Upgrading is not for the fainthearted

 I did something that I have advised everyone not to do. I upgraded my Windows 98 operating system to the new Windows XP Home Edition. This is not a task for the faint hearted!

Let me explain why I wanted to upgrade. My machine is a perfectly good Dell Pentium III, 600 mhz, with 256 mb of ram. However, it suffered from unexplained lockups. That is, the mouse would stop 'mousing' and just sit there. The only way to get it to work again was rebooting. This was happening enough to be quite annoying.

Conventional wisdom dictates that Windows 98 should be reloaded as well as any of the programs that seem to cause the lockups. But this is a project. Also, in the back of my mind, I wanted to try the new Windows XP.

However, the advice that I offer to everybody is not to do this. For some reason, upgrading the Microsoft Windows operating systems has always been fraught with problems. There are so many horror stories that I was hesitant to try. But I really was getting annoyed with all the lockups in Windows 98. So, off I went on a great adventure.

Being cautious however, I did a few things that would allow me to get back to where I started in case of problems. I'll save the details for later, but I installed a new second hard drive in my computer. Then I made an exact copy of the first drive onto the new drive. This gave me a way to get back to Windows 98 if necessary. Also, it gave me a new hard drive on a four year old machine whose original hard drive could fail at any time.

So now I was ready to upgrade the original Windows 98 hard drive. Off to Microcenter and the purchase of a copy of the Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition upgrade. Since millions of these upgrades have been sold, how much trouble could I get into?

It comes in a pretty folder that contains a single compact disk and a small instruction manual. For a 'Quick Upgrade,' the instructions couldn't have been simpler: 1. Turn on your computer, 2. Insert CD, 3. click "Install Windows.'

I did this, carefully read and agreed to the fifteen page license agreement, and typed in the twenty-five character Product Key. I now was legal and ready to go.

The next step was to watch the computer screen for seventy-five minutes. The only thing that broke the monotony was watching the countdown clock as it went 75-74-73-... Finally it finished and for the next six minutes I went through the activation and registration program that connected to the Internet and sent all my information to Microsoft's computer in the sky.

Incidentally, part of the installation process is printing out a five page report on possible compatibility problems with Windows XP and my current machine. Reading this showed some possible problems but nothing looked insurmountable.

I restarted my machine with Windows XP and all seemed to work as advertised. The screen looked familiar but with some new features. I could call up most of my older programs and all looked well with the world. The printer didn't print but the compatibility report said it might not. I tried what Microsoft told me to get it working, but that didn't work. So I played for a few minutes and finally got it to print.

I still am getting used to some of the new features and idiosyncrasies but all in all, I like the look and feel of XP, and now the machine doesn't lock up,

I still don't think I would advise anyone but more experienced users to try to upgrade. If you would like to put Windows XP on your computer, I spoke with Con Tran of Universal Computer Service, 714.564.1686, and he said he would perform the upgrade and solve the compatibility problems for a very reasonable price.

In the mean time, I now have Windows XP on my Master hard drive, Windows 98 on the second drive and the ability to boot to either system using a program called Boot Magic. More about this later.

If you would like to hear more about this upgrade adventure, or other computer topics, visit "Coffee and Computers" at the Tustin Area Senior Center, 200 S. 'C' Street, 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:

Return to Doc's Home Page