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Q: I run Windows XP SP3 on an elderly Compaq laptop, and I want to buy a new computer that runs faster and better. My read is that Windows 7 is a pretty good operating system and worth investing in.

However, my understanding is that Windows 8 is only a fancy shell and that beneath it runs plain old Windows 7. My understanding also is that 8 is not without its own problems. My instinct at this time is to buy a new laptop with Windows 7 already installed on it. I would value your opinion on this matter, i.e. Windows 7 vs. 8.

— James Leitzell

A: I first installed Windows 8 on a computer several months ago and my first reaction was decidedly negative. It has seemed very stable, but not as easy to use as Windows 7. But then I had to wonder how much of that was because I was used to the Windows 7 interface, and Windows 8 is a major departure.

The main difference with Windows 8 is that the operating system has been redesigned for touch-screen use. Yes, you can still get to the old-fashioned — and very efficient for mouse users — desktop, but you have to take a couple of steps to do so. I’m not sure why Microsoft decided users needed the same exact interface on all devices, but maybe they are way ahead of me.

That said, so far I’ve found Windows 8 to be quite stable, and I’ve quickly adjusted to the interface differences.

Here’s my recommendation. If you’re getting a device with a touch screen, go for Windows 8. If you’re getting a device without a touch screen and you have a choice of Windows 7 or 8, I would go with Windows 7 for now because it’s been more thoroughly tested and it is more familiar.

If the device you want is available only with Windows 8, don’t worry about it. You will quickly adjust to the new interface.

Q: I have a new Windows 8 laptop. I have Comcast Internet service through an SMC router with wireless support. When I connect to the Internet through the wireless connection via Internet Explorer 10, the Internet leg drops periodically (every 10 to 20 minutes). It then resets itself after about 30 seconds.

However, it does not just happen with IE, as I experience it with other browsers. This does not happen when I connect directly through an Ethernet cable. I have noticed the same situation on a Windows 8 tablet as well as a Windows 7 laptop.

I swapped out the SMC router to no avail. Is this possibly tied to my starting to use Windows 8? This is annoying at the least and disruptive during any kind of download. — Richard Wilkinson

A: The most likely problem is your wireless router. You don’t say exactly what model you’re using, but I have found through hard experience that spending more on the router definitely pays off.

Wireless connections are subjected to a lot more interference and issues of signal strength than are Ethernet connections, so you need to make sure you’ve got quality components.

I was having similar problems with a router and finally decided to try upgrading. I spent $200 for a new, high-end wireless router, and all my connection issues disappeared.

By the way, I’ve not heard of any wireless-connectivity issues being tagged to Windows 8.

Q: I have been using Internet Explorer 8 for a number of years. For the past year or so, it has gotten progressively worse. It is slow to load and slow to close. It has gotten so frustrating that my wife will drive to the local library rather than use this computer.

I fully realize that it is long past time to upgrade to Internet Explorer 9, which I am fully ready to do, but I have two questions regarding the upgrade/changeover.

First, I want every vestige of IE8 gone from this computer. Will an upgrade to IE9 eliminate all traces of IE8 or does it just add to or change appropriate sections? Second, if I delete IE8 first, how do I even get on to the Internet to download IE9?

— Bruce Miller, Issaquah

A: If you install Internet Explorer 9, it will automatically replace Internet Explorer 8.

That said, if your Internet performance is getting worse, I suspect there are other problems. I’m assuming you have anti-virus software running.

But are you also running an anti-malware program? If not, I recommend that you download one and run a scan. I use Malwarebytes AntiMalware. You can download a free version at

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by email to or, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at