Mesh, SkyDrive, and Cloud-Based Synchronization!

**Writer’s note: This article was planned and blocked a week before it was written; in the meantime when I mentioned on either Twitter or Facebook that the article was being written, I received a number of requests to include other (that is, non-Microsoft) offerings.  Because I have not had the time to test those offerings I cannot do so in time for this article.  However my credibility and integrity is not based on my knowledge of Microsoft but of IT, so I will make this commitment to look into other similar services in the coming weeks, and write a follow-up article comparing and contrasting the offerings.  If there is a particular service that you would like to see covered in that article please leave me a comment and I will do my best.  I should mention that for the purpose of this series I will only be covering free services; I have written previously about a paid cloud-backup solution that I am partial to (eFolder) and will gladly compare other such services… but for these articles I will only compare ‘oranges to oranges.’

How many computers does one person need?  Until recently I thought the simple answer was one.  At any time if I bought a new computer I would sell my old one (to this day I regret selling my Acer Ferrari).  I won’t go into the reasons I need multiple laptops now, but thinking about it objectively I know a lot of people with multiple computers, or in the least who need (or would like access to) their documents and files in multiple locations.  This is especially true of people with desktop computers (either at work or home) who travel.  Where should your files sit?

I don’t have a desktop – I travel far too often and while on the ground it can be easy enough to connect to either a corporate file server or a cloud-based solution, airborne Internet access is still in its infancy, expensive, unreliable, and for the foreseeable future is not something that Air Canada seems to be rushing to implement.  In short?  My files have to be with me at all times.  Of course, I have two laptops that I travel with, and need to be able to work from both without missing a beat.  I have an external hard drive, but owing to security concerns it is protected using BitLocker to Go which means that while I am running Windows I have no problems, but when I am working in Mac OS X I am out of luck.  What I could do, of course, is first boot into Windows, copy the files I need onto my internal hard drive, then reboot into OS X; of course when I was done I would have to remember to boot back into Windows and copy any files I had changed back onto the external drive… and G-d help me should anything happen to that external drive!  Yeah, that sounds like a lot of unnecessary steps to me too.

Friends have been telling me about Live Mesh (beta) for a while now, but I only started playing with it recently, and only started delving into the true capabilities and powers of the product recently.  My eyes were opened and I saw the light!

Mesh has a number of features that have turned my head, including:

  • Connecting to the desktops of Mesh-connected devices; and
  • Synchronizing folders on your desktop to the Mesh Desktop.

A few days ago I had three devices connected to my Mesh: My Dell laptop, Windows on my Mac, and Mac on my Mac.  Now that I understand more I have connected several of my servers at home as well.

File Synchronization between desktops through the Cloud

By connecting a device (more accurately you are connecting an OS instance, as the two separate Mac devices demonstrates) you can now connect to any connected device remotely (as long as that device is on and connected to the Internet).  You can also then synchronize folders on your Mesh Desktop to that device.  Let me explain:

  1. On my Live Mesh Desktop (which I connect to in an Internet browser using my Live ID) I create a folder – I used to have Pictures and Documents, but decided to streamline.  When you first connect to your Mesh Desktop the only item on it is ‘Create New Folder.’  Click that, name it, and you are done.
  2. On the desktop of any (all) connected devices a shortcut appears that looks like a regular Windows Explorer folder, except it is blue, and has the arrow indicating that it is a shortcut rather than an actual folder.
  3. I double-click that folder shortcut, and I am asked where I want that folder to synchronize to.  On my Dell I opted to create a new directory on my D drive called d:\Mitch Docs.  On the MacBook’s Windows instance I only have the single Windows partition, so it is c:\Mitch Docs.
  4. On the laptop where my original Documents folder resides (the Dell) I move the contents of my original Documents Library (in legacy OSes my Documents folder) into the newly created directory on my D drive.  After the culling (which I will explain later) the contents amounted to about 3.5 gigabytes.
  5. In the properties of my Documents Library I:
    1. Add my newly created folder (D:\Mitch Docs) to the Library;
    2. Move that folder to the top of the list;
    3. Set that folder as the Default Save Location.

