Should I Upgrade To Vista or Leopard or Not?
(from the 11/07 issue of the CompuNerds Nerdsletter - sign up for it here)
Both Microsoft and Apple have released new versions of their operating systems (OS for short, and you know how we nerds love our acronyms). The Operating System, by the way, is the main program that runs the show. It’s what you see when you’ve turned the computer on, before you go on the internet or open your email or do anything else. It’s the master control program. Most PCs run a version of Microsoft’s operating system called Windows XP. Windows is so ubiquitous on PCs that the operating system is almost synonymous with the computer. The new version is called Windows Vista, or Vista for short.
Over in the Macintosh universe, the operating system is called OSX (as in Roman Numeral X and pronounced Oh Ess Ten). Each new iteration of OSX bumps up the version a little bit. The old version was designated as 10.4, and the new one is 10.5. However, Apple nicknames each version after a jungle cat. It’s a marketing thing. The old one was called Tiger, and the new one is called Leopard. That’s the name you’ll hear bandied about.
I’m not going to get technical here, have an in-depth discussion of the individual new features in each OS, or talk about the relative merits of the two competing systems. If you’re interested in a more technical discussion, I encourage you to check out this wonderful new thing called the Internet, where truckloads of informational treasure awaits.
The big question on everybody’s mind is “Should I upgrade?” I want to take a pragmatic, expansive approach to the subject. My guiding rule (I wish I could claim authorship, but I’m pretty sure somebody else thought of it first) is: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Don’t upgrade if:
A. Your computer is more than two years old. Everything may work fine , but the older the computer gets, the more likely it is that the new OS will overtax you computer’s abilities. Computer specifications change and improve very quickly, and yesterday’s powerhouse is often today’s doorstop.
B. You’re happy. If your current setup meets your needs, don’t mess with it. If the way things are working suits you just fine, leave it alone. Getting everything to behave the way you like it is a delicate balance, and you shouldn’t go rocking the boat, which could stir up the hornet’s nest and wake the sleeping dog.
Consider upgrading if:
A. You’re a daredevil, an early adopter, or your last name is Jones, and you need to stay ahead so that other people have trouble keeping up with you.
B. The new operating system contains a feature that you genuinely need or really want. For instance, both new systems contain a simplified built-in method for backing up. If this is really important to you, you may wish to consider making the leap. I don’t want to downplay the benefits of a new OS. They often have many new features that are really nifty, and the designers have thought of improved ways of doing things that should be easier to use.
Please bear in mind that brand-spanking-new operating systems are usually pushed out the door before they’re entirely finished. Most everything should work most of the time, but there will still be tiny glitches and things that need to be resolved. As time goes by, they’ll work out the kinks and things will run smoother. This also gives the manufacturers of printers and digital cameras and other devices you attach to your computer time to make sure that their products run properly with the new OS, and to update the software that comes with your device, if necessary. Six months to a year is usually the right amount of time for everybody to smooth out the rough edges of a new operating system.
If and when you purchase a new computer, it will come with the most recent version of the operating system already on it.
For those hearty souls who do want to upgrade, here’s some advice:
There are two general kinds of upgrades. There’s the kind where you install the new system over the old one. All your stuff stays more or less the same, but you’ve got a new version of the OS in place. This method of upgrading is the most common, and the most convenient. It is also widely considered by computer repair personnel to be THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL. Even if the upgrade seems to go smoothly, there are always things going on under the hood that you can’t see. These little things tend to accumulate until they reach a level that starts to affect system performance, and then they are very hard to fix. Like termites in the walls, your computer will continue to operate normally for awhile, until one day, the house falls down around you.
The other upgrade method is called a “clean install.” It takes a little more work up front, but should save you a great deal of aggravation in the long run. First, you back up everything to an external drive. Then you entirely wipe the computer’s internal drive, and install a fresh, pristine copy of the new operating system onto your computer. Next, move your data back onto the old computer, a bit at a time, making sure that things are running smoothly as you go. Sounds like a pain, and it is. But you’ll be glad you went to the trouble.
If a clean install is intimidating to you, but you want to go forward with it, give us a call. That is the sort of thing we can help you with here at CompuNerds.