Coming to you live from Windows 7!

I realize how anticlimactic this sounds, with Windows 8 hype in full swing, but I’ve just gone live on my new Windows 7 PC. It was a tough slog to get there.

It’s been over two weeks since I finished the build, as documented in this post. That was the easy part. Getting the applications and data copied over was no picnic. It went smoothly for the most part, but took a lot of careful planning.

I started by going through all of the programs I had installed on the XP machine. I needed to weed out the stuff that I hadn’t used in forever, and the programs that would never work right on Windows 7. Some of these were utilities I had downloaded from PC Magazine back in the Stone Age. They were useful once, but most of their functionality has either been added to Windows or can be found in current utility programs.

Years ago I used a backup program from StompSoft called BackupMyPC. I still had some old backup images that I wanted to preserve, so instead of trying to get the Stomp program to install on Windows 7, I ran it on my XP system to restore the old images, then packed them into zip files. So now I’ve freed those old saves from the clutches of an obsolete program.

Once I got my software list pared down to a few dozen crucial items, it was time to kill trees.

I created a migration checklist with each of the programs I needed to reinstall. I also had to make print screens of all nine of my e-mail account definitions in Outlook, since those would have to be manually re-entered. For downloaded software, I had to search though my e-mail archives to get license keys. I found everything I needed. Sometimes it pays to be anal retentive.

Then it was several days of switching back and forth between the new and old PCs to install all the non-critical stuff, saving my everyday applications like Outlook and Quicken for last. Finally, by today, I was ready for the final push.

I used Macrium Reflect to create an image backup of my XP system. One of the things I really like about this backup program is that it allows you to mount a backup image as a drive in Windows Explorer, so I was able to copy my documents and databases onto the new system by clicking and dragging. (I was impressed enough with the trial version that I’m coughing up the $60 to license the Professional version of Reflect for my new box.) In case I discover months from now that I missed something I need, I can go back to that image archive on my backup drive to recover it.

Once the image was saved and verified, it was time to shut down the XP system and move the video and sound cards over.

Both the Radeon HD 5850 graphics card and the Sound Blaster X-Fi Elite Pro audio card have some useful life left in them. Newer video cards smoke the 5850, of course, but it’s more than enough for the few PC games I play. (I have a PlayStation 3 for “serious” gaming.) And while the X-Fi cards are no longer sold, Creative still supports them and has Windows 7/8 drivers available for download.

Unfortunately, both the video and sound cards require their own power leads. You can also see the beige USB adapter I’ve added to give myself a few more USB 2.0 ports. So now I have an even bigger cluster of cables in this thing. And even if I did go to the trouble of routing all the cables neatly, I’d be guaranteeing that something would fail and I’d have to tear it all apart to get at it. So I guess I’m just destined not to have pretty innards on my PCs.

Here is the migration spreadsheet with my notes. This is actually the sixth or seventh revision of the sheet, and you can see I still have a few items pending. But it’s all minor stuff. The system is up and functional, and I’m writing this post on it. It runs nice and fast, and is absolutely silent – not a whisper of fan noise.

So now, after all this effort, I’m the proud owner of a system that is only three years out-of-date instead of twelve. Progress!

The Wizard’s latest build (Windows 7 edition)