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Should you upgrade your computer to Windows 10?

With Microsoft giving away free Windows 10 upgrades to Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users, the one question that I keep getting asked is "Should I upgrade to Windows 10?" The real question should be "Will my hardware run smoothly with Windows 10?" Let's take a look and see if you should upgrade from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 to Windows 10.

Should you upgrade your computer to Windows 10?

If you have the GWT (Get Windows 10) icon on the taskbar, you can find out if your hardware and software will run on Windows 10. Just remember that even if GWT says all everything is compliant with Windows 10, it doesn't mean it will work smoothly with Windows 10. I have seen systems that were completely compatible with Windows 10, but when they got the upgraded, the performance was below what it was with the previous version of Windows.

First thing we should look at are the hardware requirements for Windows 10. When compared to Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, they are essentially exactly same for all three versions.

Windows 7 requirements:

  • 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor*
  • 1 gigabyte (GB) RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)
  • 16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver

Windows 8.1 requirements:

  • Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz)* or faster with support for PAE, NX, and SSE2
  • RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit)
  • Hard disk space: 16 GB (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver

Windows 10 requirements:

  • Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster processor or SoC
  • RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) for 32-bit or 2 GB for 64-bit
  • Hard disk space:
    • Windows 10 version 1809 and prior: 16 GB for 32-bit OS 20 GB for 64-bit OS
    • Windows 10 version 1903 and newer: 32 GB for 32-bit and 64-bit OS
  • Graphics card: DirectX 9 or later with WDDM 1.0 driver

So what differentiates Windows 10 from Windows 7 or Windows 8? The hardware drivers. Let me explain.

In the past when a manufacturer discontinued a piece of hardware, Microsoft would take the last known Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL) certified driver for that hardware and incorporate it into the driver's directory for the next version of Windows. The Windows\System32\Drivers directory is the generic driver collection that is included inside of the installation media for Windows. If Windows cannot find a driver for a specific piece of hardware in the driver's directory, it will go out to the Internet database and look for a suitable driver.

But when the hardware becomes out dated, usually it is the second version of Windows since it was discontinued, the driver can be removed from the driver's directory. That's when things can get tough. I've actually have had to go back into previous versions of Windows installation media and extract drivers from older driver directories. In fact, I have a customer that has a large format plotter that Windows hasn't had a driver for since Windows Server 2003 64-bit. But I have extracted the driver from the installation media and have used it on 64-bit versions of Windows Vista and Windows 7 with no problem.

So what am I saying? Well it comes down to whether the manufacturer(s) of your hardware are still supporting them with new drivers. If the hardware is no longer being sold, you can pretty much assume that there will be no new drivers for it. Now there are exceptions to this rule. Expansion cards, like graphic / video cards are one of them. I've found that companies like NVIDIA and AMD will create new drivers for what they call legacy hardware (discontinued hardware).

Before you decide to upgrade your Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 computer, take a couple of minutes and go over to all of the manufacturer's website(s) and locate the drivers for your system components. A few minutes now can save you hours later. As Benjamin Franklin once said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

Now with all of that in mind, if the last version of drivers that came from the manufacturer was for Windows 7, then the drivers in Windows 8.1 were Microsoft WHQL certified drivers. And if that is the case, then Windows 10 may or may not come with a compatible generic driver. It may have to go out to the Internet data base and find a driver. And if that's the case, you can bet it will be a completely generic driver.

But if the last version of drivers that came from the manufacturer was for Windows 8.1, then the Windows 10 driver will most likely be a Microsoft WHQL certified hardware driver.

Bottom line; if your system and/or components were built before the release of Windows 8 / Windows 8.1 (October 2012) and are no longer in production, then I would be skeptical on whether to upgrade to Windows 10. But if your system and/or components were built after the release of Windows 8 / Windows 8.1 (October 2012) and may or may not be still in production, there is a good chance that Windows 10 will run perfectly fine. But remember, there will be exceptions.

7 things to do before and after upgrading to Windows 10

With the release of Windows 10 comes the inevitable upgrade from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, And with the upgrade being free for the first year, why not upgrade to Windows 10? But before you do, there are some things you should do before. Here are seven (7) things to do before and after upgrading to Windows 10.

7 things to do before and after upgrading to Windows 10

1. Run Windows 10 Upgrade Advisor

Update 8/1/16: Microsoft ended the Get Windows 10 (GWX) project and the GWX application is no longer available. If you perform an in-place upgrade using Windows 10 media, the installer will check your computer for incompatible hardware and software.

Doing an in-place upgrade has its pros and cons. Even though Microsoft claims that if the software runs on Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 it will run on Windows 10, there will be exceptions to the rule. The same can be said about hardware too. Remember that Windows 10 will only come with generic drivers for a good portion of the hardware out there. Running the upgrade advisor will tell what issues you may have and then you can find a fix prior to performing the upgrade. Download any hardware specific drivers that you will need and save them to a flash drive or network folder.

