Monday, December 30, 2013

Lessons learned while moving to a new computer

You'll recall that last month, I asked for input about buying a new computer.  I eventually settled on a HP desktop system from Costco, which was at an almost unbeatable value-for-money point.  It arrived a couple of weeks ago, and I've slowly been moving my programs and data onto it and setting it up as my primary workstation.  I've learned a lot in the process.

First, I've used Mozilla Thunderbird as my e-mail client for many years.  I have several different e-mail accounts, depending on their purpose and scope (this blog's is only one of them).  Thunderbird lets me open them all in a single application and keep track of them without problems.  The last time I migrated to a new system, I ended up simply installing a new copy of Thunderbird and abandoning my earlier e-mails on backups, as I simply couldn't get them to migrate across successfully.  This time was far simpler.  I used the Mozbackup utility, which made the process amazingly simple once I'd figured out the correct sequence of events.  For the benefit of those who might do the same in future, here's what to do, and in this order.

  1. Download Mozbackup to your old system and run it, placing the backup copy of your Thunderbird (and, if you wish, other Mozilla software such as Firefox) on an external hard disk or thumb drive.
  2. Download the relevant Mozilla software (Thunderbird, Firefox, etc.) to your new computer and run it once, in order to set up each program's default profile.  Don't do anything else like enter your e-mail account details.
  3. Download Mozbackup to your new system and run it.  Tell it to restore the profiles of the software you've installed, and point it to the external drive where you've stored the backed-up profiles from your old system.

That's really all there is to it.  Simple, quick and easy.  I imported eight different e-mail accounts, complete with four years of archived messages and all the settings, without a bobble.

I had some serious problems getting used to the Windows 8 interface (Windows 8.1, actually, but it's the same interface as 8.0).  It looks like a very useful product for touch-screen devices, but if you're working with keyboard and mouse, it's a pain in the butt.  I set up my new system to boot directly to the desktop screen, as in Windows 7, and installed Pokki to simulate the Windows 7 startup screen.  It works fine.

Microsoft Office 2010 gave me some serious headaches.  By default, it installs in 32-bit mode;  but Windows 8.1 is a native 64-bit application, as installed from the manufacturer on my computer.  I had some nasty compatibility issues until I figured out (by trial and error) that Office 2010 also has a 64-bit version, that can be installed by running its dedicated Setup program from the CD.  Once I'd switched to that version, things went much more easily.  I still had to locate it on my hard disk;  Windows 8.1 kept on trying to get me to load the preinstalled trial version of Office 2013 and/or pay for the Office 365 version.  I ended up uninstalling both of the latter trial versions, and now things run much more smoothly.

I've still got some music and video files to copy across to my new system, but I'm 90% finished with the migration now.  I'm already using the new system to continue editing Maxwell Book 3.  I'll be setting up a treadmill desk over the next couple of weeks, with a second screen for seated use when I'm not able to walk any further.  I'm pretty happy with the new computer so far.  It's much faster and more powerful than my old laptop.  As soon as the migration is complete, I'll upgrade the laptop's memory and install a new hard disk, and it'll become my occasional-use on-the-road computer.

Thanks to all of you who offered advice.  So far, so good!



lotta joy said...

I love a happy computer story that ends well.

Anonymous said...

Did you get rid of the HP blowware?


Peter said...

@Dave: Most of it. The rest will follow soon.

Joe Allen said...

Great way to get rid of bloatware (and HP is the worst offender):

Best way to install the stuff you actually need: It allows you to select most all of the open source stuff you want - antivirus, pdf printers, browsers and utilities etc - and then download a single executable which will download and install the latest versions unattended and bypass all bloatware and ad bars, etc.