- What’s the best way to upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7?
- What does NTLDR is missing mean?
- Is there software that allows someone to track my emails and texts?
- Can I use Windows 8 ISO files I found on the internet?
- Can I delete old updates?
- Is Moore’s Law over?
Links above are to Ask Leo! articles based on the transcript below.
Download the mp3 [10M]
Welcome to AskLeo! Answercast #153. I’m Leo Notenboom and I’ll be answering questions that people have been asking out at askleo.com.
Today’s Answercast is brought to you by Saved: Backing Up With Macrium Reflect. Prepare for the worst; bounce back from the inevitable. You probably know I talk a lot about backing up on Ask Leo!. As I say at the end of every Answercast, it really is the closest thing to a silver bullet. When it comes to computer problems, most especially including malware, nothing can pull your behind out of the fire like having a proper and recent backup ready to go.
Macrium Reflect is my recommended go to backup program. Saved: Backing Up With Macrium Reflect is my book that walks you through downloading it, installing it, setting up your backups, making them automatic and then walks you through testing those backups, restoring files and restoring even your entire Windows system if need be.
But as they say, there’s more! Once you register your book, using a link in the book, you’ll have access to companion videos that show you how to do each of those things. Regardless of how you buy it, registered owners also get access to digital copies in pdf, mobi, and epub formats.
Check out Saved: Backing Up With Macrium Reflect today! Go to askleo.com/macrium for more!
What’s the best way to upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7?
Leo, I have a Windows XP computer with a lot of downloaded programs. I want to install Windows 7 on the computer since Microsoft keeps changing its operating systems and forcing you to upgrade (unlike Apple). How do I do this simply? A friend of mine told me to just get a Windows 7 disk and load it but I question that since I’ve read so many sites, which explain all kinds of convoluted operations. I’m not a computer expert.
If I use your recommended backup program, Macrium Reflect, will it back up everything – files, data, and programs or do I have to go back and download the programs all over again? I’m about ready to buy an Apple Mac since no one seems to have that problem with them. So again, how do I go to Windows 7 from Windows XP?
Well, you know, I’m at least going to disagree with you a little bit about Apple.
Upgrading from Windows XP to 7 has two basic approaches. The way you want it to work and the way that’s more reliable.
First, my disagreement with your comments on Apple. Not only have they not come close to supporting any version of their operating system for the 13 years that Microsoft has supported XP, they’re also forcing an upgrade, much in the same manner as Windows XP, by dropping support of their Snow Leopard version of the operating system.
People with machines that can run only Snow Leopard are basically left out in the cold; either upgrading machines or just living with what they have. Just like XP users – except that Snow Leopard is something like only 5 years old. You don’t hear about it as much because well, the market is smaller and I think a big reason is that people just enjoy hating on Microsoft much more.
Now, I do believe that Windows 7 will let you upgrade a Windows XP installation. By that I mean, you would insert the Windows 7 install media, run the setup program and allow it to upgrade the existing installation. In theory, that would preserve all of your applications and all of your data, and whatever else – in theory.
Now, it also possible that I’m wrong and it’s not an option but regardless, it’s actually not an option that I recommend. An operating system version update is a big enough deal that I recommend a completely different approach.
- Back up your machine using something like Macrium.
- Install Windows 7 – this time having it perform a clean install (not an update). That means reformatting the hard disk and erasing everything on it.
- Then reinstall your applications.
- Then restore your data.
- And then get on with your new Windows 7 life.
The Macrium backup will back up everything but not in the way you describe. You’ll be able to restore your data files from the backup, for example but you will not be able to just pick and choose and restore applications from the backup. That’s not what a backup is for.
You could, of course, restore the entire system (that is in fact, what a backup is for) but that would give you Windows XP back. You can’t just pick and choose the applications to restore from a backup. The application installation is too tightly ingrained with everything else that’s on that machine. You actually need to install your applications from scratch from their original downloads or the installation media.
What does NTLDR is missing mean?
I’m using Windows XP and I’ve gotten an error message, “NTLDR is missing. Do a Ctrl Alt Delete”. Please help! I’m going to change to Windows 7 but I need to get into my system.
NTLDR or more commonly referred to as “NT Loader” is the name of the file that contains the boot loader for Windows. In other words, it’s the program that begins the initial Windows booting process. Without it, you can’t boot.
Now, the single most common reason for this message is actually really embarrassing, and I used to run into it all of the time myself, so I know what I’m talking about – both about the problem and the embarrassment. You left a floppy disk in the disk drive. Now, obviously, as floppies are going the way of the Dodo, this is happening less and less but by far, it’s the number one reason. Eject the floppy and reboot.
The issue, of course, is that the floppy doesn’t have anything to boot. It doesn’t have the operating system on it anymore, but older computers in particular that still have floppy drives, will in fact, check to see if there’s a floppy and try to boot from it if something has been inserted. If there’s no operating system on the floppy disk, then there’s no NT Loader and “the NT Loader missing” is the message that you get.
Now, in rarer cases, it can happen if you’ve left a data CD in the CD drive or you’ve left a USB device in a USB connection that is somehow bootable. In both of these cases, the boot process is actually supposed to be smart enough to realize the problem and move on and boot from the hard disk instead. But I’ve definitely seen systems that aren’t quite that smart.
Ultimately, as I said, what the message really means is that the device that the system is trying to boot from doesn’t have the boot loader. Usually that means the system is trying to boot from the wrong device – be it a floppy or a CD or USB or even a wrong internal hard drive. However, there is another scenario that’s less common but more concerning. It’s trying to boot from the correct device but that device has a problem.
This gets more difficult to recover from. Sometimes it’s simply a hardware problem with the hard disk. Sometimes, the boot files have accidentally been lost or overwritten. Sometimes, just random stuff happens. The one thing that’s worth trying in a case like this is to boot from your original installation media and select repair and recovery tools from the startup menu instead of choosing anything relating to installing. One of the recovery tools may very well be able to repair the damage specifically related to the boot files.
And finally, I do have to say that restoring your system to an image backup taken prior to the problem should also resolve the problem if it’s not hardware related.
Is there software that allows someone to track my emails and texts?
I was told that there are many apps on the market today which allow people to gain access to any email or text message you may be sending without your knowledge. For example, a suspicious spouse. If such is the case is there a way to block or disable them?
Sure there’s software like that. It’s called malware and it’s been around for years. The basic ideas is this: malicious software gets installed on your computer. It reports back to someone else what it is you’re doing.
It’s like the classic definition of what we call spyware. Spyware installed on your machine can basically track anything. Heck, more general malware on your machine can not just track anything but it can do anything.
Now if you’re thinking, well, isn’t that just the same as viruses and such? You’d be exactly right. That’s exactly what this is – viruses and spyware and generally malicious software installed on your machine. And you already know the way to prevent this and how to cure it. Good internet habits. Don’t download and run things you don’t know are 100% safe; don’t open attachments that you don’t know are 100% safe. Run up to date anti-malware tools – you know the usual litany of things that we keep telling people to do to keep themselves on the internet.
Can they do it without installing things on your computer? In the general sense, no. If they gained access to your router, well, maybe. If they’re the NSA and they have access to your ISP, maybe. But in general, random people can not intercept your mail and the same is generally true of texts as well.
Can I use Windows 8 ISO files I found on the internet?
A couple of months ago, I bought a new laptop and as is common today, it had Windows 8 pre-installed and no discs were supplied. I know you stress getting discs, but I couldn’t. It’s complicated to explain why. Anyway, I embarked out on the internet to look for an ISO of those discs and it can be easily found. The only problem is that my product key is for the OEM version. And all over the internet I read that the OEM number won’t work, and whenever I use a generic key to download the ISO I got an error saying, “We can’t connect at the moment,” even though the connection is fine. I searched the internet but I didn’t find a solution. Today, I came across another ISO. I downloaded it and if I try setup.exe it works and it doesn’t ask for a product key it goes on to the installation. Since I don’t need to install, I exited from it. The question is -is it the correct ISO and is it taking the key from the BIOS which would be great?
You know, I actually have no idea if this is the correct ISO and in fact, the number of things we don’t about it are actually pretty scary.
Now, to be really clear, there is no official download of Windows 8 in ISO form that I know of. You can download it and install it from the Windows store but that’s a purchase – and as I understand it, it’s not an ISO; it’s a download-and-run kind of a thing. I could not find any official source for an ISO of Windows 8.
What that means then is actually very clear. Any Windows 8 ISO that you do find to download is very likely to be completely illegal. Now, I totally get that, legal or not, it is a very strong argument that says having a physical backup of your OS installation disk is at least ethical. It’s not like you plan to use it to sell computer systems or whatnot or cheat Microsoft out some legal sale – but even so, there are still problems.
One of the common ways that malware is distributed is by making software available. More correctly by making repackaged software available especially software that you can’t get through normal channels. So, now, answer me this: How do you know who to trust for that ISO download? Knowing that it’s very likely illegal to begin with, how do you know that it hasn’t been enhanced, as it were, with malware? I simply wouldn’t risk it. I would stay away from all unofficial ISO’s of Windows – period.
Besides, as you’ve seen, there are so many variations between editions and OEM versions that the likelihood of getting the one you actually need turns out to be pretty small.
So, what you do instead? How do you prepare for this? Well, I suggest you do what I’ve been recommending for a long time – if you can’t get installation media with your machine then the very first thing you should do when you get that machine is to create a complete image backup. Save that backup somewhere – heck make a backup copy of the backup. That then becomes your replacement installation media should you ever need it again in the future.
No, you can’t use it to install Windows, but if you ever get to the point where you need to reinstall Windows from scratch, you can do something else that’s actually much, much easier. You simply restore that backup image. Then the machine is as it was on the day that you got it just as if you had reinstalled from an installation image.
Can I delete old udpdates?
