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Booting Windows 8.1 Directly to the Desktop

Answers to this week's tech questions.

You have some tech questions, I have some answers. Every Friday, I try to resolve these mysteries, succinctly and in plain language. Please send questions to Note that I won’t be able to diagnose your personal tech glitches and problems. I also reserve the right to edit questions for length or clarity, and to combine similar inquiries.

Q. I have heard that you can now set new Windows PCs to boot straight into the traditional desktop, bypassing the Start Screen. Is that true?

Windows 8.1 desktop

A. Yes. Microsoft announced this week that a new revision of Windows, called Windows 8.1 Update, will boot to the desktop by default on certain computers, to make life easier for people who prefer the desktop or mainly use the mouse and keyboard. “If you like using the desktop, you will be happy to know that select devices will now boot to desktop as the default setting,” the company stated. This new update will be available next week, and is one of a number of changes meant to make mouse and keyboard users, and desktop fans, happier. In the original version of Windows 8.1, released last year, there was a setting that allowed booting directly to the desktop, but it was buried and complicated.

Q. Are the new, costlier routers with the “ac” flavor of Wi-Fi worth the money?

A. Only if your computers, phones and tablets support the new ac standard (many don’t), and your local network speeds need boosting, especially for streaming high-definition video.

Q. I’ve got four expensive server-sized workstations running Windows XP that I bought for my business. Basically, I want to limp along with this equipment and use XP for a couple of years. I understand that could be a security issue after Microsoft ends support for XP on April 8. Can I eliminate the XP security problems with good antivirus software if I disable Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, and perhaps Windows Media Player?

A. I don’t know for sure, but I wouldn’t recommend it. XP wasn’t all that secure to begin with, and without any more security updates after April 8, it will be a tempting target for criminals, regardless of which browser or email program or other Internet-connected software you use. To keep using your PCs and be really safe, you’d have to entirely isolate them from all networks, local and Internet, and never even introduce data or apps from a disk or flash drive. That would mean cutting yourself off from even online software updates.

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