Q: I have been dragging my feet about doing operating system upgrades for about five years now, and I could use a pep talk!

I am worried that I will need to buy all new peripherals because the drivers disappear, that older applications will cease to work, and that pretty much everything will go wrong — only limited by my imagination.

My one motivation for upgrading is to get up-to-date security features as you have written about many times. Other than that I do not need new stuff because I use about 10% of the available features as it is. So, is better security worth the (possibly imaginary) risk of doing the upgrades?

— James Young

A: I really wish there was an answer as good as your question! The only sure answer is, “It depends.”

Some really old devices and programs simply won’t work with Windows 10. But a lot of older programs and devices that aren’t fully compatible with Windows 10 can be run in “compatibility mode.” You can go here for detailed instructions on how to use compatibility mode: st.news/compatibility.

And if your computer is much older than the five years you haven’t been doing any operating system upgrades, it’s possible that it may not meet the requirements for running Windows 10.


The good news is that the Windows 10 installer runs a check on your computer and attached devices and alerts you to any detected incompatibilities. If you don’t get any such alerts, you’re good to go!

Also, you may want to see if the free Windows upgrade is still available. While Microsoft at one point said it was no longer available, as recently as two months ago I was able to get it. You can find details about getting the free upgrade here: st.news/zdnet-windows10.

Is it worth going to all this trouble for security? Again, it depends. Chances are you could skate through several more years without getting hacked or victimized by ransomware. But wouldn’t you be kicking yourself if you lost your data or had to pay a ransom to get it back?

Q: My son, the techie, apparently cloned my C-drive to a new, larger one. It’s a solid-state thingy and should keep me going for a while. But in general, how do you reinstall Windows without the media?

— Terry Braithwaite, Carnation

A: Unfortunately, you’re right. You can’t reinstall Windows without the media.

But if your son properly cloned your C-drive to the new drive, Windows should be intact.

Related Tech Q&As

Read more from Patrick Marshall here >>

If Windows is not booting when you start the computer, you may need to go into the BIOS to make sure it’s trying to boot off the new drive. The steps for launching and setting the BIOS (Basic Input Output System) vary from one computer brand to another so you’ll have to check the computer’s documentation.

If resetting the boot drive doesn’t solve the problem you can try the steps detailed here: st.news/bcdboot.

My advice, though, is that if resetting the default boot drive doesn’t work, you’d be better off seeking the help of an experienced computer technician.