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Issue #601: January 27 – February 2, 2019

Q: Please provide me a check list of steps to activate my new Dell Windows 10 laptop just received for Christmas. I would like to transfer all data from my ten year old Toshiba with Windows 7 without losing anything personal or necessary to the change over. The box store that sold me the computer will do it for $$. Do you think this is necessary, or can you help a computer illiterate old fart make it happen?

Thanks, and if you can send me a website or personal checklist, I would like to get this thing going as soon as I can. I don’t think need to take your time in answering anything technical at this time.

– Name and City Withheld by Request

A: There are multiple aspects of preparation for a new PC, many of which you may not be considering.  Individual steps for doing any one of these could probably span an entire issue of this column and be continued in the next one. Fortunately, all of this information is also pretty easily accessible by doing Google searches on such terms as “Set up a new computer,” “How do I transfer files from my old computer”.  I’ll cover the basics here, but as far as a step-by-step checklist, I’d encourage you to do a little research if you need something that comprehensive.  If you doubt that your abilities are up to the task, ask yourself whether it would be more worthwhile to simply roll the cost of the file transfer service into the cost of the new computer.  You’ll only need to do this once, and if you think of it spread out over the life of the new computer, it’s probably a small price to pay for the peace of mind.

Assuming you want to try it yourself, first things first.  When you unbox and turn on a brand new machine, Windows will take you through all the initial setup steps.  This will get you on the Internet, establish your user account, and activate your copy of Windows, and perhaps other software that came with the machine.  This is a guided process, so there’s not much I can advise you on – just follow the prompts.  Don’t rush, and read everything carefully.

Next, remove unwanted bloatware that came with the computer.  This isn’t absolutely necessary, but the stuff does occupy space, and can be easily uninstalled if you won’t ever run it.  See the machine’s Start menu, or the Control Panel’s “Programs and Features” applet to see what came on your machine.

Now you’re ready to copy over your file archives.  Hopefully you know where you’ve been storing everything on your old machine, and perhaps you protect yourself with regular backups anyway.  Chances are that all your personal files are located below C:\Users\<name>\ in various directories such as \Documents\ and \Pictures\.  There are dozens of potential ways to get these files onto the new machine, including copying to flash drive or removable media, accessing one computer’s hard drive from the other via the network, or my favorite, installing the old computer’s hard drive in the new computer as a secondary drive.  The one you choose is up to you, and as usual, you can get detailed instructions by doing a web search.

Before you consider yourself done with computer preps, don’t forget to give some thought to your old machine.  If you left the hard drive behind in the old machine, you’ve also left all the files and remnants of deleted files, including all the personal information they contain.  To best protect yourself, you should take steps to eradicate this data before the machine passes out of your control.  I’ve covered these procedures in the column before, as recently as just a few weeks ago (Geek Note: I.G.T.M. #595, December 16-22, 2018).  Check it out in the archives on my website for more information.

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