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).