Q: I recently bought a Windows 8 laptop, and the only thing I don't like about the PC is Windows 8. I want to replace Windows 8 with the more familiar Windows 7. How can I do this?
Robert Anderson, Bloomington
A: To put it mildly, Windows 8 isn't very popular. While it makes sense for touch-sensitive tablets, it makes little sense on a PC because it forces people to use the computer in an entirely different way for little apparent benefit.
Not surprisingly, consumers haven't flocked to Windows 8. Microsoft hasn't talked about Windows 8 sales in two consecutive quarterly earnings reports. And third-party market research firm Net Applications says fewer people have bought Windows 8 than bought the much-maligned Windows Vista in the first five months after the respective operating systems were introduced.
If you don't like Windows 8, there are three things you can do:
1. There are several programs that will alter the Windows 8 Start Screen to look and behave more like the Windows 7 Start Menu. See tinyurl.com/boj8ecr. This is by far the easiest solution.
2. Pay a computer repair shop to install Windows 7 for you.
3. You can replace Windows 8 with Windows 7, but it's not easy.
First, back up your PC's data (which will be wiped out by switching to Windows 7), then download and back up the Windows 7 software drivers for external PC devices such as printers (you can find the drivers on the website of the manufacturer).
If you have Windows 8 Pro, you can switch to Windows 7 Pro in a way that will let you go back to Windows 8 later if you change your mind. You'll have to buy a copy of Windows 7 Pro (see tinyurl.com/7cgvxqe, where the prices range from $75 to $310). Then follow the directions in the article "How to 'downgrade' to Windows 7" at tinyurl.com/dyqfs2q.
If you have any other version of Windows 8, you'll have to do a "clean install" using any version of Windows 7. Save your data and software drivers as I mentioned above. Before you start, read section three of the "How to downgrade" article, which explains how to turn off a Windows 8 feature called "secure boot" that would otherwise prevent you from installing Windows 7.
Q: Both my laptop and desktop computers have had their browser home pages hijacked by something called "start.search.us.com" which redirects my browser whenever I connect to the Internet. What should I do?
Bob Jones, Prior Lake
A: "Start.search.us.com" is a browser hijacking program whose purpose is to divert you to shady websites. To remove the program from Windows and from your browser (Internet Explorer, Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox), try the step-by-step directions at tinyurl.com/cpgldyn.
E-mail tech questions to steve.j.alexander@
gmail.com or write to Tech Q&A, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Include name, city and telephone number.