It's that whole back-to-school season, which means many parents are probably wondering if they have to buy a brand new PC for their college-bound kids if or they can wring another year out of the old one. Or perhaps you're heading off to college yourself.
Consider keeping the old one, but applying a fresh coat of OS paint. I'm speaking, of course, of Windows 7, which can make a Windows XP system feel like new and a Vista machine feel like less of a sluggish old dog.
Not enthused about spending $129 for a Windows 7 upgrade? I hear you. Well, how does $30 sound? That's the amazingly reasonable price available to students. And further defying all logic and reason, that 30 bucks buys you Windows 7 Professional, not the Home Edition.
Now for the fine print. (Don't worry, it's nothing terrible.) To qualify for this deal, you need an eligible e-mail address--namely, one that ends in .edu. Hover over the Am I Eligible? link to find out more.
Also, this deal is for the download version of Windows 7, meaning you'll need a little disc-burning know-how (instructions are provided) and some blank media to create an installation DVD. Not up to the task? For an extra $13 you can have an official Windows 7 disc mailed to you.
Keep in mind, too, that there's no direct upgrade path from Windows XP to Windows 7. Of course, we've got you covered in that department: How to Upgrade From XP to Windows 7.
Bottom line: This is a fantastic deal, one that's too good for students to pass up. Heck, if you're a student who already has Windows 7, you could make a few bucks by selling the $30 license at a slight markup and...well, I've said too much.
Learn Office 2010 With Two Free Books
Remember the good old days, when software came with nice, big instruction manuals? These days it seems like you're expected to figure everything out on your own--or buy a pricey how-to book.
For example, suppose you're making the move to Microsoft Office 2010. Don't expect to find a manual in the box.
Thankfully, there are a couple good Office 2010 resources available, and they're both free.
First Look: Microsoft Office 2010 from Microsoft Press is a 186-page e-book (in PDF format) that highlights the changes in this version of the suite, focuses on each application in turn, and provides examples on integrating each application and sharing data between them.
It's a little disappointing that the screenshots aren't in color, but otherwise this is a fine introduction to the new suite.
It's also fairly novice-centric. For more tech-savvy users there's Getting Started with Microsoft Office 2010, an IT-oriented guide available in Word, PDF, and XPS formats. By "IT-oriented" I mean it's intended for folks who are helping other folks learn Office 2010. Even so, this 259-page e-book covers every new and changed feature, so if you're not intimidated by geek-speak, you're sure to find some useful info here.
If you've got a hassle that needs solving, send it my way. I can't promise a response, but I'll definitely read every e-mail I get--and do my best to address at least some of them in the PCWorld Hassle-Free PC blog . My 411: firstname.lastname@example.org . You can also sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week .