BEWARE (see below)*
This month, many power users found their pre-release copies of Windows 7 expiring. As with many software pre-release-becomes-the-real-thing software events, a smooth upgrade (you know—so you keep your apps and settings?), was not an option.
Time for the dreaded custom/advanced installation. The “clean install.”
Let’s step back a moment and begin to look at this Zen view of upgrading one’s OS and restoring one’s work environment. Over the years we’ve done hundreds of OS installs for ourselves, and hundreds more for clients. So, yeah, we’re qualified to speak a little on the topic. Here goes:
Change is painful. We all like to be settled. We have routines we’re comfortable with, we like knowing where things are, how things work, to whom what responsibilities apply, and when things happen. This applies in both our “real” and virtual worlds. (And of course, telling those apart seems to get harder every day.)
So when you boot up your computer after a clean operating system installation and see a blank slate (no email, apps, bookmarks, memorized passwords… none of your precious “stuff!”), it can be a little overwhelming. And the temptation is to hunker down and reinstall everything just exactly perfectly right back where it should be.
This is what we call, “The 6 Hour Hunker-Down.”
RESIST! Yes it may seem like the right thing to do, but if you can tolerate a little discomfort (that which does not kill us . . . ), you will be rewarded.
Take it easy, one step at a time. If you have planned properly (see below*), there is no rush.
Here’s the big secret to keeping your sanity and not withdrawing from the world for hours, maybe days. This is the trick to a Zen method of reinstalling your work environment:
REINSTALL YOUR STUFF ON AN AS-NEEDED BASIS.
Seriously: you will save a lot of time, and likely some misery. And you will have avoided the all-too-common mistake of copying all of your old garbage (you know the stuff you have been meaning to “clean up” on your hard drive, in your bookmarks/favorites, on your email system?) to your new work environment.
Quick case study:
Installed Windows 7. Everything is different; all my stuff is missing. Most of my day is spent in a web browser (hosted software services are no longer just a VC buzz-word and a promise), but there are some things I don’t use the web for. Some desktop apps I depend on. For example, I still use MS Office, Adobe Photoshop, and a handful of other programs that don’t have web-based alternatives I like (hey that’s just me).
So this afternoon I reinstalled my favorite business tool, MS Outlook. I configured my email accounts, restored/configured my primary and archive PST files, and then I stopped. Seriously I just stopped and resumed my business as usual.
There’s lots more to do, but none of it is immediately critical. For example, my email handling “rules” included a lot of outdated, no-longer-necessary stuff, so I chose to trash them all and rebuild each rule AS NEEDED, when I see emails come in that would have previously been sorted, moved, or whatever.
This time I even trashed my web bookmarks/favorites and re-built those as I went about my real business (of course I have an emergency backup). Seriously: why carry with you hundreds of links you’ve long forgotten about, and may even point to resources that no longer exist? In the physical world, that would be considered a borderline mental disorder. Compulsive hoarding I think it’s called.
Web development software? Graphic design apps? I’ll install these when I next use them. And it’ll happen, but . . . I don’t need everything today.
Back to hoarding. That’s what this all boils down to. The human desire to hang on to attachments and not lose anything— that’s what keeps us stuck and creates a lot of problems. And letting go of attachments? That is the key to, “Zen and the Art of Restoring a Work Environment.”
That’s my $0.02 on reinstalling a work environment. Now please read the fine print that follows.
*Although this article talks about a philosophy for reinstalling one’s work environment after a clean OS install, it DOES NOT cover process specifics. Always back up everything on your computer and work with a consultant before performing any software upgrade.