Inside the Windows 8.1 Update

Microsoft recently released the Windows 8.1 Update (actual name), the latest refinement of Windows 8.1. Most the changes are targeted at keyboard / mouse users, like me. The update comes only months (10/17/13) after the initial release of Windows 8.1 and includes user interface enhancements and security fixes. Here's a look inside the Windows 8.1. Update.

The update builds on the previous Windows 8.1 changes geared towards keyboard / mouse users: the return of the Start button, smaller tile size on the Start screen and booting directly to the Desktop. But the overall focus was still towards touch sensitive devices. The Windows 8.1 Update changes all of that.

The first thing you'll notice is the default behavior of Windows 8.1 has changed. Windows 8.1 now checks to see if there is a touch sensitive display attached to the computer and modifies the way it runs. For example, if your computer doesn't not have a touch screen, the default programs that open pictures, videos and music files go back to the familiar Desktop apps that Windows 7 used. Here's a complete list of the changes to Windows 8.1 behavior:

Windows 8.1 defaults before update Windows 8.1 defaults after update
  • Boots to Start Screen
  • Closing App takes user back to Start Screen
  • Pictures, Music and Video files open with Modern App
  • Boots to Desktop
  • Closing App takes user to the previously used App.
  • After closing all Apps the user ends in the Desktop
  • Pictures, Music and Video files open with Desktop applications

New Windows 8.1 Update Start screen features
New Windows 8.1 Update Start screen features

The Start screen has also seen some Desktop friendly revisions too. Microsoft has finally added a Power button, so you no longer have to log-off to turn off or restart your computer. Also added are familiar Desktop style content menus for the Tile properties. There are also a new set of tiles that are added for new users; This PC, PC Settings, Documents and Pictures. They won't appear for existing users, but can easily be recreated if you want them.

New Metro app Title Bar with Minimize and Close buttons
New Metro app Title Bar with Minimize and Close buttons

Microsoft also made some changes to the Metro (Windows RT) interface too. In an effort to make it more Desktop friendly, Metro apps now have a drop-down Title Bar on top, similar to Desktop programs, with Minimize and Close buttons. Also, Metro apps can now be pinned to the Taskbar (the Store is automatically pinned with the update).

For more information on the Windows 8.1 Update, just follow the link below.

Exploring Windows 8.1 Update

Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes 2014

Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes 2014

Come join us on October 11th, 2014 as we walk and raise funds for the American Diabetes Association’s signature fund raising event, Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes. So many lives are touched by diabetes. Chances are your life is too. You can help make a difference in those lives. Join us or donate - either way, you can change lives.

Did you know that every 17 seconds someone is diagnosed with diabetes in the United States? The American Diabetes Association is the leading non-profit organization supporting all 25.8 million American children and adults living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. They count on the funds raised through Step Out to not only help stop diabetes but also to fund research to prevent, cure and manage diabetes; to deliver services to hundreds of communities; to provide objective and credible information; and to give voice to those denied their rights because of diabetes. Founded in 1940, their mission is to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes.

What can you do to help? Join our team and help us Stop Diabetes by raising funds to reach our goal! Or you can make a donation to support me at Diabetes.org/ScottStGelais or any of our Geeks in Phoenix team members at Diabetes.org/GeeksInPhoenix. No matter how small or large, your generous donation will help us stop diabetes. Either way, you will be helping the Association provide community-based education programs, protect the rights of people with diabetes and fund critical research for a cure.

Do you know someone that has diabetes? Please make a donation on their behalf. Or ask them to join us as we Walk to Stop Diabetes!

Geeks in Phoenix Team Page
My Personal Page
Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes

Thank you very much,
Scott St. Gelais

How to move from Windows XP to Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1

The end of life for Windows XP has been and still is a major headache for consumers. You've got your old computer set up just the way you like it and its running fine. But there comes a time when you need to move to a newer and more secure operating system. Here's a couple of ways to move from Windows XP to Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1.

A screen shot of the website AmIRunningXP.com
A screen shot of the website AmIRunningXP.com

Upgrade the operating system on your existing computer

The biggest problem with this scenario is that there is no way to do an in-place upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7 or Windows 8 / 8.1. First is the different partition, folder and file architecture. Second is that the majority of Windows XP installations in-use are 32-bit. All most all versions of Windows 7 and Windows 8 / 8.1 in use are 64-bit. You can still get 32-bit versions of them, but with the 4GB memory limit, they are not very popular. If your computer was built within the last 5-7 years, it may be compatible with Windows 7 or Windows 8 / 8.1.

