Gee, This Looks Easy (Calling All Computer Folks!)

As some of you might recall, one of my Christmas campaign promises to my staff was to finally upgrade the computers around here. You might also recall that we aren’t exactly computer savvy, if only through watching my own pathetic struggles here on the MB.

After three months of shopping around and struggling with things we couldn’t hope to understand, I just inked the deal today for delivery of a dozen gigantic new IBM machines that I’m told will be the envy of the local homeless people inside of a year.

I was just about to sit back and cross another milestone off the list when my damned secretary (ever the pain in the ass pragmatist) asked, “How do we get all the stuff out of the old computers and into the new ones?”

I’ll be damned if I know.

Dr. Watson
(The Artist formerly known as Crick&Watson)

What the hell.

Start fresh.

Dr. Watson,

This is the time when we stop all computer geek jokes and find one to set it all up. After he or she leaves, then we start back up again. Without the geeks, our view of daunting computer questions like yours is akin to the attitude of the apes gawking at the black monolith in 2001, A Space Odyssey.

…send lawyers, guns, and money…

       Warren Zevon

We just did this at work. We just used Windows backup feature to backup computer1 to empty space on computer2’s drive and then restored to computer3 from computer2. I’m sure there are better ways, but this seems to have worked OK.

I’d love to start fresh Wally, but I’ve been doing a bit too much of that lately, if you know what I mean, and I doubt the folks on the receivables side of Accounts Receivable would understand. It’s tempting as hell though . . .

And don’t ye be poisoning the waters there Bluepony. Unlike some of us, I’ve refrained from the ‘geek’ jokes, if only because I’m woefully ignorant about this stuff, and need them to rescue my pink ass from time to time.

Dr. Watson
“I have nothing to say, I am saying it, and that is poetry.” – John Cage

Are you by chance connected on a network?

you would have to back it all up with zip disks or burners…after that…you just go about reinstalling all the databases and proggies like nothing happened…simple as pie

techchick68 sez:

If you’re not, you should seriously consider rectifying that. If you are trying to run a business, and you use multiple systems, you should think on setting up a lil peer-to-peer LAN. This would make data swapping and sharing and stuff a given. And, if you get a wee server, you wouldn’t have to worry about it at all, as you could share data from eat a lot faster.
Of course, that’s just my informed opinion, I could be wrong.

“Winners never quit and quitters never win, but those who never win and never quit are idiots.”

Well, hell, you have floppies, dontcha? Geez, just copy one file at a time and put it on the new computer.
Ok, so that’s time consuming and not altogether feasible. Network Idea’s probably the beast, followed by the backup, then by the 1->2->3.

I sold my soul to Satan for a dollar. I got it in the mail.

Buy a cute little program called Retrospect from a company named Dantz.

Back up any drive to any medium, removable or otherwise, single or multiple. (Well, OK, not a drive inside the old computers!) Save catalog of what you backed up anywhere, including a floppy (a few hundred K).

Remove old computers, drives and all.

Install Retrospect again on new computer drive. Restore from backup. (If you are restoring a Windows PC, restore the Windows directory separately and carefully copy individual files that do not otherwise exist in the new computer’s Windows directory into it, restart, and see if it runs.).

Disable Similes in this Post

techchick - Right now I’m operating on a pot-luck supper of machines that have been assembled without rhyme or reason. The best of the lot might be the old Compaq ProLinea 4/50 I’m working at right now. We even have an Epson Equity 1+ that we use for specifications. (Which is to say, my promise to upgrade was basically a survival tactic, since my folks were going to kill me soon anyway.)

The fella from IBM says he can network all these new machines, but Wally might be closest to the truth, since I’m not sure that all the info we have can even be formatted to the new computers. Most of the important stuff is at least in Windows 95, but it’s so scattered that I’ll be happy just to transfer it to the new machines and sort out the integration later.

Dr. Watson
“Nearly illiterate, but undaunted.”

Gads! Slow down! Yer postin’ faster than I can read!

Lex – It seems like the LAN is in my immediate future, whether I understand it or not, but slow it down to idiot speed for me, huh? (We make buildings, and the computers are not yet our friends. In fact, most folks around here are lookin’ forward to the ‘Computer Smashing Party’ we’ve planned for the old beasts once the new beasts arrive.)

