By Tim Brady, Business Editor

Downtime is the perfect opportunity to upgrade computer systems

screenLast month we began our nearly year-long series on tasks you can undertake during periods of slow freight with a look at how scheduling maintenance chores can ensure your trucks are in tip-top shape. This month we take a look at upgrading computer systems and their software.

It’s very important to accomplish this particular task this year. As of April, Microsoft will cease to support and update its XP operating system. This includes the critical security updates of XP that we have become accustomed to installing over the past 10 years.

So, if you have computers with the XP operating system, does this mean you need to purchase all new computers at a cost of hundreds if not thousands of dollars for the hardware plus new software? Not necessarily.

“The one part of a computer that wears out faster than any other is the hard drive,” says Eric Frilling, owner of Internet provider and computer repair company Ken-Tenn Wireless in Union City, TN. “It’s the one component that is as much mechanical as it is electronic. It spins constantly while the computer is on, and like any mechanical device, it will eventually wear out. The good news is that it can be replaced with a new terabyte hard drive for under $100.

“If storage space isn’t an issue, then consider a solid-state hard drive (SSD). It’s limited to 120 to 160 gigabytes of space, has no moving parts, and lasts longer than the spinning hard drive. An SSD costs from $160 to $250,” he adds.

You may need to pay a computer geek to format the hard drive and install the new operating system. I recommend Windows 7 over Windows 8, as Windows 7 is compatible with most software that works in XP. The Windows 7 operating software will set you back between $60 for the barebones Home Edition to around $150 for the Professional version. To know which is best for you, you’ll need to know whether you have a 32-bit or 64-bit system.

TAKING PRECAUTIONS
The Windows 7 package contains a disk for each. A 64-bit operating system can handle large amounts of memory—typically 4GB of RAM or more—more efficiently than 32-bit operating systems can. Not all computers are 64-bit capable, however, so before removing your old hard drive to upgrade to a new one, it’s recommended you copy and back up your My Documents and email client files (Outlook, Thunderbird, Opera, etc).

It’s suggested you use something like DropBox.com, Google Docs or a combination of the two. This will protect your important files if the computer crashes or is wiped out by a disaster. These files will be available to download into the new hard drive. A thumb drive or an external backup hard drive can be used as well. You may also be able to use a USB 2.0 SATE/IDE cable to transfer the files. These can usually be purchased for between $5 and $25.

Once you’ve upgraded to Windows 7, retrieve your My Documents files from the location and device you saved them to and copy them to the new hard drive. After you’ve reinstalled your email client program, import email addresses and any valuable emails you’ve saved. Reinstall the software that you had in the computer before the upgrade.

Most software licenses allow the reinstallation of the program in the same machine, even though it has a new hard drive. For safety’s sake, you should check with each software manufacturer for what their individual license permits. Let them know that the hard drive was replaced and the operating system upgraded.

FINAL STEPS
Don’t forget to reload your Internet and email security programs. Next, go to the Microsoft Update website and set up Windows Update for the operating system software. This will help keep your PC safe and running smoothly. You’ll get the latest security and other important updates from Microsoft automatically.

While Microsoft will no longer provide weekly critical updates for XP, the company did issue a statement in January that it will furnish malware assassin to XP users until mid-2015.

What are the benefits of doing an upgrade in this fashion rather than purchasing new computers?
  • The savings over a new computer system are substantial—several hundred dollars for each new computer, plus several thousand dollars if software other than that of the operating system needs to be replaced.
  • Training for you and your employees is kept to a minimum, as most of the software is the same as what was in the pre-upgraded computer. Windows 7 is similar to XP.
  • While each computer is upgraded, downtime may be held to a minimum. You can work on one computer at a time or one department’s computers at a time, thus causing as little operational disruption as possible.
  • Critical capital for other needs and projects is saved by upgrading rather than replacing your entire computer system.
  • Having computers that should be usable for the next five to seven years is a definite money-saver.
Rather than purchasing an entirely new computer system during a time of economic uncertainty, you’ll have upgraded your current system to a point where it can serve you for the next several years.

We can no longer operate without computers, but we must be vigilant and resourceful in keeping up with technology while not exceeding the capital investment capabilities of our trucking business.

Contact Tim Brady at tbrady@write­uptheroad.com or call 731-749-8567. Join Brady in the Trucking Business Community at www.truckersu.com.