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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    November 08, 2019

    How I Moved My Practice to a New PC Without Business Disruption

    Switching to a new computer is rarely simple, but there are ways to make the process smoother and relatively quick while minimizing downtime and reducing the risks of losing essential data.

    Roy Greenberg

    hooking up computer

    Moving your programs and documents to a new PC? Make a mistake and you might not have a working machine for days. For a solo practitioner, that’s simply unacceptable. After having suffered through previous do-it-yourself data migrations, here’s my new process to minimize aggravation and downtime. I have not seen it suggested elsewhere.

    You already know that you can use programs like PC Mover to transfer most of your computer’s contents to a second machine. But that’s not always the best solution. If you’ve used these tools over the years, you may find yourself in my situation. Because I cloned my hard drive from one machine to another through the years, my PC contained multiple versions of programs, remnants of registry entries from incomplete software removals, and numerous orphaned programs from defunct companies.

    Roy GreenbergRoy Greenberg, New York Law School 1981, is an East Hampton, N.Y., real estate attorney. His first computer was a Tandon clone of an IBM PC XT running MS-DOS. This article originated in TL Research, a free newsletter in the TechnoLawyer network in which readers share best practices.

    So when my Windows 7 started having problems, neither my technician nor I could find any easy answers. I could no longer completely remove old programs nor install every new one. I could no longer make comprehensive backups nor system restore points. When different programs began misbehaving, neither my technician nor I could tell if the problem was a corrupted Windows installation or buggy software.

    We did reach one inescapable conclusion: the next time the machine crashed, restoring it would be a nightmare. The only real solution was to buy a new machine and reinstall my main programs one at a time, leaving behind everything that wasn’t necessary. That ruled out automatic data-transfer programs. But reinstalling can take days, even if you can find all the installation disks, registry codes, serial numbers, and so on.

    If you can give both machines to your tech-support department and go home for the weekend, this might not be a problem. But for the rest of us, that’s a major project. Do you reinstall all the programs and move the data, over one very long weekend, and hope that you will be ready for business Monday morning? As a lawyer of little faith, I needed a better alternative. And here it is.

    Transferring Data Without Pain

    My tech guy delivered a new Windows 10 machine. We attached it to my network, and the internet, along with an old monitor, keyboard, and mouse. The old and new machines could then transfer data between each other.

    I next purchased older copies of much of my software along with additional licenses. Instead of trying to move WordPerfect X9 from one machine to another, I bought and installed a very cheap copy of WordPerfect X5 (not much in demand these days). A new license for the second machine for Nova Backup software, FileCenter, Carbonite, and similar programs was much cheaper than risking a day or two of billable work.

    I also took this opportunity to purchase newer versions of some of my mainstay programs, such as Outlook. I moved archival data so I would have files to work with. That gave me the opportunity to leisurely test and fine-tune the newly installed programs. I could contact tech support for any program when necessary. At the same time, I left behind obsolete programs and data.

    All the while, I ran my practice from my existing machine without interruption.

    After I had installed all the software, my technician returned one Friday afternoon to hook up my peripherals and locate their updated drivers on the internet. He also helped me move those few remaining programs with databases that could not be moved beforehand. I could use the new machine for business by the following day.

    Let me give special mention to PracticeMaster, for its striking ease in moving from one machine to the other. This is the only program that I’ve seen in many years that can be moved as simply as a document from one Windows machine to another, without any reinstallation. I understand from the company’s technical department that the program contains all the executable files within its own file folder instead of relying on Windows.

    I still have both machines hooked to the same network. That lets me access and move anything on the old machine as necessary. But I can see the day when the old machine will be retired or turned into a print server.

    Meet Our Contributors

    What was your funniest or oddest experience in a legal context?

    Roy GreenbergMy client, a landlord, reclaimed his house after his summer rental. But my client telephoned me to complain that some of his personal belongings were missing. When questioned by him, the summer tenant explained that a burglar had broken in one night and took them. But the tenant had not told the police because they could not do anything anyway.

    My client telephoned me a week later to say that he had heard a second time from that same tenant. She had asked if she could return to the house to pick up some belongings that she had left. He told her, “Remember that burglar who took my stuff? Well, he came back and got yours.”

    Roy Greenberg, East Hampton, N.Y.

    Become a contributor! Are you working on an interesting case? Have a practice tip to share? There are several ways to contribute to Wisconsin Lawyer. To discuss a topic idea, contact Managing Editor Karlé Lester at (800) 444-9404, ext. 6127, or email Check out our writing and submission guidelines.

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