I’m intrigued by the ‘wee server’ thought. What do I gain (and spend), considering that we don’t really share much data internally except across my own platform. (For example, the designer types ain’t interested in the Project Management numbers, and the Project Managers couldn’t care a fig about the CAD data.)

Dr. Watson
“Barn’s burnt down – Now I can see the moon.”

At my old place of business, we had many ways to transfer the data. One is a program called LapLink, which is probably your best choice. Very fast. If you don’t have a network, it comes with a cable that’ll let you hook together parallel or serial ports on the two PCs. The LapLink program will transfer EVERY file on the old PC to the new one, without copying over files that already exist, like the newer machine’s Windows system files and the like. Very neat.

There was another program called DriveCopy, by PowerQuest. Put both drives in one machine and run PQDC. It makes a perfect image of one drive on the other. Drawbacks: it’s more handy when upgrading to a bigger drive than to a new computer, cuz you’ll wipe out all the goodies that come with your new machine. Also, last I heard, PQDC didn’t do FAT32. Beyond that, handy program, and also very fast. But, not the best tool for your needs.

If you’re just gonna junk the old PCs, another option is to slave the old drives in the new computers. Your people will have to get used to having a C: and a D: drive, but they’ll get the hang of it, and there’s no chance of losing data.

LapLink is your best bet. Check it out and let us know what you decide.

This post brought to you by the US Department of Overprotective Paternalism.

If IBM says that they can/will help you, listen to them. Do not believe a word they say, but listen to them.

My company is one of the outfits that IBM uses to implement their promises. What we find is that they often come up with a valid project that has attainable goals, but that the IBM rep has oversold what the customer needs (and then they sell us at higher rates than we charge, adding a bit of “administrative overhead” for themselves).

If you are running a hodge-podge of software on a motley cluster of machines, you need to invest in a genuine, knowledgable human being to make sure the new toys work together. My suggestion for that would be to have IBM make recommendations for several support agencies, then you interview the stuffings out of them. (Since you need competence and ethics, you can pretty much ignore anyone associated with the Big 6 accounting firms or people that have Zodiac symbols in their hyphenated names.)

You have to go to a network; anything else is just a faster hodgepodge. (Once you are running a LAN or some sort of network, you can start taking area-wide backups so that the next (inevitable) upgrade can be co-ordinated more easily.)

Of course, once you have a network, security becomes an issue in a way that you have never had to think of it before. Make sure that whoever does your work can actually install and maintain geeky things such as firewalls.

The engineering and administrative stuff can be kept separate on either physical or logical servers. For future consideration, however, begin thinking of how much of what sort of stuff you would want to be made available to the outside through a web site. E-commerce is the next “thing,” and while there is a lot of silly hype in this current phase, you may want to consider that a method to allow customers to share specs and current expenditures in real time could be a true selling point for future sales. (Of course, that makes your current security issues look like a bike padlock.)

The point is not that you want to do anything at this very moment (other than improving your individual work stations). However, when you go to find someone to do this set of tasks, you don’t want them building little tiny pockets of work that will have to be completely rebuilt to expand your system in the future.


You could get a decent micro server for about 1300-1500 bucks.
Whenever you change systems, you can load any applications and shared files from it, and it would be really easy. It would be like having your own little internet.
All your systems would have their own independant programs and such, but access to the info on the server, and/or on all the other systems.
Since you say there are different depts. and such, I think the server/client setup would be best, instead of peer-to-peer.
Think of it this way: all your employees are at restaurant, and you’re buying. They all have their own plates and silverware, and you want the cheapest, easiest and fastest way to get them all what they want to eat, all at once. So you buy them all a buffet ticket, right?
Same thing with the client/server setup. The systems at the people’s desks are the clients (plates) and can get whatever they want on them whenever they want from the server (buffet) and even put stuff back (this is where the analogy fails. :)) if they want to (and if you set it up that way) so that others can benefit from it.
I hope that helped.
As I said in the pit, it’s usually me saying “huh?” to your responses, not the other way around. So I am glad that I can help! :smiley:

Doc, you also might want to get whovever does your upgrade to look over the info that EnigmaOne presented, here:


He speaks sooth. I’d second his recommendation to find a reliable local consulting firm that specializes in supporting small businesses like yours – you’re probably not to the point yet where you feel like hiring a full time Computer Deity, and it’s too easy for bullshit artists to snow the non-technical, take their money, and run. Get multiple references for anybody you think you might hire. Once you do get on a LAN, though, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it.

