Friday, November 16

TechIQ’s Founder: Leaping From Windows to Mac OS or Linux?

By admin 30 comments

Posted by Mike Perkowski: I have to admit … I’ve always thought The VAR Guy was whining needlessly when it came to his lamentations about Windows XP and Vista. Why was he so ecstatic about dumping Windows for Mac and/or Ubuntu Linux? But then my own 3-year-old Dell desktop crashed at home this weekend — and my outlook suddenly changed. Now, I need everyone’s input to help me decide what to do next: Vista, Mac OS or Linux?

When my cheery Dell service rep, Sean, helped me diagnose that my issue was an operating system problem, he asked what I’m sure he thought was a harmless question: Did I have any important data on my computer? “Uh, yes,” I hesitantly answered. “Why?” “Well, if we have to reinstall Windows, you’ll probably lose your data, so you’d better get the Geek Squad at your local Best Buy back it up before we try the reinstall.”

Doesn’t Dell have any on-site support of its own? Isn’t it time for them to ink a partnership with a company like OnForce?

With that, after more than 15 years of struggling with Windows, I decided that I had to consider other options. Windows Vista? Just one look at my XP machine convinced me that I should explore alternatives before potentially committing to Vista.

While I contemplate the fate of our desktop PC, my wife is chomping at the bit to get back online; I told her she could use my Dell Inspiron notebook. She asked if it also was a Windows XP machine. When I said it was, her reply was prompt and emphatic: “Never mind.”

So, I put it to everyone out there: What should I do next? Bite the bullet and stick with the devil I know (Windows); move back to Mac (I was a Mac user for nearly a decade before Apple’s debacle with Performa); or transition to Linux? Or maybe something else?

Oh, and to my friend The VAR Guy: I’m sorry I doubted you.

Comments (30)

  1. Personally, I’d back up your data and try linux. It has the advantage that you don’t need to buy a new computer to try it out. Download or order the disk from and install it on your existing laptop. There’s even a ‘live linux’ option where you can boot from the linux CD and it will load the OS, so you can check it out before you install anything.

    Then if you don’t like it, you can spend the money on a MacBook. Either one would be a fine choice.

    And for pete’s sake, don’t pay someone to ‘back up your important data’. Just burn it to a CD or get a USB flash drive or something. Backing up your data is just fancy talk for copying files somewhere.

    Maddman, November 16th, 2007 at 9:28 am #
  2. Mike,

    Greetings from The VAR Guy. All is well here in Apple land (by day) and Ubuntu Linux land (an evening hobby). You’re a PC mag veteran. Can you call in any favors with Gates and Ballmer to jump-start that Windows box of yours?

    If Gates doesn’t take your call, The VAR Guy suggests the following:

    1. Mac Mini, iMac or MacBook: You can get good deals on refurbished hardware at the Apple Store. Go with a Mac Mini if you want to salvage your current monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc., but be sure to get at least 1GB memory rather than the 1/2 gig standard. If you really want to run Windows apps on a Mac, install Parallels rather than Apple’s BootCamp. For the record, The VAR Guy doesn’t run Windows on his Mac because all of his apps work fine on Mac OS X.

    2. Linux: This option is a bit trickier. The VAR Guy has an Ubuntu Linux PC from Dell at home. He loves it. But some basic challenges, especially with driver support, pop up for some users. The VAR Guy’s set-up works well. Digital cameras, printers, etc., all connect fine to his Ubuntu PC. But he doesn’t recommend this option for everyday consumers.

    If you’re really curious about Ubuntu Linux, check out the Everex PC Wal-Mart is selling. If that doesn’t have enough horsepower, there are great options at Dell, ZaReason and System76.

    Knowing your background and your intended use, The VAR Guy would skip Linux for now and just go Mac OS X. Oh, and pick up an iPhone while you’re at it. You’ll be able to check your fantasy football standings 24×7. A little extra scouting before this weekend’s games wouldn’t hurt, Mike.

    Please let The VAR Guy know which route you take.

    The VAR Guy, November 16th, 2007 at 9:44 am #
  3. To Madman: Thanks for your suggestion. And FYI, I’m normally capable of doing my own data backups, but in this case, the system won’t boot the OS so I literally can’t get into my system. Alas….

