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Ask Slashdot: What Should A Mac User Know Before Buying a Windows Laptop? 449

New submitter Brentyl writes: Hello Slashdotters, longtime Mac user here faced with a challenge: Our 14-year-old wants a Windows laptop. He will use it for school and life, but the primary reason he wants Windows instead of a MacBook is gaming. I don't need a recommendation on which laptop to buy, but I do need a Windows survival kit. What does a fairly savvy fellow, who is a complete Windows neophyte, need to know? Is the antivirus/firewall in Windows 10 Home sufficient? Are there must-have utilities or programs I need to get? When connecting to my home network, I need to make sure I ____? And so on... Thanks in advance for your insights.
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Ask Slashdot: What Should A Mac User Know Before Buying a Windows Laptop?

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  • wow (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    ask your son he probably knows more about computers then you do

  • YSN that if you buy a Windows laptop you won't have to pay $400 for an entire bottom deck when one key on your keyboard fails. You just pull the keyboard out and put in a new keyboard.
  • Avoid the crap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cyberglich ( 525256 ) on Thursday November 09, 2017 @08:36PM (#55522645)
    One reason pc laptops get a bad rep is the good deals are full of crapware. Pay a bit extra for a Microsoft signature edition (usually less then $100 more then same hardware) but these have ZERO crapware and have had extra driver testing.
    • by lucm ( 889690 )

      Pay a bit extra for a Microsoft signature edition

      I agree. This is one of the few items in my list when I need a Windows machine:

      1) get a Signature edition (there's a list on the Microsoft online store)
      2) get Malwarebytes premium ($50/year)
      3) use Cloudberry backup to store important files in one of the cheap clouds

      Also: do a clean setup with all the patches then create a system restore point. And since it's a kid, install VirtualBox and setup a porn VM.

      That's it. Even a Mac user can survive with Windows nowadays, it's very easy to use.

    • Re:Avoid the crap (Score:5, Informative)

      by omnichad ( 1198475 ) on Friday November 10, 2017 @09:10AM (#55525155) Homepage

      With Windows 10, the license is stored in the EFI. Just download the Media Creation Tool and install your bare Windows 10 with no need for even a product key.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 09, 2017 @08:40PM (#55522677)

    I would recommend the Windows 10 Field Guide by Paul Thurrott :

    • by pots ( 5047349 )
      Points to you for actually answering the question.

      Speaking as someone who switched from Windows to Linux, after realizing that there were more games on Linux than I would ever have a chance to play anyway... I can only imagine that it's peer-pressure convincing his kid that he needs Windows. ("No! You need to play *this* game, specifically.") One solution is for the kid to get better friends, this is the best solution.

      Another solution is to run Windows virtualized on Linux (as such [].). This can be a pa
      • by lucm ( 889690 ) on Thursday November 09, 2017 @11:38PM (#55523589)

        I can only imagine that it's peer-pressure convincing his kid that he needs Windows. ("No! You need to play *this* game, specifically.")

        This is not peer pressure, this is social gaming. They all get the same game and half the fun is talking shit over bluetooth headsets while you murder each other and/or work together to rob a bank or kill a dragon. There's nothing wrong with it, this is the same kind of thing that us dinosaurs used to do in LAN parties, except now it's done over the web and doesn't require you to carry your desktop computer to someone's basement.

        Sure you can find solo games on any platform (or get your kid a connect-4 board in the $5 bin at 7-11) but to play high quality games with the best multiplayer features, you need a good machine running Windows. That's how it is.

    • Just install Windows 10 and try it. I moved from mac just under a year ago and my last experience with Windows was Win95 on a machine which mainly ran Linux. Win10 is far more mac-like than I was expecting. While interfaces are not as well thought out and designed as mac everything tends to work very well and it's easy to google what you need if you can't find it.

