It's easy to connect to the Internet

Greg Gilles of MicroCenter and I sat down in front of a new computer that used Microsoft Windows XP to see how easy it was to connect to the Internet.

I was trying to answer a frequent question about how to go about changing Internet Service Providers. Sometimes, for one reason or another, it becomes time to change. Maybe we become dissatisfied with an ISP's service. Possibly there was a free offer that expired. We even may have purchased a new computer and want to transfer our existing connection to it. For whatever the reason, we desire to make this change and need to know how.

I was surprised how easy it was using Windows XP. If you just have purchased a new machine and want to connect to your existing account you simply can go to the XP Help screen and enter Internet Connection. A window comes up and you follow the directions. You are led to a Connection Wizard that takes you through the necessary steps. It even will connect you to a list of Internet Service Providers in your area so that you can make your choice. It's very simple.

But what if you have an older machine and just want to make a change of ISP? Here it is a little more complicated. One way to make the change is to pick up one of the many free compact disks offered by the various ISP's and put it in your machine. It will install all the necessary software and get you connected in no time. All you have to do is enter your choice of username and password, pick a local telephone number and enter your credit card information.

The problem with this is that the compact disk also will install software on your machine that you may not want. For instance, it might install an Internet browser replacing one you already have. In fact, in many cases, it can install an older version than one that already exists on your machine. Or it might install software from another manufacturer that you don't want to use. Some compact disks install their own Internet interface that can be hard to use.

So, what do we do to make a smooth change without these problems? My recommendation is that once you have decided upon a new Internet Service Provider, you call them and ask them to walk you through the installation. Tell them that you only want the connection information and do not want to use their compact disk. Tell them that your machine already has a familiar Web browser and Email program installed that you want to continue to use. Be emphatic about this and be sure the technician understands. The technician should register you by getting your username, password and credit card information. Then they should lead you through the setup process without having you install anything new on your computer. This procedure works whether you are using conventional dial-up service or DSL. Cable doesn't have a choice of ISP's yet.

Whatever you decide, it's not a hard process. The real key seems to be getting a technician that understands what you are trying. The whole process should only take a few minutes. After everything is connected and working, you can uninstall the old connection or just leave it alone.

By the way, Greg also showed me how easy it was to use Windows XP to transfer data, including old address books, from an older machine to a new Windows XP machine. The first rule of computing, that "Bill Gates isn't worth fifty billion dollars for being stupid," really seems to be true for Windows XP. If you want to see how some of this works, visit Greg at MicroCenter for a demonstration.

If you have further questions about changing Internet Service Providers or other computer topics, visit "Coffee and Computers" at the Tustin Area Senior Center any Friday morning starting at 9 a.m. Bring your questions or just come in and visit.

In the mean time, keep the neurons happy, synapses snapping and enjoy computing.


Dr. Art Holub is a long time resident of Tustin and teaches computer and Internet courses at the Tustin Area Senior Center and the Tustin Adult School. Visit his web site at: This column is written to address the computer adventures and concerns of older adults. If you have comments, questions or suggestions for future columns, Email HIM at:

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