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Issue #444: January 24–30, 2016

Q: Can my Dell Vista Home Basic desktop computer be upgraded to Windows 10? I have updated my laptop, but the Vista is a little older. I’ve spent hours trying to find how to get on the list for upgrade and fixing driver issues, but if I can’t upgrade, I’ll just stop. Frustrating.

– Diane M.
Madison, Wisconsin

A: Wisconsin?  Really?  For those readers who don’t know, I was born and raised in Wisconsin.  Welcome to It’s Geek To Me, Diane!  The simple answer to your question as-written, is “yes”.  However, I am going to alter your question a bit to read “Can my Dell Vista Home Basic Desktop computer be upgraded to Windows 10 for free?”  The answer to that question is, unfortunately for you, “no”.

When Microsoft rolled-out the Windows 10 upgrade plan, they carefully chose which past versions of the OS would be eligible for a free upgrade. Those options – again, unfortunately for you – included only Windows 7, and Windows 8/8.1.  Vista and XP were deemed too old to be eligible to upgrade for free.  To look at it another way, Microsoft hadn’t been paid by owners recently enough of those versions to feel obliged to provide a copy of the next generation of Windows for free.

Now, let’s go back to the “yes” part of my answer. I suppose I should have said “it depends”.  Aside from you needing to pay for a copy of Windows 10, your computer needs to meet the following specifications: 1 GHz processor, 1 GB of RAM, 16 GB hard disk space, and a video card that supports DirectX 9 at a resolution of 800×600.  These are all minimum specs for running a 32-bit architecture.  Some are higher for 64-bit architected PCs.  The other real downside is that upgrading to Windows 10 from an older operating system requires what’s called a “clean install”.  That means your hard drive will be formatted, and all your existing settings, programs, and data files will be lost.  This includes things like your music, photos, and documents.  So if you choose this path, be sure you have good back-ups of everything before you start.

Having said all that, my frank advice to you is that if it was my decision to make, even if the machine met all of those specifications, I probably wouldn’t bother trying to upgrade it. In computer terms, it’s positively ancient, and although it may be running now, system failure of older hardware is inevitable.  If you purchase a new computer, you’ll get all brand-new hardware, equipped with the very latest technology, and very likely a substantial increase in performance and disk storage. As an added bonus in light of your question, the new PC will come with Windows 10 already installed.

 Q: First of all, I like many others, read your articles in the paper diligently and even cut them out to send to a family member out of state. My question is one I shouldn’t have put off as now your answer might be too late. I keep getting the pop-up window to get my free download of Windows 10 and assumed I shouldn’t do it because I have serious doubts that it will transfer all my Power Point slide programs I’ve created. Those slides are the result of several years of work and include not only photos, but significant music and little .gifs on all the slides. I used Windows Media for my music and I’m afraid that the songs won’t be transferred. Would you please give me a “heads up” on whether I should download Windows 10 or not? I am using a HP desktop computer with 1 terabyte hard dr. and Microsoft Windows 7 using Microsoft Word.

– Patricia R.
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

A: I’m flattered, Patricia!  But, like I keep reminding my readers, on my website at I maintain a complete, searchable archive of every edition of It’s Geek To Me that has ever published.  It would be far easier and faster if you would simply send your out-of-state family members a link to the original article.  In my column archive, you’ll find each article automatically linked to the previous and next editions, and if an article contains hyperlinks they are all clickable, so you needn’t type them into your browser manually. There is also space for comments and discussion on each and every article, so in the process of helping your family members, you might just help out your fellow Geeks!

Unlike Diane in the previous question, you are eligible for a free, in-place upgrade.  This upgrade is designed to keep all your files and programs in-tact while it switches out the operating system around them.  I have personally upgraded seven PCs from Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1 to Windows 10, and in every single case, all the files that were there under the old version were right where they belonged once the upgrade was complete.

If it makes you feel any better, make a back-up of all the files before you start. Actually, if the files are in any way important to you, you should already have them backed up in anticipation of that fateful day when your hard drive fails.  Anyway, after the upgrade, if any of your files are missing, it would be a pretty simple matter to restore them from your backup.

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