A little less pain while I upgrade please…

I’ve never heard of anyone choosing to save money by buying a new car without the interior (seats, dash, steering wheel) or plumbing, and just moving over the ones from their old car.

But that’s what we so often do when we upgrade our hardware… And right now I am doing my two office PCs and my home Win7 box. I’d really only just about gotten done installing my stuff onto it.

Fortunately, Dana put me onto something that can take a huge chunk out of the headache: http://www.ninite.com/

And below, some notes from my migrations…


I used to swear by Forte Agent (I was working at Demon when it was being developed and I interacted with Mark Sidell a heck of a lot; I hope my influence was as good for you as it was for me ;); then – as the web became a better way to get porn than usenet – Outlook rapidly became the answer for my email needs.

Then something from Mozilla stunned the bejeezus out of me, andThunderbird stole my heart. It didn’t immediately leap at me and say, “RAR, Mr Smith, I offer you perfection”, but it offered me customization that outlook didn’t, and it worked along the same fundamental principles as the old Amiga email clients to which Forte/Outlook/Thunderbird owe their heritage.

If you’ve tried TB and didn’t like it, give it a chance. It’s one of the most outstanding OpenSource efforts out there, the shining beacon of hope in the otherwise dark of this-and-that freeware crap. Thunderbird needs a little more bedding down time than Outlook and others, but if you invest a little time in it, it will pay you back in dividends. And I’m not talking about the usual complicated freeware farting about in the registry and command prompts.

One of its nicest features is the ProfileManager. All of your thunderbird user data is stored under one folder.

If you have Thunderbird installed and want to back up your account settings, folders, filters and everything else… I’ve upgraded my Thunderbirds to 3.0 already so I can’t remember how you find that folder in TB2.0, but in 3.0 check Account Settings for your Local Folders, and it will tell you where that directory is.

Find that folder (search for Thunderbird) and back it up, copy it back to your new operating system (or put it on a network share or a shared drive).

In a new Thunderbird installation… Before you start ThunderBird, you’re going to have to fiddle just a tiny bit the first time: Instead of clicking the Thunderbird icon, use Start > Run (or Windows+R) and type:

thunderbird.exe -ProfileManager

Click Create Profile > Next > Choose Folder.

If you are migrating, point it at the Thunderbird folder copied/shared from your previous installation. If you are not upgrading, go with the default or put it someplace you’ll find easy to find in future, and some place you might remember to back up :)

Bingo: You have a nice, portable, and re-usable mail setup. I haven’t had to worry about email servers or mail account settings for any of my upgrades since I switched to Thunderbird  6 years ago…

Putty and WinSCP

I pretty much live in Putty but every time I upgraded/reinstalled, I always lost my putty settings and/or ssh keys. The putty settings are stored in the registry under HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\SimonTatham. You can “export” that and everything below it manually using Regedit, or you can Run the following command (these should be on all one line, but it might not get displayed that way)

  /E "%UserProfile%\Desktop\putty-settings.reg"

This should produce a “putty-settings” file on your desktop. Back it up to the new operating system along with any ssh keys you’re using and you’re good to go.

WinSCP uses the registry too but you can tell it to write to a .INI file.

Start WinSCP, click “Advanced Options” at the bottom of the Login dialog, select Preferences > Preferences > Storage > (X) INI file. Click OK, and then revert it back to the Windows Registry option. (This makes it save out the settings to the ini file, but makes it use the registry the rest of the time).

The file will be WinSCP.ini in Program Files\WinSCP – or wherever you installed WinSCP to.

Copy it over to the new system, into the new WinSCP folder, start WinSCP and it will automatically load the ini file. Then you should delete the .ini file to prevent WinSCP trying (and failing) to write to a file in your new Program Files directory.

Chrome / Firefox

I’m pretty much a full time Google Chrome browser now (note: Mac and Linux versions available now). Dana likes Chrome too but has stuck with Firefox because Chrome lacked a bookmark sync option. Just in time for the start of all my migrations, Chrome added its own sync feature. If you’re planning on migrating systems, you might want to enable the respective sync feature so that you don’t “forget” to migrate your bookmarks :)


I recommend xmarks plugin for firefox and chrome for bookmark sync. I’ve been using is for over a year (a month in chrome) and it works well.

i second xmarks

Thank you for Ninite – it is saving me a hours already, because I use several of the programs they offer.

I am reinstalling my Windows XP gaming computer for testing 1.31. I will probably buy a new computer later this year, but first I want to see if my current computer produces acceptable FPS compared to 1.30.

Now I just need some software for taking a complete backup of this system to my USB hard drive, before I install the 1.31 open beta. :-)

Sms: I’m pretty sure that if you poke around you’ll find that XP has it’s own backup software that will do exactly that :)

The system backup file was created successfully, but then I got this message:
“There is no floppy drive available. The ASR recovery diskette can not be created.”

Can a Windows Automated System Recovery Disk be created as CD/DVD?
If not I guess I will have to install XP and then restore the backup immediately after while praying that it works.

Now I remember why I only take backups of my data partition.

While waiting for 1.31 I tried deleting some files and uninstalling a random program, then I restored the ASR backup and now the program and all the deleted files are back exactly where they were located before.
Now I’m ready to install 1.31 open beta. :-)

cool site, thanks

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