Now my work is done… Mesh synchronizes my files from the desktop my Mesh Desktop in the cloud, which may take a while depending on the size of the contents being moved as well as the bandwidth of your Internet connection.  I continue to work normally as I would.  The next time I connect my other desktops to the Internet I get the same Mesh Folder Shortcut icon on my desktop for the folders I created, and I have to go through the same procedure of assigning it a corresponding location on my local hard drive; but now instead of copying files into it, Mesh will synchronize my files from the cloud into the newly created folder automatically.  (I do have to follow the steps under Step 5 from above in order to ensure that the new folder is in the Document Library and is the default file location on each computer I add)

Now when I create a new document when I click save it will be saved locally, and immediately (upon connecting to the Internet) be synchronized to my Mesh Desktop, and from there it will be synchronized back to every desktop that I have connected to the Mesh.  Since my files reside on my local hard drive, I can access any of them when I am off-line (right now I am at 37,000 feet over North Dakota).  I can edit them, delete them, rename them.  When I connect to the Internet the changes are all synchronized.

Accessing connected Devices remotely

Monday morning I left my MacBook (booted in Windows) connected to the Internet in my hotel room and took my Dell to my class.  When I connected to my Mesh account I noticed that the MacBook was on-line; I clicked Connect to Device and poof! – I was connected to the desktop in an Internet Explorer instance.  I did some file clean-up (I had some files sitting on the desktop that I had been meaning to move onto my external drive, so I copied them to my Live Mesh Desktop, let them synch, and then moved them from the Mesh Desktop to my external drive.  While I was there (on the MacBook) I took the opportunity to change some settings, uninstall some software, and apply a number of security patches that Windows had downloaded on Patch Tuesday. 

I should mention that although there are a number of ways to connect to a remote desktop, most of them do not allow that remote computer to advertise and then connect through hotel firewalls, but since Mesh creates a secure connection when the computer connects to the Internet and maintains a connection over a standard secure port (443) no advertisement is required, and no proprietary ports are blocking it.  Although this is great for hotels it is also a benefit for me at home, where I have a plethora of machines, both physical and virtual, that I need to connect to from time to time, and have always had to be mindful of this because when I reconfigure my internal network (as I often do) I am still able to connect to any Mesh-connected machine.  Sometime this week I will likely install Windows 7 on a junk-system and make that my house’s Mesh-hub… I will connect to that machine from remote and then use Remote Desktop to connect to machines that are not otherwise remotely accessible.

Watch me work!

The default setting for connecting to a remote desktop locks the local machine while it is being accessed remotely.  However with the click of a button (Show local desktop) I can work interactively with someone on the other end – my wife, son, mother, or a client.  When my mother asks me to help her to do something on her computer I used to have to talk her through it blindly, but with Mesh I can show her what I am doing (she sees the mouse moving and every click) and I can then make sure she understands by letting her take control while I watch.

Limitations

Live Mesh Desktop limits you to five gigabytes (5GB) of files.  For most of us this is more than reasonable… but when I set out on this journey I realized how out of control my main documents folder was… 112GB (yes, that is One Hundred and Twelve!) to be accurate.  I had several directories of files that were important to be sure (my Outlook Archives count 17GB, and my past courseware was about 55GB).  I also had a plethora of pictures and other stuff in there, including letters, essays, articles, and white papers dating back to 1996.  I assure you I need all of those, but I don’t necessarily need them everywhere I go.  I culled the directory by moving folders to an off-line repository (hard drives in my server as well as a copy on my external hard drive which I carry with me).  These are files that I will access and look at from time to time, but wouldn’t be making changes to.  Without really going deep, I got my ‘important’ files down to 3.5GB or so.  Of course it didn’t hurt me – I didn’t delete or lose a single file – but it did at the same time force me to archive a lot of unneeded files so that my local hard drive is not overburdened.