A cubicle is just a padded cell without a door.

Lordy, I feel like Newton newly beaned (sorry about that, but it was just too easy).

MaxTorque - I just woke up the IBM sales rep (there’s still something to be said in favor of being the fella with the checkbook), and asked him about the LapLink idea. He said, and I quote, “Yeah, that’ll work.” Then he hung up on me. I’m guessing he isn’t worrying about his fee as much as he’s worrying that I’m going to be a pain in his ass.

tomndebb - Oh sure Tom, I’m just about gettin’ this damned ice-cream stand up to 14 flavors, and ye go and make me obsolete right out of the gate . . . (Insert Smilie Here) Thanks much for the security considerations, especially since I’m expanding into markets this year that will require direct computer contact with clients. I hadn’t considered a web-site at this point, but I think your point is well taken – sooner or later it will be inevitable.

Lex - I think I understand, and at the cost you mentioned for a ‘Micro-server’ it almost seems stupid not to set one up, given the scope of things. Additional questions though – (a.) Given that the lot of us are a bit busy, and that we consider our computers to be no better or worse tools than our hammers or drafting tables, do you think that adding yet another level of sophistication is something that normal folks can handle without adding a staff member? And, (b.) Appreciating, as I do, the advantages of all of this open information sharing vis-a-vis the Constitutional Rights of my employees, does this cool little mini-internet thing have a feature that allows me to prevent them from looking in on my internal bookkeeping?

I mean, I try to be a good boss, but it just won’t do to give the inmates the keys to the front gates. Eh?

Dr. Watson
“I saw somebody peeing in Jermyn Street the other day. I thought, is this the end of civilization as we know it? Or is it simply somebody peeing in Jermyn Street?” – Alan Bennett


Looking at your last post, much of what you ask is do-able, given the right flesh and blood minion to do your bidding. It doesn’t sound like the IBM rep is really tuned into your needs.

As well, you might already have a competent person on staff to administer a peer-to-peer network for you on a day to day basis.

You can secure the information that you wish to keep under wraps, financials, personnel info, etc. It’s easier and more secure on a server–given certain provisos–but it’s also a bit more expensive. On a peer-to-peer network, it’s a bit tougher to do, and security is problematic–the trade-off being lower initial cost.

MaxTorque made an excellent suggestion in harvesting the hard drives from your old equipment and installing then into the incoming machines. You’ll be able to migrate your data files over to the new C: drives, but Win95 really should be removed from those drives first!

I’ll check my books and see if there’s anyone out your way that is possessed of good credentials, and comes well recommended.

“If ignorance is bliss, you must be orgasmic.”
“Well, there was that thing with the Cheese-Wiz…but I’m feeling much better now!” – John Astin, Night Court

I have to add to the list of people saying hire someone who knows what he’s doing and get it all set up properly.

If you’re in a typical office with a suspended ceiling and hollow interior walls, having the entire place wired for a network for 12 computers will only cost you a thousand bucks or so. Have all the wires terminate in your phone closet or a room where you might install a server in the future. For now, you can buy a $200 hub and connect all the machines together peer-to-peer using Windows 98 networking. If you want to put all your desktop machines on the internet, buy a server machine and get someone to install Windows NT Small Business Server. It’s designed to be operated by a non-technical person, and includes everything you need for a first-class network, including a firewall, SQL server database, Exchange E-mail server, etc. I think NT SBS is around $2000, and the computer to run it starts at about the same price. You can also install a good tape backup unit on the server and do automated backups of your critical data.

Your hire-a-geek should be able to easily migrate your current data to the new machines.

I did a small job for a business last year - I installed a server machine, a cable modem on the server, installed all cable (properly, using high quality wall plates and connectors in each office), set up each client machine to have their own E-mail and web connections, etc. The entire cost was somewhere around $5,000 for labor and networking hardware and software (not including the cost of the PC’s themselves).

A good consultant will not only migrate all your old data, but he will set up some other infrastructure that’s probably lacking in your business right now, such as a decent backup strategy.