8 lessons learned from upgrading a dog-slow XP machine to Windows 8

Summary:ZDNet's David Gewirtz decides to upgrade a "dog-slow" Atom-based PC from the nearly dearly departed Windows XP to Windows 8. In the process, he learns a lot and shares some of those lessons with you in this article.

Tip #7: Run Windows updates as soon as you can

I found I had a lot of driver errors that would require my hunting down drivers online. However, once I ran Windows update on Windows 8, I found a few of them magically disappeared. Apparently Microsoft added some additional driver support in later updates of the OS.

So once you have a network connection, run Windows update.

Tip #8: Dig hard for drivers

The last major problem I had in updating this machine was finding the remaining drivers. I did not find the drivers on the Zotac site. In fact, the Zotac site said the drivers page for the MAG was down for maintenance and the page they sent me to didn't even list my machine.

Oh, one note about the Zotac I may not have been clear about earlier: it's a compact machine that doesn't allow you two swap out components. This isn't a machine where I can yank out an old graphics card and shove in a new one. You got to dance with them what brung you. So that means you must find drivers, not swap hardware.

This is not a new problem for Windows users. Driver hunts are a rite of passage. I tend to use two techniques for finding drivers: forums and chip maker sites.

The easiest approach is digging around for forums with users of the machine you're using. Often, you'll find users who have already taken the path you're taking and have discovered the drivers you need. This is usually the easiest approach.

Another approach is to figure out the chip sets inside the machine. Sometimes you can find that out in Device Manager. Sometimes you can use something like Belarc Advisor to tell you what's running inside your box. And other times, you just have to open up the box and look at the chips.

There are some commercial sites that promise to find drivers for you, but they've always kind of weirded me out. They seem a little too much like malware waiting to happen, so I've avoided them. They may well be legitimate, and perhaps our readers can share any experiences below in the comments.

Ed Bott had a great suggestion here as well. He told me that a free product called SlimDrivers is really quite good at snagging drivers. You need to be careful to avoid a dodgy toolbar for AVG, and the free version is apparently a little naggy, but for the time you'll need it, Ed says it's quite the win. I'm definitely going to download and check it out tonight.

In any case, even without SlimDrivers, I eventually found all the right drivers, updated everything, and the machine is up and running.

It's still slow, but it's not half bad. So far, I haven't felt the compelling need to plunk down a grand to replace it, and that's always a win. And it does seem faster and smoother than when it was running XP, so that's a win. Oh, and before I close out this article, I should point out that I immediately put the Start menu back on the machine and tweaked it so Windows 8 would seem normal . Windows 8 is actually a quite sweet desktop OS once you get past the Metro silliness.

Good luck with your own upgrades. Please share your experiences below. And extra special thanks to Ed for reviewing this article and adding so much useful information.

Topics: Windows 8, Microsoft, Windows

About

In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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