February 1, 2013

Setting Up My New Computer...Ugh!

The big, white box has been sitting in the dining room for three days, unopened. Usually if I spend close to $800 on something I make use of it immediately. But, not this time. I have to get myself geared up for a task I have to do about every four or five years....and dread every time: setting up a new computer.

My workhorse computer has been in my office for almost ten years. It handles almost everything I do for the blog, calendars, e-mail, taxes, budgeting, and on line financial stuff. While I have a laptop that is used on RV trips or downstairs while I watch a movie, the old Dell is my go-to computer. I have added RAM, an external hard drive and another DVD burner, replaced a processor fan, vacuumed out the dust and kept it running well.

Starting a few months ago, though, things began to really slow down. My first thought was some type of virus or malware. I bought a top of the line security program to replace the one I had been using for years. It churned away for hours doing a full scan and found nothing. I checked the disc sectors, file structures and defragmentation needs. Nothing appeared wrong. But, it was taking a full minute to do what should take a few seconds. That is often a sign of a hard drive going down for the count.

Finally I broke down and bought a new, all-in-one computer, the type where all the hardware, ports and burners are built in behind the monitor screen. The keyboard and mouse are wireless and there is no more large, bulky CPU on the floor. Most of the wires that were needed for the old unit will not be used. Because of bad press for Windows 8 I hunted until I found a new unit that was preloaded with Windows 7. The old Dell was an XP machine which I actually prefer, but the laptop has Windows 7 so I don't need to learn a whole new system.

Even so, with a larger monitor, much faster response time, and much less clutter I still found excuses to not get started on the change-over. Why? There are so many files and programs that must be copied from one computer to another and so many settings that I have to change that I dread the task.

But, today is the day.

The first step is to decide where in my office the computer should go. Being someone who too often looks for the easiest path to problem-solving, I asked Betty where she thought I should put it, hoping she would say on the credenza. That would mean I wouldn't have to remove a shelf, relocate the old computer for data transfer, move all the wires for my various ham radios, and dust 10 years worth of whatever is lurking there.

Drats. She said it should go where the old one is. Of course she is correct, so dusting I will go. In moving things I did discover a woofer that was attached to the old Dell that maybe usable in the living room for producing manly-like deep sounds for movie watching. Things are looking up.

The new computer fits with less than 1/2 inch to spare. The DVD burner is on the side so I'll have to move it out a few inches, but I rarely burn anything so that is OK. Since there is no big box to sit on the floor all I need do is hook up the printer, cable modem, router, and the wireless keyboard and mouse and I should be in business. Famous last words.

The first question I am asked is for the security code for the wireless router. Heavens? Who knows? I go to Netgear's web site and don't find an answer that works. So, I try several of my standard choices....and it connects!

Next it is time to uninstall all the junk that comes preloaded: dozens of games, a few Norton products I don't want, a bunch of stuff from HP that I will never use, and Bing...a horrible search engine and cluttered command bar.

Of course, new computers come with no documentation or manuals. If you aren't already familiar with the way computers are set up and operate you are in trouble. That is probably why services like the Geek Squad make so many house calls at $150 a pop. For many folks there is no other way to make that fancy new investment work. If you can't figure out how to get online you can't even download or look at the manual.

OK, now how do I shift my subscription to Carbonite and the Bitdefender malware program to the new computer? Time for another trip to a few web sites to see what I can learn. Next, Microsoft wants another $100 or so to allow me to "unlock" Word so it becomes usable. What a money machine that is.

Finally, it is time to decide which of the fifty-some programs on the old Dell are needed on the new computer, and which ones will work with Windows 7. I guess my best bet is to decide what I really need and start transferring those files from an external backup and see what works.

My hobby of ham radio has taken a back seat to blogging and writing for the past few years so maybe I shouldn't even bother transferring those programs. Some even pre-date Windows XP so they aren't like to work anyway. I can always find new versions if and when I turn all those transmitters back on again. In one aspect getting a new computer does force me to clean out stuff I don't use.
*****
Fast forward one day and I think I am ready to go. The budget program in reinstalled, all my favorites are back on the Favorites bar, the to-do list manager and a few printer drivers are all in place. Turbo tax has been reinstalled and is ready for tax time.

