Sunday 11 January 2015

New Toys

I've been running a Win XP box I built for under 500 dollars a few years back. Nothing fancy but it was a really good little gaming machine for the money back then. It ran everything I played perfectly fine with good framerates at decent resolutions and reasonable settings.

Lately though I've been running into new software I want to try that won't even run on XP at all. I finally decided it's time to upgrade the OS. At first I was going to get Win 7 but after doing some research, checking prices and thinking about it for while I decided to go with Win 8.1 instead.

I've also wanted an SSD for a long time and I've always preferred doing major OS upgrades with a clean install on a brand new drive so it was time for a new drive too. Doing a little research I found a couple great little 2.5" SSDs available at terrific prices online.

Samsung 840 Evo 120 GB for $82.99 CDN
Crucial MX-100 128 GB for $72.99 CDN

The Samsung 250 GB and Crucial 256 GB versions were around $139.00 and $111.00 respectively. The Samsung is faster and the Crucial is cheaper but they're both good fast drives with great prices.

Win 8.1 (full version, not OEM) I found online for $99.99 CDN

London Drugs price matches online retailers (even the ones with the most aggressive prices) and they had Samsung SSDs in stock but not Crucials so that made the SSD decision easy.

If I'd had another 60 bucks to spend I would have gotten the 250 GB version instead but my budget was too tight for that. If they'd had the Crucial 256 GB I probably would have justified spending another 30 bucks on that and grabbed it instead.

So I took my new toys home, slapped the SSD in and did a clean new install of Win 8.1 leaving the old HDD Win XP install intact.

I was most impressed with the Windows install, it was the simplest and fastest Windows install I've ever done. The only things I didn't like about it were:

1. It seemed to be forcing me to create an email account with MS. Not sure if that's what it was actually doing though since I found out later that was my computer logon ID. Which leads to point two.

2. It also forced me to set a funky longass password with caps, numbers and all that crap for the login account. I hate that, I don't want a phreaking password on my personal computer that nobody else uses and making matters worse they forced password rules on me too. If I was a hacker trying to brute force hack passwords these days, I'd make damn sure NOT to waste my time trying any combinations less than 8 characters long, containing spaces or punctuation characters or NOT containing both a number and a capital letter.

Once the OS was installed the first thing I did was search the web to find out how to turn off Metro and make a few tweaks to get the desktop looking and functioning better (more like XP or 7). Then I installed Classic Shell and was pretty happy with the look and feel of the OS at that point. I'll tweak it more yet but it's pretty decent already after only a few minutes of tweaking.

Next step, install Chrome and make Chrome the default browser. Then onto a few must have apps like GiMP and WinZip. Then Eve, Evemon, Evernus (which doesn't run on XP). Eve took the longest since I decided to go with a full install from download and the download takes a while. Once that was done it took another half hour to find and copy all the settings files over from the old OS.

Everything worked perfectly with no problems at all. The OS seems at least as fast and responsive as XP was. And of course the SSD means it boots orders of magnitude more quickly.

Finally I installed Unreal Tournament 2004 (mostly for the map editor). UT2k4 ran great too but unfortunately there does seem to be a serious glitch with UEd 3.0 under 8.1 that makes it pretty much unusable. I'm not going to spend a whole lot of time trying to figure out a fix for that just yet though. I'll be busy re-installing other old apps, installing a few new ones that wouldn't run on XP, plus tweaking and configuring everything for at least a few more days.

Next month I think I'll upgrade the RAM from 4G to 8G. It'll be interesting to see how much of a difference more memory makes. At the very least I should be able to run more concurrent accounts in Eve, edit and compile UT maps faster (assuming the UEd problem is fixable).


  1. Chrome synch made it simple to get all my bookmarks, passwords etc., over too. I didn't have to anything other than install Chrome and "sign in as ..." :)

  2. As an IT guy it amazes me how many people still run XP, I upgraded my father's computer a few weeks ago when he finally let me do it after promising him I'd have all of his stuff backed up.

    The SSD you bought is a pretty good one, Samsung makes some really good ones.

    As for the password, that's because (normally) the OS is linked with your microsoft account, or at least mine is. Good thing you have the option to turn off the password being requested every single time you turn on your computer.

    For older programs: "Run compatibility mode" usually does the trick for me.

    Enjoy 8.1, once you get the hang of it it's a great OS!

  3. Yeah Samsung makes some of the fastest SSDs out there and their prices are great too.

    Password, I figured as much, just haven't gotten around to figuring out how to turn it off yet. Too many other things that are more important to do first.

    I'm running several of my old apps and games in compatibility mode, including UT and UEd. Everything except UEd works fine. Even UEd runs it just has a serious glitch when moving around in a view port with real time preview on and that's a real PITA. Moving around works fine with real time preview off though.

  4. You actually do not need to create Microsoft Live) Account to login to Windows, but MS does pretty good job to hide that fact - during installation you have to cancel/skip creating Live account and then you can set up local account.

    Now once you have Windows installed, go to Control Panel -> User Accounts -> Add new user --- which takes you to "PC Settings" - there is "Sign in without Microsoft account (not recommended)" link there on bottom of the page.

  5. If you cant make the jump to 16gb dont bother with 8gb imo, sure its an improvement but where things are nowadays even 16gb fills up pretty fast; with a bit of gimp, a couple of youtube vids on chrome and eve in the background 8gb will still run short and end up writing to disk.

  6. My motherboard (M4N68T-M) only supports 8G and I'm not upgrading the mobo so 8G is it.