As time goes by, I get updates on different programs, which are stored on my computer and taking up space. Can I delete earlier versions as new ones are updated?
You know, this really depends on exactly which updates you’re talking about – as well as exactly how they’re delivered and exactly how they’re installed.
Let’s start with Windows itself. The answer here is generally no. Updates often build upon previous updates. So removing a prior update can sometimes cause problems. But the answer here is also with a caveat. The Windows disk cleanup utility may have the option to remove prior updates. Sometimes called Windows update cleanup. Two things though – if you’re going to do this, use Windows disk cleanup; it will keep track of those dependencies that I mentioned, where a new update relies on an old update kind of thing.
And if you do this – remember that you will be losing the ability to uninstall any updates that remain. Currently, you can uninstall an update, which basically means that Windows replaces the current updated files with the old ones from the previous version. If you remove those previous versions with a cleanup, then it just can’t put them back to perform the uninstall.
Now, this same scenario is also generally true of Microsoft Office; updates are applied to the program directly. Files are either removed for you at that time or if they’re not, they’re probably needed to keep things working.
Other programs, however, often update themselves quite differently. Rather than just updating parts of the program or patching the program, they simply have you download a completely new version and install it. When this technique is used, you can typically delete the previously downloaded installer.
Note that you’re not deleting the installed program that’s been updated by the new download. What you can delete is the old download from the original installation, or from the previous update, and this applies only when the program updates itself by downloading an entirely new copy.
And for the record I actually do recommend that you save those downloaded installers, at least the most recent one, especially for programs that you may have purchased. Should you ever need to reinstall from scratch, you’ll have them ready to go.
Now, if it’s not clear that a program updates in this manner – a complete download and replacement – then honestly, I’d do nothing; I’d leave well enough alone. Chances are the program is either cleaning up after itself anyway or the parts that remain are required for some reason.
Is Moore’s Law over?
My current computer is about 8 months old. It’s still being sold at Best Buy as new computer for about the same price. Also, many of the other models are about the same as mine. Nothing like this was around a decade ago. Is Moore’s law finished? Have we hit a barrier in new computers for speed? Or is it market forces that are simply responding to good enough computing?
Moore’s Law is often inaccurately phrased as computer speeds doubling every set number of years. In reality, what Gordon Moore observed some years ago is that the number of transistors that can be packed on to a single chip was doubling roughly every two years. Now I can’t tell you whether that still holds true; there are certainly physical limitations that they must be encountering at some point, but some other interesting things have been happening as well.
My gut reaction at the retail store shelf level is to agree with your comment about what you called “good enough computing”. Computers are relatively inexpensive, especially with the migration of so much online, the pressure to get a purely faster CPU is probably lessening. However, as I said, there are some other interesting pressures at work.
Much of the advancement in CPU technology has happened in small and low powered devices. In fact, you can probably recognize the improvements that are being made in mobile phones and tablets every year or two. I know I certainly have more in my pocket phone than was even available only two years ago! Similarly, as opposed to increasing computational power, many chip makers are now looking instead to reduced power consumption. Once again, once the device is “good enough” to perform the tasks we have, we now sometimes desperately, want that battery to last much, much longer than it does. So more efficient CPUs are one way that’s happening and not only in mobile devices but even on traditional laptops as well.
Another trend that’s actually more in line with the “number of transistors on a chip” rule has to do with the number of CPUs on a chip. We used to think that making a single CPU go as fast possible was the best way to get the most performance out of the machine. As we reach an assortment of what I’ll call practical and physical limits, that approach may not make quite as much sense. So instead, chip makers started making dual core processors – two complete CPUs on a single chip; then quad core; then six. The new desktop machine I’m currently recording this Answercast on? It has twelve CPUs.
The megahertz that you might be looking at might not appear to be growing, but once you realize that there are four, six, or twelve processors inside instead of just the one, then the processing ability that you have in front of you has still increased dramatically.
So, while Moore’s Law may be slowing down some, I think the fundamental concept remains. There are definitely continued improvements being made every year. What might be changing is that those improvements are now manifesting in other ways , ways that are more than just increasing your chip speed every couple of years.
I do the Ask Leo! Answercast every week so if you have a question about your computer the internet, or technology head on out to askleo.com to search for your answer or to ask your question. You might hear it answered here someday in a future Answercast.
I also put out a newsletter every week. The Ask Leo! newsletter includes answers and fixes, and safety tips, opinions, and even the occasional answer as to just why things are the way they are.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this Answercast, I talk about backing up a lot. In fact, it came up in several of today’s answers. Please back up! I plug this every single week because it is so critically important. Nothing, can save you from almost any disaster, like a proper and recent backup.
All of my answers… they are are based on my own personal experience and should be used entirely at your own risk. I wish it were otherwise, but I just don’t know you, your abilities, or the specifics of your machine and those kinds of details can make all the difference.
The Ask Leo! Answercast is a production of Ask Leo! and is copyright 2014. Thanks for listening. I’m Leo Notenboom and I’ll be back soon with another Ask Leo! Answercast.