Luckily, I have been working with computers dating all the way back to my first Apple II in the 1980's. But, I will never understand why computer manufacturers don't make this process easier for the non-computer folks among us. It shoudn't be all that difficult to have a basic computer that boots up and loads what most folks need right out of the box without all the extra steps. The quick start sheet that comes with most new machines only makes sense if you are already comfortable with computers.

One of the reasons why tablets and smart phones will eventually replace most standard computers is the ease of setup. Turn them on and they work!



33 comments:

  1. I've spent this last week getting a new computer set up the way I need it, too, but I called in for reinforcements: the expert who built the computer to fit my needs came and set up everything except the programs I needed to reinstall. Even though this is his work, two visits were required to get the microphone working, a capability I need for the program I use for practicing and recording music (for study purposes) on the violin. Even then, an apparent overnight program update messed up all those hard-won new microphone capabilities. It turns out that Windows 7 isn't particularly friendly to those of us who want to use microphones and music programs. However, like you, after reading reviews and on the advise of the expert, I was leery of going to Windows 8.

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    1. My anti-virus program has a whole section on what to do when it stops working with Windows 8. I was very happy with XP but Microsoft wasn't making any more money from it, so upgrade time.

      Concerning updates, after some bad experiences I do to not allow any program to automatically update. The program has to tell me it has updates available so I can review what they are before saying OK. That has avoided most upgrade problems.



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  2. They do cost more, but I have been so happy with the ease of Apple products that our family is ALL APPLE now. I have used the genius bar over at the mall Apple store, multiple times and they've fixed stuff for FREE.(They ARE geniuses over there!) I have not had to update my operating system over and over like windows. What a mess windows vista was!!!

    I like the ipad for ease of use and the size is good..though our son has switched over to the new mini tablet--it is too small for my eyes..

    Good news that you found a Windows 7 product ! I'm sure you're up and running full speed ahead now.. luckily you're retired and have time to figure it all out!!!!!

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    1. So far, the new computer is doing what I want. The only minor hassle is the DVD player/burner is on the side so I have to pull the screen forward and turn it to get to the burner. But, after installing some programs, I don't need it very often so no biggie.

      I am thinking of keeping the old XP machinene for just my ham radio programs that won't work with Windows 7. I'll do a fresh install of XP to clean out all the gunk that builds up after 10 years.

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  3. Being a retired Information Technology guy I certainly know your pains of setting up a new computer.

    I'm surprised that you opted for another desktop machine given that you plan on being on the road in your new RV much of the year. When I switched back to Apple last year I went with the Mac Book Air and attached to a 27" monitor. It was worked great for me.

    The most likely culprit in computer slow downs and crashes is the hard drive. As the HD ages it starts losing sectors and eventually a mechanical part of the spinning drive just fails. It won't be long, probably a couple of years, before the HD will have gone the way of floppies to be replaced by SSD which have no moving parts. They are very similar to the thumb drives all of us now carry. No moving parts/ no failures. And as I learned with my Air it starts up much faster.

    Good luck with you new machine. I set up a similar system for my brother-in-law a few months ago. They are nice and as you say no bulky tower....

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    1. I have a laptop for travel. I can use a wireless mouse and keyboard on it if I plan on doing a lot of work. In fact, I am sitting at an RV park in Ajo, AZ right now typing this reply.

      The desktop machine is for my office and for extensive Internet research and typing. The bigger screen and TB hard drive are important.

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  4. Bob - Just 2 months ago I had to go through the same process to replace my old computer. I agree with you wholeheartedly that this set-up should be greatly simplified. I also get upset that peripheral manufacturers can't provide updates to their software to support the new versions of operating systems i.e. Windows 8. My shiny external hard drive no longer serves as an auto-backup unit because they don't provide Windows 8 compatible software. Someone gave us a Roku box for Christmas, and I thought it would fast and simple to set up until it would not connect with my router for some mysterious reason (and I DID remember the router password). I ended up having to correspond with the router manufacturer for instructions on how to re-configure the wireless setup to permit video streaming. Not a task for the faint of heart. Eventually I got everything to play nicely together, but then discovered that my TV didn't have enough inputs to allow me to plug the Roku into the back. Back to research and acquiring yet another piece of hardware to switch from 1 video source to another. My poor wife is now even more baffled by the addition of yet another remote control for the Roku, as well as the added requirement to know when to switch the input box from one source to another. She is demanding a set of user instructions just to watch TV. :-)

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    1. My daughter and son-in-law have 5 separate remotes just for their various TV/Roku/Clearplay/DVD/sound bar options. They do have two full pages of instructions depending on what you want to do.