    The Get Windows 10 icon
  1. Left-click the Get Windows 10 icon on the Taskbar
  2. The Get Windows 10 PC check
  3. Left-click on the three horizontal bars in the upper left corner to expand the menu and select Check your PC.

2. Check your drive for errors

One of the last things you want is to have the upgrade fail because of errors on the system drive. Especially if it the failure were to happen while coping new files and left you system un-bootable. To be on the safe side, run Windows disk checking utility CHKDSK.

Check your hard disk for errors in Windows 7
Check your hard drive for errors in Windows 8

3. Clean up the junk

It's now time to clean the system up. Uninstall any program you don't need and/or want and then run Windows built-in Disk Cleanup utility. You can also use a program like CCleaner, but be careful not to go too far with it.

Windows 7 Disk Cleanup
Windows 8 Disk Cleanup
Clean up and optimize your computer with CCleaner

4. Backup everything

As the old saying goes "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure", so a complete backup of your system is the next thing to do. Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 both have a built-in File Recovery program that can do a full system image to an external drive, network folder or DVD's. You will also need to create a system repair disk to boot the system so that you can restore the system image you create, just in case. Links to both are located on the left-side column of the File Recovery program screen.

Now the File Recovery program can be kind of hard to find, especially in Windows 8.1. So to make sure you are running it with the correct privileges, I suggest just running the program using an administrative command prompt.

How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows 7
How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows 8

To open the File Recovery program, just type the following into an admin command prompt and hit enter.

sdclt.exe

5. Perform an inventory with Belarc

Having a complete list of all of the hardware and software inside your computer can come in really handy if anything were to go wrong. Belarc Advisor is a great program for creating an inventory of your computers software and hardware, including any software installation keys. Once it is done creating an inventory, it opens the results in a web browser. Print or save the results to a flash drive, just in case you might need it down the road.

Belarc Advisor

6. Uninstall system utilities

This is not mandatory but I would recommend uninstalling any anti-virus, anti-malware, EMET, etc. program before the upgrade. These types of programs look for malicious activity geared toward the operating system and could create a really big headache during the upgrade. It's better to be safe than sorry.

Time to upgrade to Windows 10

Grab a drink and have a seat, it'll take a little while.

7. Update drivers and reinstall software

It's now time to install any device specific drivers you downloaded in Step #1. Once that is done, it's time to download the latest version of all the software you removed in Step #6. If you're unsure what version of a program you had installed, just go through the inventory you created in Step #5.

How to replace a CD/DVD/BD drive in your desktop computer

When it comes to desktop computer repair, one of the most common hardware failures are CD/DVD/BD drives. If you're having problems with getting the disk tray to eject or disks are not being recognized, it may be time to replace it. Here's how to replace a CD/DVD/BD drive in your desktop computer.

How to replace a CD/DVD/BD drive in your desktop computer

So you're tired of trying to get your old desktop CD/DVD/BD drive to work and are ready to replace it with a new one. Having to use a paper clip to manually eject your computer's CD/DVD/BD drive tray can get old really quick. Replacing a desktop CD/DVD/BD drive is fairly easy; you just have to make sure you get one with the correct connections and dimensions.

Find a new drive

The majority of CD/DVD/BD drives on the market nowadays will have SATA (Serial ATA) connectors for data and power. But there are still quite a few older systems that still use PATA (Parallel ATA) for data and 4 Pin Molex for power. SATA type drives are the de facto standard, so finding PATA replacement drives can be tricky. Newegg and TigerDirect are good places to find these older style drives.

SATA and PATA drive connections
PATA and SATA drive connections

Desktop CD/DVD drives have standard width and height dimensions, so all you have to do is check the depth of your existing drive. Sometimes you have room to put a deeper drive in and sometimes you don't. Always check to see what kind of space you have available before purchasing a replacement drive.

Uninstall the old software

Once you have your new CD/DVD/BD drive you will need to uninstall the software that came with your old CD/DVD/BD drive. It's usually a version of Nero or PowerDVD and it is branded to your old drive. Once you remove the old drive, the software that came bundled with it won't work anymore. Your new drive should have come with its own disk burning software.

Install the new drive

From here we need to turn the computer off, disconnect the power cord from the back of the system and open up the case. Now there are two possible ways of mounting the CD/DVD/BD drive in the case: screws or quick release rails. You may have to remove the front bezel from the case to get the CD/DVD/BD drive, as it will need to come out the front of the case. Make note of the connections and remove the old drive and replace with the new one.

Drives attached by screws and quick release rails
Drives attached by screws and quick release rails

Install the new software

Once you get the system back together, power it up and let Windows discover the new CD/DVD/BD drive. Windows may require a restart to finalize the setup. After that you are ready to install the software that came with the new drive.

The most common computer video display connectors

When it comes to computer repair, you have to be prepared to work on different types of systems. One of the biggest issues is having the correct video display connector. With more than ten different types of connectors it can be difficult to identify the correct one. Here is a list of the most common video display connectors.