      I can also recommend the Windows Linux subsystem which gives you a full Ubuntu installation running under the Windows kernel which gives a grea
  • ugh (Score:3, Informative)

    by danlor ( 309557 ) on Thursday November 09, 2017 @08:44PM (#55522689) Homepage

    God help you. I'm been through this, and it's ugly. My daughter destroyed her machine in minutes, multiple times. By the 5th wipe/reinstall she started to learn to avoid the crudites. (she started on linux, moved to mac, then Windows... for games of course)

    1) no admin rights, and make sure no one ever runs as admin
    2) firewall shit up
    3) turn on windows defender, and grab a copy of webroot
    4) remove IE, install chrome
    5) get steam, only let games install from there

  • Thinkpads! (Score:2, Informative)

    by b0s0z0ku ( 752509 )

    If he wants a 12" screen, X220s can be had for about $150 refurb. Plop in an SSD, 8GB of RAM, price is under $250. Fast, solid, indestructible laptop.

    If he wants 14"-15", the Thinkpad T4x0 and T5x0 series are great.

    These machines aren't sexy or "cool", but they'll last him 4-5 years, can run Linux or even MacOS if he wants to tinker, and (with an SSD), will take a lot of abuse (falling down dorm stairs, etc).

  • They should know they'll be using Windows.
  • If cost is not an issue, why not just get him any thunderbolt-equipped MacBook and an eGPU box with a GTX970(unofficial) or Radeon RX580 (official support) in it? all I do is reboot into windows and game in bootcamp, then reboot into MacOS for everything else. it's super easy to do and solves all my problems.
  • One word (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TomGreenhaw ( 929233 ) on Thursday November 09, 2017 @09:32PM (#55522991)
  • Windows Survival Kit (Score:5, Informative)

    by denbesten ( 63853 ) on Thursday November 09, 2017 @09:41PM (#55523025)
    • Microsoft's inbuilt anti-malware is pretty decent. It is turned on by default. Just make sure it stays on.
    • Microsoft automatically updates its software automatically and it is turned on by default. Again, make sure it stays on.
    • Microsoft Edge (web browser) has a horrible reputation and Internet Explorer has a pretty bad reputation. Most people install Google Chrome and remove the Edge and IE icons from their desktop.
    • Schools tend to use google docs, which stores its files "in the cloud". If he wants to use Office or other programs that store files on the PC, consider installing OneDrive, Dropbox, or Google Drive so that his files are automatically backed up to the cloud. There are directions "out there" to redirect all the common storage locations, such as "My Documents" and "Desktop" into the synchronized folder.
    • Get an external USB drive and occassionally drag the folder "c:\users" to it. Keep it off-line when not in use. If ransomware hits, it tends to corrupt everything attached to the computer, including the cloud synchronized folders. I use a program "Free File Sync" to make this easy, but there are also other backup programs out there that you might find easier. Friends of mine use Synology NAS's for their backup, but they have a bigger toy budget than I.
    • Ocassionally save a screenshot of the "Apps & Features" control panel. This will help you know what needs installed if you decide to rebuild the machine.
    • Disk imaging software exists that will create a complete copy of the hard drive that you can use to restore the machine when the kid buggers it up. Some people find this a lifesaver, but it has not been a big win for me.
    • Most manufacturers have a "reset to factory defaults" option that erases and restores the hard drive. You might never need it, but it helps to figure out how it works before you do.
    • Consider removing admin rights from your kid's account and create a separate admin account with a password. Even if you give the kid the admin password, it helps keep unexpected things from happening behind everyone's back.
  • What is this, AOL? This such ridiculous FUD I can't believe it.... the shame!

    - Good computing practices are good computing practices, regardless of which platform you use
    - Teaching your kids safe computing practices, again, irrespective of platform
    - I don't consider MACs significantly more or less secure than PCs running Windows, but I doubt we will ever know...
    - How fast were MACs hacked in the last hacking contest?
    - If MACs had a 90+% market share, they would be under attack too...

    Now, I am in the Window

  • by Actually, I do RTFA ( 1058596 ) on Thursday November 09, 2017 @11:00PM (#55523461)

    The menus don't float at the top of the screen, they're attached to the window. Closing all the windows will quit the app.

