Just had a new Dell laptop delivered and before I start, let me throw out a pre-emptive "don't bother" for anyone thinking of adding some colour commentary on how Dell is crap. I buy Dells. Deal with it. What I'm going to talk about today is not unique to them.

So I started the long and arduous process of migrating from my old laptop to the new one. Why does this suck so? Why hasn't someone invented None Hardware-Specific Ghost yet? Why do I have to spend nigh on five days to get everything just right again?

The first order of business: The OEM crap has been removed, in some cases surgically. This consists of AOL, MusicMatch, WordPerfect, Learn2 Player, McAfee suite (seriously, folks, I might consider keeping your software on my machine if it didn't expire before the milk in my fridge did), etc, etc, and so on and so forth. Despite the fact that none of this stuff seems complicated, I did need to reboot about half a dozen times to get rid of some of it.

Next comes configuring Windows XP to do what I want. This includes installing IIS, configuring Windows Explorer, IE, start menu, and task bar options and adding the Address bar, Control Panel, Admin Tools and Desktop to my task bar.

Next up: locate all the free software/tools/utilities I've started to take for granted. Here's a list that's probably not complete but is off the top of my head:

  • Firefox
  • AVG Anti-virus
  • Defender
  • Spybot
  • SlickRun
  • WinKey
  • .NET 2.0 (why is this not standard yet?)
  • Paint.NET
  • Notepad2
  • Acrobat Reader 7.0 (had to remove version 6.0 first; I have a love/hate relationship with versions 5 and 6)
  • TweakUI
  • CmdPromptHere
  • WinZip
  • SmartFTP
  • NewsGator for Outlook
  • TextPad

The last two aren't free but I have licenses for them and they are small enough utilities that I like to include them here.

Then comes the development and productivity tools like Office, Visual Studio, SQL Server, etc, etc. Finally, there is the configuration of all previously mentioned software. Importing MagicWords for SlickRun, setting up shortcuts for WinKey, setting up my folder structure for NewsGator, the MANY settings from TweakUI, importing Visual Studio settings. (NOTE: Does anyone know a way to copy my safe senders list from one Outlook instance to another?). None of this stuff is as "one-click" as they say it is.

After that is about a day's worth of Microsoft Updates. Then the easy part: copying over my actual documents, databases, projects, etc and dealing with any other clean-up (like attaching the databases).

I thought maybe I could create an installation package for at least all the free tools but this involves a crucial step: I need to update the installation whenever I discard or adopt a new tool. Ditto if I keep a backup of my mammy's raccoon pie recipes.

There are other methods but from what I've seen, they all suffer from the same problem. I don't buy new laptops often enough to justify the time it takes to maintain on ongoing update process.

So I know I said keep your opinions to yourself when it comes to my choice of laptop vendor but the rest of this post is fair game. Am I missing out on something that could free my time to go badger baitin' with my cousin-brothers?