Migrating smoothly from your old computer to a new computer* - Part 1

Most people are shocked by the average life of a computer.

  • 2 to 3 years for laptops

  • 3 to 4 years for all-in-one type PCs

  • 4 to 5 for desktops and tower style machines

These aren’t my numbers, these are industry statistics.

“Yeah”, you may say, “I have a friend who is still using their 10 year old laptop”… and well you may.

But don’t forget what “average” means. For every lucky machine that makes old age there are many others who die prematurely.

The point is, sooner or later you are going to need to move from your old failing PC to a new computer of some kind.

This migration is best performed under controlled conditions rather than crisis conditions, in other words …

Plan to move to your new computer BEFORE the old one fails.

  • Chances are you don’t backup properly (or at all), so a dead computer means extra $ in data recovery before it can be moved to your new machine.

  • Being able to refer to “what you have now” for things like settings, usernames, passwords and just generally what you use the computer for, speeds up the migration process. Without that reference things will go missing and there’ll be guesswork involved with going forward.

  • Using your new computer alongside your old computer provides some security as to whether or not everything has been migrated. For example, that program you only ever use once a year may not have been thought of at migration time, lucky your old computer is still available to get over the crisis.

Knowing what your old computer does for you and what the new one will have to do for you is also important.

For a week or so take careful notes on what you use your computer for on a daily basis.

  • Note the programs you use most often.

  • Identify critical activities and the programs you use for them.

  • Find out where your important data is stored. It often isn’t where you assume.

  • Keep track of the devices you plug into and connect with: printers, phones, screens, any number of other USB and networked devices. There’s a chance these devices use technology that is simply no longer available e.g. serial and parallel interfaces which can’t plug in to newer computers.

  • Web sites, login details, usernames, passwords etc. – you should know what they all are or at least how to recover them if you don’t.

  • Check your backups, if you do them – I bet you don’t. Make sure they are working and the program you are using to backup is available for your new computer.

Knowing how you use your computer also feeds into your purchase criteria for the replacement computer.

Identify the failings of your old PC that you’d like the new one to fix.

  • Is it too slow?

  • Can it hold all your photos?

  • Can it play games?

  • Is the screen too small?

  • Does it weigh too much? Etc.

Identify the things your old PC does that your new one simply does NOT need to do.

For example you may have spent too much money on graphics capability when you never play games or produce videos.

Identify which of the programs you use, and want/need to keep, are free and which are purchased.

There’s a good chance you’ll need to BUY the latest edition or at least upgrade in some way to be compatible with the new computer.

  • If re-using software, do you know where the disks are? Do you have the product keys etc.?

  • It is good to know how old the software you are using is as this will affect how re-installing it, if at all, will be approached.

  • Does your backup program need to work on your new computer?

If you are a business using industry specific or licensed software of some kind, you may find that adding a new computer to the mix may increase your license fees.

*Individual needs and requirements will vary. You should seek specific advice for your context. Advice provided here is generic and indicative only.


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