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As we’ve all come to realize, technology moves at a rapid pace. More intensive programs need faster computers to operate properly, and faster computers can then run more demanding programs. It becomes an endless loop between hardware and software upgrades. But as we speak – today – I see a bit of a lull in the ongoing march. Microsoft is not about to introduce a new operating system for the PC or the next generation of Office products (although both are in the loop.) Likewise, hardware speed improvements are coming at an evolutionary, not revolutionary pace. The biggest focus now seems to be on mobile devices. So while we have this break in the action, it may be a good time to upgrade your existing hardware without worrying about operating system or software upgrades. The existing programs you’re running now will function more efficiently on a new machine. If you are still using a Pentium II computer or an early Pentium III machine running Windows 2000 or earlier, you are a prime candidate for an upgrade. For less than $1,000, you can purchase a workhorse machine that can be a central part of your law practice beyond the next round of operating system and software upgrades. A recommended system would include a Pentium 4 processor running at 3.20 GHz, 1 GB, 400 MHZ DDR2 memory, a 160 GB SATA hard drive running at 7200 RPM, along with a DVD-RW drive. But one of the biggest obstacles of upgrading, particularly if you are in a solo practice or small firm without much of a network or IT support, is transferring all of your settings, program patches, files and other customizations from one machine to another. Fortunately, there are advanced methods for doing just this. In Windows XP, the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard helps you move programs and computer settings from one PC to another, while keeping much of the look and feel of your old machine. This program can be found by going to Start All Programs Accessories System Tools Files and Settings Transfer Wizard. The function works best by having your old and new machines networked together, or by having a large storage device – such as an external hard drive – contain the information. The wizard will ask you various questions regarding whether you want to transfer files and settings, or just settings. It will also alert you to programs that may not transfer properly, or programs that may have to be first set up on your new machine. If you chose to use either a network drive or an external storage device to copy your information, you would then repeat this process on the new machine. Instead of transferring to a device, though, you would transfer from that device. Depending upon how loaded your old machine is, this can take a little while to process, but can be accomplished in less than an hour. A number of varying migration scenarios, along with detailed instructions for the transfer process, can be found on the Microsoft Web site. Of course, if you have an older computer you may not have Windows XP, but you can still run the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard from a Windows XP CD-ROM if your old machine is on a previous operating system. To do this, put in the Windows XP CD that came with your new system. When the Welcome screen shows up, choose “Perform Additional Tasks,” and then choose “Transfer Files and Settings.” The program will then operate as previously stated. But just like any of the built-in features of Windows, there are also third-party software vendors who believe they can do the process better than Microsoft. One such product is Alohabob’s PC Relocator ($69.99), which promises to transfer all programs, settings, files and preferences to a new computer, but block any potentially harmful programs, such as spyware or viruses, that may have infiltrated your old machine and caused it to slow down. A benefit of this program is that it also includes a parallel transfer cable in the box version, so that both machines can be connected without a network or external drive and will work with Windows 95 or higher. Other programs, such as Computer Associates Desktop DNA Professional 4.7 ($39-$59, depending on type of cable needed) or Intellimover 3.63 by Detto Technologies ($49.95) can provide similar services. Even if you are not switching to a new computer, these programs can provide another method of backup should a computer disaster occur, although they should not be your primary backup source. But despite the simplification of the migration process, I still recommend doing things the old-school way: By manually copying the files you need and installing the programs you need on your new machine. Why spend $50 or so buying old software, spending time to get two machines to talk to each other, and then a couple of hours to process and confirm all of the data transfer? You can just as easily do all of that manually with just a little bit more time, but possibly less aggravation. A new machine is a way to start fresh. You probably don’t need all of those old files, old settings, pictures, jokes, outdated Web links and free utilities that you tried but never purchased. Many people switch to a new machine not because the hardware has failed on the old one, but because the software has become too corrupted. Copying problems from your old machine to your new one is not the best way to get the most out of your new purchase. So take a half-day, copy only what you need from your old machine and set up your new machine in an efficient manner. This way you’ll be ready to go once the next wave of software/operating system upgrades comes flooding in. BRIAN R. HARRIS is the database administrator for the American Lawyer Media-Pennsylvania division and the former editor-in-chief ofThe Legal Intelligencer . Harris can be contacted at [email protected].

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