

On start up the XP style desktop icons have been replaced by live tiles each representing a Modern Interface application. Top left, for example, is a Mail app which displays the text of the latest email you have received upon start up, and the number of unread emails in your inbox. Below it is a Calendar app displaying the date and any appointments you have for the day. Below that is the People app, a powerful address book which also allows you to keep track of your contacts through their social media activity.

If the Modern Interface, designed for touch screen style tablet computers, holds no interest you can configure the machine to boot straight into the Desktop app. From the Desktop hover over a blank part of the desktop, right click your mouse and select Personalise. From that screen select the Navigation tab and tick the box in the Star screen panel that says "When I sign in or close all applications on a screen, go to the desktop instead of start".

Microsoft dropped the Desktop's Start Orb from Windows 8 but reintroduced a Start button in Windows 8.1. If you don't have that in the bottom left of your Desktop you're running Windows 8 and can update the software, for free, in the Windows Store app on the Start screen. Get back there by pressing the Windows button on your keyboard, opening the Windows Store app and searching for Windows 8.1. Click on the update and follow the instructions. It will take anything from 30 minutes to a couple of hours to update depending on your internet connection and the speed of your machine.

Microsoft recently tweaked 8.1 by adding some new features which mimic Windows XP a little by providing a handful of options when you right click on the Start button. Explore them and get used to them because they may come in useful. If they're still too radical for your tastes you can install another app, classic shell, from which makes Windows 8.1's Desktop look and feel more like the XP experience you're used to. You can get it from www.classicshell.net and we, at Need A Nerd, have installed it a lot of late for customers.

The latest update for Windows 8.1, which should automatically download to your machine, gives Windows 8.1 a few more features. First there's Power Options and Search buttons in the top right, and secondly you can pin Modern Interface style applications to your Desktop's Taskbar.

Remember your computer is precisely that and if you don't like the way that it works change it to suits you.