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Going from 12 Years on the Mac to a Windows XP Notebook
March 21, 2010 1:51 PM   Subscribe

Beginning this week, I will start using a Windows XP notebook as my home computer; to date my personal computers have been Macs. I've done some preliminary research as to Windows alternatives to programs, but I'd appreciate three areas of people's suggestions: (i) general tips for owning a Windows machine as your home machine; (ii) specific tips for people migrating from a Mac to a Windows machine; and (iii) critiques and/or alternate suggestions for Windows alternatives to the Mac programs I've used.

My iMac's hard drive recently died, and despite some kind offers, the act of replacing it would be nightmarish. It'd evidently be unwise to boot from the external drive I'm currently booting from longer than necessary, and, anyway, for reasons of my own, I'm actually in some ways looking forward to geeking out with a Windows XP notebook.

However, given that my personal computers have been an 80286 (MS-DOS), a "grape" iMac, an iBook, and then this, I've never had a personal computer running on a Windows system. So, as mentioned above, I'd appreciate:

(i) any general Windows-machine tips,
(ii) any tips from people who've made the Mac-to-Windows migration, and
(iii) also some critiques on selections below, or alternate suggestions for, applications (with a high preference for freeware, for the moment).

With regard to (iii), this is pretty much my plans at the moment, scraped from delicious – I'd appreciate it if people had any comments (i.e., "Oh, no, ___ is much better", "____ is good but when you have some cash free, ____ for $____ beats its pants off", etc.). (Also, at some point in the future, it's possible I might shift to a netbook – if any app is particularly bad on a netbook, I'd appreciate the heads-up.)

APPS UTILITIES MEDIA PLAYERS INTERNET GAMES VIEWERS
posted by WCityMike to Computers & Internet (23 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
XP is an 9 year old product. Id consider upgrading to Win7.

As far as AV goes, I would not use AVG. Its bloaty and poorly written. Microsoft Security Essentials is all you need.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:58 PM on March 21, 2010


I don't have the financial ability to upgrade to Windows 7 at the moment, or to purchase any software. Indeed, this notebook is a free hand-me-down, and that's why this conversion is taking place.
posted by WCityMike at 2:04 PM on March 21, 2010


Avast blows the doors off AVG.
posted by deadmessenger at 2:05 PM on March 21, 2010


Try Homebank (free) or AceMoney Lite (free for one bank account) as gnucash is pretty heavy-duty.

Also Ninite is a batch free software installer that could save you tons of time.

Avast is what I'd use too; voice fx can be turned off in prefs.
posted by circular at 2:09 PM on March 21, 2010


Why not get OpenOffice if you need something to view MS Office files?

Also, for browsers, Google Chrome is pretty good.
posted by dfriedman at 2:14 PM on March 21, 2010


dfriedman: Why not get OpenOffice if you need something to view MS Office files?

I just bookmarked that as a backup; I think the system already has Office on it.
posted by WCityMike at 2:16 PM on March 21, 2010


I'd use Avast rather than AVG, and I like TextPad a little better than I do Notepad++. For photo editing, I use Paint.Net. For general system cleanup, use CCleaner
posted by deezil at 2:23 PM on March 21, 2010


I've been using Money manager Ex for finance for a few years on windows. I'm about to try the new web-based access they've created (Tonido) but can't comment on it yet.
posted by jacalata at 2:32 PM on March 21, 2010


Microsoft Security Essentials for anti-virus -- free! and works ok!
posted by Houstonian at 2:56 PM on March 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


aaand I just now see you've got anti-virus covered.
posted by Houstonian at 2:58 PM on March 21, 2010


I had to make the same switch after 20 years of using Macs. The only thing I found superior on XP was MediaMonkey. The rest was either (to me) essentially equivalent or just a bummer.

I still have to use XP at work, but have used Linux at home for the last four years on a homemade PC and now on a netbook. It beats XP hands down in the same ways OSX does (ease of use, security, speed, lack of crashing, innovation) and there is a lot of impressive software available which is getting better and growing in number every day. As a fellow former Mac user, I'd really urge you to take the time to check it out.
posted by quarterframer at 3:26 PM on March 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Launchy as a rudimentary quicksilver "replacement".
Paint.net for image editor.
You didn't ask for it, but Notepad++ for a text editor.
posted by misterbrandt at 3:38 PM on March 21, 2010


iTunes for Windows is the shittiest piece of software ever written. As mentioned above, Mediamonkey is several orders of magnitude better. I just had to repeat this for emphasis.

