I’d been lying to myself for weeks – perhaps months – but eventually the signs were impossible to ignore. The battery was running out in less than half an hour, the case could double as a hot plate, and the almost-full hard disk made a noise like a bucket being kicked down an escalator. There was no alternative: it had to be put down. It would have been cruel to do otherwise.
The pain of migrating to a new PC
I hate upgrading my work laptop. Not because I’m averse to the allure of shiny new hardware: the 13in MacBook Air sitting in the reviews cupboard behind me forced me to draw on unprecedented levels of willpower to leave it in its box. No, the reason I hate upgrading is the pain of migrating to a new PC – the hassle of restoring all those applications, plugins, settings, passwords, signatures and myriad other peculiarities that make a machine yours.
Turns out I was working myself up over nothing. In the three years since I last upgraded, the pain of moving from one PC to another has been reduced significantly. I started by taking a plain old Windows backup of my retiring Dell XPS, while kicking off a fresh install of Windows 7 Ultimate on the Dell Vostro supplied by my IT department (Apple will want that MacBook back unfortunately). Half an hour later, I was ready to transfer that backup to the new PC. With only a few clicks and another 20 minutes on the clock I hadn’t only all my files back in place, but all manner of other settings retained: my Windows Explorer favourites, my erratically assembled Libraries, even the invaluable federated search of the website I set up in Windows Explorer years ago.
Against the clock
Reinstalling large apps such as Microsoft Office was as much of a grind as ever, but the hassle of going through one by one and downloading and reinstalling other apps and utilities was zapped by Ninite (http://ninite.com). It allows you to pick popular apps – in my case Chrome, Skype, VLC, Spotify, Paint.NET, Microsoft Security Essentials and Dropbox – and download them all in a single zipped-up installer. Seven apps installed in less than five minutes: I’m not a man prone to spontaneous bouts of affection, but I could kiss the coders.
The final hurdle was the browser, but since Chrome synchronises bookmarks, passwords and apps in the background, that was seamless too. (I use a social networking-orientated version of Chrome, called RockMelt, which doesn’t offer synchronisation, but I could simply import the data from Chrome.)
From start to finish, I managed to migrate to my new PC in under two hours – which was about an hour less, and a lot less hassle, than attempting to upgrade my iPhone 3GS to iOS 5.
Meanwhile, backing up an iPhone
For some reason, backing up the 14GB of data on my iPhone to iTunes took almost as long as backing up the 50GB of data on my old PC to an external hard disk. And, of course, there’s no handy disc from which to install iOS 5 – you have to download it via iTunes, which I did twice because the first download stalled about three-quarters of the way through, adding another 45 minutes. That iTunes has got to 2011 without a download manager able to resume stalled downloads is practically criminal.
Then, for reasons I’m yet to fathom, only about half of my apps were reinstalled. Yes, they’re all available to re-download, but that’s one by one: the only “Ninite” here is what you say to your girlfriend when she goes to bed, as you attempt to put your apps back together. Worse still, all the data associated with those apps was wiped: saved game progress, logins and maps stored in satnav apps all have to be replayed, re-entered or downloaded afresh.
The comments on a blog post I wrote about my iOS 5 mishaps suggest I wasn’t the only one with problems. In fact, a poll on our site showed only half of the respondents upgraded without any problems. Eight per cent claimed it left them with a bricked device.
Once I’d sorted out all the issues, my iPhone was undoubtedly better for iOS 5: the whole operating system ran more slickly, the new notifications centre is superb, and iMessage is a potential money-saver.
But I can still scarcely believe we’ve reached the stage where refreshing the OS of your phone is more hassle than refreshing your PC. I remember a press conference ten years ago with Sun boss Scott McNealy, who was railing against Windows, arguing that the OS should be invisible. “Nobody knows what operating system their phone runs,” McNealy ranted. “Nobody should.” How times change.