What about SkyDrive?

Mesh is me… it could I suppose be my family if I wanted to create a single Live account that we all share, but as it stands it is all mine.  Live SkyDrive, on the other hand, is another cloud-based free offering and allows me to store larger – and more – files on-line, as well as share them with people within my Live Network.  I have a number of directories – some public which anyone in my Network can access, some private to which I can assign anyone granular control (Upload, Download, View, Full Control), and some which are just for me.  SkyDrive has a limit per account of 25GB, but it is not quite as useable as Live Mesh:

  • You cannot upload folders and sub-folders
  • Individual files are limited to 50MB
  • There is no synchronization option.

With those limitations I still use SkyDrive for a lot more than just sharing large files with friends and colleagues… although I use it for that too.  I also store a plethora of pictures there, as well as a number of PowerPoint presentations that I don’t need often but can use in a pinch if I am invited to speak unprepared.  I keep all of my Internet Explorer Favorites there, and of course files that I would gladly share with the right people… such as my curriculum vitae. 

A Perfect Solution?

Of course even these solution offerings are not a complete solution.  Are they secure?  I think they are.  However I have seen Cloud Services fail before, so you can be certain that I have a local back-up of my files at home (in addition to my actual Cloud Backup).

Live Mesh installs a client on each desktop… not invasive but it is there.  There is no such client for Live SkyDrive, but there is an Internet Explorer plug-in that allows you to drag-and-drop files.

When I say that I don’t know what I did before Live Mesh I am exaggerating… but it does keep my life straight and easily managed.  I no longer have to worry about multiple copies of multiple versions of the same file in different locations… if you have multiple computers it is an excellent solution to keep things organized.

Now good luck, go forth, and Mesh!

Lotus Foundations Server comes to IT Pro Toronto!

If you are an IT Professional in the Greater Toronto Area then you will not want to miss this event!

http://itprotolotusfoundation.eventbrite.com/

Small business is still big business. Every company needs the ability to do e-mail, create, share and centrally manage documents and files and ensure that all their information is backed up and protected. But no one wants the hassle or expense of dealing with complex IT systems. Lotus Foundations is a family of software appliances that provide the essential software businesses need to focus on running the business, not managing computer systems.

Location:

8200 Warden Avenue, Markham, Ontario

Room: Amphitheatre

Agenda and Presenters:

6:45 PM – 7:15 PM – Food and Drinks

7:15 PM – 7:20 PM – Introductions (why we are here, why you are here)

7:20 PM – 8:40 PM – Product Demonstration

  • Architectural Overview (and why it's different)
  • - Getting running in no-time flat
  • Integrated Base Capabilities and Functionality
  • - Backup, Network Router, Firewall, FTP, Web Server, File Server, DHCP, etc…
  • - Integrated Enhanced
  • - Antivirus, Antispam
  • - Add-ons and the role of Autonomics and Integration
  • - Start
  • - Reach
  • - 3rd Party

8:40 PM – 9:00 PM – Q & A

Host:

Hiep Vuong leads up the HW Platform Strategy and Development and Technical Business Development for the IBM Lotus Foundations Team. Hiep has extensive background in appliances for the Small Business space having lead up development and operations at both SonicWALL and Net Integration Technologies (acquired by IBM in 2008).

Presenters:

Julie Reed leads the IBM Lotus Foundations engineering team. She has over 25 years experience in the software industry spanning various application server environments and collaboration platforms. Julie came to IBM with the Net Integration Technologies acquisition in 2008.

Larry Menard is a Quality Assurance Team Lead for the IBM Lotus Foundations products. He began his career with IBM in 1979 and has held a wide variety of positions within the company. Prior to joining the Lotus Foundations team, Larry's most recent positions included Quality Assurance and Information Development for the IBM DB2 relational database product.