    Mike Perkowski, November 16th, 2007 at 10:30 am #
  4. Well, before you spend any money, go download an UBUNTU 7.10 32-bit from here

    it has awesome driver support and its stable to the core….best of all you can also use it as a live CD (I dont recommend that though as its slower). So after you download and burn it in a disc just boot from it and get to the live session from there mount your windows drive and plug in a USB….and get that back up job done.

    after that just install the OS and you are done….

    I use it fulltime so maybe I can help you out if theres any problem.

    Just try it out.

    Sujoy, November 16th, 2007 at 2:00 pm #
  5. There was once a day when this was a real question. There were some reasons to choose Windows, some to choose Linux, and some to choose Mac.

    That day is long gone. Mac hardware is now the only logical choice for anyone who has a choice. (Corporate zombies are stuck with Windows for the foreseeable future.) Not only is Mac OS X a far better operating system, offering you the full power of UNIX and the ease of use that only Apple can come close to offering, but with VMware or Parallels you can now run Windows or Linux or OpenSolaris on your Mac! One hardware platform lets you use any OS you’re even remotely likely to want. (Sorry, you can’t run OS/400 as far as I know.) But you’ll probably find that you can do everything you want and need, and a ton of things you didn’t expect, all on OS X. In all probability you’ll never need any other OS, and after you get used to it you’ll never want to go back to anything else. I have Parallels and Crossover Office, and virtually never use them. (I only use Crossover Office to test web sites in the Windows version of IE, but when I’m using a browser for other than testing purposes, the options on the Mac blow away IE.)

    The only thing missing (in my opinion) is full read/write support for the ZFS file system. But that is almost certainly on the way, and (as far as I know) is now only available on Solaris anyway. So if you’re uber-picky about your file system, you might want to think about Solaris for a file server. But for a desktop or laptop, a Mac is the only sane choice.

    Brandon Zylstra, November 16th, 2007 at 2:31 pm #
  6. If there is no way to restore Windows without losing your data, you should worry first about backing up your data. If you have access to a working computer (the desktop you mentioned or the computer you’re posting with?), it shouldn’t be too bad. Here are the two options I would consider:

    • Buy an external case for your laptop hard drive. Put your laptop hard drive in the case; connect it to the working computer. Back up your data.


    • Buy an external hard drive. If the hard drive is unformatted, use the working computer to download the gparted live CD to format it. Then use the working computer to download a live GNU/Linux CD (Ubuntu works). Boot your laptop with the Live CD. Copy your data to an external hard drive.

    Only after your data is backed up, should you worry about deciding what OS you should use.

    If you want to stick with Windows, you should use the install or restore discs that came with your computer to install XP. I recommend against using Vista on your laptop unless it is less than a year old. You should try Vista extensively before committing to it. Try to borrow a friend’s computer, or buy a computer from a store with a consumer-friendly return policy.

    If you have no install or restore discs or they don’t work, you should try GNU/Linux. It’s free, so why not? If you used an Ubuntu live CD during backup earlier, you can try it out without installing it. You will have greatest success with GNU/Linux if your laptop is a Centrino. If your laptop is not a Centrino, don’t let a poor experience prevent you from trying GNU/Linux in the future, with a Centrino laptop. Do expect to spend time learning about and editing configuration files. It’s part of the charm of *nix systems.

    If you are definitely buying a new laptop, you will have the best experience if you buy one with the operating system you want to use preinstalled. For Windows, you can buy any laptop, anywhere. For GNU/Linux, Dell and System76 come to mind. There are others. You should probably take your time researching Linux-friendly vendors. For MacOSX, you have (essentially) only one choice. If you want to try something different, how about that XO laptop from OLPC?

    If you want to try MacOSX, you should try to use it extensively first. As with Vista, find a good friend or a store with a good return policy. This will vary from person to persion, but I think, on average, a Mac-using friend will be more likely to let you borrow a computer than a Vista-using friend is. I do NOT recommend the Hacintosh method, but Apple will probably look the other way if it converts you into a Mac user. Keep in mind that the experience will be a few notches below what you would get by buying a new computer.