I split my time between Textpad and Vim as far as text editors go. Both are great.
posted by rfs at 4:32 PM on March 21, 2010


How much RAM do you have? Some of the programs you mention will probably run on startup and will eat system resources and degrade performance.

As for OpenOffice, it really is not a good product, unless you are formatting multipage documents, and I would just use Google Docs or Zoho instead.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:35 PM on March 21, 2010


quarterframer: As a fellow former Mac user, I'd really urge you to take the time to check [Linux] out.

I've twice tried Ubuntu and found both times that it just didn't "feel" right to me. I may try Mint at some point in the future, or give it another try – probably when I can afford a new machine, I'll reformat the laptop that's coming in and that I'm speaking of here with a Linux build and see if I can give it another try. But for now, I think this'll be XP.
posted by WCityMike at 5:33 PM on March 21, 2010


KokuRyu: How much RAM do you have? Some of the programs you mention will probably run on startup and will eat system resources and degrade performance.

I'm about 90% sure it's got two gig of RAM. I'll certainly be keeping an eye on RAM, and I'll be in the mood to prune what I can.
posted by WCityMike at 5:35 PM on March 21, 2010


rfs: iTunes for Windows is the shittiest piece of software ever written. As mentioned above, Mediamonkey is several orders of magnitude better. I just had to repeat this for emphasis.

Well, I'll definitely take a look at MediaMonkey. I'm not sure how much of what I have in my music collection is from the iTunes Store; not a lot, so maybe it'd be worth sacrificing whatever.
posted by WCityMike at 5:37 PM on March 21, 2010


WCityMike, if you burn your iTunes Store purchases to CD, then re-rip them back into iTunes (or whatever media player) as MP3s, they'll be plain old MP3s from then on, no DRM attached.
posted by cgc373 at 5:53 PM on March 21, 2010


If you actually have an iPod stick with iTunes, but only for syncing. Use something else for playback, because iTunes is a memory hog. I prefer Winamp to VLC on Windows simply because Winamp has a persistent local library, meaning I can pick and choose what to play more easily. Plus, Winamp's visualizations are great - Milkdrop specifically - better than anything I have seen anywhere else.

As a bonus, you can copy your entire Music folder directly into My Music, fire up iTunes, and after a long wait while it rebuilds your library, all your media is there, indexed and ready to go. No conversion necessary. The only thing that might disappear are any album art you let iTunes download for you - for some reason that doesn't sync between machines well.

Also remember that on Windows, overwriting a folder doesn't work like it does on a Mac: Only file names that match are replaced, others are left untouched, including nested files and folders. On a Mac, overwriting is like deleting the existing folder (and all subfolders) and completely replacing it with the new one. It's a bigger deal for those going from Windows to Mac, but worth mentioning nonetheless.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:01 PM on March 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


You need Tetrinet. Just letting you know.
posted by that girl at 6:33 PM on March 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


OpenOffice roxors. Google docs? I found viewing a simple file in that difficult; I can barely imagine using it to write a letter, let alone seriously word process. And I couldn't live without my OpenOffice Calc (spreadsheets). That's the only budgetting/money program I need. I have MS Office with Access for my occasional relational database needs, but I preferentially use OpenOffice for everything else because its interface is so nice (especially Calc). I even use OO to translate Word7 docs for colleagues who only have MS Office 2000.

OpenOffice is the finest free product on the planet. Except for air -- I really like air. But OO is right up there.
posted by jb at 7:02 PM on March 21, 2010


You could also install Liberkey instead of 50 separate applications. It's a collection of portable apps with combined updating and even file associations. No further installs necessary, no slowing down the OS. "Liberkey Ultimate" covers at least 90% of your list.

No harm in trying. You can still install iTunes if you don't like the portable alternative, you don't even have to uninstall anything.

*Bonus* if you install Liberkey in your dropbox folder, all your applications are available on any windows machine with dropbox. No more installing apps, utilities, media players, browsers ever again.
posted by Akeem at 5:13 PM on March 22, 2010


Second the use of Launchy for a Quicksilver replacement, I couldn't live without it when I used XP. Openoffice is also fine on Windows now, and much faster than it used to be to start up.

Second also the recommendations for mediamonkey. It's excellent at managing large collections and will I think sync with an ipod.

Autohotkey is free and the nearest there will ever be to applescript on a windows machine. I use it for title-casing and similar little scripts all the time.
posted by alloneword at 6:43 AM on March 28, 2010


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