Tech Refresh Tips

woman-with-smartphone-and-icons-image-from-shutterstockTech Refresh Tips: a reader asks…

Hi Chris, I’m a small business owner (one person shop) and I think it’s time to refresh my technology, can you give me some pointers? I currently have a Lenovo laptop with Windows XP, am using MS Office 2010, have an old iPad and iPhone. I use Outlook a lot and hate the 2013 version, so I’d like to stick with Outlook 2010 for as long as possible. And I have a website, but haven’t done anything with it in years. Any suggestions for all of the above?

patch-tuesday-graphic-from-verismicblog.comIt’s definitely time to update your main computer, if it’s running Windows XP then you aren’t getting any security updates to your operating system. Microsoft ended all product support for Windows XP about a year ago, and mainstream product support six years ago. I would guess your laptop is at least four or five years old, and may not be capable of being upgraded to Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1. At the least, your hard drive is at or near the end of its service life, so before you do anything else, you should get an external hard drive (like the popular WD My Passport, here’s one for $65 at Amazon.com), and copy all your personal folders and files over from the internal hard drive onto the external hard drive. Briefly,

  1. Open two Windows Explorer windows, place one on the right, looking at the My Passport drive, and place the other one on the left, looking at your user account folders.
  2. Click-and-hold, then drag each folder in turn from the left window onto the white space of the right window and let go the mouse button. That will copy all your personal files.
  3. For Outlook, you may have to run Outlook and use the menu to open a folder to your data file so you can (after closing Outlook), drag a copy of your .pst file into the My Passport window.

If you’ve been creative in saving files in different locations, then you may have to hunt around in Windows Explorer to find everything. Don’t worry about program or printer installations, you’ll install those fresh on a new computer.

lenovo-thinkpad-t-series-laptop-image-from-lenovodotcomNow you need to buy a new computer. I have some buying advice here. If you’ve been happy with the Lenovo brand, you can go to www.lenovo.com and use their online configurator to outfit a new laptop. Lenovo has an amazing array of models and many configurations of each model, if you just want a solid business-class laptop and don’t care about fancy touchscreens or convertible tablets, then you may want to take a look at the Thinkpad T or W series. I’ll leave screen size up to your personal preference, but I’d highly recommend you outfit your new laptop with a solid-state hard drive with as much capacity as you think you’ll need, likely between 256 and 512 gigabytes. You should be able to outfit your new laptop for under $1,500. Likely it will have Windows 8.1 on it, which may take some getting used to. But don’t get too used to it, Windows 10 will be out likely in a few months, and I’ll go out on a limb to suggest you take the free upgrade asap.

windows-10-start-button
Windows 10’s new Start Button, similar to Windows 7 with some Windows 8.1 flavor added

You may be able to purchase a new laptop with Windows 7 on it instead of Windows 8.1. If you’ll take my advice on upgrading to Windows 10 at the first opportunity, then this option may be a little easier for your learning curve. Windows 7 is a lot like Windows XP, and Windows 8/8.1 is a lot different. Windows 10 is going to be a change from any, so it’ll be easier for you to only have to swat up the Windows 10 style of working rather than first learning Windows 8.1 and then also learning Windows 10.

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Once you have your new laptop, I’d suggest you set it up properly, I have a handy guide here. You probably won’t need your printer’s installation disk, Windows 8.1 is pretty good about supporting most printers on its own. You didn’t mention needing a new printer, but if you are looking for something to support a small business, you may want to take a look at Hewlett-Packard’s HP Laserjet Pro line, they have great multi-function devices from $200-$700 US both black&white and color printing are available.

If you already own a license key to Microsoft Office (and have that all-important license, a 26-character ‘product key’), then you can install Office from your disks or download it from Microsoft (US download link here). Otherwise, you can buy Office 2010 from Best Buy, Staples, or online (either the disk version or the product key version and download the installation file). Just be aware that mainstream support for Office 2010 ends October 2015, and all support 5 years later. At some point you’ll have to upgrade to the current version (2013 as of this writing). Microsoft now offers a subscription model for purchasing Office software. A subscription (Office 365) charges you a smaller fee each year, but you’re always assured of having the latest version of Office.

Microsoft-Outlook-2010-logoI don’t know what you’ve been using with Outlook, but a web-based email service would be a worthwhile upgrade from an old POP email account, especially if you want to share your contacts, calendar, email, etc. across multiple computers/devices. Outlook.com is one free alternative, although a good Microsoft Exchange service (such as Exchange 2013 from Sherweb.com for $8-13 US per month) would be a worthwhile investment.

If you already have a web presence that’s not been redesigned in a few years, then you may want to look at refreshing your online persona. A lot of small businesses turn to WordPress to power their websites – it’s fairly easy to install, configure and use (by yourself), and there are tons of templates you can use for a professional appearance, many are free. Check out this article for more info.

iphone6-ipad-air2-image-from-appledotcomYou mention an older iPad and an iPhone. If they do the job for you, there’s really no need to upgrade. But if they’re really old, then you might want to replace them with the current models (iPad 4 and iPhone 6) – you’ll get the benefit of being able to run the latest apps and have the latest functionality. For apps, you’ll probably want some cloud-based file storage solution (Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, etc.), and you might want to give the new Outlook app a try, or just use the built-in mail, calendar and contacts apps. I’d also suggest a good password manager (read about that here). Your new iPad & iPhone will have a built-in fingerprint reader, which makes it very easy to protect access, and I’ve found Apple Pay to be really useful (especially if you shop at Whole Foods!). And lastly, don’t forget about updating your security practices, I have a great checklist here.

That about covers tips on your situation as you’ve described it. Feel free to leave a comment or ask a follow-on question and I can offer you more or more specific advice.

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