    ..., November 16th, 2007 at 5:26 pm #
  7. For what it’s worth, I say go with Linux. Up until two weeks ago I hadn’t ever tried Linux, but after spending a couple of weeks trying out different distros of Linux, I can tell you I won’t be spending much time in Windows from now on. The price is right and the fact that you can use it on your existing Dell is an advantage. (I have Linux running on my desktop box and also my old Dell Inspiron 4000).

    Derek, November 17th, 2007 at 8:09 am #
  8. […] Quotes: Windows XP = Never Mind Filed under: Quotes & Thoughts — E@zyVG @ 5:20 pm “While I contemplate the fate of our desktop PC, my wife is chomping at the bit to get back online; I told her she could use my Dell Inspiron notebook. She asked if it also was a Windows XP machine. When I said it was, her reply was prompt and emphatic: “Never mind.” - Admin @TechIQmag […]

    Quotes: Windows XP = Never Mind « Linux and Open Source Blog, November 17th, 2007 at 8:20 am #
  9. I have a similar sad story that led me to end up on Linux. I won’t bore you with the details, except for this: during my transition I had a Windows XP box (my wife’s), a Mac OS X box (work laptop on liberal loan) and a Linux box (a converted Windows XP box) all in our den at the same time for about four months. Even after that I used OS X at work, Linux at home and had to spend quite a bit of time on XP.

    Having been through that, I came to the age-old conclusion: use the tool that’s right for the job.

    If you’re going to do basic computer tasks — write, mail, surf, listen to music, edit personal photos, etc., download a Linux live CD, recover your files, wipe the drive and install. Another option is the USB stick versions, if your machine will machine will boot from USB. I recommend SLAX. For a live CD, check out Zenwalk Live 4.8. There will be a bit of a learning curve, but Linux will be able to do everything you want it to do, and you’ll be in charge of your own computer for a change. With Windows and the Mac, you are less and less in charge of your own machine. Also, once set up, my computers never crash. Never. Think about that.

    If, on the other hand, you are really into things the Mac does best — creative content creation, being purty — and want kick-ass cool hardware, get a Mac. As much as I like my Linux box, there’s nothing like the Mac experience. Just realize the Mac experience hasn’t changed in a couple of ways: no hardware choice to speak of (personally, I like building and maintaining my own machines), and Unkie Steve will decide many of the important things about your computer and how you can use it. In some ways Apple is worse than MicroSoft in this area, and will be until Jobs cashes it in. On the other hand, Jobs has world-class taste.

    If you have the soul of a corporate drone, or just don’t care which OS you use, get a Windows box. Bite the bullet and get Vista now. Hell, SP1 is in beta testing, so the experience will soon be only as annoying and boring as Windows XP, and you’ll have new hardware to feel good about. Whoo-hoo. Your hardware choice will be more or less unlimited and you’ll have the benefit of being in the same boat as most other people. Of course, Ballmer runs that boat, and while there is more wriggle room on board — because it’s a massive, institutional troop ship instead of Apple’s sleek schooner — you will be, once you buy the box, a set of eyeballs, a revenue stream, a user Ballmer & Co. can sell to partners all trussed up and ready to be loaded down with trial-ware, DRM restrictions, etc. And for that you get a computing experience that is — when things are working perfectly — derivative, lifeless and uninspired.

    Well, that’s a lie. My wife loves her Sony laptop, and is inspired by the things the does on the computer, sees on the computer or can get with the computer. She could give a crap less about the operating system, except that she wants ultimate compatibility and no learning curve to speak of.

    If you’re interested enough to ask the question, however, and have already switched once in your life, you’re in a little different boat. I originally used Linux just to have something to do with that recovered Windows box without, you know, using Windows. Here’s what you ought to do: back up your data, partition the drive, install Windows on one partition and Linux on another. Play around. Try different desktops and window managers. Try different versions of Linux. If you’re into content creation, get a specialty distro like 64Studio. And remember, Ubuntu isn’t the only one out there. I’ve installed PCLinuxOS on a half-dozen friends’ computers, and they love it. I even installed it on a laptop for a retired Austrian gentleman who had never used a computer, and he zoomed right along. I use Zenwalk, which is lightweight and just excellent, especially if you want to be in charge of your own box (and don’t want to tackle Slackware straight off). If you come to like Linux, you can order a Dell, or build your own machine. A night’s research will show you which parts (or laptops) are Linux-friendly. Then you can run the desktop you want, something light and fast like Fluxbox (which is excellent on my 12.1-inch laptop), or something beautiful and slightly over the top, like Enlightenment 17. Or you can modify KDE or Gnome to your heart’s content.

