Mossberg’s Mailbox

Upgrading to Windows 7 From Vista

Published on May 13, 2009
by Walt Mossberg

There’s no other major item most of us own that is as confusing, unpredictable and unreliable as our personal computers. Everybody has questions about them, and we aim to help.

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

I have a PC with Windows XP, which I bought because my computer guru said to stay away from Vista. I read your column saying upgrading from XP to the new Windows 7 will be much more cumbersome than doing so from Windows Vista. So, what should I do now? Upgrade to Vista for a while so I can then move more smoothly to 7? Or wait, buy a separate Windows 7 computer in the fall, and just transfer my files and applications from the XP computer?

Putting budget considerations aside, I think the latter course would make more sense. The new machine with Windows 7 preloaded will probably give you smoother performance than one you upgraded twice to new operating systems in a matter of months. But, bear in mind that you will have to reinstall all your applications on the new Windows 7 computer, and that, depending on the terms of the applications’ licenses, you might even have to buy new copies. On the other hand, if you do the chain of upgrades, and don’t buy a new machine, you may be able to avoid this application problem, or at least much of it.

I appreciated your review of the Clickfree automatic backup drive. Does the backup it creates include the various folders and subfolders for data such as photos, or does it just create a huge single list?

The Clickfree software is primarily designed to back up, display and restore your files by their types — photos, music, text, email, spreadsheets, etc. Once it has performed a backup it lets you view and restore your files by these types. However, it will display the tree of all your folders and allow you to specify where it should search for these files. It also allows you to back up and restore entire folders, such as your My Documents folder, regardless of their contents. Detailed information, including a downloadable user manual, is available in the Support section of

I am planning to buy one of the products you recently reviewed — a Western Digital My Book — and attach it directly to a port on my Internet router. Can I install antispyware and antivirus programs on the drive? If not, how will the data on this drive be protected?

Nothing is perfectly secure. The bad guys are clever, and you never say never. However, since this product isn’t an actual PC running Windows, viruses and spyware programs can’t likely run directly on it. Still, if one of your computers contains malicious software, and it can see the contents of the network drive, then the data on the drive could be endangered. I know of no way to install or run security programs on the drive. But the security software on your PC may protect the drive, if it is able to handle external drives across a network. Also, the firewall built into your network router will help. The product has some security measures built in, such as encrypting files when you use the optional feature that allows you to access the drive’s contents across the Internet.

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