Windows 7 / Windows 8 / Windows 8.1 hardware requirements:

  • Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster
  • RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit)
  • Free hard drive space: 16 GB (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver

How to upgrade your existing computer from Windows XP to Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1

  1. Download the Windows Upgrade Assistant to check to see if the hardware in your existing system meets the minimum hardware requirements.
    Windows Upgrade Assistant
  2. Check to see if your existing software will run on Windows 7 or Windows 8 / 8.1. Some software may not run on Windows 7 or Windows 8 / 8.1, so checking now may prevent some frustration later down the road.
    Windows Compatibility Center
  3. Check your existing hard drive for errors.
    Detecting and repairing disk errors in Windows XP
  4. Defragment your existing hard drive.
    Using Disk Defragmenter in Windows XP
  5. Do a complete backup of your existing computer to an external hard drive or network drive.
    Using Backup in Windows XP
  6. Download and install PCmover Express for Windows XP or the latest version (Windows 7) of Windows Easy Transfer. Transfer all of the users' documents and settings to an external hard drive or network drive.
    PCmover Express for Windows XP
    Windows Easy Transfer
  7. Perform a clean installation of Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1, erasing the existing partition(s)
  8. Set up your new user account(s) with the same name(s) as your old user account(s).
  9. Attach your hardware (printers, scanners, etc.). To get the full functionality of your devices, you may have to install the manufacturer's software.
  10. Install all of the programs you had installed on your previous version of Windows. This way when you transfer your documents and settings the file associations for your documents will be already set up.
  11. Download and install PCmover Express for Windows XP or run Windows Easy Transfer built-in to your new version of Windows.
    PCmover Express for Windows XP

Migrate from your old computer to a new computer

This, by far, is the easiest way to go. Only problem might be if your existing programs are not compatible with the version of Windows on your new computer. If you find that a program won't run right out of the box, you may be able to run it in 'Compatibility Mode' for another version of Windows.

How to migrate from Windows XP to Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1

  1. Download the Windows Upgrade Assistant to check to see if the hardware attached to your existing system meets the minimum hardware requirements.
    Windows Upgrade Assistant
  2. Check to see if your existing software will run on Windows 7 or Windows 8 / 8.1. Some software may not run on Windows 7 or Windows 8 / 8.1. Checking now may prevent some frustration later down the road.
    Windows Compatibility Center
  3. Do a complete backup of your existing computer to an external hard drive or network drive.
    Using Backup in Windows XP
  4. Download and install PCmover Express for Windows XP or the latest version (Windows 7) of Windows Easy Transfer. Transfer all of the users' documents and settings to an external hard drive or network drive.
    PCmover Express for Windows XP
    Windows Easy Transfer
  5. Set up your new user account(s) with the same name(s) as your old user account(s).
  6. Attach your hardware (printers, scanners, etc.). To get the full functionality of your devices, you may have to install the manufacturer's software.
  7. In install all of the programs you had installed on your previous version of Windows. This way when you transfer your documents and settings, the file associations for your documents will be already set up.
  8. Download and install PCmover Express for Windows XP or run Windows Easy Transfer built-in to your new version of Windows.
    PCmover Express for Windows XP

Also, here's a series of articles I wrote a few years ago on my personal experience upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7.

Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 (Part 1)
Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 (Part 2 - Drive Imaging)
Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 (Part 3 - Hardware / Software Inventory)
Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 (Part 4 - Windows 7 Installation)
Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 (Part 5 - Applications and Settings)
Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 (Part 6 - Epilogue)

Running your old version of Windows XP in a Virtual Machine

If you haven't heard by now, Windows XP has come to the end of its life. After April 8th, 2014, Microsoft will no longer support Windows XP, which means no more security patches or hot fixes. Using Windows XP as a primary operating system is no longer an option. But you can still use your old version of Windows XP and the installed programs on a newer version of Windows using a Virtual Machine (VM).

A physical to virtual migrated version of Windows XP inside of VirtualBox running on Windows 8
A physical-to-virtual migrated version of Windows XP inside of VirtualBox running on Windows 8

The problem most people are having with going to a new version of Windows is that they have software installed on Windows XP that they cannot install or will not run on a newer version of Windows. Either the software came pre-loaded, they lost the installation media or the company went out of business. If you're one of these people, there is hope.

