Six ways to make migrating to your new laptop less of a nightmare

I recently migrated laptops.

Alarming how simple that sentence looks. I mean, migrations are long and hard, and things die. They have an alarming inevitability. Everything in their path gets trampled. Being able to express that in a single tiny sentence seems unfair.

Unfortunately there’s little that can be done about the endless hours and megabytes you will spend on downloading Windows updates, and there’s no relief for us Windows XP diehards who now have to come to grips with Windows 7 (having gleefully avoided the Vista bullet). And for some reason, Windows makes it as difficult as technologically possible to set up networks between computers running different operating systems. But having survived, and being now in a position where I only slightly view my new laptop as an alien invader, I thought I’d offer a few suggestions that might help other intrepid adventurers/desperadoes mourning the loss of their most loyal computing companion.

1. Yes, you’ve heard it before, but backup your ruddy computer
I was in the thankful position of jumping ship while my old laptop was at least semi-functional — it would stay operable for half hour gasps, allowing me to copy elements from it. Although I do backup, I certainly don’t do it often enough, and photos from a recent trip would have entirely disappeared. It seems it’s only after an “I lost all my work files/pictures of my child/novel manuscripts” crisis that people begin to back up with the correct fervour. Yes, it takes time, and there are other things you’d rather prioritise, but it can save oh so much grief. Do it now (don’t worry, I’ll wait).

2. Make use of Googledocs and Dropbox
Knowing that various documents are safe in Googledocs and Dropbox folders gave me an added security during the Great Move of 2011. Even if I had somehow deleted my backup files or caused some other technological meltdown, those files are always there to access. As long as I don’t break the internet.

3. Allow me to introduce my new friend, Mozbackup
I ditched Microsoft Outlook a while ago, replacing it with Mozilla Thunderbird. While struggling to figure out how to migrate my emails, I discovered Mozbackup. This nifty little friend backs up all your Mozilla related information – email, internet settings, bookmarks — into a little file which you just open on your new computer and Hey Presto! You’re in business. And, like all Mozilla loveliness, it’s free.

4. Buy a cunning hard drive cover thingummy
Because the trouble with my old laptop was related to motherboard issues, my hard drive itself was fine. A cheap cover from the computer store enabled me to use it as an external drive to transfer files. And now that that’ done, I’ve formatted it and I have a new external drive. Oh, I believe the technical term is external hard drive enclosure, which sounds pretty militaristic, but there you have it.

5. Use mostly free software
The vast majority of the software I use is free, and so while I spent the better part of a night downloading all the installation files, I was able to get the machine fully equipped with very little hassle. This meant not having to sit with the installation disks (had I kept them) or niggle with companies about switching the single user licence to a new computer. Some of my favourites are doPDF, vlc, gimp, and audacity , but I’m sure you’ll have your own. The simplest plan is to google what software does before you buy any. Frequently, you’ll find a freeware version — and if it doesn’t turn out to have all the functionality you desire, you can of course still buy the premium version.

6. Bonus Point
It turned out the gelaskin I had on my old laptop was transferable, and so this laptop too carries the “Keep Calm and Carry On” motto I find essential around electronic devices.

(Oh, and you can change your wallpaper and your screensaver on Windows 7 basic, if you’re relentless enough about it.)



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