Simplifying Your Computer

Wednesdays are simplicity days at SimpleProductivity blog.

Photo by Pink Sherbet Photography

Let me start out by saying that one of the most life-complicating things I have ever done was to replace all the home computers at the same time.

And after confessing that to a very good friend and former IT co-worker, she looked at me and said simply, “You should know better than that.” She’s right. I should have known better.

Now that that confession is out of the way, let’s talk about how to simplify computing life. You don’t need a new computer to do this, but it is something you should do if you get a new computer.

Assess Where You Are

My old laptop, five years old, had seen me go through all sorts of changes. I went from Microsoft Office to Open Office and back again. I installed a Linux server on the machine. I went from Palm to my iPod Touch. Software was tried, used and abandoned. Or installed with good intentions and never used. Or patched, upgraded and replaced.

Remove Unused Programs

My first job was to look at what was installed, and list out what I didn’t use anymore. Several old versions of programming languages were languishing on the hard drive. Software to design a knit sweater and produce a pattern was filled with virtual moths. Picasa, sat expectantly waiting for when I was going to finally organize all the photos. These all were removed from the old computer (and not installed on the new one).

Find Alternatives

Next I looked at better alternatives for things I had used for years.

Since I upgraded operating systems, there were things that were not going to work anymore. My beloved PowerToy for resizing photos was not available in Windows 7, I had to find an alternative. This was true of several programs, although unbelievably, my Win95 composing software runs great (go figure!!!)

I also decided to replace some clunkiness with streamlined things. AVG had been my anti-virus software of choice, but its drag on startup and lack of flexibility pushed me to move onto Microsoft Security Suite.

Clean and Archive Files

I am not as diligent about cleaning out my reference files on my computer as I am in my filing cabinet. As a result of that, I had client notes for a job I haven’t held in five years, patterns for clothes my daughter outgrew years ago, and supporting files for projects successfully completed a while back. It was time to purge.

I went through every folder (and this took a while) and looked at the contents. If it was something I didn’t recognize or hadn’t accessed in a year or was outdated, it was deleted outright. Some things, which I may need in the future (think tax stuff) were put in a new folder called “Permanent archive” with an expiration date on when they could be removed.

This effort really got rid of all sorts of stuff I had no need for anymore (2 GB!), and simplified moving files to the new computer quite a bit.

Simplify Backups

For a couple of years, I had a network of backups that were a bit cumbersome. Every Monday night, files would transfer from my husband’s computer to my external hard drive, and then things would be backed up online by Mozy. I also had a backup job transfer the music library from his external hard drive and equalize it with my external hard drive as a back up as well, and the job to back up the blog files. All told, between SyncBack and Mozy, there were fourteen backup jobs running around. Argh.

I decided to make it simple. We extended the Mozy account to add the second computer, and his files are backed up without my having to move anything. That alone eliminated seven of the SyncBack jobs. I enabled the feature of Mozy to make a shadow backup on my external, knocking out five more SyncBack jobs.

There are two SyncBack jobs: one for the blog, and the one that equalizes music.

A Note About Transferring To A New Computer

Since my husband does not go through software like I do, I used the built-in transfer function to move files from the old to the new computers. It was relatively painless and moved things rather quickly.

If you have a situation like that, using the built in functionality can save you from pulling your hair out. My transfer, moving files manually and reinstalling all my software, took about 10 hours. His computer was set up in two. And he had way more files (size-wise) than me.

I am loving my new laptop, and I am loving that it is clean and running smoothly. Do you have any tips for simplifying your computer? Share below.

Photo by Pink Sherbet Photography