To register click the following link: http://itprotolotusfoundation.eventbrite.com/ PLEASE NOTE THAT FOR SECURITY REASONS YOU MUST REGISTER OR YOU WILL NOT BE ALLOWED IN.

See you there!

The IT Professionals Community of Greater Toronto

Using Boot Camp in Windows 7

For more information about the Windows Springboard Series visit http://go.microsoft.com/?linkid=8418918.

imageIn my last article I described the proper way to install Windows 7 on an Intel-based Mac using Boot Camp.  But aside from the complete driver set, what else does Boot Camp offer?

In the Windows Taskbar (see image) you see a lot of the applications that I have running on my PC.  Most of them are easily identified – Bluetooth, Send-a-Smile, Outlook 2010, Security Essentials, Live Mesh, Windows Home Server, One Note, Skype, and Magic ISO.  However the top-left corner is a black diamond that I don’t have on my other systems.  That is because it is the Boot Camp application (version 3.0) which is designed to allow Windows to be installed on Apple hardware.  More than just a pretty face, it offers a lot of configuration and control options to the informed. 

There are four options when you click on the icon, which are:

  • About Boot Camp
  • Boot Camp Help
  • Boot Camp Control Panel
  • Restart into Mac OS X

The Control Panel consists of five tabs:

  • Startup Disk

The Startup Disk tab is where we set the default OS on boot.  I prefer to boot into Windows 7 by default, and if I want to boot into Mac OS X I can simply hold down the option key when I boot up.

Also in this tab is the Target Disk Mode, which allows you to connect the computer to another computer using a FireWire cable and use it as a hard disk.  Cool :)

  • Brightness

Self-explanatory, you can set the screen brightness from Dim to Bright.

  • Remote

For $19.99 at the Apple Store you can buy a relatively simple but high-quality remote control that connects to the computer via infrared receiver.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that the remote works in Windows as well, and can be paired from this tab.

  • Keyboard

Each function key on the Mac has two functions… for example the F1 key is also the reduce brightness key.  The second function is selected by first pressing the fn key and then pressing the appropriate key.  These sets can be inverted by clicking the checkbox in the Keyboard tab.

  • Trackpad

There are two things about the Mac that I find maddening; the first is the lack of certain keys central to working in Windows (PgUp, Backspace, etc…).  The second is the trackpad, which has no buttons at all, let alone a left- or right-button.  Boot Camp makes this second issue slightly more livable… in the Trackpad tab of the Boot Camp Control Panel you can customize the functionality of the multi-touch trackpad (yes, that part is cool!) and the clicking behavior.  Unless I am either in bed or on an airplane I still plug in an external mouse, but this is still better than nothing.

I want to be clear… I am a PC and I run Windows 7, even on my MacBook.  However knowing how to use Boot Camp does make a good experience that much better.  I do boot into OS X from time to time, but knowing the ins and outs of running Windows 7 on my Mac made my life easier!

For more information about the Windows Springboard Series visit http://go.microsoft.com/?linkid=8418918.

Running Windows 7 on a Mac (Using Boot Camp)

For more information about the Windows Springboard Series visit http://go.microsoft.com/?linkid=8418918.

If you are reading this article on your Mac, this is an important article for you. Before you start though, I suggest you read my previous article outlining how I got to the point where I, the Mitch you all know and love as a PC running Windows 7, have a MacBook Pro laptop.

Now that you are back from that article, and probably took the opportunity while on my blog to read voraciously all of my articles on the benefits of Windows 7, you are probably ready to jump into Windows 7 head-first. Because of so many of the issues I encountered it is a good thing you are reading this article. Print it out and use it as a kind of ‘how to’ article so that you have an easier time of it than I did.

Before we start I should mention that there are actually three completely technologies that allow you to run Windows on a Mac: Boot Camp, Passport, and VMware Fusion. I selected Boot Camp for three reasons: It is delivered with the operating system and it is free, but more importantly to me it allows Windows to use the complete resources of the hardware, unlike the other two methods which share resources with the Mac OS.