    When you do choose and get a new machine, go to, check out FreeNAS and turn that old box into a big network-attached storage box. Then do regular back-ups, m’K?

    Whichever way you go, good luck.

    joe f., November 17th, 2007 at 8:25 am #
  10. Being an openSUSE user, I’d recommend to give it a try. It has been my primary OS for years now.

    But then again, if you find it little difficult, and you can buy new hardware, then I’d suggest Mac OS X …. personally I think that it is the best desktop OS. But then you are bounded by not so diverse choice in hardware.

    Just remember to be patient when you encounter problems or questions while using Linux. The community is very rich and full of information. You will definitely find the answers with your Linux quest at the beginning.

    Warning: Linux is very Addictive :)

    E@zyVG, November 17th, 2007 at 8:26 am #
  11. BTW, regarding restoring your data from your unbootable Windows drive, unless the HDD has physical defects, it is very easy to restore.

    Get extra HDD -> connect it -> get Linux LiveCD -> such as -> Mount your NTFS/FAT drive and backup/copy data to new HDD.


    E@zyVG, November 17th, 2007 at 8:31 am #
  12. I would recommend that you buy a 2.5 hard drive enclosure, use one of your other computers to back up the data you want to keep.. Then wipe and load Linux Mint or PCLinuxOS. Both are pretty good out of the box linux systems.. Personally I would reload Windows and dual boot. This way you would have the time to find out which Linux system you like the best..

    Lewis, November 17th, 2007 at 9:04 am #
  13. Hi, if your toying with the idea of Ubuntu, which is a great Distro, may I suggest what I consider to be a “better” Linux experience and that is Linux Mint. I have been with this distro just comming up to a year after dumping XP over 18 months ago. I tried Ubuntu and was very pleased with it but Mint, from is so much nicer right from the word go. Good luck if you decide to follow the Linux route.

    900i, November 17th, 2007 at 9:24 am #
  14. Sorry I thought it was a laptop you were having problems with. For your desktop I would buy a new hard drive and put it as master, then change the 3 year old drive to slave/storeage. Then reload Windows and dual boot with either Linux Mint or PCLinuxOS. You wouldn’t need to wipe your old drive if it’s non bootable..

    Lewis, November 17th, 2007 at 9:26 am #
  15. I suggest you get Ubuntu LiveCD, from of course, reboot the machine om the LiveCD. Attach a large unformatted USB harddrive to your machine, dump all your data you need to that drive, and once you are happy with that, click on the Install on the Ubuntu Desktop and surf the net while the system install.

    That would normally install a dual boot in any case, which means you would retain your old Windows partition if you want, making your old XP files accessible in any case, but you could be a bit more forceful and dump the old partition if you are satisfied with the backup you have made previously.

    Good luck
    I like Ubuntu, and now and then I come back to XP to play in the sharkpool for the andrenaline rush

    Pieter, November 17th, 2007 at 10:30 am #
  16. On ANY OS your going to have driver and other frustrations to work through. Having worked through issues on MS (including Vista (sheesh! what a misnomer)), Apple (including the latest “animal”), and Linux distros, I have concluded that for me the deciding factor is whether the system, and hence, Support, are PROPRIETARY.

    With each passing day, acceptance of change, and surges of ingenuity just about any Linux distribution will handle the same hardware that MS or Apple will “allow” you to handle, and then some, even if the hardware manufacturer doesn’t support Linux. Conversely, if your hardware manufacturers (or MS or Apple) don’t support Vista or Apple OS”X”, you will never, ever, EVER! get the equipment working due to proprietary lockout. Software & hardware choices and improvements for Linux expand HOURLY, exponentially, in every category.

