Expert Computing Advice – January 2013 (Part 1)

1/10/2013 5:24:29 PM

l’ve recently taken the plunge and upgraded from Windows 7 Professional to Windows 8 Pro. It’s taking a little getting used to, but on the whole I’m happy with it. Happy, that is, apart from my discovery that several features are no longer available since the upgrade. I was prepared for the Start Menu to disappear, but I was a little more surprised to find Media Center was gone, along with Windows XP Mode and all my desktop gadgets. I used several gadgets and had files and settings saved inside the Windows XP Virtual machine, which I hope have not been deleted. Is there any way to get these features back in Windows 8?

You’re right that several features in Windows 7 Professional are no longer present in Windows 8 Pro. Furthermore, the upgrade process gives you no warning that these features will be removed.

Fortunately, most of the features can be reinstated using third-party apps.

Windows Media Center

Windows Media Center has been taken out of the core Windows distribution and made available as a paid-for extra. However, the add-on is free for Windows 8 Pro users until 31 January 2013.

Windows Media Center

Windows Media Center

Head to tinyurl.com/c7ahxfo and enter your email address. Microsoft will send you a product key to enable the feature.

Windows XP Mode

Windows XP Mode is trickier to deal with than Media Center. As you’re no longer running Windows 7 Professional, you won’t be able to download and install it.

Thankfully, the upgrade process doesn’t delete your Windows XP Mode virtual disk. The original XP installation is stored in a .vhd file, which you will usually find in C:\Program Files\Windows XP Mode.

This is a clean installation of Windows XP and doesn’t contain any changes you might have made by installing programs or adjusting settings. It’s still possible to retain those; find out how at tinyurl.com/cs6cLzc.

VMLite XP Mode

While most virtualisation software runs as well on Windows 8 as it does on Windows 7, you’ll need a specific version of the software to handle the activation of the XP Mode installation. VMLite XP Mode, free from vmlite.com, is one such solution.

Download and install VMLite XP Mode, then follow the instructions to import your Windows XP Mode installation.

By default, VMLite XP Mode will import the base XP Mode .vhd file. You’ll need to manually install the VMLite Guest Additions by choosing ‘Install Guest Additions’ from the Devices menu. Follow the onscreen instructions and reboot the virtual PC.

VMLite XP Mode

VMLite XP Mode

Windows start menu

With the Start Menu officially discontinued, you’re forced to instead use the new Modern Ul Start screen. You’ll probably find you get used to it far more quickly than you would expect. However, if you really want to stick with the old system, or if you want to maintain a consistent interface between a network of Windows 7 and 8 PCs, you can use a third-party program to reinstate the familiar Start Menu.

Windows start menu

Windows start menu

One such program is Start8 from Stardock (stardock.com). It costs $4.99 (around £3), but offers a configurable Start Menu that can be displayed in a traditional Windows 7 format or as a smaller pop-up version of the Start screen. It also lets you go straight to the desktop on bootup.

There are also free alternatives, such as Classic Shell (classicshell.sourceforge.net) and Power8 (tinyurl.com/bxey559).

Gadgets in Windows 8

If you used of any of the desktop gadgets in Windows 7, you will have noticed that they are no longer available in Windows 8. Microsoft has ceased support for gadgets under the new OS.

Gadgets in Windows 8

Gadgets in Windows 8

There’s no official way to reinstall your gadgets, but you can get them back by installing a free utility called 8Gadgetpack, available from tinyurl.com/9mhmjdj.

Installing this utility will create a gadget sidebar to which you can add any of the gadgets you had previously installed in Windows 7, without you having to download them again. All user settings should also be preserved. If you don’t like the sidebar, you can close it and place the gadgets directly on the desktop.

You should be aware that Microsoft removed support for gadgets as a security precaution, although you’ll be no less secure as you were using them under Windows 7. Do some research before installing any gadgets you find online, given that the official repository is now gone.

Can’t shut down

Since upgrading my PC from Windows 7 Pro to Windows 8 Pro I’ve been able to shut down properly. I select Shut down, but every time the PC restarts itself. I’ve resorted to holding down the power switch, but Windows now thinks it’s having problems starting up and is attempting to repair the issue. What can I do to fix this?

This problem can occur for a number of reasons. Sometimes it’s caused by devices such as over-sensitive USB mice, which are configured to wake the system from sleep when they pick up vibrations. Other times it can be due to faulty device drivers.

Given that the system was working correctly before the upgrade, a likely culprit in your scenario is the new Hybrid Shutdown mode offered by Windows 8. We’ve seen this happen on a system where hibernation had been previously disabled, causing some confusion when the system was upgraded; the Windows 8 Shut down procedure, which uses a new form of hibernation, failed.

To check your own system, go to the desktop and press Windows, X, then select Power Options. Now click ‘Choose what the power button does’.

Look under Shut down settings. Here, you would usually find an option for ‘Turn on fast startup (recommended)’. If this option is missing, hibernation is probably disabled.

To enable hibernation, open a command prompt using the Administrator account and type powercfg /H on. Now restart the system and return to the Shut down settings to see whether the fast startup option has appeared. Select this option, then try shutting down the system. You don’t need to enable the Hibernate option in the list. With any luck it will now shut down correctly.

Other users have cured shutdown problems by disabling fast startup.

Managing SSD space

My PC is fitted with a 60GB SSD. The OS is installed on this, and most of my other files are stored on a 1TB hard drive. I love the speed the SSD provides, but no matter how much I try to keep it clear my C drive is almost full. I’ve used the Windows Disk Cleanup and CCIeaner, but I don’t want to have to keep manually running these processes.

Managing SSD space

Managing SSD space

Running out of storage space is a common problem with smaller-capacity SSDs. Windows loves to save temporary files and all sorts of other information to the Windows system drive by default, so even if you install all your applications on a different drive your boot drive will fill up over time.

One way to get around this problem is to identify the folders that are becoming full and move them to your secondary drive by creating a junction. A junction functions much like a shortcut, except that all references to the original location are silently directed to your secondary drive, without the application needing to know what’s going on.

Indeed, when viewed via File Explorer or from any application, your files and folders will still appear to reside on your SSD.

You’ll need to do a little bit of command line work to set this up, but Windows has the required tool built-in.

Assuming you have a folder on drive C called ‘BigFolder’, we can move it to drive D and then create a junction.

First move the folder to D:\BigFolder, but keep an empty folder on C called BigFolder.

Open a command prompt with Administrator privileges and type mkllnk /D C:\BigFolder D:\BigFolder.

Now if you look inside C:\BigFolder, you will see the contents of D:\BigFolder. Windows and applications can continue to use C:\BigFolder as before, but no space is actually consumed up on drive C.

It’s best to keep these links to a minimum and use them only where necessary. Don’t attempt to use this trick with any components of Windows itself or you may run into problems, and you should definitely avoid creating infinite loops by linking to folders to other folders within themselves.

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