    The filenames are case insensitive. This can cause some problems if you're moving them back and forth between the OSX and Windows machines.

    Microsoft will try to convince you to get a hotmail account to use your machine. This isn't necessary, but I don't recall how to avoid it. Play around on that screen to keep your accounts local (unless you want them tied together).

    • Microsoft will try to convince you to get a hotmail account to use your machine. This isn't necessary, but I don't recall how to avoid it. Play around on that screen to keep your accounts local (unless you want them tied together).

      I've installed Windows 10 few times so far, it never asked to create a hotmail account. Are you sure you're not running into some crapware from Sony, Dell or whoever sold you the laptop? Windows installer may give you an option to create a Microsoft cloud account so that you can use the same options on more than one Windows device, but even that suggests using whatever email you usually use - a hotmail account is last resort option if this is your first step on the internet and you don't have your own email

      • Oh, hotmail, Microsoft cloud with "whatever email you usually use", I didn't distinguish between the two (btw. hotmail is a MS product).. The important thing is you can create a local account instead

        • There is a difference between creating an cloud account and hosting email with a company. For example. slashdot is not hosting your email even though they do require you to login to post :-)

          As for local account, absolutely a good option. If you ever have to administer a few Windows machine, even better is to setup a home server, such as Windows SBS - it allows you to centrally managed passwords, remotely backup all PC's to server, monitor all PC's health and deployment of updates, provide a shared network d

    • The standard file system on Mac OS X is case insensitive, too.

  • They should know better.

  • by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Thursday November 09, 2017 @11:09PM (#55523487)

    14 is a kid. He needs a disposable high school laptop, NOT a gaming laptop.

    Gaming laptops are expensive, large, heavy, have shit battery life and attract thieves when in the hands of 14 year olds.

    An obsolete toughbook might be just the ticket, not disposable, useful as a weapon in case of zombie apocolypse.

    Kid likely already has newest console and gameable phone. Let the kid learn to build his own gaming desktop. Cast off desktop parts will be faster than almost any laptop. Find a PC person. You want a Core 2 Duo (or better) motherboard, a Nvidia graphics card, a fist full of RAM and a good power supply (last item to save kid from himself). Let the kid take it from there. (He'll find a better graphics card himself, horse trading etc.)

    Software? Nothing will really help. The kid will roast the OS monthly. Obviously avoid the software that comes on it (McAfee/Norton).

    Whatever brand you get, run PC decrapifier or similar. All the vendors crapify their machines for profit. None of the demo crapware is worth what you pay for it, much less what it will want in 30 days.

    Sit down with him and let the machine get updates, pick your antivirus, install, then image it. Discuss where you can find mostly malware free software, start his mental whitelist.

    Consider getting him a portable drive and teaching him to restore windows and backup his data himself.

    Never look there. You're happier not knowing. Remember being 14.

    • In our times it hardly makes any sense to build your own PC.
      When you have thought about it, one week, two weeks, what components to use, and finally have bought them and then another day to build the PC ... it is already outdated.

      Just buy some off the shelf thing.

      And if he wants/needs a laptop ... who are you to argue about it?
      And then again: attracting thieves ... then work on changing your society. I never heard about a 14 year old getting his laptop stolen in school ... or in a school bus.

  • by RazorSharp ( 1418697 ) on Thursday November 09, 2017 @11:18PM (#55523511)

    the primary reason he wants Windows instead of a MacBook is gaming

    If you want your kid to use the laptop for school and life, but he wants a PC primarily for gaming, the clear solution would be to get him a Mac. If there's one thing I regret about my teenage years, it's the hours I wasted away playing Starcraft. Get your kid a guitar, enroll him in sports, buy him books, get him a chemistry set. There are all sorts of intellectually stimulating activities that aren't a total waste of the human brain.

    I know this opinion may not be popular here, but I firmly believe that there are two distinct types of behaviors that both receive the "nerd" label. One is a pursuit of intellectual interests while the other is an obsession with games and fantasies. While there are many individuals who represent an overlap of these two stereotypes to varying degrees, the former traits are commendable while the latter are not. The nerds portrayed in The Big Bang Theory, who fully embody both of these stereotypes, aren't realistic.

