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Senior Correspondent

The big, white box has been sitting in the dining room for three days, unopened. Usually if I spend close to $800 on something I make use of it immediately. But, not this time. I have to get myself geared up for a task I have to do about every four or five years… and dread every time: setting up a new computer.

My workhorse computer has been in my office for almost ten years. It handles almost everything I do for the blog, calendars, e-mail, taxes, budgeting, and online financial stuff. While I have a laptop that is used on RV trips or downstairs while I watch a movie, the old Dell is my go-to computer. I have added RAM, an external hard drive and another DVD burner, replaced a processor fan, vacuumed out the dust and kept it running well.

Starting a few months ago, though, things began to really slow down. My first thought was some type of virus or malware. I bought a top of the line security program to replace the one I had been using for years. It churned away for hours doing a full scan and found nothing. I checked the disc sectors, file structures and defragmentation needs. Nothing appeared wrong. But, it was taking a full minute to do what should take a few seconds. That is often a sign of a hard drive going down for the count.

Finally I broke down and bought a new, all-in-one computer, the type where all the hardware, ports and burners are built in behind the monitor screen. The keyboard and mouse are wireless and there is no more large, bulky CPU on the floor. Most of the wires that were needed for the old unit will not be used. Because of bad press for Windows 8 I hunted until I found a new unit that was preloaded with Windows 7. The old Dell was an XP machine which I actually prefer, but the laptop has Windows 7 so I don't need to learn a whole new system.

Even so, with a larger monitor, much faster response time, and much less clutter I still found excuses to not get started on the change-over. Why? There are so many files and programs that must be copied from one computer to another and so many settings that I have to change that I dread the task.

But, today is the day.

The first step is to decide where in my office the computer should go. Being someone who too often looks for the easiest path to problem-solving, I asked Betty where she thought I should put it, hoping she would say on the credenza. That would mean I wouldn't have to remove a shelf, relocate the old computer for data transfer, move all the wires for my various ham radios, and dust 10 years worth of whatever is lurking there.

Drats. She said it should go where the old one is. Of course she is correct, so dusting I will go. In moving things I did discover a woofer that was attached to the old Dell that maybe usable in the living room for producing manly-like deep sounds for movie watching. Things are looking up.

The new computer fits with less than 1/2 inch to spare. The DVD burner is on the side so I'll have to move it out a few inches, but I rarely burn anything so that is OK. Since there is no big box to sit on the floor all I need do is hook up the printer, cable modem, router, and the wireless keyboard and mouse and I should be in business. Famous last words.

The first question I am asked is for the security code for the wireless router. Heavens? Who knows? I go to Netgear's web site and don't find an answer that works. So, I try several of my standard choices… and it connects!

Next it is time to uninstall all the junk that comes preloaded: dozens of games, a few Norton products I don't want, a bunch of stuff from HP that I will never use, and Bing…a horrible search engine and cluttered command bar.

Of course, new computers come with no documentation or manuals. If you aren't already familiar with the way computers are set up and operate you are in trouble. That is probably why services like the Geek Squad make so many house calls at $150 a pop. For many folks there is no other way to make that fancy new investment work. If you can't figure out how to get online you can't even download or look at the manual.

OK, now how do I shift my subscription to Carbonite and the Bitdefender malware program to the new computer? Time for another trip to a few web sites to see what I can learn. Next, Microsoft wants another $100 or so to allow me to "unlock" Word so it becomes usable. What a money machine that is.

Finally, it is time to decide which of the fifty-some programs on the old Dell are needed on the new computer, and which ones will work with Windows 7. I guess my best bet is to decide what I really need and start transferring those files from an external backup and see what works.

My hobby of ham radio has taken a back seat to blogging and writing for the past few years so maybe I shouldn't even bother transferring those programs. Some even pre-date Windows XP so they aren't like to work anyway. I can always find new versions if and when I turn all those transmitters back on again. In one aspect getting a new computer does force me to clean out stuff I don't use.

Fast forward one day and I think I am ready to go. The budget program in reinstalled, all my favorites are back on the Favorites bar, the to-do list manager and a few printer drivers are all in place. Turbo tax has been reinstalled and is ready for tax time.

Luckily, I have been working with computers dating all the way back to my first Apple II in the 1980's. But, I will never understand why computer manufacturers don't make this process easier for the non-computer folks among us. It shoudn't be all that difficult to have a basic computer that boots up and loads what most folks need right out of the box without all the extra steps. The quick start sheet that comes with most new machines only makes sense if you are already comfortable with computers.

One of the reasons why tablets and smart phones will eventually replace most standard computers is the ease of setup. Turn them on and they work!

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