November 3rd, 2010 was a sad day for me. I woke up from a sound sleep, and reached for my trusty Sony laptop at the foot of the bed. The peace from a good night’s sleep was quickly replaced with horror. My beautiful Sony laptop was broken. The screen was almost separated from the laptop’s body and keyboard. Apparently, while I was sleeping, my youngest son, Jesse (1 year 10 months), quietly slipped into the room and started banging on the keyboard. Sometime during this typing session, the screen separated from the keyboard. In fairness to Jesse, my trusty Sony laptop was on its last legs. Although the screen had not separated entirely, there was a little crack on the bottom right of the screen, and Jesse just put the finishing touches on its inevitable demise.
I was a little more than distraught. I truly loved my Sony laptop. I am a very high end laptop user. I want it all. I want it to be small, light and most importantly lightening fast. It was quite the search but in April 2009, I purchased the Sony VGN-Z610Y. Wow! I was really impressed. Although I had paid over $2000 for it, it had the best specifications. Weighing in at slightly more than 3 pounds, it had an incredible screen, a full DVD reader/writer, and most importantly, it was in the top 7% in performance of all laptops based on PC Pitstop’s World Rank. I loved that computer.
Living in Rio de Janeiro, I had to get another one and pronto. Fortunately, I had a buddy that was coming to visit the following week. I jumped on line and went immediately to Sony’s web site to check out how technology advanced. Wow! In the short 18 months, Sony had a lot more high end options. Unfortunately, only a few were available for shipment with less than a week. I chose the Sony VPCZ1 which cost about $2500 including shipping and taxes. It was a pretty penny to pay but I was excited.
The next week of my life was excruciating. As you can see from the photo, the laptop was still functional but it was in a very fragile state. I still had to transfer all the data from one laptop to the other and I did not want to tempt the hands of fate. About a year ago, I opened up a HSBC Premier account in the United States. Unbeknownst to me, I also was eligible for a free Dell netbook. So not to look a gift horse in the mouth, I gladly accepted. In fact, it was a life saver since I had one week until my friend arrived with my new Sony VPCZ1.
So for one week, I trudged through using a netbook as my primary computer. It was horrible. I might need psychiatric counseling for years to overcome the trauma I sustained. My largest frustration was that the netbook was so slow, even for the most mundane tasks. For example, opening up Windows notepad. The delay was noticeable just to hit the Windows button. Then Programs and Accessories and finally Notepad. When my computer is slow, I begin to think slower while I am waiting for it to do the most basic tasks. Then a netbook has a little dinky screen. This Dell had a 10″ 1024 x 600 screen. The biggest problem is the 600 pixel height. Because most web pages are built for much taller screens, I found myself having to scroll up and down probably twice as much. Which is the next annoyance, the little dinky mouse pad. Because of the cramped real estate, the mouse pad is about 1/2 the size of a normal mouse pad. And last but not least, is the dinky keyboard. Am I using the word dinky too much? That’s because the only way to describe this Dell netbook is DINKY. The only other word that I can think of is PUNY but I like DINKY more.
Finally, my friend arrived and I booted up my new Sony. OMG. This computer is unbelievable. The screen is still 13″ but now instead of 1366 x 788, it is 1600 x 900. It is the sharpest and crispest screen I have ever seen. My personal opinion is that its contrast is on the edge of what the human eye can discern. Frankly, I was a little nervous because with the higher resolution, text becomes noticeably smaller. It is still crisp just small. I am pleased to say, that it is not issue at all for me and these 50 year old eyes. Then on top of that, the SSD drive is noticeably faster than anything I have ever used. Boot times are dramatically reduced and everything just seems faster. There is also a peace of mind factor with SSD drives. They never fragment and more importantly since they have no moving parts, they are far less likely to break, particularly when exposed to a shock. I quickly ran the PC Pitstop World Rank and I am in the top 3% of all laptops. That made me feel great, I was amongst the word’s elite. Plus, after having worked for an entire week, I felt like a new man.
Now I had the task of moving all of the information from my old laptop to the new one so that it worked just as well if not better than before. Rather than doing a copy of the entire hard drive, I wanted to surgically extract the important files. This has always been my strategy when moving from one computer to another. My reason is that there is a lot of junk that PC Matic does not remove from your computer. There are tons of programs I had installed that I would never need. Tons of files that had been saved but have no use, and so on. Best to start with a clean slate.
First and foremost, I copied over ThunderBird to the new computer. The most important application for me still today is email. I have been religious about backing up my email and I am proud to say that I have my last 10 years of email. Every email I have ever sent and every email I have ever received. What I love about Thunderbird is that it is so easy for me to locate an old email. Usually takes just a few seconds. To be honest, it was a little bit of a chore to get Thunderbird running. The reason is that Thunderbird hides all of its data in a different place on each computer. The trick is to find where Windows resolves the variable %appdata%. You’re probably thinking What? All you need to do is type %appdata% into the search bar and then Windows opens up where the folder is located. From there it was a piece of cake.
