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The New Computer Adventure

Sooner or later you will need a new computer. Whether some component begins to fail, or you simply need“bigger, better, faster,” or you just in the mood for some more updated, you will face the biggest problem of replacing a computer: getting all your stuff moved from here to there.

Actually, the problem of data has long since been conquered —and if your storage looks like the basement or attic rather than a neatly equipped kitchen, you’re not alone— but it’s a problem all of us should identify and address now, while the machine we’re using is still working properly. Get your data moved to the cloud. Identify it in proper folders, and clear out un-needed data periodically. But as long as the files you need and want are stored somewhere other than on your laptop or desktop, you will have access to them no matter what machine you use.

One of the best features of cloud storage is that it can be accessed wherever you are, and on whatever machine you’re using. External hard drives with multiple backups are all well and good, but like any form of technology they can fail or get damaged. Cloud storage is multiply redundant (though I admit my most precious files are kept both locally and on the cloud; and if the file is highly confidential, multiple local copies are my preference), which handles much of the back-up worry for you.

None of this, however, solves the problem of your programs.

In another column, I sang the praises of Google’s suite of online basic office programs, and it bears repeating here that it’s more than handy to know that you can write a document, create a spreadsheet, even do some basic design or create a set of slides all online, and without requiring any software loaded onto your desktop.

But for any programs you may have that are proprietary and essential to your work (or play), the day will probably come when you have to plan how to recreate your working environment on a new computer.

And many of us will also have collected little applications along the way that we find useful and would miss if we didn’t have them available.

The ideal way to set up your new computer so that it’s similar to your old computer is to keep track of your software installations: what programs you have, where you stored the download (or disks!), and the activation key information. In some cases, in order to use the same exact software and activation key, you’ll need to de-activate it on your old machine before activating it on the new one. In any event, keeping track of what you have and how to access it and install it on your new computer makes the job much easier. Transferring the software is trickier.

On a PC, you can’t simply drag and drop a piece of software from one machine to another, or even access it once you’ve copied the files required to run the software. You have to run an installation and then, in most cases, register it. This prevents you from buying one copy of an expensive piece of software and then installing it on all your friends’ and families’ computers.

And finally —and in some ways, most challenging— is all the settings and preferences that you have, over probably years, adopted as you used your computer day to day.

Faced with all of these issues – data, software, and settings – you may want to consider something called “transfer software.” For somewhere in the neighborhood of $50, you can download a piece of software that will, through your network, allow you to create a working copy of your old computer on your new computer – assuming you’re not changing from one version of Windows to another.

One such piece of software (and there are many) that comes recommended by some of my most trusted sources is Zinstall WinWin. Download and run the software on the new machine, determine what you want transferred, and let the software do it’s thing. What you end up with may not be perfect, but it will likely be as close as you can come to a new version of your old computer, with the least time and energy expended.

That said, I’m about to embark on this adventure, so I’ll let you know how it goes in some future column. Presuming I still have a computer to write it on!

Nancy Roberts
Writer, voice over artist, information achitect, very curious person.