Tobold's Blog
Monday, September 01, 2014
Hasta la Vista!

I bought a new PC recently. The 3-year old PC I used before I gave to my wife. Which meant her old computer, a bit over 5 years old, was to give away. Now a computer tends to accumulate a lot of personal data over the years. I don't like to just uninstall stuff and then find out later that somewhere hidden the bowels of the operating system there were still a bunch of my passwords stored that are now available to the new owner of the computer (even if we tend to give the old computer to friends or family). So what I like to do is to format the hard drive and give the computer away with a fresh install. A "factory reset", so do say, although as I don't buy brand computers they tend not to have that as an actual option.

The only problem was that I didn't want to give away the operating system and installation disks of the computers I am still using. So I reinstalled the operating system that was on that computer: Windows Vista. Now Microsoft has a strange policy of alternating okay versions of Windows with really, really bad ones, and Vista is one of the bad ones. Plus it is now completely outdated.

The first problem was that Vista freshly installed didn't have any default drivers that would make the network card work. Fortunately I found the disk with all the drivers for the motherboard, including audio and network, so after installing that I could connect to the internet. Then I wanted to download the Nvidia graphics card drivers, but that required downloading a lot of other stuff, like Java and Visual C++.

Then I thought I just run Windows Update and that would put Vista in a decent state. No luck! There is a major bug in the original Vista which makes Windows Update freeze when you run it. I found out that I first needed to download and install service pack 1 to fix that bug, and while I was at it I also installed service pack 2. That wasn't all that obvious because the pre-installed Internet Explorer 7 was so old that even the Microsoft website refused to work with it. And the IE7 update function didn't work either. So I had to install a new browser, download and install the service packs, and then I finally could get Windows Update to run. Which promptly downloaded 150 urgent updates, taking hours to download and install.

Overall it took me all afternoon and evening to get Windows Vista installed in a state where I could give the computer away with a good conscience. I found that while the 5-year old hardware was still perfectly adequate, the 5-year old operating system was a huge problem. I'm glad to be finally rid of Windows Vista for good. Now all of the PCs in my house run Windows 7. Even the new one, as I didn't want Windows 8. I'd rather wait for the next decent OS from Microsoft, which on past form should be Windows 9.

You could freely download trial version of Win 8.1:

The buyer can upgrade it with its own key or erase the hard drive and install his OS.
Incidentally, one of the new features in Windows 8 is the ability to wipe the device/computer to a factory reset state. You can even create a custom image for this that includes any drivers/software that you need.
If you just gave it away, why did you bother reinstalling it? Just format and hand over with the disks, let the recipient suffer with it! He got a gift after all.
I have to agree with Gevlon, even after all the trouble you went through, the recepient of the gift will most likely delete Vista on the first chance he gets, wasting all the effort. If I were you, I'd just give the PC and the disks and warn the person getting them that Vista is complete shit and he should get another OS.

In Greece, there's a local IT 'meme' where we refer to Vista as SVista (translates to 'delete them') and for good reason. Even Windows XP is better.
I had to buy a new desktop today. as my old one (5 years) got killed after a thunderstorm. Well, moving from Win7 to Win8.1 is NOT so nice, you really need to find your way through so many useless things that drive you crazy.

But in the end... Win9 is not so far away.
Probably a completely stupid question, but I'm a linux user with near-zero windows experience......
How/where do you buy windows 7 today? And which "flavor" do you need to buy? I only use it to run WoW, WoT, Teamspeak and occasionally some other game, so I guess that the cheapest flavor is enough? And what/where is the cheapest I can get it? Because paying 150E to run three programs seems a bit excessive....
I sort of admire Microsoft for sticking with "StarTrek" release cycle of alternating good and bad releases. It makes things much easier too in knowing when I should update without needing to read reviews.

@Gevlon To a lot of people, a PC that doesn't operate out of the box is a useless gift and would be unappreciated. It might have some material value but unless someone gets it started for them you might as well give them a bag of garbage for all the good it will do them.
Every few years on finding myself in a similar situation I toy with the idea of wiping Windows and installing some flavour of Linux before giving the machine to what ever granny, aunt or uncle it is destined for. On each occasion I get initially enthused about the latest version of Ubuntu / Mint / Puppy or whatever. This is followed by gradual disillusionment as I discover yet again that Linux isn't ready for "the masses". Windows get re-installed.
I use Windows 7 Professional 64-bit. I never buy a "stand alone" version anywhere, but always the "OEM" version you can get only in combination with buying a computer.
Formatting doesn't do that much good if your harddrive gets into the hands of someone who gets a kick out of previous owners pictures.

I always kept my harddrives, when you give a pc away after a couple of years the hdd is very small anyway. Just buy a new one and put Ubuntu with OpenOffice on it. Should be cheaper than the windows license you give away with the pc.
Yeah, formatting doesn't necessarily make your data irretrievable.

When ditching an old computer, I pull out whatever parts I can salvage or want to keep, and then I smash the HD with a hammer.
So long as you do a real format and not a fast one your data should be pretty expensive to retrieve. It is actually questionable whether or not it can be reliably done by three letter agencies.

When giving away such an old computer it's more than likely only ever going to be used for web browsing. So some windowsy looking version of linux would probably be more than enough. But if you don't want to do that buying a cheap copy of Win 8 is your next best bet.

I'm actually expecting Win 9 to be horrible. Win 8 has its warts but after using it for awhile it's really just a re-skinned version of 7, with the option to never bother seeing that new skin.
Win 8 is fantastic. Boots really fast, no need to mess with usb3 drivers. What was MS security essentials is built in, as is a back up image creator.

It's Win 7 with bells and whistles.

Just need to install classic shell which takes less time than installing usb3 drivers under 7.

I'd avoid 8.1 on older hardware but your new PC would be fine.

I've got a copy of 7 and 8 and wouldnt dream of going back. 7 just seems so slow.
Win 8 is ugly - looks like 3.1 with no Aero.
Wish I'd had that version of 3.1 back in 94.

How many disks did that come on?
I agree with the every other Windows version theory. I am not quite as confident after the July announcement. E.g.

Microsoft’s Satya Nadella has confirmed that the next version of Windows, probably Windows 9, will unify the Windows, Windows Phone, and Xbox operating systems into “one single converged operating system.” The strategy has a lot of merits but I am not completely confident about the first attempt.
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