    Video games, like casino games, are designed to be addictive. Teenagers are especially susceptible to this addiction. The most hilarious thing about the video game critics who try to demonstrate that video games lead to violence is that it doesn't matter. No studies are necessary to demonstrate that they're a waste of time—especially for children, who have such an aptitude for learning.

    • Sports and if you want music is important.
      But there is nothing worse for a child not to be allowed to play with its friends. Regardless of RL or online.
      Preventing a child to play its favourite online games with his friends is the most stupid thing you can do as a parent.

  • They should know not to.
  • by williamyf ( 227051 ) on Friday November 10, 2017 @12:09AM (#55523705)

    boy, i left windows for greener mac pastures in 2009, and never looked back on the SW side (on the HW side is another matter). Having said that, I keep a Windows BootCamp partition for work, but my "windows skillz" are fuzzy, so I do not know if I'll be much help

    Here are some basic sugestions in no particular order:

    Get Windows 10. As long as he is going to windows, my as well go to the newest one. Do not heed the siren chants of "Downgrade". You know what happens to those sailors who heed the sirens chant...

    Use Windows Defender as antivirus, is light on resources, good enough, and updates through the same mechanisms as the rest of the OS. Schedule scans agresively.

    Do not let the guy be admin.

    Set up some backup solution. Having said that, windows backup solutions do not hold a candle to timemachine, so expect to work your ass out on this one.

    Make a full image of the HDD every 4 moths or so.

    Configure defrag if you have an HDD. Completely disable defrag if you have an SSD. (it should be done by the OEM, but, check nonetheless)

    Windows has a niffty feature (that MacOS does not have) which allows you to mark a connection as "Metered", meaning that is charged per GB, or subjected to Data caps. use accordingly.

    Get Windows Pro. Enable Updates. DO NOT DISABLE updates, but Deffer updates.

    Do not unistall ie11 and Edge, but HIDE them.

    Install CCleaner (is analogous to Onyx or Yasu on OSX), use it bi-monthly. Aaaaaand install Recuva (allows you to recover files even after they are purged from the recycle bin/trash) on day one. You will thank me (eventually).

    Restrict telemetry. There are tons of guides on the net on how to do it.

    Just like on a mac, install a better compression/decompression uttility than what comes standart from the OS. WinRAR, 7Zip and Winzip are popular choices.

    Install VLC (but then again, you do that on OSX too).

    Install irfanview as a complement to the preview utilities.

    Put at the very least uBlock Origin, EFF privacy Badger and HTTPS everywhere in the browser (browser being chrome or Firefox ESR).

    Configure the browser as you would do on a mac from a privacy standpoint.

    Windows has very rich parental controls (richer than mac's). Use them as you see fit (I am not a parent, so, aside from knowing they exist, and thart are better than mac's, can't say much more).

    Install window on a bootcamp partition of YOUR mac, and make it so that this partition can ALSO be used from your Parallels/Fusion/VirtualBox. Many of the parental controls benefit from a second machine for control and supervision.

    Do not trust the parental controls on Windows alone. A determined 14yo looking for porn will defeat them on ANY OS. Do something in the router as well (and he will defeat that too, but at least make it hard, so that he learns something along the way, trust me, I was a 14 YO once, I got my porn [also, talk to him about sex and porn, before "the internet" does the talk]).

    Install some office suite. Libreoffice or Office 365, HIS choice (not yours, HIS).

    Unistall all the trialware/bloatware, including antivirus trials, office365 trials (unless the guy wants office 365 and you want to save a few bucks), and all other shit. (Macs also have bloatware, we just do not think of it as such, if you do not believe me, check how much space garageband takes on your SSD. Yes, for musicians, garageband may be great, but for nonmusicians, just check how much space it takes).

