Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Swapping Out a Computer in a Business Environment

I wish I had a dollar for every new PC I've set up for an employer. I could probably retire by now. I've done it for a number of different employers from a variety of industries but, really, the procedure doesn't vary much and it gets easier as you go along. Setting up a new PC for a company executive or one of the bosses, though, can be a bit intimidating and that's where you really need to make sure you do the job right. So you need to take a few things into consideration and they are as follows: what software are they running? Where do they keep their data? What kind of printers and peripherals do they use?

The first thing you obviously would do when setting up a new computer is load the operating system, unless you purchased a computer that came with it pre-loaded. The next step is to load all of the device drivers to make sure all of your hardware works. You may check the Device Manager to make sure that there are no devices with an exclamation point next to them. That would indicate a driver issue. Sometimes I just have to wipe out an old system and re-load Windows and all of the software the new user would need to use for the job or position. The procedure is basically the same for that as it would be to load up an entirely new system from scratch.

New systems usually come with a drivers disk. An old system may have a folder on the hard drive that will have all of the driver installation files you would need. However, if you don't have them, you may find them online by doing a simple search through a search engine. I don't like to wipe a system clean by formatting the hard drive until I am sure I am able to get the drivers I need.

After the installation of the operating system, you would have to validate your copy of Windows but, in order to do that, you need to have internet access. So you would obviously configure the computer to use the company network. I've worked at companies that assign specific I.P. addresses to each computer. You can't use the same I.P. as the one you are replacing until you go to swap it out, so often you will use a temporary one that won't conflict with any other computers on the company network. I've used the same test I.P. address for each one I set up. When it's ready, then I will assign the same one the user has on the old computer.

After you get online and validate your copy of Windows you will need to run all of your Windows updates. I will just copy and paste a shortcut for Windows Update onto the desktop because I will keep running them until they are no longer necessary. After that, I will then install the anti-virus software. Then I will install all of the usual plug-ins for the web browsers like Acrobat Reader, Flash Player, etc. you will then have a functioning PC at that point. Now it's time to install all of the software the employee uses. I will then create a system restore point in the event that there is a problem with the programs that are soon to be installed. It's always good to be able to restore to a point before the problems began.

After you install all of the necessary software, check to make sure it all functions properly. Many companies have their own software that is unique to their business. Some have programs that only they use. These are usually the most aggravating programs you will have to install and configure. If the software is only used by your company and was developed for the company specifically, you can't Google the problem on the Internet to look for a resolution to it. You may sometimes have to consult with the developer personally to see what has to be done in order to get it to function properly.

After you get all of the necessary programs and applications to work, install the network printer that the user will be printing to. If they use other peripherals like a scanner, install the software for that. After that, see what data may have to be transferred from the old PC to the new one. Also see if they have e-mails that need to be transferred over as well. Some users don't always know where their data is, so it is important that you hold on to the old PC and not remove anything in the event that you may have missed something. Sometimes their data is kept on the network and most often it is kept on their hard drive, yet the user may not know where it is kept. They are used to just going in and retrieving it with out giving much thought to it. So sometimes you will have to determine where it is kept. Sometimes the user will have a network drive mapping where their data is saved and they don't understand that the M: drive isn't actually a physical hard drive in their computer. Make sure you map all of the drive mappings they usually use, unless your network is configured to do that for each user based on their login.

Always double check before the day you swap out the computers that you have everything on it that the user needs and uses. Then notify the user you are ready for the exchange. This is basically the best way you can do this with minimal inconvenience to the user. Down time should only be the amount of time it takes to shut their old PC down, disconnect it, connect the new one and have the user test the programs right in front of you to make sure all of the programs function properly. Just dropping it off and leaving doesn't cut it. Usually something either goes wrong or they have some sort of questions or perhaps something was overlooked. If you just drop it and leave you will probably get a call about something and have to return anyway.

So that's it in a nutshell. Once you do this a number of times it will get easier. Also, if there are certain things you need to remember to either install or configure certain programs, type up a nice little cheat sheet to make it all easier. I have always used them. I keep them in a binder and use them to make sure I not only set things up right but that I also remember everything that needs to be installed. It's sort of like a checklist that I can use to make sure everything is done that needs to be. Try it out yourself and see how it works for you.

Photo Credit: Image created by Bob Craypoe, also known as R. L. Crepeau.  

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