My next task was installing Office 2000. Before doing that, I had to uninstall the trial version of Office 2009 that was on the computer. In my view, Microsoft has not come out with a good version of Office since 2000. The biggest reason that I prefer Office 2000 is financial. Microsoft, in its quest to exert its monopolistic power, changed the EULA in Office 2003. Office 2000 was the last license where you were truly the owner of the software. After that point, the software was attached to the computer. Therefore, if the computer died, or you replaced it, you needed to purchase another copy. For the last 10 years, I have been using Office 2000 and I migrate it to each and every computer. I would say that I am a power user of both Excel and PowerPoint. I use macros, conditional statements and pivot tables heavily in Excel. PowerPoint is a great yet simple tool to express your ideas. Being a power user, I can say that there is not one feature that is lacking in Office 2000. Best I can tell, subsequent versions focused on look and feel, rather than new features for the product.
Speaking of Office, I also just finished uninstalling Office 2009 from my wife’s netbook. The reason is that it was a trial version. The trial version is sneaky because it takes over all your file associations. Therefore, my wife (who is now attending college) receives her assignments as DOC files via email. She just double clicked on the file and it opened. That is until the trial ended. Now nothing works. She can’t even look at the file unless we fork over the money to Microsoft. So I uninstalled Office 2009, and installed Open Office. Better yet for my wife, because Open Office is all in Portuguese and of course 100% free.
The balance of my migration was the following.
Paint.Net I use this program every day and rather than copying it over, I just installed it again. Paint.Net is very powerful and 100% free.
camtasia Studio. I will go on record and state that Windows MovieMaker is really a piece of junk. It lacks many many features and it always seem to freeze at some point. That is really frustrating, because when it freezes, you normally have to start over your entire video. Windows MovieMaker is no longer part of Windows 7. You can download it for free, but it is not part of the operating system like Apples movie software. Geez, Microsoft, you guys can’t even get that right. So I purchased many years ago an awesome yet very expensive product called Camtasia Studio. As I recall, I paid somewhere around $400, but it is very powerful and intuitive to use.
FileZilla. I don’t do a lot of FTP now a days, maybe about once a week max. I use FileZilla which is intuitive and 100% free.
FoxIt Reader. I really like this product and I even bought the Pro version which makes it easy to sign contracts, and fill in PDF forms. It is awesome but I had a little bump here. I looked on their web site and the Pro version was no longer downloadable. It took a while but the Pro version is no longer available because they put all the features in the free version. The main reason that I prefer FoxIt is because it is fast and Abobe reader is sometimes painfully slow. Plus, I keep reading about all of these security problems with Adobe Reader which makes me nervous.
Burn4Free. My old Sony had preinstalled a version of Roxio Creator which allowed me to burn DVD data disks. I used it frequently to burn shows that I downloaded from the internet, and then watch on my DVD player. I just finished watching Damages Season 3 (which is awesome!), and then wanted to begin watching 30 Rock. But the new Sony apparently no longer does business with Roxio, so I downloaded Burn4Free that does the same thing and of course 100% free.
CutePDF. I only use this about once a month, it is really handy when moving my PowerPoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets to PDF. It is of course 100% free.
Mikogo. We use this very heavily at PC Pitstop since we are a virtual company. Mikogo allows us to share screens so that we can collaborate together or solve problems in a group manner. Mikogo is also 100% free. I used to use GoToMeeting and we still have a paid license, but sometimes GoToMeeting can be really slow. I have experienced times when we are waiting over 10 minutes for a participant to arrive. Mikogo literally takes less than 10 seconds. I highly recommend it. Give it a whirl.
Chrome. I am a Chrome user. The reason is simple. Internet Explorer and Firefox are both bloated pigs. They seem slow and sometimes they both crash without reason. Chrome is fast and very stable. All I needed to do was transfer my bookmarks from the old Sony to the new one and I was in business.
PC Matic. Last but certainly not least, I downloaded a new version of PC Matic. This PC didn’t need any of the tweaks, but I just *had* to see how it ranked with the rest. I am proud to say it is in the top of the top.
|PC Matic World Rankings|
|2D Video||Top 3%|
|3D Video||Top 4%|
Boom. I am smoking fast. I love it and I love PC Matic.
Then I copied over two directories, My Documents and My Photos. Note that I did not copy over my music. I keep all my music on a network drive. All of the music on my old Sony was stuff I listened to and have forgotten.
So my tale ends with a happy ending. Despite the heartbreak of seeing my prized Sony broken, and enduring a week of netbook use, I now have one of the fastest computers on the planet. It was worth the wait.
Do you have a similar tale? What is your must-have list of software for a clean install? Are you a high end laptop user? Comment below.