An upgrade to Vista could cost up to $259 just for the software, assuming that your old PC has enough memory, graphics power and disk space.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

T e c h n o f i l e
Vista, we'll hardly miss ya: How to get more safety and security out of your current Windows PC

Sept. 24, 2006

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2006, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2006, The Post-Standard

   Microsoft expects to sell 200 million copies of its new operating system, Windows Vista, within a year after Vista is launched early next year. That's a lot of new Vista PCs and Vista software upgrades.
   But I wouldn't be surprised if many current Windows PC owners take a pass on the new operating system, despite its increased security and safety. An upgrade to Vista could cost up to $259 just for the software, assuming that your old PC has enough memory, graphics power and disk space.
   However, many current PCs probably won't have the hardware specs to permit upgrades to Vista, as I reported in two previous articles. You can read them here: www.technofileonline.com/texts/tec091006.html and www.technofileonline.com/texts/tec091706.html.
   So what should you do if you don't want to give Microsoft more of your money? As I wrote in my previous articles, Apple's new Macintosh computers are ahead of Vista already in safety and ease of use. But if a non-Windows option isn't for you, here are five cheap (or free) ways you can give your current PC some of the advantages of Vista.
   1. Install a safer Web browser. Vista will come with Internet Explorer 7, which Microsoft engineered to be less dangerous than earlier versions of IE. But you're wise to stay away from Internet Explorer. I recommend Firefox, a free alternative from Mozilla. Get it from www.mozilla.com/firefox.
   2. Stop using Outlook Express. This e-mail software is so dangerous yet so common (it comes with all versions of Windows) that many Windows users I've talked to don't know there are any other choices. I recommend Thunderbird, the free e-mail software from the folks who make Firefox. Download it from www.mozilla.com/thunderbird.
   3. Put a router between you and the bad guys. Routers are little boxes that hide your computer from the Internet. They work with any kind of broadband connection (cable, DSL and FIOS) and don't cost much. Look for a Linksys model; they're very reliable.
   4. Clean out your hard drive's "closet." Your PC will run better with more free disk space. Start by emptying the Recycle Bin. Then use the Control Panel's Add-Remove Programs feature to get rid of stuff you're not using any more. Follow this with a document cleanup (delete anything you KNOW you don't need) and then empty the Recycle Bin again.
   5. Turn off the TV and spend a few hours fine-tuning your computer. Try the advice from these experts:
   -- www.extremetech.com/article2/0,,5155,00.asp
   -- www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/downloads/powertoys/xppowertoys.mspx
   -- www.tweakhound.com/xp/security/page_1.htm
   -- www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/setup/expert/northrup_restoreperf.mspx
   Finally, for a laugh -- and a good reason to avoid Vista's voice-recognition features -- watch this video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=fV1kqthZf2g.