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Issue #481: October 9–15, 2016

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Q: You recently replied to a writer that s/he should discard the ten-year-old Vista immediately. Last March I bought a Dell which came with Windows 10. After two days I disconnected and began using my old Vista. Earlier this month I bought a flash drive, copied my emails, documents, etc. and loaded them into Windows 10 and forced myself to begin learning the most ridiculous and confusing operating system I’ve used in thirty years. I have no idea where Win10 stashed my stuff, cannot find it. I’ve given up on the stupid mail system and will go back to gmail.  Snipping tool? Finally found it, but it’s unusable unless I learn how to associate something part of it to my Win10 mail system.

Yes, I’ve spent HOURS searching for answers and am tired of it! And yes, you’re tired of listening to my gripes, so: In lieu of returning to my easy-to-use Vista, which other system would you recommend I replace this Windows 10 with?

– Marvin R.
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

A: My recommendations about moving on from Vista (or any obsolete version of Windows) are based on issues of security, not usability.  I don’t want to be a scare monger, and you needn’t take my word for it.  However, I’ve been in the business of PCs and cybersecurity for as long as both concepts have existed, so I hope my advice carries at least a little weight.  The number and kinds of threats to Internet-connected PCs are constantly changing and evolving.  It’s an ongoing fight to keep up as hackers discover and exploit new vulnerabilities in existing code.  The bad guys are always at least one step ahead of software vendors, since a patch can’t be developed until the vulnerability is discovered.  So the bad guys of the Internet get away with all sorts of wild stuff; from stealing your personal information, to hijacking your files, to turning your entire PC into a remote-controlled zombie for use in large-scale, distributed denial-of-service attacks.  Once your computer’s operating system stops evolving (i.e. – being patched and updated regularly) that “one step ahead” quickly grows.  You’re gambling with every passing day that your PC will be compromised.  Look at it this way: cars made before the invention of seat belts are still drivable, and they get you where you want to go just fine.  But they don’t protect you when an accident happens.  And even the ones that have seat belts aren’t as safe as the ones with airbags.  It’s all about keeping up with the times.

As far as Operating System choices go, unless you’re a real tech guru/Geek, your options are pretty limited.  You could pick a flavor of Linux, learn it, and do it all yourself, but after reading your letter, I think you wouldn’t be too happy with that.  You could switch to an Apple platform and re-learn everything you know about interacting with the OS.  However, contrary to what a lot of Apple aficionados would have you believe, their products are not malware-proof, and Apple (which controls both the hardware and software) is not nearly so forthcoming about what is under the hood as is Microsoft.  You asked for my recommendation; here it is: Don’t try to “replace” Windows 10.  Instead, keep learning, just like you did with previous versions of Windows.  Remember how frustrating the changes were between Windows XP and Vista? (I still can’t perform file searches the way I used to.)  If you made it through that, you can make it through this.

I want to address a couple of your other comments before wrapping this up, because, frankly, I’m not too sure of the basis of your complaints.  You called Windows 10 “the most ridiculous and confusing operating system I’ve used in thirty years”.  Why?  There have been a few additions, but by and large the way you use Windows hasn’t changed that much.  You still use a mouse to point and click on icons, menus, and buttons.  Windows Explorer hasn’t changed very much.  The underlying file system is the same.  What’s so confusing?  You also said that you “copied my emails, documents, etc. and loaded them into Windows 10” then a few sentences later you said “I have no idea where Win10 stashed my stuff”.  The simple answer should be that they are wherever you “loaded them”.  The normal place for documents is your account’s user directory, which is located at C:\Users\username\ (where username is your account name).  The exception may be your e-mail files, but that would depend on what e-mail client you’re using.  From there, files are broken out in specialized directories such as My Documents, My Music, My Pictures, or any directories that are created by 3rd-party software.  Of course, nothing forces anyone to put files here, and I’ve seen people fight tooth and nail to put files where they think they should go, rather than where the system is designed for them to go.  But even if you didn’t pay attention to the target directory when you were copying the files, one would think that navigating to the root of the C: drive, and typing a wildcard into the search box would yield quite a bit of information.

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