      Except for the Apple II 27 years ago I haven't used Apple...too pricey and most business software didn't work with Apple back in the days when I needed software for my consulting business. But, I gather Mac products are much easier to set up and don't keep shifting OS every few years.

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  5. Windows is an operating system that has been patched and repatched over so many years; it was never intended to do what it is currently being asked to. It collects a lot of junk, as it was originally programmed to do, that tend to bog down systems. In reality the only way to get rid of it all is to do a complete reload of the operating system, but it is too much of a pain for most people. I am only at Windows 7 but I believe the free program CCleaner works on 8 as well. I run it on a regular basis and it cleans out many areas that tend to collect data that is useless to you, particularly in this era of cookies being put on your system by every web site you visit. If I don't run it for a week or so, when I do I could have up to 1TB of stuff that means nothing to me, but a lot to the web sites putting it on my systems. Easy to download and use, and it might help to keep your system running efficiently.

    I use open source software like CCleaner and OpenOffice wherever possible since much of it is better than the manufacturers products that they demand payment for. Congratulations on the new system; always fun to get a fast processor and different peripherals.

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    1. I'll certainly check on the CCleaner program. I have used Window Washer but it is a little buggy and unstable at times. Most people don't even run the very basic disc cleanup that is under properties of the computer file, or defraging, either. They do help.

      Microsoft keeps raising prices (Office up another $20 this week) so that eventually the open source programs will have their day in the sun.

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  6. I totally agree with your last comment...this is why folks will go to tablets. I have a laptop & love it, am working on using it more effectively (I retired a year or so ago & no longer have IT tekkies running around to give me help...just one patient step-son) & I never paid for the complete Word...I just use the demo model. I've thought about unlocking it, but haven't had that much free money yet. I am definitely low tech but learning.

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    1. I wrote a travel book a few years ago using Microsoft Publishers '97. It won't work anymore but the fine folks at Microsoft want around $200 for the new version that probably won't even read the old files.

      The one device I have purchased that is getting less use than I thought is my Kindle Fire. I don't use it for reading or other purposes nearly as often as I thought I would. It isn't the fault of the Fire...it's just I still prefer books on paper most of the time.

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    2. I agree; getting the new windows to read the old files is not such an easy task. I understand about not using the Kindle Fire...my wonderful co-workers gave me a Nook & Barnes & Noble gift certificates when I retired. I have used it MUCH less than I thought I would, even though with my bad eyes it is easier to read. I was surprised; it may be because as I sort & de-clutter, I'm re-reading the paper books I have.

      I appreciate the open source information also; I'll try that if I need it. I've found the demo Word & Excel are fine for the little work I do. My stepson suggests another free operating system that many of the tekkies use. I may try that later, we'll see.

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    3. My old XP desktop was acting just like yours, so I am in process of setting up new super loaded laptop with 17.3 screen to replace it. Decided I didn't really need huge screen. Will use external keyboard and mouse because most of the time I like to work in that position, but will connect wirelessly so that I can pick it up and move it if I want to work standing. My old body needs a change now and then. Love getting rid of the wires. I have a smaller laptop for travel but we are not on the road a lot. I did get Windows 8. I am playing with it today. It is very different, but I think it will be OK once I get used to it. As a retired software developer, I miss trying out new things so it is kind of fun to see how it works.

      I do feel for people who do not have some background with computers. I have been out of the field for 8 years and it changes so quickly that I often struggle to figure things out. But it has to be good for the brain!

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    4. We'll be interested in your Win8 experiences. Did you go with the touch screen? I gather that is the major reason for the new OS since people are getting so used to touch screens on smart phones and Ipads.

      Maybe I should offer some basic computer setup and maintenance help for those in my area who are baffled by the basics. I don't think computer makers take non-tekkies into account.