    MS is a locked (in the adaptable, exploration, and legal senses) Proprietary system. The same goes for Apple, AND Apple machines themselves are dictated, Proprietary, and hence, unnecessarily expensive (Apple IS MS with added hardware restrictions). MS business modeling is to make hardware dependent on MS, NOT on the User. MS and Apple are Closed Sources — closed for adaptability, closed for help and support (unless you have enough money, maybe), closed for rapid and backward compatible change, deployment, and growth. In the future they may even be Closed for Business, but Linux will still be going, defining the future yet providing backward compatibility for those of us unable to spend continuously on “disposable” and “Built for” hardware.

    This is possible because Linux has been around for many, MANY years providing continuity for Users, and because of the nature of the Support COMMUNITY, the Build COMMUNITY, and the User COMMUNITY. Desktop Environments (ie: KDE or Gnome) or Window Manager environments (ie: FluxBox) are faster, more flexible, and hence, more powerful than locked proprietary WindoZe or OSApple (the same company that thought all iPod owners should pay annually to have their batteries changed). Any intelligent person sampling recent Linux distros will discover immediately that there is no “Ease Of Use” gap. Different does not equate with difficult.

    Networking, REAL, NON-proprietary, Open Standards based, talk securely to any machine you want to networking, is ONLY available in Linux. Linux was born of networking and is THEE networking OS. Linux is now THEE choice on the fastest supercomputers in the world. The majority of servers in the world run Linux. Linux distros are OPEN source, transparent, and allow you to customize the entire OS to YOUR needs. Help and Support for Linux is available 24 hours per day, EVERY day, in ANY language. Further, that support is provided free of charge by actual programmers, builders, and “[Users] Like You”. PEOPLE ready and Willing to help. People are providing answers based on pride in being correct. Linux developers are daily lambasted for mistakes, accept responsibility, and start work on solutions with Community review and input. Does MS or Apple listen to you?

    Proprietary means subservience, conformity, and Dependence (on Steve Ballmer (look out for that chair!) and Steve Jobs (Is everyone wearing their black mock turtleneck?)). This is dependence on greed and megalomania at best. Linux and OpenSource means Independence, for YOU, YOUR systems, and the tasks YOU choose to perform with YOUR systems and YOUR hardware.

    Regarding your specific scenario, if the OS had been a Linux distro, you would have found that repair and recover tools are much more flexible and useful. You would have seen how easy it is to place your /home directory on any drive you want. You would have discovered that, save for drive failure, your data would still be there, safe and in tact, and readily available and accessible. You would have seen that if you did have to reinstall the OS your data is NOT part of the OS (it is YOURS after all) and that formatting and installing the OS need have no bearing on the accesbility or safety of YOUR data. You would have seen how easy it is to place your /usr, /opt, etc… directory(ies) on any drive/partition you want, and you would have discovered that all your programs and settings were safe, secure, and available for any new or repair installation. You (more importantly, your Wife) would already be up and running from where you left off.

    Just as people finally realized they could do more without CompuServe or AOL, they are discovering they can do more without MS or Apple.

    “Intelligent” IT, I think your choice is clear. Don’t let your unfounded fears and others’ fear-mongering overrule your Intelligence.

    John, November 17th, 2007 at 11:12 am #
  17. I echo a lot of the comments here. I was the Network Admin for a non-profit company that was looking for alternatives to MS. After trying several linux distros I decided on PCLinuxOS. I had a very similar situation with an employees computer. She called stating that the computer just continued to reboot after it had a blue screen on it. I grabbed my PCLOS CD and headed to her office. I booted from the CD and could see her hard drive as well as our network. I just copied her files to the server. On her system the hard drive was bad so I had to replace that with one that had Windows already installed on it. After creating her account I just copied all of her files back to her drive. Linux saved the day! And, it was a great example for the bosses as to the power of Linux. I then had the green light and installed PCLOS on 6 different desktops and 4 laptops.

    I have used PCLOS for years but recently switched over to Ubuntu. Either one would be an excellent choice since your hardware seems to be fine. They both are live CD’s so check them out to see how they work with your hardware.

    Peace be with you.

    • OD
    Odysseus, November 17th, 2007 at 12:25 pm #
  18. Most of those commenters recommending Mac over GNU/Linux do not indicate why such preference, although either is far superior - in performance, reliability and security to MS Windows.

