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!

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