Walt Mossberg

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Exporting Information From AOL

Here are a few questions I’ve received recently from people like you, and my answers. I have edited and restated the questions a bit, for readability.

I am looking for information about how I can export my Favorites and Address Book from my AOL account to another browser and any other email service.

There may be multiple methods for doing this, but one simple approach is to use a service called TrueSwitch, which is specifically designed for this purpose. It can be found at www.trueswitch.com.

Is there an application that will uninstall all the “craplets” and their preferences from a Windows machine?

Yes. It’s called “PC Decrapifier,” and can be downloaded at pcdecrapifier.com. It is designed to remove from a new Windows PC all of the unneeded trial programs, add-on programs and advertising come-ons that PC makers typically cram onto the computer that are collectively known as “craplets.” These items can slow down a new machine and occupy disk space better used for programs and files you actually want.

I’ve recently purchased a laptop with Vista Home Premium as the operating system. Is there a way to remove the Vista operating system and use Windows XP?

Yes, such an operating system “downgrade” is possible, but it isn’t for the faint-hearted or the average, nontechnical user. There are many obstacles, but let me list just the major ones. For one thing, the process involves wiping out everything on your hard disk. That means you will need to carefully copy all of your personal data files to a backup disk so you can restore them after the downgrade. In fact, you should clone your entire hard disk if possible so you can revert to Vista if the downgrade fails. You will also need a legal copy of Windows XP, or — better yet — a legal Windows XP recovery disk from your PC’s maker that is customized for your machine’s hardware and factory-installed software.

If you can’t find an XP recovery disk tailored for your particular PC, you will need to assemble a collection of “drivers” — the software programs that make your computer’s hardware features work — that are compatible with Windows XP. This can be difficult, or even impossible, as a Vista machine may contain new hardware components for which XP drivers are hard to find or may not even exist.

If you aren’t a techie, and you desperately want to downgrade to XP, I strongly suggest hiring an expert to take on the task. But the best solution for XP fans is to buy a machine with XP preinstalled in the first place.

You can find Mossberg’s Mailbox, and my other columns, online free of charge at the new All Things Digital Web site, http://walt.allthingsd.com.

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