1. Boot into Mac OS X. In the Utilities Folder (under Applications) there is an item called Boot Camp Assistant. Click there!

According to Boot Camp Assistant it will help you install Microsoft Windows XP or Windows Vista operating systems. Fortunately for us it will work just as well (or better!) with Windows 7, now that the proper update has been released.

2. On the next screen you are given the option to create a Windows partition on your hard drive. By default it is 32 GB, but I chose to split the drive in two so that I would have enough room.

3. Once you have created your partition you can click Start the Windows Installer in the Select Task window.

When you are asked to insert the Windows media and reboot do so, and let Windows install as normal.

4. Once Windows 7 is installed your Mac will default to booting into Windows 7. This, I found, is the natural behaviour of a dual-boot Mac. In order to boot into OS X you actually have to hold down the option key when you boot up.

5. Because Boot Camp had an update that included Windows 7 compatibility you have to download the new version from apple.com (http://www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/apple/application_updates/bootcampsoftwareupdate31forwindows32bit.html). However what they don’t tell you is that:

a. You have to download it in Windows rather than in OS X;

b. It is a 380 MB download; and

c. You still have to install the Boot Camp from the DVD that came with your computer before then applying this update.

6. So now you are in Windows 7. Some of your drivers work, some of them don’t. Insert the disc that came with your Mac; it will recognize that it is running under Windows (despite saying it is a Mac disk… it works J), and start installing the Boot Camp drivers and services.

7. Once this is all done you can then download and install the Windows 7 Update to Boot Camp and then apply it.

BONUS: What happens if I try to skip the original disc steps and just download and install the Boot Camp update?

I’m glad you asked. If you do that then the Windows 7 drivers for the Nvidia video card will install, and you will have a very functional system… but you will not have Boot Camp installed. If you are like the author then you might not know any better, and think that’s the way it is supposed to be until one of your friends asks you about a particular feature which you were ignorant of.

For more information about the Windows Springboard Series visit http://go.microsoft.com/?linkid=8418918.

The Sad End to a Suite of Unattained Potential

I was so excited about the product from the minute I heard of it.  In January, 2007 Kevin Beares took me into his office and showed me the three servers running a VERY early alpha (read: dogfood) build of what would eventually be called Microsoft Essential Business Server 2008.  As he explained the technology I was thrilled… it was what I always hoped would become of SBS, but for mid-market.

I was quite involved in the pre-release of the product, writing courseware, presentations, and labs for both Microsoft and Microsoft Canada.  I was, to many in Canada, the public technical face of the product, having presented the product in most of the major markets to partners and potential clients months before the release.

The problem was that when the product did release, there wasn’t as much excitement as everyone had hoped.

EBS was a good first generation product, a very respectable big cousin to Small Business Server, and while there was no doubt there were kinks to be worked out, those would come in the second version.  This is not new. 

Several months ago, when sales of EBS machines were as close to zero as statistically possible, I was asked what I felt Microsoft could have – or should have done differently.  I had two simple answers, one of which was probably bad judgment, but a call that I would have made too, had it been my decision.  I will not share that opinion publicly.

The second thing that went wrong with EBS was luck, or at least timing.  Unfortunately they had a product that would cost the customer $20,000 minimum between hardware and software, plus likely the same amount in consulting costs, and they launched it a couple of weeks after the world economy crashed – when people were looking to cut costs.  No amount of Microsoft Spin would be able to convince the majority of companies who would have benefitted from the product that they should spend the money.

I was so proud a year ago to announce that I was among the inaugural class Microsoft MVPs awarded in Essential Business Server; however you will; notice from my blog that I stopped writing about the product long ago because nobody was interested in what I had to say about it.  Thirteen months after that proud day my award category was switched to Windows Desktop Experience (read: Windows 7).  I hated to admit it, but I was happier to be one of 250-odd MVPs in a hugely popular technology than I was to be one of (at the time) 9 MVPs in a product with a worldwide install base of fewer than 100.