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    5. No did not get the touch screen. I've never like it when someone leaves fingerprints on my screen. I realy can't see why anyone would want a touch screen on something that is not handheld. Seems awkward. I'll keep you posted on my Windows 8 experience.

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    6. I don't understand the appeal of a touch screen computer, either. My Kindle gets fingerprints all over the screen...wouldn't want the PC to look the same.

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  7. LOL!!! Bob, I just went out this past weekend and finally got a new one... I was not lucky enough to find a windows 7 and got windows 8... nothing like a phone GUI interface on a laptop! I've found where they have hidden all the good stuff I like ( I'm an IT guy also).. :-) As part of my Satisfying Retirement, I'm going to drop MS office and try to live with OpenOffice and being a database guy, try to move to MySQL.... I'm loading only stuff I use now, similar to you...

    Thanks, for the laugh! Now back to updating settings and shortcuts.. :-)

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    1. Same question: did you go the touch screen route?

      Best Buy still has a dozen or so Windows 7 machines for sale..I grabbed a newer HP model all-in-one.

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    2. No, I decided not to go with a touch screen... I felt that a tablet or phone is a better form factor for touch... although windows 8 provides a keypad with the same touch fingerings ... I'm getting used to it... :-)

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  8. I hate the transition periods also. We are an all-Apple household - desktop with large monitor at home, MacBook laptop on the road, iPad and iPhone. I like how everything syncs up.

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    1. If Apple had been more integrated into the business world 30 years ago I'm sure I'd be an Apple person too. From friends I have learned it is a very intuitive, consumer-friendly system with almost none of the virus problems of Windows.

      Apple is so much more expensive, though. I need a new cell phone but I am not willing to pay $300 more for an Iphone.

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    2. You can get the last latest Mac for less money and they work just as well. I got a 4s iPhone for only $99 vs the $500 for a 5. Works just fine, easy to set up and sync with my Apple MacBook laptop. Been a mac user since 1998. How much is your time worth? How many hours have you wasted on your PC? Add that up and in the future, pay the difference and get an Apple product.
      The reason why before the business world couldn't get good Mac programs was because Bill Gates from Microsoft made sure of it! That's changed now, as Steve Jobs made Gates a silent partner. Shhhhhh! Today Apple software programs work seamlessly and stress free. Upgrading to a newer Mac computer, now with files stored in iCloud work like a charm. Have a problem? Call up Apple and speak to a fabulous genius who will patiently guide you.

      'Nuff said.

      Have fun with that PC.

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    3. Apple users are often very passionate about the products. You are living proof! Thanks for the info. You make some solid points.

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  9. I had a MAC back in the '80's too. It was my first. I loved it so. Then the software programs like Photoshop that I wanted to work with weren't available for my MAC unless I was willing to pay triple. Software costs forced me to PC. Now I'm thinking about maybe going back. Their publishing and photography software is very intuitive now and integrated into the cost. In the meantime I'm happy with my Sony Vaio laptop with Windows 7.
    Good luck with your newby!!
    b

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    1. If Steve Jobs missed one important boat it was the business boat early on. Software people just didn't spend time on Apple development because the charges were so high.

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  10. I would love to see a post on basic computer setup and maintenance!

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    1. Good idea! I have found that even those of us spend a lot of time with computers sometimes miss the most obvious shortcuts or solutions to problems.

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  11. I am done with my desktop. I have two laptops, one a large one with a big monitor that sits on my desk and a good external hard drive. I may get a big monitor but never another pc. I download lots of graphics, files and pictures as nd this seems to work fine.

    I went from old publisher to the newest version. I actually gave it up for office professional.

    I'm rarely using my kindle but use my nexus tablet all the time including for reading.

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    1. I like the convenience of the all-in-one desktop, but I imagine it will be my last full size PC. Laptops and tablets are taking over.

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  12. I am so glad that last year I bought an IMac. Still struggle at work with PCs and MS problems.

    The MAC can "see" my old PC laptop through the wireless router. It is smarter than me.

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  13. I'm getting a headache just reading this post! Oh dear! I'm so impressed that you can do all of this. I call in the cavalry for such things.

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    1. I set a dubious personal record Friday: throughout the day I received 50 of those stupid Anonymous spam comments attempting to get on the blog.

      There are times when the computer is not my friend!

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