Install Vista upgrade only when right for you

Ask Jim

Plugged In

May 10, 2007|By Jim Coates | Jim Coates,Chicago Tribune

I bought a Gateway laptop in December with a free Vista upgrade. I made sure the laptop was Vista-ready and have received the Vista pack. However, I have been hesitant to install the Vista upgrade because of the previous problems with it, and because I do not know what to expect (problemwise) once installed. The IT people are waiting before installing Vista at work, so they are no help. Would you advise to go ahead and install the upgrade or wait until more improvements are made?

- Kay O'Reilly, bellsouth.net

The reason so many corporate information technology departments are holding back on Vista is the upgrade cost for an operating system that, in the end, doesn't take business applications much beyond what Windows XP provides.

But one looks for different things when using a computer at home than when at work. This is where Vista shines. The new operating system allows one to keep track of several programs running at once with a task bar icon that causes small copies of each screen to cascade across the desktop. This, combined with translucent window frames, make using a Web browser, an e-mail program, a word processor and a music or video player at the same time easier. It also bursts at the seams with new wrinkles on stuff such as displaying photos and making home videos. In addition, Vista's display down the right-hand side of the desktop shows the time and date in legible sizes and provides up-to-the-minute weather reports, traffic conditions, stock prices, sports scores, etc.

Vista also is prettier than Windows XP because of better screen savers, improvements in the Start menu and other aesthetic tweaks.

I would not worry about whether to wait because Vista will be repaired over time as it is hard-wired to connect to Microsoft's own servers and download patches and updates as the company deems necessary in the future.

So your Vista versus XP dilemma is whether to go through the bother (figure at least two or three hours) of using the upgrade disks or to just stick with the familiar and serviceable Windows XP. I hope that my answer conveyed the idea that a Vista upgrade from a satisfactorily running Windows XP machines is no big deal either way. As my dear old dad used to tell me, knock yourself out.

I keep getting what is evidently a driver-related blue-screen error message. The problem is that it doesn't hang around for more than two or three seconds before the computer reboots. Therefore, I can't read the message to get any information as to what is causing the error. Is there some software that will log the error message so I can read it after the computer, reboots?

- Robert Bernardez, msn.com

What you need is one of the Control Panels built into Windows called the Management Console. This tool is designed for system administrators, tech support experts and other ordained Windows wonks, but it's the ticket in your unusual case.

There is a module called Event Viewer in this control panel that keeps a running log of major actions by the operating system, and users can order a text file printed to list each event in the order it happened - in your case a blue screen of death.

So click on Start, then Control Panel and Administrative Tools. Open that icon and you'll get another cluster of icons, including one for Event Viewer.

You probably can just go through the log files that already have been made to find your error problem. Or you can wait until the next time your machine conks out to make the event more obvious, because it will be at the top of the list.

The Event Viewer creates logs for about a half-dozen items, including Applications, Security, System and so on. Each of these categories has a number of logs attached to it under subheadings.

I suspect you will find the culprit under the Application heading. So click it open and you will find the long list of logs, including some with a red X and labeled "Error." Give the most recent one of these a double-click and you'll get a pop-up with details of what caused the boo-boo.

You then can take some kind of action, such as removing the driver you suspect and then reinstalling whatever piece of equipment it was supposed to run - printers, scanners, camcorders, etc.

I'm just getting over the emotional roller coaster of having had my system crash from a blue-screen error to the point where Dell had me reinstall Windows XP. At shutdown, I would get this "End Program: Cc:APP" error and then a blue screen caused by Norton AntiVirus. After coming to terms with some lost data, reinstalling my 30 disks of backup and reinstalling programs, I was looking forward to a cleaned-up machine, which I assumed would run faster. Not so. For a while, things were going OK. Until I went to shut down and again saw the horrific "End Program: Cc:APP" error I used to see before my blue-screen error. Help! Do I have a corrupted hard drive? Is it Norton's fault? What can I do to avoid repeating my crash nightmare?

- Beth Nathanson, Davie, Fla.

If I were you, I'd be wondering how much more protection from Symantec Corp.'s Norton software can I survive and give strong thought to some serious comparison shopping.

There are many competitors with anti-virus tools, most recently including Microsoft Corp. (WindowsOneCare. com), which sells a system called OneCare and includes a free spyware/adware blocker called Windows Defender.

Other good choices are Norton's biggest competitor, Mc- Afee anti-virus, at McAfee.com, or Trend Micro PC-cillin (us.trendmicro.com /us/home/home-user/).

The error on your computer is being created when Symantec's Norton software checks e-mail for viruses and when it runs the auto-protect module to keep virus definitions up to date.

After what you've been through, I'd change my bodyguard before it beats me to death.

askjimcoates@gmail.com

Jim Coates writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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