Still and all I was excited about the upcoming release of EBS vNext.  It had great potential, the team listened to those of us who were telling them what was wrong with it.  It looked great, and I was even trying to get one of my clients to join the Technology Assessment (TAP) Program because they could eventually have been the big EBS shop when the technology flourished.  They decided not to join, and now I am glad they did.

This morning’s announcement saddened me, although it did not surprise me.  Like Response Point before it, some technologies are just a hard sell, especially when there are so many alternatives. 

Still and all, I want to thank all of the people who were responsible for bringing us EBS – Nick, Kevin, Chuck, Mike, and so many more.  You did a great job, but your technology was killed by the times.

Read the official Microsoft statement at http://www.microsoft.com/ebs/en/us/default.aspx.

Good-bye EBS; the few of us know did know you are sorry to see you go.

Mitch Goes Mac!? Nah!

For more information about the Windows Springboard Series visit http://go.microsoft.com/?linkid=8418918.

My name is Mitch, and I am a PC and I run Windows 7!

This statement will not surprise anyone who knows me.  As a Microsoft MVP and trainer I have been quite vocal about Microsoft’s new client operating system, and everything I love about it.

What has utterly shocked a lot of those same people is the fact that my new laptop is not a Dell, HP, Lenovo, Acer, Asus, or Vaio… it’s an Apple; more specifically, it’s a 13” MacBook Pro.  When I boot it up, it makes the Apple sound; the back panel of the screen lights up the familiar Apple logo.  The number of people who have done a double-take by now (especially since this month I have taught Windows 7 twice and spent a week on Microsoft’s campus for the MVP Summit) probably number in the low hundreds.

‘You finally went over to the Dark Side!’

‘You’ve lost your mind!’

‘You lost a bet!’

I could keep going, but the truth is none of the above; sure, I am a Microsoft MVP, and I spend a lot of time teaching and presenting to Microsoft audiences, but the truth is I am first and foremost an IT Professional and technology enthusiast (read: geek).  I am also what some call a ‘super-influencer’.  However that is based not on my pretty face (thankfully!) but on my credibility.  I have always felt that if I wanted to maintain that credibility as an IT Pro rather than as a Microsoft Evangelist then I had to be open to all technologies, and be able to compare them all authoritatively rather than anecdotally.

I hadn’t really done a lot of work on a Mac since before I went into the army – I was working as a software analyst for the Israeli Ministry of Education and frankly nobody else knew anything at all about the Mac in the corner, so that system became my responsibility.  In those heady days of Windows 3.1, Mac OS was far superior to any GUI available on the more popular PCs.  Then nearly four years ago, toward the end of the Windows Vista beta program, a friend of mine in Montreal asked me to install that OS on his new Mac Mini; I was so impressed by its performance (in a side by side comparison with my Asus Ferrari 4000 it stood up quite favorably) that I looked into it, and sure enough Apple made excellent hardware that was solid and lacked a lot of the compatibility issues you encounter when the hardware manufacturer uses components (and thus requires drivers) from different manufacturers.  Anyone who has challenged me on Mac since then will attest that I love Mac hardware!

Fast forward to January, 2010.

I tried in vain for three weeks to buy a new laptop, and I won’t go into the details of that debacle.  I was a bit put off by that experience, and decided to look elsewhere… when I had an idea, based mostly on the prodding and goading from a client of mine (IHYF!).  After consulting with and getting approval from the finance department (read: wife) I trekked down to the Apple Store in Square One, and bought a shiny new MacBook Pro.

I want to be clear that although it was and remains my intention to use the MacBook to learn Mac OS, I am still primarily a Windows guy, and so the first thing I did when opening the box was figure out how to install Windows 7 on it.  After a lot of hassles and ‘figuring things out’ I got it working and true to my earlier impressions, it is a great Windows machine… although the critics are right that the much lauded battery performance is quite diminished when running Windows, due to the fact that it was likely not Apple’s #1 priority to optimize the drivers to run Windows.

