I've made a lot of computer blunders over the years, so please believe me when I offer this word of advice on installing Microsoft's shiny new Windows 8 operating system:
Unless you have a very recent personal computer with a touch screen, there are few benefits — and some significant drawbacks in terms of learning curve and usability — to upgrading from Windows 7.
I installed Windows 8 on a machine I use specifically for testing software and services, a three-year-old HP — just the sort of thing many families might have at home.
I began the upgrade at 9:45 a.m. and finished it an hour and 37 minutes later, not counting another 15 minutes or so spent solving a couple of lingering issues.
Once I sorted out those issues, I noticed an immediate benefit. Prior to the upgrade, it took the Pavilion about 2 ½ minutes to boot from a cold start. Windows 8, though, was much faster: about 50 seconds.
The upgrade also gave me tiles to access Microsoft's new Xbox Music service and a not-yet-very-populated app store for programs written for the new interface.
The other Start-screen tiles were filled with self-updating information from my social networks, calendar and other applications. While I was able to navigate through them using the mouse, it's clear the interface is really aimed at users with touch screens.
Those are likely to be standard equipment on most new Windows PCs. But the millions of individuals and businesses with older, mouse-driven systems — and even many with laptops that have a touchpad but no touch screen — may find themselves needing to memorize keyboard shortcuts for many common tasks, a throwback to earlier days of computing.
If you don't already have something close to the latest and greatest PC and you're reasonably happy with Windows 7, my guidance is simple: