Walt Mossberg

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Mossberg’s Mailbox

When to Stay With Windows

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.

We plan to buy a new computer running the XP version of Windows, not Vista. We are afraid to take the step to the Mac since we are in our 70s, and are just average on the computer. We rely on our children for help when we get into a jam, and they have no experience with a Mac. Would you recommend we venture into Mac land, fear and all?

No. While I believe Apple’s (AAPL) hardware is very good, and the Mac operating system is better than either version of Windows (MSFT), I also believe that average users whose operating system works well for them, and who can buy new hardware that runs the same system, shouldn’t feel pressure to change. That’s especially true when they have a ready source of support.

However, that course of action will become more difficult this summer, when Microsoft plans to stop licensing Windows XP to computer makers for preloading on new machines. That will make Vista the only version of Windows available to new computer buyers. Buying a new Vista PC does require users to learn new techniques and to cope with hardware and software incompatibilities.

I heard that you could still use your AOL email address without paying for the other AOL services, which are no longer used in our household. I am wondering if this is true.

Yes. AOL (TWX) has made its email free. The email service is also now available from a Web site, and no longer requires special AOL software.

I have purchased a new laptop. How do I transfer the songs from the iTunes library on the old laptop into the iTunes library on my new laptop? None of these songs are copy-protected. I created them from my own CDs.

If your setup is typical, I would recommend copying the entire iTunes folder that is found under My Music or Music on a PC, or under Music on a Mac. This folder should contain both a subfolder called “iTunes Music” (which contains the actual song files iTunes manages) and one or more files containing the words “iTunes” and “Library,” which tell the program about your playlists and other details. If your setup is atypical, you may have to copy music files from other folders and have the copy of iTunes on your new machine re-import them.

Another approach is to use an iPod, if it has all your music and playlists on it. There are small utility programs available on the Web that will copy the contents of an iPod, including playlists, into a fresh version of iTunes on another computer. One that I have used successfully is called Music Rescue and is at www.kennettnet.co.uk. It comes in both Windows and Mac versions. But there are others.

Reminder: if you are discarding or giving away the old computer, be sure to deauthorize it from your iTunes Store account before doing so. Just go to the “Store” menu in iTunes and click on “Deauthorize computer…”.

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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