I've written a few times about using VM's to run different operating systems on the same computer. Basically, you create a virtual hard drive and install your operating system inside of it. You can also create a virtual hard drive from your physical hard drive. This way you can upgrade to a newer version of Windows and still have access to your old Windows XP programs.

Note: With the change of hardware from physical-to-virtual, Windows will need to be re-activated. Physical-to-virtual hard drive migration of a Windows installation is a valid function for customers with full retail copies of Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8.

To do this you will need two programs, Microsoft's Windows Sysinternals Disk2vhd and Oracle's VirtualBox. Both programs are free for personal use and the links to the software are below. First thing to do is create a virtual hard drive from your existing physical hard drive. Start up Disk2vhd and you get only one simple menu. Select 'Prepare for use in Virtual PC' and 'Use Volume Shadow Copy' and deselect 'Use Vhdx'. Next select the location for the virtual hard drive file. For the best performance, you should create the virtual hard drive on a different physical drive (network or external).

The Disk2vhd main screen with options
The Disk2vhd main screen with options

Now it's time to install VirtualBox on the new system. Remember to also download and install the VirtualBox Guest Extensions. Once installed, copy over the virtual hard drive you created with Disk2vhd. Next you create a new VM with settings (operating system, memory, etc.) based on your old computer. You then will be prompted to create a new virtual drive or use an existing one. Browse and select the virtual drive that you created.

Modified boot menu in physical to virtual migrated version of Windows XP
Modified boot menu in physical to virtual migrated version of Windows XP

The first time you start the VM, it will find the new VM hardware and try to install drivers for them. If it fails to find drivers, just go to the 'Devices' tab on the top menu and select 'Insert Guest Additions CD image'. Open Windows Explorer and browse to the virtual drive named VBOXADDITIONS and run VBoxWindowsAdditions. This will install the keyboard, video and mouse drivers. You will have to tweak the settings to get it run flawlessly. If you're migrating a version of Windows XP, I recommend disabling access to the internet, since there is no longer security updates and patches for Windows XP after 4/8/14.

For more information on VirtualBox or Disk2vhd, just follow the links below.

Oracle VM VirtualBox
Sysinternals Disk2vhd

Share your computer's Internet connection with Virtual Wifi Hotspot

Quite a few smartphones nowadays have the ability to share their Internet connections by creating a wifi hot spot. This can come in handy when you have only one Internet connection and multiple devices requiring it. But did you know can do the same thing with your Windows 7 or Windows 8 computer using Virtual Wifi Hotspot.

Virtual Wifi Hotspot (Virtual Router Plus 2.6) main screen
Virtual Wifi Hotspot (Virtual Router Plus 2.6) main screen

Using Virtual Wifi Hotspot, you can connect multiple wifi enabled devices to the Internet connection on one computer. It is extremely helpful if you have to pay for an Internet connection, like at an airport or hotel. For example, when I travel and stay in a hotel, I like to utilize the hotel's Internet connection (wired (preferred) or wifi). I can connect my Netbook to the Internet and then share that connection my wifi devices (smartphone, tablet). I've even thought about bringing a Roku with me next time I travel. Just start Virtual Wifi Hotspot, enter a network name, password, select the connection you want to share and click on Start Virtual Router Plus.

Virtual Wifi Hotspot is a Codeplex open source project and is built with the Virtual Router project. This explains the difference between the project name (Virtual Wifi Hotspot) and the application name (Virtual Router Plus). Here's a quote from the project's website:

Virtual Wifi Hotspot is a free, open source software based router for PCs running Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2012. Using Virtual Wifi Hotspot, users can wirelessly share any Internet connection (Wifi, LAN, Cable Modem, Dial-up, Cellular, etc.) with any Wifi device (Laptop, Smart Phone, iPod Touch, iPhone, Android Phone, Zune, Netbook, wireless printer, etc.) These devices connect to Virtual Wifi Hotspot just like any other access point, and the connection is completely secured using WPA2 (the most secure wireless encryption.)

For more information on Virtual Wifi Hotspot, just follow the link below.

Virtual Wifi Hotspot for Windows 7 & 8

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