Jewish World Review Nov. 8, 2002 / 3 Kislev 5763

Upgrade with a plan

By Mark Kellner | The holidays are already around the corner --- is a new computer on your gift list?

I was just blessed with a new arrival, and it's becoming part of the landscape here at "On Computers Central." But unlike previous upgrades, I'm finding some differences - and the need for a plan.

The move is from one version of Apple Computer's iMac - with a 15-inch screen and a 700 MHz processor - to the larger, 17-inch display unit, which sports an 800 MHz processor. Not the biggest of upgrades (though the screen is much nicer), but an upgrade nonetheless.

The other iMac has about six months' worth of work on it, not to mention a raft of programs and doo-dads I'd rather not part with. How best to make the move, and more important, how to make the move a success? Some strategies have emerged in the past few days, and they can apply to both Windows and Mac computers.

First, start in parallel, if you can. The older iMac is in one corner of my desk; the new iMac is in another. (Apple kindly has let me hang on to both while the transfer is going on.) If I can't find something on the new computer, or want to compare the new with the old, the old is available to me. It's also a good backup just in case the new system hiccups somehow.

Second, try to tie things together: Because I have a home network set up, I can connect the two via Ethernet cables and a wireless router/network hub that also supports Ethernet connections. In turn, this means I can access each machine's hard drive on the other computer - that's good for transferring files and programs. If you have your old and new computers, either a direct Ethernet connection (using a crossover network cable, perhaps) or connecting via serial port or Universal System Bus (USB) cables might do the trick.

When using a USB connection, however, be sure you find a cable which will support a computer-to-computer hookup; on the Windows side, such cables can be ordered along with LapLink Gold software, which can be used to network two computers without going through an Ethernet setup. More information on LapLink software and cables can be found at

Third, take it step-by-step. "Rome wasn't burned in a bay," the wife of a friend once said, and while that's not the original phrase, you get the idea. It's best to transfer one program over, make sure it works, and then add another.

This makes for easier troubleshooting, as well as providing the opportunity to move just the things you really need and use, as opposed to all the stuff one might have installed "just in case." Having a new computer with a larger hard drive doesn't mean, of course, that you need to fill that hard drive in one day!

Fourth, be ready for problems. I've had some annoying ones - involving e-mail and access to files (I can't seem to easily attach documents and other files to outgoing e-mail; what was a one-step process is now two or three steps) - and I'm waiting for answers from the software vendors involved. Meanwhile (see step one), my old computer stands ready for use in a pinch.

The moral here is that problems will happen, even in the best of circumstances. A good way to handle this is to expect difficulties and have contingency plans.

Fifth, read up before making a move. If you're going from Macintosh to Windows (or vice versa), there are steps you can take to make the switch easier. Reading the user manuals for the operating systems, or an introductory handbook (such as Windows XP for Dummies from HungryMinds (stet) or Mac OS X: The Missing Manual Second Editionfrom O'Reilly), can make for a smoother transfer.

Also good reading are Internet newsgroups and publications specific to your computer choice, such as PC Magazine or Macworld; each has online editions. With Internet newsgroups, you can also post questions and get answers from others who may have been there.

Most important, keep a diary. As you upgrade, note what you did, what worked and what didn't - so that you can solve problems now and avoid complications the next time - and trust me, it will happen - that you upgrade again.

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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.

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