By Peter H. Green
As a writer and business consultant, I’ve learned how easily my life can be driven over a cliff by seemingly mundane necessities. I’ve just emerged from a week in computer hell. Please understand, I’m not a computer geek, but an ordinary small business owner trying to upgrade my programs.
My late brother-in-law, a pretty savvy network administrator for a state finance agency, railed against Microsoft’s impenetrable shield. “They’ll be happy to give you personal attention, for a fee. How can I use this stuff I’ve already paid for? What am I supposed to do, call Bill Gates?”
If you want to upgrade from XP, you have to save your computer’s files to another machine on your network or an external hard drive. To help with this, Microsoft offers Windows-Easy-Step. Right! Microsoft has a long way to go before it will be easy. I wanted to put Win 7 on my older XP machine (2G of RAM, Pentium 4, 1.6 GHz clock speed), which I had been using as my main input point, despite the fact that it just barely passed Microsoft’s downloaded eligibility test. Windows 7 chewed it up that computer and spit it out. What saved me is that it had automatically set a “restore point” before attempting to install. When the installation—which looked like it was going to work except for the fancy new “Aero” graphics—failed after the third startup a day later, my familiar old XP screen smiled back at me, and I sang Hallelujah. I was relieved and happy to have it back, with all its treasures, still usable as a sturdy workstation, server and music player for my local NPR station’s XM Radio classical music channel.
To be fair, on the computers that ran Vista, many programs and files moved over just fine and were ready for use. Easy-Step made sure that all the files I wanted to save were moved from the XP machine and available on the faster computer to which I moved them. On the two former Vista machines, everything came over pretty well. But when I attempted to install Office 2010, all hell broke loose again with Outlook and Outlook Business Manager. I got some help on this from the Microsoft Answers site, where some techies called MVP’s—Microsoft Vice President, Most Valuable Player, what?—will actually answer your questions. However the poor users had to drag the procedure out of them one step at a time, and ultimately the MVPs punted to a Slipstick web page and admitted that WET doesn’t work for Outlook and that you should just export the .pst files yourself, as if to say, “It should be obvious, you dummy!” Who knew?
Conquering The Beast
The challenge in migrating Outlook is that your profile (i.e.: basic user identification for Outlook) often becomes corrupted when it’s moved from its original computer through Windows-Easy-Transfer (WET, for short, as in “all WET”). To fix this problem, and it took me all day to puzzle it out, here’s what you have to do:
1. In Outlook 2010, after the attempted migration go to Control Panel/Mail (switch to Small Icons to find the classic, understandable list of options, and select the “Mail” applet). Here you need to set up a new profile with a name different from your current one (the default name is “Outlook,” which lists all your e-mail accounts as its features. Don’t delete your old profile just yet, since it will also delete your e-mail accounts, and you may have to refer to them for settings and export the Outlook.pst file from the Contacts database—if it has successfully created a Contacts list and e-mail accounts.
2. Click “Next”. Select “Set up e-mail account,” click again and you’ll be asked to enter your e-mail address—this process can be repeated as often as necessary from your profile screen to include all your e-mail accounts. Then enter your password twice, check whether you want to enable text messaging, and here you have an opportunity to check a box that permits you to enter your account details manually. If you’ve got anything other than a simple POP account, such as the more secure Yahoo Bizmail, as I do, and you know or can find your previous settings, you should check this box. You’ll see the familiar brain-damaging screen that asks for all sorts of stuff you may not know and will have to enter about ten times to get it just right. Here’s where it gets interesting.
3. On this screen, which you have to complete correctly BEFORE you open your Outlook e-mail account for the first time, it asks for your data base. DO NOT select the one they suggest unless it’s really the one you exported, since it most likely is a new blank file, or if it has your contact records, you probably won’t be able to use them to select addresses from your e-mail screen. It’s vital to select an Outlook.pst file that you have exported yourself from your old computer’ and put on a CD you a or a folder on your new computer. You are allowed to browse at this point to find the file, but if it’s on an external drive or a CD, it will always look for that location when it loads Outlook.
4. If you don’t know how to enter your settings manually, leave this box unchecked and see if the computer can find your settings by searching online. It’s worth a try, but Outlook 2007 was smarter than the 2010 version: it could find my settings for Yahoo Bizmail. The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t go through all the tabs you’ll see when you click on “More Settings.” These tabs let you specify whether your server requires authentication, which then gives you different numbers for the port settings than the default setting. If the program can’t find them you can use numbers copied from your old Outlook e-mail account. Don’t worry if the automatic feature doesn’t find your settings. You’ll be given another screen with the checkbox for manual entry.
After several attempts at this, and doing it all over to change to a better export file, I successfully pulled in my old database and was up and running, with Outlook, the Mail and Contacts folders working together properly.
The Business Contact Manager Fiasco
Can you believe that Office Home and Business 2010 has quietly dropped one of its most valuable 2007 features for the small business person—Outlook Business Contact Manager? This contact manager, calendar, follow-up reminder, lead preserver and record keeper can potentially help you win business. Microsoft, on their Answers site, has admitted their mistake in targeting it to large enterprises and assuming that small businesses wouldn’t miss it. Now, if you can prove you own Office Home and Business 2010 and claim you had Office 2007, you can download it free. From Microsoft, yet. How about that? In trying to make the program look as simple as a Mac, they have dumbed it down to the point where familiar, often used commands (as in Control Panel’s classic list) are hidden, important features (like Select an Address Database) and Business Contact Manager (almost) have been removed. In my view, this reduces functionality—it does not improve it.
Bottom Line: Lessons Learned
But Microsoft can and should do better. With their billions, they should write a better manual (or better online help screens) to explain to us hapless users what may be obvious to the genius geeks in Redmond. And would it kill the thousands of workers out there to take a phone call or answer an e-mail once in a while from those of us who paid good money to buy their programs? Wouldn’t they write better routines if they could hear what we underlings are going through as we try to use their stuff out here in the hinterland? Programmers par excellence they might be; communicators they’re not. If Windows 7 won’t work on an older machine, they should say so and not waste our precious time trying to do the impossible.
As the auto companies do in the TV ads with stunt drivers, maybe they should put a warning notice on their ads: Don’t try this at home!
Till next time, cheers,