I finally decided to bite the bullet, and retire my extremely trusty primary development PC, a Windows XP machine that my son, Ben, built, a couple of years ago.
craigslist to the rescue: I found a guy selling a quad-core PC, with Windows 7 and 1 gig of RAM, for $60. I contacted him, and he turned out to be a local retired fellow, from whom I bought a PC for Karen's office last year.
We chatted about this and I asked how much extra it would cost to throw in another gig of RAM, and he said $5. I said, 'go for it'.
I picked it up and plugged it in (using the monitor from my main PC) and, sure enough, there was Windows 7, and it seemed pretty zippy, as expected. I soon realized that having a 2nd monitor, to enable normal work while everything was getting configured, was going to be necessary.
craigslist to the rescue again - I found a local kid who was selling a perfectly good 17" LCD monitor for $15 - he took $12!
With all that in place, then began the horrifying process of installing and testing all software and development tools, my code-signing certificate, my Favorites. Configuring SQL Server so that I can see it from Access took a while, as did restoring database backups from my development PC (hint: the default permissions are not sufficient).
Then, I spent hours (thanks to a USB external drive) copying over photos, documents and music, copying and testing Karen's web site tools (which, incredibly, require Java 6, not 7 - THAT took a while to solve), etc. etc. etc. All that took the better part of two days.
To connect the new guy to the internet, I was using a USB wireless adaptor. Finally, this morning, I reached the point where I was ready to unplug my old guy and plug in the new guy at my desk. Oh no - ethernet was unable to see the Internet (a direct cable connection to my router)!!!
Windows 7 seemed to want my ISP username and password to establish the broadband connection. This was puzzling - it should just work. I reinserted the USB wifi dongle and was able to continue working, while trying everything I could think of, without success.
I talked to 3 Comcast people. The first ended up giving me 2 phone numbers to call. One was disconnected and the other was technical support at Netgear - totally useless! The 2nd Comcast person had a very friendly manner and tried reprovisioning my modem, but that made no difference. She ended up transferring me to a 3rd technician.
Suffice it to say that I hung up in disgust after 20 minutes on the phone with her, after she told me that I cannot do something that I have been doing all along with the old computer.
Just about at my wits end, I had the bright idea of checking the NIC card in Device Manager and, it wasn't there. All of a sudden, the veil was lifted.
I rebooted, frantically pressed F2 and, amazingly, the BIOS program came up. Sure enough, the setting for 'OnBoard LAN' was disabled. I enabled it, exited the BIOS and, voila, I am (obviously) connected to the Internets, sans wifi. It all seems so obvious.
Once this hurdle had passed, all that remained to configure and test was the connection to my trusty HP printer/fax/scanner. I turned it on and Windows 7 did a fine job of installing the driver. The final step in all this, to prove to myself that all capabilities I need are present and working was to initiate a scan from within Adobe Acrobat. That seemed to work, although Acrobat crashed after I said 'go ahead and download updates from Adobe' (and that eventually crashed). Sigh.
At any rate, I did a Speedtest with the new PC, connected via ethernet, and got an A-.
It has taken 5 elapsed days from the point of bringing the new Windows 7 PC home to having everything set up with all tools and files.
For some reason, I am reluctant to do this any time soon, for Windows 8.