Jan 282012

Organizing your hard drive is just as important as organizing your cupboards.  By default, all downloads go into your Downloads folder. That would be like stuffing all your plates, spices, and canned goods into one cupboard.

Why is organization necessary? You want to keep your software and registration information in one place to make backup and subsequent reinstallation an easy task.  When you make a software purchase, sometimes the receipt has the serial number, but it is often sent in a separate e-mail.  Did you remember to print out both e-mails? Where did you put the hard copy?  What about that free Photoshop add-in? Even if it was free, do you remember where you got it so you can download it again?

Don’t panic, there is a way you can avoid looking for all those e-mails, or receipts and serial numbers you might have printed out when you made the purchase.

Step 1.  We recommend making a top level folder with a separate folder for each purchase or program.  You might call your download programs folder MyPrograms.  So, under MyPrograms you would have many folders, and the structure might look like this:

Put all your downloaded software into separate folders

Step 2. When you download a program you will get the prompt to Run, Save, or Cancel the download. Always select Save (unless the instructions specify that you click Run):

Always save your software to disk unless otherwise instructed

When you click Save, Windows Explorer will open to the location of your last download. Redirect it to your MyPrograms folder, create a new Folder for your latest download, then click Save again:

Save to a folder with a descriptive name

Step 3. Using Notepad, copy and paste the information from your registration e-mail into a text file and save it to the same folder as the program, like so:

Keep your registration info and program together

That’s it!

Now your downloaded program and registration information is in the same folder, speeding up the reinstallation process.  Even if some programs or add-ins are free, you still want them all in one place to make reinstallation easier.

Backup your MyPrograms folder regularly.

If you are preparing to wipe your system to do a fresh install, check your MyPrograms folder for all the programs and add-ins that you have downloaded, then go to the manufacturer site and download the latest versions* before you wipe your computer. Backup that folder, restore it to your freshly installed system, and reinstallation of your programs and utilities will be a breeze.

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*When preparing to wipe and reinstall your system, download the latest version for which you are licensed, or,  you may want to upgrade your license to get the latest version.

How do you know what version you are licensed for? Check the Help->About section of your program for the version number.  If the leading digit of the latest version is a full number higher than yours, chances are you may need to purchase an upgrade. If the leading digit is the same, but the other numbers are higher, then chances are the upgrade is free.

Example: You have version 4.876.1.0. The latest version is The leading digit indicates you might need to buy an upgrade. If the latest version is 4.975.1.0, then the upgrade is probably free.  Some companies charge for a .5 revision, like 4.312 to 4.5. Always check with the manufacturer when in doubt.

Feb 032009

Update 7/16/2012:  Microsoft has extended support of Windows XP to 2014, which means patches to the operating system will be available for another couple of years.

Of course many businesses have long since migrated to Windows 7, which is a mature, stable, Operating System.

The latest word we have from our vendors is that Microsoft is extending the availability of XP until June of 2010.

Vista seems to have received a lot of bad press and the market pressure on Microsoft to continue to make XP available must have been significant.  For those that don’t run vertical market apps that might still be a bit wobbly on Vista, we think Vista is an excellent choice.  There is widespread support for it nowadays and device drivers are no longer the issue they once were. 


Jun 252008

Beginning with Vista, Microsoft started including a screen capture program which is nice.  I used to have to download an external program, which wasn’t that big a deal, it’s just nice that they included one for you. (Okay, so I’m easily pleased.)  You may not need it all that often, but it’s there when you do.  It’s called the Snipping Tool and the icon is under Programs->Accessories.Snipping Tool  Once you have captured an image you can even use a highlighter or pen tool to mark it up.

There is one small caveat about this program which I learned the hard way.  I was optimizing my desktop and went in to remove all the laptop components in Vista.  It wasn’t until a month or so later that I wanted to use the Snipping Tool and couldn’t find it anywhere.  It took some serious Google time to figure out where it went and how it had disappeared.  Why Microsoft put it in the Laptop tools is a mystery to me.  Go figure.

Jun 232008

Favorite LinksStarting with Windows Vista and continuing through today, Microsoft started allowing you to add a folder to your Favorite Links – such a time-saving feature.  I just love it.  When you have Windows Explorer open, just drag a folder or file to your Favorite Links section.  My Favorite Links section looks like this:

I’ve removed some standard items (Music) and added some of my own (Tools and _Websites).  If you work out of one or two folders regularly, it’s a huge time saver.

Jun 172008

The cut off date is June 30, 2008.  According to the Wall Street Journal online:

Just to be clear: Businesses that are already using XP won’t be forced to upgrade to Vista. And a Microsoft spokeswoman tells us that businesses that already use XP will be able to buy additional copies for the foreseeable future. Some authorized dealers will also be selling XP for businesses until the end of 2008. Nonetheless, the cut off is definitely intended to start pushing businesses to Vista.

Frankly, I really like Vista, but some of our clients run vertical market applications that have only been capable of running on Vista for a few months.  Since their businesses depend on these applications, reason enough to keep them on XP for the time being.

I’ll be blogging about some of my favorite Vista features in upcoming entries.

May 212008

I really like the Internet Explorer feature that allows you to add an additional home page.  This is great for the times when you want to temporarily bookmark a site.  No sense in adding it to your permanent list of bookmarks since you won’t need it in a few days or a couple of weeks.

To use this feature, just navigate to the page you want to temporarily add and click the “Home” drop down arrow.  Select “Add or Change Home Page . . .” and click the radio button “Add this webpage to your home page tabs”.  When you are finished with the page, just click the “Home” drop down arrow and go down to the “Remove” option to make your selection.

This capability was originally added to Internet Explorer version 7, and continues through today.

Apr 232008

People who have automatic Windows updates turned on for their computers will start receiving the Vista Service Pack 1 update today (providing you have Vista, of course). 

Out among the announcements was this little gem: “Even after today’s announcement, however, some Vista users may not see SP1 for weeks or even months because their PCs are using defective device drivers that Microsoft says may cause problems during an upgrade. It is blocking systems with those drivers from obtaining SP1 until the drivers themselves have been updated.”

No matter.  That’s one of the big reasons we don’t turn on automatic updates on our clients’ (or our) computers.  It’s usually wise to wait awhile after the release of a Service Pack for others to find the bugs and give Microsoft time to fix them before deployment.