In my next article I will guide you step-by-step through the installation and configuration process, for those of you Mac users who are interested in dipping your feet into the Windows OS!

For more information about the Windows Springboard Series visit http://go.microsoft.com/?linkid=8418918.

If you’re not sure and don’t feel comfortable…

As I sit watching Rabbi Wise’s computer upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 7 I am thinking about a conversation that he and I just had.

Three weeks ago he and I started discussing the benefits of Windows 7 over his currently Windows Vista, and he asked if I thought it was really worth the upgrade.  My answer is probably obvious to all… of course!  I explained to him my reasons.  He told me he had given the computer to his normal ‘computer guy’ to perform the upgrade, and he had it returned a few days later with an explanation that the guy had tried a number of times to perform the upgrade unsuccessfully.  I told him I’d give it a go.

Fast-forward to now, the actual OS is installed and the last (and likely longest) step of the upgrade (Transferring files, settings, and programs) is at 62%.  Rabbi Wise asked me what I did differently from the other guy, and I told him that honestly I did not do anything special or fancy… I put in the Acer Upgrade DVD and followed the instructions.  He looked at me sheepishly and said ‘maybe I should have just tried to do it myself… but I was worried I would screw something up!’  My answer?  DON’T DO IT YOURSELF!

Let me be clear… Windows 7 is mind-numbingly simple to install.  Upgrades, when they go right, are as simple as a point-and-shoot camera.  but some people are not comfortable doing it themselves, and should ask for help… be it from the IT Guy at work, a friend with slightly better computer skills than you, a consultant, or a ‘Nerd-Herd’ type guy (I can’t bring myself to recommending one of them, even for something this simple).  It might cost you a few dollars, but that money is well spent if it saves you staring at your screen for the duration of the upgrade wondering (stressing) if you are going to lose all of your data.

Ten years ago the average computer user used a computer for few tasks beyond what was required of them.  Their documents were in a folder (which should still always be backed up!) which could usually fit onto a high-density floppy disk, and they didn’t venture out beyond their comfort zone.  That has changed; most computer users today have done some degree of customization to their system, downloaded apps and plug-ins, store their music, photos, e-mail, contacts, and much more in their systems.  Losing all of this could be – if not disastrous, then certainly painful.

The process of upgrading an operating system may look simple on the surface, but the reality is it is a very complicated series of steps that replaces tens of thousands of files and then must make sure that all of your apps are going to work.  Imagine a painting… if I see a painting in a museum I can certainly copy it (well, not me… but someone with a modicum of artistic ability!) pretty easily.  However if that painting was on paper and you wanted to lift every drop of paint and reassemble the exact paint onto canvas… that would be tough… easier to just copy it, right?  That is why I generally take the jump between OS versions as an opportunity to install fresh (after migrating data using either the User State Migration Tool or the Windows Easy Transfer tool to backup and restore the profile!).

I have on too many occasions changed a tire on my car.  It is not something I am comfortable doing, but owing to the simplicity of the task and my mechanical aptitude I am reasonably sure that I can do it successfully.  Changing the oil in my car is probably as simple a task… but is something I generally let someone else do because I am simply not comfortable doing it.  Adding gasoline or windshield washer fluid? Sure; adding radiator fluid or brake fluid? Call a Pro.  That is not to say that I couldn’t do it if I wanted to try, but because it is outside of my comfort zone and sounds pretty important, I let someone else do it.  That is why I don’t get upset when family and (a select group of) friends ask me for help with what I perceive to be easy tasks on the computer.  Sure they are easy for me, but they probably stress those people out and besides, most of them are grateful enough to at least buy me dinner (lunch? a cup of coffee?) for my troubles.

Microsoft has made the OS so simple to use with Windows 7 that it is easy to forget that what you are looking at is really some 70,000 files working together to make it LOOK simple.  If you (or someone you know) are (is) intimidated by seemingly easy tasks don’t be shy… ask for help!