LapLink, PCmover, MoveNow, The Rest Of The Story

One challenge of news stories is that they are supposed to convey the news... which means the really interesting aspects get short shrift, e.g., my recent LapLink PCmover news article.
One challenge of news stories is that they are supposed to convey the news... which means the really interesting aspects get short shrift, e.g., my recent LapLink PCmover news article.One of the many challenges/constraints of news stories is, well, that they're supposed to contain the news, including only background or related information to help them make self-contained sense. But there's often useful information that doesn't fit in as "news"... or would make the story way longer than the average news article is supposed to be. (Webspace may be elastic, but print space isn't, and neither is reader attention.)

For example, my InformationWeek/SMB news story on LapLink's 'MoveNow' summer offer of free copies of its normally thirty-dollar PCMover Windows 7 Upgrade Assistant utility, which lets Windows XP and Windows Vista users apply a Windows 7 in-place upgrade and end up with their original applications, settings, configurations, "user personality" back in place without having to do an external save, or time-consuming re-installs. (See the news story for the more precise write-up.)

Like many news stories, there wasn't room for all the useful or interesting information I collected -- information which, in my opinion, would make it even more useful to readers, many of whom are, presumably, pondering the trade-offs of Windows 7 migration effort versus benefits. Sometimes this information gets provided after the fact in comment-and-response give and take; sometimes, we know we've got useful information with no immediate, easy way to make it known.

With my editor's kind permission, I'd like to take this blog venue to provide some pieces I cut out of my news article that I feel may be helpful in small-to-medium businesses looking for information to help them make IT decisions.

"Quicker" Isn't Necessarily "Quickly"

LapLink says that [by using PCMover Windows 7 Upgrade Assistant to do an in-place upgrade from Windows XP or Windows Vista to Windows 7]: "End users are able to more quickly return to full productivity."

In terms of their computers being ready for action, this may be true; the in-place upgrade may happen faster. Or maybe not much faster, it may just require less human intervention; another possible interpretation might be, "Businesses can migrate users' systems to Windows 7 sooner than they planned, because they don't have to schedule as much downtime or prepare to spend as much for the OS migration."

But either way, in terms of user productivity, this presumes that users have already been brought up to speed on changes and additions to the Windows user interface, Windows 7 utilities, etc. Based on my own Windows 7 learning curve, as an XP user, "more quickly" isn't the same as "quickly." Windows 7 has some nifty stuff I quickly got used to. But, like a Windows user (me) trying to use any Mac, as often as not, what the UI does isn't always what I'm expecting, and, until I understand what some of these new features are, weird stuff seems to keep happening.

Fortunately, the basic "what's new in Windows 7 and how to use it" learning curve isn't that bad, and there's more than enough free video and text on this, built into Windows, and on the Microsoft and other sites.

(FYI, you may find my Free Windows 7 training videos (and more), along with 6 useful Windows 7 tools helpful in why-ing and how-ing Windows 7.)

Read The Fine Manual

I've been a technical writer, and I know all too well that writing clear, useful how-to instructions is hard. To make matters more complicated, different people have different learning styles. To even-more-complicate them, many -- probably most -- people aren't RTFMing (Reading The Fine Manual) anymore.

That includes me, often; in today's "it just works" era, I start by just trying/installing something, and may not crack open documentation (digital or paper) unless there's a problem.

"We urge people read the short user guide," says Thomas Koll, LapLink's. "We have some very specific instructions." I just skimmed through the manual; I agree -- especially if your PCs are on a network.

But that's a lot to ask of most people, including, I suspect, much of the target market.

LapLink's "Upgrade your Existing PC in 3 easy steps" instructions for doing Windows 7 upgrades using PCmover are short and to the point.

On the other hand, they've got at least two versions -- on the same page:

On the product's web page", there's text:

"First, run PCmover and follow the easy-to-use wizard. Then install Windows 7, choosing "custom" install (do not reformat). Then run PCmover again."

The instructions in the figure -- where more eyeballs are likely to linker, just below:

omits the key qualifier "...choosing "custom" install (do not reformat)..."

I'm not sure there's a specific moral here. The general one for any and all computers remains, always do a full backup, because Stuff Happens. Any even if stuff doesn't happen, you might change your mind (or somebody else might say, "Don't do that" after you've done that).

LapLink does repeatedly urge users to do save a full system image to an external drive, before cranking up PCmover.

And they do, repeatedly, make it clear that you have to select Windows 7's CUSTOM install, and NOT let Windows 7 reformat the hard drive.

You know that some people will skip this and come to regret it. Hopefully, not where you work.

Why Is LapLink Giving It Away For Free, Anyway?

I'm sure that Microsoft is in favor of this because it will increase sales of Windows 7 licenses, and may decrease user migration pain, a nice positive feedback loop. (And, in turn, reduce the number of XP and Vista systems.)

For Ingram Micro and the other partners, ditto, it's driving sales of software.

For LapLink, it creates awareness -- and with luck, recommendations and repeat business -- beyond when "free" expires. Plus, PCMover Windows 7 Upgrade Assistant is only useful for one of many of the Windows migration scenarios; LapLink has other versions, and those aren't free.

My desktop and notebook are both still running XP. I'm prepared to do re-installs of my software...I'm pretty sure I've got all the ID key numbers. But the idea of being able to migrate less painfully is appealing.

And, I suspect, for techies providing friends-and-family computer support, something like PCmover might be a bargain at almost any price.

And now, to paraphrase the late radio journalist Paul Harvey, you know more of the story. Some of which, hopefully, has been useful.

Don't Miss: 'Move Now' Eases SMB Windows 7 Migration

Editor's Choice
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
Carlo Massimo, Political Reporter and Columnist
Nathan Eddy, Freelance Writer
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author