    For the record, GNU/Linux supports a significant amount of peripheral driver software - even more than Windows Vista, and various distributions - e.g. LinuxMint (a generic take-off of Ubuntu) and PCLinuxOS - both have pre-installed all necessary multimedia codecs, and even new Fedora 8 (for which the said codecs can be installed with three easy point-and- click keystrokes install).

    As a technology professional with many years experience in all three Operating systems (OS), I can assure you that there are occasional issues - as evidenced with my wife’s New (June 2007) Mac Pro that are automatically handled in GNU/Linux.
    For persons patiently awaiting ZFS file system and other capabilities for their Mac from Sun, they are presently available in PC-BSD (FreeBSD 6.2/7.0) with a world class GUI - KDE that is also a viable alternative. Note that much of Mac OS X core is derived from FreeBSD.

    Commenters - Make suggestions in consideration of user’s needs and know (not just prefer) the OS technology before stating factually false statements.

    W. Anderson, November 17th, 2007 at 12:33 pm #
  19. First and foremost go get yourself a new 80GB drive and do a new windows install on that drive, after that is done, connect you drive to it as a secondary and copy over your information after you install the programs you need on the new drive.

    Nuf’ said..

    Once that is done, then and only then should you start by downloading Linux distro’s and playing with the LIVE Cd’s. I learned off a Live CD, and fiddled with it for about a week. I then installed linux on spare hard drive and just swapped them out now and then, after sometime I got bold and installed windows on a new drive and then installed linux on the other half of the drive effectively creating a dual-boot machine.


    DOUGman, November 17th, 2007 at 2:05 pm #
  20. The solution is simple.

    Download a ‘live linux cdrom’ iso image. Most popular distros have bittorrent downloads with massive amounts of seeders so that if you have a fast connection a 700meg download will only take 20 minutes.

    You can find Ubuntu at:


    If you want a live cdrom to use for rescuing and the occasional mucking around in Linux then I recommend Knoppix. If you want a cdrom for trying out a Linux desktop then try Ubuntu’s live cdrom.

    For this it’s probably best to try Knoppix. Using it to rescue Windows is very common and a simple google search is full of information on the subject. A live cdrom uses more resources then a regular cdrom. You’ll want at least 512 megs of ram for a good experiance, but less is doable.

    One of the things that people don’t realise is that it’s possible to install software on a live cdrom due to the special file systems they use. You loose those changes when you reboot though.

    (or the DVD if you have a very nice connection)

    After carefully burning the iso image to a disk, setup a shared folder from your other desktop. Use knoppix to boot your machine, mount the ntfs drive, and copy your important information over to the other machine.

    After you double checked and openned those files to ensure that they are correct and you have everything you need the shutdown the machine, insert your windows restore disk and your done.

    Very simple. The hardest part will probably be getting access to the Windows-based network share and such.

    No need to go and buy extra drives or anything like that (although for backups they are a good idea). No need to go to geeksquad.

    Every half-way techno-literate Windows person shouldn’t have to much of a problem rescuing their systems like this.

    Works also well for resetting windows admin passwords and such. The only thing it is no good at is recovering encrypted drives. Other then that it’ll do most anything.

    After you get your windows system up and running then think about trying Linux out full time.

    Even if you buy a Mac then still get Linux on it. Linux + Apples go together much easier then Windows + Apples.

    Linux uses CUPS for printing.. Apples uses CUPS for printing. Apple has a bash shell, Linux uses a bash shell. Linux uses X Windows, Apple uses X windows. Linux uses SAMBA for windows-style file share and Apple uses SAMBA for file sharing. Linux uses NFS for fast-but-unsecure file sharing and Apple supports NFS for the same thing.

    Etc etc etc. They go together quite well.

    Nate, November 18th, 2007 at 12:37 pm #
  21. On comment #3: “but in this case, the system won’t boot the OS so I literally can’t get into my system. Alas…”

    At this point I would boot from Hiren’s BootCD. After that, I doubt there would be any data files you couldn’t access.

    RonCam, November 18th, 2007 at 2:30 pm #
  22. The answer is staring you in the face after writing this:

    When my cheery Dell service rep, Sean, helped me diagnose that my issue was an operating system problem, he asked what I’m sure he thought was a harmless question: Did I have any important data on my computer? “Uh, yes,” I hesitantly answered. “Why?” “Well, if we have to reinstall Windows, you’ll probably lose your data, so you’d better get the Geek Squad at your local Best Buy back it up before we try the reinstall.”

