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Preparing for a new computer

Article for: Anyone who will live to buy a new computer
Difficulty: Hard
Importance: Cumbersome and boring, but very useful

Getting a new computer is a hassle. Transferring everything and getting setup with the new computer is even worse. Knowing all your software and finding the licenses, and getting a copy to install on the new computer can be frustrating. Yet, barring death, unless we've purchased one recently, we'll all need to do it sometime in the next few years. For some people, it's not so bad. They only do a few things and I set them up with their security software, so there isn't much to do. For others, it is a nightmare.

I have over 70 programs on my computer. While many of them are open source, many require a license key. One, Quicken 2016, requires an installation CD! You can download most program from the Internet, but will the ones you need still be available?

My Recommendation

Create a Spreadsheet. Do it Now! Make these columns:
  1. Program
  2. Where is the license?
  3. License renewal date:
  4. Notes and add-ons

So, for example, the notes for my Quicken program says, "Have CD in large CD case in office 2". My second office has 2 CD cases, one small and one large. Most of my licenses are "In Keepass", my password manager.

I also maintain a folder called Data2. That folder has stuff on it I want, but is less changing than my documents folder. Inside that folder is a Software folder. When I download software that might disappear, I move the download from my download folder to that folder. For those of you who freak me out and download to your desktop, move it off your desktop to that folder. Then backup that folder to an external drive. This will give you copies of files that might not remain available online.

For example, I have a 9-year-old license for Camtasia Studio. Techsmith has not sold that version for years. However, I have a license in Keepass and a copy of the download in Software. I can re-install it on a new computer if I wish to. Just a point to clarify, Techsmith, makers of Camtasia Studio, is a great company and I can log into my account, check my licensed products, and still download that old version from them. I still feel better having my copy. Perhaps they will stop letting me download after 10 years?

My Procedure

To be sure I have all my programs, I start with the system tray by the clock and check that I can re-install all those programs that are not part of the computer itself. I have at least 20 programs in my system tray. Then I go over the taskbar (at the bottom of the screen) I also do the entire desktop and all the folders and make sure I have them all. After that, I review the start menu and then check the 2 program folders for anything I missed.

You might also have programs that do not get installed but just run in a tools folder or portable apps folder.

Don't rush it

Get started early. Take your time. I started 3 years before I intend to get a new computer. When I've got some extra time, I work on my software spreadsheet. In a couple years, when I'm forced to move to a new computer, I'll be closer to being ready.

Date: November 2020

Creative Commons License
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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