Last night, instead of vegging out and watching TV, I embarked on a great adventure: upgrading my main computer from Windows XP to Windows 7. When I bought that machine, Windows Vista had just come out and had a bad reputation — deserved or not. So I opted for a Dell Optiplex that was "Vista Capable" but came with XP installed. I still believe that was a wise move. Since then I've used Vista a lot and have purchased dozens of new Vista PCs for work and Vista's pretty darned good. I was eager, however, to try Windows 7 and, once I installed it on my notebook and saw performance skyrocket, I was well and truly sold.
So I pushed out the last work I needed from Apollo (my desktop computer) Monday. Last night I began the process and, as with the notebook, after telling the installer program that I wanted a "Custom" installation (the only choice with XP) and which hard drive to use, I pretty much did other things. At the end, I had a beautiful Win7 desktop, a few of my familiar desktop shortcuts, and a lot of reinstallation work ahead of me — most of it yet to do. Yes, I'm already loving the Win7 experience. I went to bed with the upgraded machine busily synchronizing data between itself and the remote backup system.
The only sort of "gotcha" I encountered was that the Windows Easy Transfer* I ran in XP copied the wrong user profile. It wasn't the program's fault –there's always been something strange about the way my XP handled my profile– and I've been able to recover what might otherwise have been lost. The XP strangeness? I'd log in on Apollo using the same username I have at the office, let's say it's james01. Login would go fine, I'd do my work, and shut down. Next time I'd log in the username would appear in the login screen as, say, jamesG. It would accept the james01 password and all would be well. I still don't understand what was going on there but discovered there were, in fact, two user profiles: the one I thought I was using and the one I was actually using and I had Easy Transfer copy out the profile I thought I was using.
Happily for me, I'm in the habit of not using my profile's default location(s) –My Documents– as the place for saving most of my stuff. Also happily for me, the upgrade process packed up the Windows XP installation in a big ball called "Windows.old" which preserved all profiles; I've, so far, been able to recover necessities such as Thunderbird email files from that ball. There's also the twin fall-backs of a local external hard drive backup and Mozy remote backup. Whew!
Over the next few days I'll casually reinstall the software I commonly use (Photoshop, camera software, InDesign, and the like) and before you know it I'll have a nice new computer.
I guess that's just part of my modern life.
* Windows Easy Transfer really is a great free tool for this "new computer" thing. The program can be used in several different ways to perform the sometimes-daunting task of "moving your stuff." Users need to think a bit ahead and install the Easy Transfer software on their older computer and figure out which of three approaches get the Transfer file on to the "new" computer — whether it be a different machine or the same machine post-upgrade. Windows 7 has Easy Transfer already installed.