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DEATH-PROOF your old XP netbook: 5 OSes to bring it back to life

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Adventures with Windows 8

A Microsoft spokesthing sent The Reg this advice about XP netbook owners:

For customers considering upgrading a device designed to run Windows XP, we recommend purchasing modern hardware – from touch laptops to tablets to all-in-ones – to take full advantage of the features and touch UI found in Windows 8 and Windows 8.1.

If you must persist with a netbook, it recommends Windows 7. But there's a snag. Windows 7 Starter and Home Basic, the lowest-specced versions of Windows 7, are no longer on sale. The former was only ever an OEM product. The latter has been cancelled, so only Windows 7 Home Premium is now on sale. It has more or less the same hardware requirements as Windows 8.

I downloaded and tried Microsoft's upgrade assessment tool for Windows 7 and Windows 8 and both gave their approval to an install on the netbook.

For Windows 8, that approval did have one warning: the Windows Store requires a screen resolution of 1024x768 and would not run on the netbook. The S10e doesn't have this, so I knew this was a risk.

Microsoft's next trick is making it possible to upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 8 but not from XP to 8.1. I planned to take the next step afterwards, but the Product Key I possess for Windows 8 would not allow an upgrade.

Windows 8 installed quickly, easily and truculently: it imposed its own boot loader on the netbook and did something unpleasant to the BIOS that removed its boot-from-USB option and imposed its own bootloader on the netbook. That bootloader was hostile to Ubuntu, which would not load after Windows 8 had been installed.

Long story short: thanks for nothing, Redmond, and avoid a Windows 8 install if you want a multi-boot netbook.

Mr 12 didn't mind Windows 8 at all once I showed him that a single click took him to the Windows 8 desktop, an environment he's familiar with.

The inability to access the Windows Store is an issue, because Windows 8 really, really, wants you to install apps. As a school machine it's therefore a writeoff: Mr 12 will need to install various e-reader apps and the such like and the absence of the Store would mean lots of in-classroom messing about that he can do without.

I wouldn't mind using Windows 8, because a quick CTRL-ESC gets me to a swift and stable Windows desktop. But overall, this was just a poor fit because the OS is crippled. Even if you don't like Windows 8, missing TIFKAM just makes things worse.

Mr 12 was confused by the mess. He likes the idea of Windows 8, but almost-Windows-8 didn't get any attention, never mind approval.

To give Microsoft its due, it did say try Windows 7. I probably will, later.

Jolicloud

I started work on this article before Jolicloud decided to focus on the web and abandon its desktop efforts, but included it anyway because it's the closest thing to a Chrome-OS-like experience I can find. I tried Chrome OS distribution at hexxeh.net but rejected it on the basis that it is now six months out of date and would not install to bare metal or run from a USB stick.

Yes, it is possible to install Chrome OS in other ways, but as it requires the slaughter of a virgin goat beneath a full moon, I figured it's not a sensible option for a working machine.

Jolicloud in action

The Jolicloud interface, still available online but soon-to-be-unsupported on the desktop

Jolicloud was beyond Mr 12, who didn't get its web-based interface or the idea of piping in web apps as if they were installed on the hard disk. He didn't mind the Google Apps word processor once we got that up and running and was pleased to be able to access Presi.

I've had a soft spot for Jolicloud for a while, but can't see myself using its desktop install now that it has been abandoned. A super lightweight install of something that booted straight into a browser pointed at Jolicloud could work, but without that I see no reason to revisit it.

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