What type of video connector do you have?

Most common video display connectors  
S-Video
3 variations - 4, 7 or 9 pins.
S-Video display connector
VGA (Video Graphics Array)
2 variations - DE-9 (9-pin) & DE-15 (15-pin).
VGA display connector
DMS-59 (Dual Monitor Solution, 59 pins)
It provides two DVI or VGA outputs in a single connector. An adapter cable is needed for conversion from DMS-59 (digital) to DVI (digital) or VGA (analog).
DMS-59 display connector
DVI (Digital Visual Interface)
5 variations - DVI-I (Single Link), DVI-I (Dual Link), DVI-D (Single Link), DVI-D (Dual Link) & DVI-A .
  • DVI-I (integrated, combines digital and analog in the same connector; digital may be single or dual link).
  • DVI-D (digital only, single link or dual link).
  • DVI-A (analog only).
DVI display connector
HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface)
Electrically compatible with the DVI.
4 variations - Standard, Dual-Link, Mini and Micro.
HDMI display connector
DisplayPort
Backward compatible with VGA and DVI through the use of adapters.
3 variations - Standard, Mini and Micro.
DisplayPort display connector

How to upgrade your computers hard disk drive to a solid state drive

Most computers (laptop & desktop) nowadays come with a Hard Disk Drive (HDD) as standard equipment with a Solid State Drive (SSD) as an option. Each drive type has its pros and cons: HDD's are cheaper and have more storage, but SSD's are extremely fast (especially when connected to a SATA3 port). So if your existing computer has a HDD, odds are you could replace it with a SSD. Here's how to upgrade your computer hard disk drive to a solid state drive.

How to upgrade your computer's hard disk drive to a solid state drive

I wrote an article not long ago on how to upgrade the hard drive in your computer and will be referring back to it often. It describes how to clone a smaller drive to a larger one of the same type. Since SSD's normally have less storage than HDD's, this time I'll have to shrink the existing HDD (80 GB) partition(s) down below the capacity of the target SSD (64 GB) before I can clone it.

As in the aforementioned article, the first thing to do is a Checkdisk of the existing HDD. Doing this will assure there are no errors that may prohibit the cloning of the drive.

Running Checkdisk in Windows 7 / Windows Vista

Running Checkdisk in Windows 8

Now we have to start cleaning up the drive. Windows has a built-in tool called Disk Cleanup (cleanmgr.exe) that works pretty well at getting out the clutter. Try using it from an admin command prompt, that way you'll get more options.

Disk Cleanup Windows 7 / Vista
Disk Cleanup Windows 8

Since we are trying to get the maximum amount of free space we can, we will have to delete some files, which may include documents, photos, videos, etc. Doing a backup right now will insure we have a copy of all of the files if we need to recover some later.

Windows 7 / Windows Vista Backup
Windows 8 Backup

Next thing I have to do is find out what is taking up the space on the existing HDD. For this I'll use a copy of SpaceMonger. After quick view, I see I can free up several gigabytes of space by permanently removing the hibernation file and temporarily deleting the swap file. Windows will warn you about having no swap file, but we will be recreating the swap file once the drive cloning is complete.

Disable Windows hibernation
Disable Windows swap file

The next thing we need to do to the drive is to defragment it. I'll use Defraggler from Piriform for this task. Once the drive is defragged, it's time to shrink it. To do this, open Computer Management, expand the Storage section in the left column and select Disk Management. In the right column, right-click on the partition marked as Boot (usually C:) and select Shrink. Remember to take the size down at least 10-15% below the capacity of the new SSD.

Shrinking a partition down in Windows 7
Shrinking a partition down in Windows 7

Once the partition has been resized, it's time to clone the drive. The following article has all of the details on how to clone you hard drive, including links to the cloning software.

How to upgrade the hard drive in your computer

Note: An issue not addressed in the article above is the form factor; the existing HDD is 3.5" form factor and SSD's are normally 2.5" form factor.
A desktop hdd and an ssd with adapter brackets
This can easily be resolved by using a pair of 2.5" to 3.5" adapter brackets.

Once the drive cloning is complete and the system is running again, we need to expand the boot partition to use any free space that may be available. Open Computer Management, expand the Storage section in the left column and select Disk Management. In the right column, right-click on the partition mark as Boot (usually C:) and select Expand. Once the boot partition has been resized, you can now enable Windows swap file.

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Here at Geeks in Phoenix, we take pride in providing excellent customer service. From all aspects of computer support and services, including virus removal and data recovery, we aim to provide the highest quality of service.

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4722 East Monte Vista Road
Phoenix, Arizona 85008
(602) 795-1111

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Geeks in Phoenix is an IT consulting company that specializes in servicing all brands of desktop and laptop computers. Since 2008, our expert and knowledgeable technicians have been providing exceptional service to the greater Phoenix metro area.

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