Many of you will now the feeling, being the person that all your friends and family come to for advice and help with every kind of computing query known to man, and every time that Microsoft releases a new operating system the queries are inevitably along the lines of “What can it do for me? “Can I upgrade to it? And my personal dread “I’ve just bought it, could you come and install it for me please?”

 It happened for me when Windows 95 appeared, then 98, 2000 then XP. With a sense of déjà vu it is here again with Vista. Each time it happens the situation is the same, people try to install it to a system that is not suitable, only this time it is a little easier to explain that it might not be the best thing, especially if the system is a few years old and would struggle to cope with its demands.

It is always better that they ask before trying to upgrade, some years ago I had the devil of a time trying to sort out a Pentium 2 system with 64 Mbytes of RAM that a friend had tried to install XP on, not least of all he ran out of disk space and the thing wouldn’t boot afterwards. We managed to get 98SE back on it after nifty use of a boot disk. We didn’t lose any of his novels that he had been slaving over for years yet had never backed up. I delivered a stern lecture about housekeeping to him and now he consults before trying anything.

Is it right for us to become the unpaid tech support for all and sundry? I regard it as practice.

The good will that it generates is worth more than money, besides, many private jobs have led to professional calls later, after a recommendation.

So what do you tell the person who wants to put Vista on their old 486? Be firm and say that it won’t do. Advise them to keep their money in their sock. If the PC works and does what they want leave it alone. After their initial disappointment they will appreciate the candour. Even if you are working in a shop and you are asked, the fall out from leaving their system running like a lame greyhound will leave you with the kind of support headache that nobody needs. Advise that, if they want Vista they need a new PC. The worst thing that can happen is that they leave; the best is that you sell them a new PC.