I'd Go With Win 8 If I Could
It's been quite a while since XP was a genuinely current operating system. If you have them on your PCs it may be time to consider purchasing new PCs themselves. New computers have a lot of capabilities that old ones lacked, and have a lot more speed.
Vista got bashed but it was actually quite a good, rock-solid reliable and attractive operating system -- the people doing the bashing had enjoyed thinking of themselves as gurus and resented being thrown a loop by the significant changes in Vista, so they did a lot of whining. Windows 7, which should have been called Windows Vista SP3, was even better. It didn't receive such a bashing because it was so very similar to Vista and so the self-styled gurus, once they'd gotten familiar with Vista, weren't sufficiently offended to whine so much about Windows 7 as they did about Vista.
But now Windows 8 is a genuinely radical departure, far more different from Vista was from XP, and indeed even more of a change than XP was from 98 or even from Windows 3. The whiners are back in force.
But Windows 8 is a TERRIFIC operating system. The much-maligned (and, IMO, rightly so) Metro user interface is virtually irrelevant because all of your "legacy" apps run in the old familiar desktop anyway and can be invoked via a single click from the Metro "Start Screen." When you close those apps, the comfy old desktop remains. Note that nearly every complaint about Windows 8 revolves around the Metro user interface, which is optimized for touch screens and mobile devices, but it is irrelevant on the desktop -- NOT a drawback, just not really there at all except initially for that very first click of the day (invoking your web browser or email client or some other app that used to take you TWO clicks to invoke, now just one).
But bootup from cold is startlingly faster, and everything operates more crisply than it did even under Windows 7. The O/S seems cleaner and consumes fewer system resources. If you want to use Metro, fine, but you don't have to and, if you wish, only see it on initial boot.
Some things are more logical and are the way computers always should have always been but the technology didn't allow it. For example, you now shut the computer down by turning the computer off (or you can make the power switch merely put it to sleep if you choose). This is perfectly intuitive; it's how a person who never saw a computer before would presume it would work.
Windows 8 takes some getting used to. It really is quite different. It will take you a while to configure things to your liking, and it requires a lot of new device drivers (most of which come with the distribution). There's no Start button down at the lower left corner of the screen anymore (although you can obtain an app that emulates it). You do nearly everything differently, but the differences for the most parts are improvements in layout and logic.
My biggest complaints are that you cannot (without GREAT difficulty -- it is possible but it's one of those "Kids, don't try this at home" things) use your own photographs as a background in Metro (although you still can for your desktop), and they took away Spider Solitaire, Freecell and the other games that used to be part of the Windows O/S distribution.
But I would go (and indeed have gone) with Win 8 because it's here to stay and, like some woman said on Firesign Theater's brilliant 1971 album "I Think We're All Bozos On This Bus" (the first mention of computer hacking I know of in popular literature), "You can live it or live with it." You can stay a step behind and live in the past or go with what's current today, and that's Windows 8.
That is, IF your old computers can handle it. Check the minimum system requirements first. Some of those older machines don't have enough RAM (it requires 1 GB), and it prefers at least 1366x720 screen resolution. The thing is, if your computer can't handle Win 8 it'll probably choke on Vista or Win 7, too. Like I said up top, your best bet is probably a nice new machine. Prices now can be surprisingly reasonable.
One note of caution, however. What I say here refers exclusively to the 64-bit Win 8 O/S. I have not installed it, nor indeed tried it at all, on a 32-bit system. I presume your systems are 32-bit. I mean, I THINK it's probably the same, but cannot state it as a fact.
Close B Clothes Mode*
*Another reference from that truly great Firesign Theater album
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