Gaming on a Google-Powered Notebook
Q. If I had a Chrome notebook, could I use it to play games via Steam? Can I use it to play any popular games at all -- like Minecraft?
A. Chrome-based notebooks, inexpensive machines running Google's Chrome OS, do have the ability to play some games, but you may find more limitations than you would with a Windows, Linux or Mac OS X laptop. Steam, an online gaming platform with about 2,000 games and 5.5 million players, is designed to run on Windows, Linux or Mac OS -- but not on the Chrome OS.
The Chrome Web Store does have a number of games available that should work fine on a Chromebook. Popular casual games like Plants vs. Zombies, Cut the Rope, Fruit Ninja and the ubiquitous Angry Birds are all available. You can also find more challenging titles with detailed graphics, like those for auto racing, war, sports and adventure quests.
Minecraft, the award-winning building game, cannot run natively on a Chrome laptop, but there are workarounds. Mojang, the Swedish company behind Minecraft, has a note in the support area of its site that acknowledges that the game was not designed to work on a Chromebook, but those who do not mind hacking into the system have gotten it to work. Mojang suggest looking around the Web for instructions and illustrated guides to getting Minecraft up and running on a Chrome notebook. Doing so most likely voids the computer's warranty, and you could be without any official support options if something goes wrong, but dedicated Minecraft fans have proved that it is technically possible to get the game going on the Chrome OS.
Upgrading to Windows 8.1
Q. Can I upgrade a Windows 7 computer to Windows 8.1 without having to go through Windows 8?
A. While Windows 8 users will be getting the new Windows 8.1 upgrade as a free download next month, Microsoft is making it easier for those with older versions of Windows to install its latest operating system. According to a post on a company blog, the full stand-alone version of Windows 8.1 will be available both as a download and as a retail DVD.
Windows 7 users will be able to buy Windows 8.1 for a list price of $119.99 starting Oct. 18. The installation should keep the files and folders on the computer intact during the upgrade process from Windows 7 to Windows 8.1, but desktop applications will need to be reinstalled. You may want to start looking for the original installer discs or files for programs like Microsoft Office, and everything else you use on your current Windows 7 machine. Before investing in a copy of Windows 8.1 when it arrives, check the Compatibility Center page and the system requirements (which are the same as those for Windows 8) to make sure your computer can handle the new software -- and back up your computer before you install anything.
Although some older hardware may not be quite up to running the new operating system, the stand-alone version of Windows 8.1 can also be used by those with compatible machines who want to upgrade from older Windows Vista and Windows XP systems. Microsoft recommends upgrading from the bootable Windows 8.1 DVD, since those older versions of Windows will require that the new system be installed from scratch. All programs, files, folders and settings will need to be backed up before the upgrade and then reinstalled and reconfigured after Windows 8.1 is in place.interact
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.