Doing Some Computer Shopping? Here’s the game plan for updating and installing your software.

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So, you’ve decided to take your computer experience to the next level. You’ve researched, scoured the top sales websites, and located the optimal “bang for the buck” solution. That’s fantastic!

You must now perform the arduous process of setting up and bringing your brand-new computer to life. You’ll need to give your new computer a proper moniker, teach it how to navigate your local area network, determine which of the many pre-installed programs you intend to maintain and use, and finally get things like printing and email back up and running. The applications you were running on your old computer still need your attention. There is some stuff for you to do.

You may be astonished to learn that backing up your old hard disk and restoring it to your new computer won’t be enough to move all of your apps across. That’s just not how things function. Another possible shocker is that some of the software you used in Windows XP may need to be updated to operate with Windows 7. You probably upgraded from a 32-bit to a 64-bit operating system when you got a new computer. It would be best to be picky about the programs you put on your new computer to get the most out of all that extra processing power. The same applies to all drivers and utilities you’ll need to make your printer and other devices function.

You could start with, “What programs do I have, which versions, and what serial numbers will I need to register them again? Where is this required?” Belarc Advisor, found at belarc.com, can help you with this. Visit the page, hunt down the free download, download it, and launch it. It will generate a detailed report on your computer’s configuration, including the programs installed and their respective license keys. How to use this information is worthy of its article, but for now, know it provides you with all you need to move forward. Those Microsoft Office product keys will come in handy later on.

Knowing what software you previously installed will be a reference point when deciding what to transfer to the new machine. Because of this, you may be able to streamline your computer setup in ways you hadn’t considered before. This activity aims to narrow down your options for software installation by identifying those that will be used, those that will require serial numbers or updates, and those that are superfluous. We’ll go into how to use Ninite, a fantastic web app, to obtain Adobe Reader, Flash, JAVA, and similar products without spending a dime in a bit.

Let’s do these steps at our own pace. We’ll start with printers and email because they’re the best examples of a category where downloading is preferable to installing from a CD. Then, we’ll discuss disc-based software you may already own, such as Microsoft Office, where skipping the upgrade can save you money. The above-mentioned no-cost setups will be discussed last.

Suppose you have a well-known printer brand like HP, Brother, or Epson. In that case, you may get the latest driver by visiting the manufacturer’s website (often support dot manufacturer name dot com – for example, support.hp.com). Ensure you acquire the right operating system for your new computer, probably Windows 7 – 64 bit.

As for email, that’s more of an “it depends” scenario. If you use an online email service like Gmail, Yahoo, or AOL, your requirements are minimal. It’s up to you if you want to install the AOL client. You can keep using the website you used before to access the other services. If you’re an AOL user, you could switch email providers now or download the latest version of AOL and set it up on your new computer. If you can’t find an online provider that meets your specific requirements for email, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Since setting up your email is outside the scope of this piece, you’ll need to consult your service’s documentation or support staff for help.

Download the most recent version of your email client software, whether it’s the free Mozilla Thunderbird, the paid Microsoft Office Outlook (both included in the MS Office suite), or another program entirely. You’ll need your license key for Microsoft Office, and you can get that with the serial number from Belarc Advisor. You should think about upgrading to the newest version of Microsoft Office now that you have a brand-new computer. The software for your printers and email clients may usually be downloaded directly from the manufacturers’ websites.

You may need to access disc-based software on your new PC. Before blindly loading and installing from CD, you should check for updates or compatibility. Although new Windows 7 PCs are compatible with 32-bit software, it is recommended that you upgrade as soon as possible. Simply insert the CD and launch the installation; you know how to do this. You should know that your new computer has two different locations for software files. There is a “Program Files” directory and a “Program Files (x86)” directory. You probably guessed correctly that the first stores the more recent programs while the second stores the older 32-bit applications. You never know when knowing the location of these things will come in handy.

You should be all set now that your printers, email, and ancient software are functional, right? When you fire up one of your old data-containing programs, you’ll realize you’re probably not done here. You must copy over some folders from your old hard disk to replace the ones you lost. The files you need are probably stored in one or more subfolders of the Application Data directory on your old HDD. Word, for instance, may store auto-text data, and Outlook, among other things, may record your emails, contacts, and calendar from the past. The Application Data folder could be copied to the new hard drive, and subfolders could be imported individually.

You may get all the free items you use, like Adobe Reader, Flash, JAVA, etc., by visiting a website. If you wish to install multiple programs simultaneously, visit Ninite.com and click on each one. Get the Ninite installer from their website and let the program handle the installation process. Keep that tiny installer file; you can use it to reinstall the programs you selected later with the most recent versions. There will be no further explanation beyond what may be found on the Ninite website. Suppose your new computer already has anti-virus software installed. In that case, it is recommended that you do not install any other anti-virus software until you have thoroughly investigated the possibility of a conflict.

You must provide severe thought and planning to transfer your programs. You can encounter a few snags, so it’s essential to have your previous data files handy. You may also require serial numbers or CD keys if you intend to reinstall your software from the disc. It would be best if you also prepared to set up printers and email accounts and install programs. Belarc and Ninite are free websites where you can obtain valuable tools to aid with preparation and implementation. Now that you have this information and have given it careful thought, you are prepared to take on this challenge. The time required to set up a new computer might range from two hours to a full day, depending on its specifications. With careful preparation and execution, you can get your new computer up and running with all your programs and enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done.

Brian Rouley has provided caring support to computer users for nearly three decades. He has written many articles about efficient computer use and is currently the vice president of operations at Rouzell Enterprises, Inc. You can get more information about Rouzell at Rouzell dot com. Brian also works as a computer instructor, either in a formal classroom environment or as a private tutor in his students’ homes.

Support for computer users of all skill levels is available in the Coachella Valley thanks to Rouzell Enterprises, Inc., a California corporation operating under MouseHelp.

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