    Win10 has built in PDF readers and PDF generators, but those are crappy. Depending on his usage, that will suffice, or you will have to install something different.

    Since the laptop is for gaming, I assume you get a dGPU, update drivers and enable whatever autoupdater is there for graphic drivers.

    As soon as you get the laptop out of the box, update all manufacturer utilities.

    Enter the Bios (is like a primitive conbination of UEFI/NVRAM/PRAM) and do a quick sanity check.

    Install DosBox (good games a

  • Go with a Linux laptop from Dell or a vendor like System76. Ubuntu is super easy and most software is free.
  • I learned long ago that laptop power supplies are the weakest link. Get a spare power supply immediately and/or a laptop with USB-C charging. Having a lost or damaged power supply means the laptop becomes an expensive brick in minutes or hours. Don't let that happen. I've had that happen and it sucks. The bonus is being able to keep one charger at a desk at home and another in the bag the laptop is carried in. There's no forgetting the charger at home because it never leaves the bag at home. If one g

  • Setup:

    • If you bought your laptop from a brick + mortar store, install fresh copy of windows 10 off a pre-burnt USB; windows updates will install all drivers as required automatically after.
    • to install the basics: Chrome, 7Zip, VLC, Spotify, Steam, Dropbox (or whatever).
    • Panda Antivirus is nice and light, rather similar to Webroot (but free).
    • Unpin the crap and pin the common apps to the taskbar (Chrome, Explorer, Steam).

    Admin access is necessary for a lot of the more advanced functions on Steam; keep

  • It isn't all that different. It really depends on the child but you can just give it to your child and see how he will break it.

    Actually, Windows 10 isn't that bad unless you have some legacy Windows thing you still need to use. Microsoft Edge is good enough for most uses. You can always install Chrome, too, but I didn't even bother installing Chrome since Edge just works on the websites I visit. The default Antivirus and Firewall apps are decent enough. For school, he/she will get enough help from the

  • Gaming? 14 year old? Get a console - any console - and get them used to playing on the console and working on the laptop. Blur that line and near-enough-to-zero work will get done on the (desktop | laptop | tablet | phone) and you'll be shoveling against the tide to get it back.
  • That you've made a terrible mistake.

  • Just buy one of the macbooks and install Windows there, natively, single partition (i.e., leave no MacOS on the machine), with Bootcamp drivers. Fresh install will be totally free of bloatware.

    I'm happily typing this on such machine. Bootcamp drivers are not polished to perfection but they generally work. There is no better designed notebook for Windows, otherwise I would have purchased it already. (Price does not matter.)

  • by hyades1 ( 1149581 ) <> on Friday November 10, 2017 @03:02AM (#55524201)

    Most PC owners have these things called "screwdrivers".

  • We have Windows machines in the house, also mostly for gaming. Really, it's not that dramatic. My list for you:

    - Don't visit dodgy sites offering free games. As long as you install games and DLC from reputable sources, viruses and adware really aren't a problem. Windows Defender is all the defense you need.

    - To be safe, figure out how to restore the machine to its factory defaults. My kids both have Alienware machines, and they offer an option to nuke-and-restore. If your child goes off and installs all sor

  • It's been a while since I ran a Windows natively (I now do Linux with Windows in a Virtual Machine), but way back then, I used to use a "clone" tool to make a perfect copy of the hard drive.

    Get a big external drive and use a tool like Clonezilla, or Partition Magic (if that's still around) and clone the hard drive once to that external drive before you ever use it. (This lets you reset the machine to "new").

    Then get the machine set up "just so", installing all the software, security stuff, settings you lik

  • I'm a hardcore GNU/Linux user for over two decades now. Only recently have I had to deal with Windows again (coding a cross platform desktop client), and although the interface is clunky and the continued lack of a usable package manager is a pain you also don't have to deal with all the stupid hand holding and bizarre restrictions OS X forces on you. As far as antivirus and security, just go with something free if you're worried and keep a backup schedule like you should with any OS. That's really all ther

The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the `social sciences' is: some do, some don't. -- Ernest Rutherford