    Get a Mac and those support problems are a trip to the local Apple store.

    Khurt L.F.E Williams, November 18th, 2007 at 4:09 pm #
  23. OK, an update on my plight: Data recovered from the hard drive, but the incredibly young Geek Squad sales associate informed me there’s a problem with my hard drive, which is why the system won’t boot. I just can’t wait to talk to Sean, my cheery and helpful Dell service tech, to see if reinstalling Windows is the best option to resolve this problem.

    Of course, this still doesn’t address the bigger issue: Windows, Mac or Linux? I’ll let you know my mindset after I speak with Dell. Thanks to everyone commenting here for your suggestions and encouragement.

    Mike Perkowski, November 18th, 2007 at 7:45 pm #
  24. Sounds like you’ve found yourself in the same situation Mr. Michael S. Dell (CEO of Dell computers) found himself in years back…supposedly he had a data loss issue with Windows and then he switched to Linux. See Michael’s computer information here:

    As for recovering your data, buy a thumb drive or other external USB drive, then get any GNU/Linux distro, burn it to a cd, boot up your computer, and restore your data to your external drive.
    Here’s a site with a list of GNU/Linux live CDs for download:
    Note: a good Live-Linux distro for data recovery is Knoppix (get it here:

    After you have safely recovered your data, load and use GNU/Linux on all your computers. Once you try this and realize how unrestricted you are to use your computer, you will never go back to using a proprietary OS.
    Some good distributions for new users are:
    Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy
    Fedora 8 Werewolf
    Find out more about the cutting edge GNU/Linux distros here:

    And when you start experiencing the benefits…. Welcome to GNU/Linux my friend, you are free now!!

    Shannon VanWagner

    Shannon VanWagner, November 19th, 2007 at 2:35 am #
  25. First, some background. I’ve been developing for Windows as long as there’s been a Windows (wrote what was probably the first stable “high-speed” serial driver for Windows 1.0; stayed current for development up through Vista); I’ve been using and developing for the Mac since ‘84 and Linux since ‘97. I’m typing this in Ubuntu Linux on an Acer laptop; will be augmenting my Mac II with a Mac Pro next month. Seen the good and bad sides of all of the above; while Linux and Mac are steadily improving, my ‘how-to’ notes folder for Windows is entitled “Entropy Bites”.

    First off, Vista is an excellent way to put wear and tear on your computer - and your sanity - without accomplishing much that can be called “real work”.

    What I’d recommend for your situation is basically a two-step process:

    1. Boot from an Ubuntu 7.10 DVD or CD. Attach a USB thumb drive (or better yet, hard drive) and copy all your important files from the dead Windows system’s drives. These will generally be under the “Documents and Settings” top-level folder. Ubuntu should automatically make both drives available under the “Places” menu. If you’ve stashed anything in “non-standard” places, you’ll have to find and copy those too; you’ll know if you did.

    1a. If you need things done right now, once you’re sure you’ve got your data copied (don’t bother with programs), then install Ubuntu onto your hard drive (wiping out the dead Windows install) and use the files you’ve saved to the external drive.

    1. The real, recommended final solution is to go to your local Apple dealer and get a Mac. Figure you’ll need about the same memory and hard-disk space that you used in XP (about 25-33% what you’d need for Vista to deliver comparable performance). Many Apple dealers will let you hook up your external drive to one of the demo units, just to show how easily you can access your data using either Apple or Microsoft applications (Office is much nicer on Mac than Windows - faster, too).

    Warning: Buying a Mac is like buying new hi-fi speakers (”if you can hear the difference, buy the difference.”) If this is a rush job and you just want an interim solution, a Mac mini, hooked up to your existing monitor, keyboard and mouse, will do yeoman duty…. but you’re very likely to be seduced by the gorgeous display of the iMac or the jaw-dropping performance of the Mac Pro (8 cores, 4+ GB RAM; one local dealer has a setup with 4 simultaneous XP VMs running next to a Dell XPS running XP - the XP-on-VM is noticeably faster). Customization and upgradability range from nil on the mini through ‘kinda-sorta’ on the iMac to “you name it” on the Pro - again, depending on your needs.

    Describing the Mac to the person who’s never owned one - and bear in mind that I’m a daily Windows and Linux user - is like describing sex on the beach at sunset to a blind nun; unless you’ve been there, you can’t fully conceptualize it. As the support director of a Fortune 50 shop put it to me a few years ago: “the difference between a Windows guy and a Mac user is…. the Windows usee talks about everything he had to do to get his work done; the Mac user shows you all the great work she got done.” You’ll be satisfied with Linux (particularly Ubuntu, PCLinuxOS or Mint); you’ll be happy on the Mac. And friends don’t let friends infect themselves with Vista.

    Jeff Dickey, November 19th, 2007 at 10:53 am #
  26. sorry, that should have been 1./1a./2. in the post above; the blog software “helpfully” auto-numbers for you. :-P

    Jeff Dickey, November 19th, 2007 at 10:56 am #
  27. First thing you need is a live cd or a rescue cd of any linux flavor that can read ntfs, then backup your data from ntfs onto an external storage (usb drive, external or extra internal drive, etc.)

    I always kept a linux rescue cd just to rescue windows crash. Now that I don’t have windows, I don’t use linux rescue cd.

    If it’s not a hardware problem, I’d go with installing linux to test it out.

    If you really want a new machine, I’d get a Mac and dual-boot OS X and linux like I do.

    Terri, November 20th, 2007 at 12:29 am #
  28. Another update: I successfully reinstalled Windows last night, plus all the drivers and applications. I now have a functioning computer, and my wife is happy….although she did pointedly remind me “Didn’t the same thing happen to you about a year ago?” So, we’re still considering a new system and the potential switch from the Windows anvil, uh, platform.

    The interesting news concerns Dell customer support. First some quick history - and in the interest of full disclosure, I have been a Dell shareholder for nearly a decade and have obviously done well with that stock. I bought my first Dell desktop around 10 years ago; during the past decade, I bought five Dell systems; two for home over the 10 years, a desktop for my daughter at college, a notebook for my other daughter at college, and my notebook for work. For most of those 10 years, I’ve been reasonably satisfied with Dell’s support…until the past two years. I don’t think I’m the only one who felt Dell’s support, especially at the consumer level, had eroded badly. I was ready to drop them, especially after this latest problem, but something very interesting happened. Not only did they satisfactorily fix my problem (OK, you could argue it never should have happened in the first place, but whatever…), but their service was extremely attentive and solicitous. It reminded me of the attention I received from them years ago when I knew a lot less about computers and needed their help more often. Just when I had pretty much given up on Dell — and was strongly considering selling my stock — I have received at least a temporary jolt of good feelings about the company. Let’s hope it lasts.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean I feel the same way about Windows. (And don’t even ask my wife.)

    I suppose a new Dell system with Ubuntu could be a good option — although I have to admit that Mac usage is growing steadily on the Microcast staff and it’s very tempting to reconsider Macs after having given up on them 10 years ago for Dell. I know The VAR Guy is a big Ubuntu fan, so maybe I’ll steal a peak at his setup…that is, if I can ever find the guy. He’s always on the road!

    Mike Perkowski, November 20th, 2007 at 2:52 pm #
  29. The yearly Windows reinstall (”Didn’t the same thing happen to you about a year ago?”) is a good reason to quit using Windows, but you already went through the effort to reinstall it, so chances are probably good that you’ll stick with Windows, at least until the next time it crashes.

    What I don’t understand is why you aren’t trying Linux with a live CD.

    ..., November 21st, 2007 at 6:01 am #
  30. I worked with wndows OS for my whole life. I switched to Mac 10 years ago and to be honest with you using windows based machines is basically the same as watching tv on a black an white set (windows) in comparison with HDTV (mac).
    To me there shouldn’t even be a question.
    I would RUN to mac.
    Besides if you ever want to walk back to the bad old habits; windows runs on macs so your investment is risk free!!

    Patricio Brockmann, December 11th, 2007 at 9:55 am #

Leave a Reply

Read the fastest-growing blog for managed service providers

Free White Paper

Download The VAR Guy's
90-day Guide to Managed Services from TechIQ.