Ann Arbor Area Business Monthly
Small Business and the Internet

Moving Day

June 2015

By Mike Gould

    “Wild thing, I think you move me…
        Wild Thing, The Troggs, 1966

I just helped a client get ready to move herself and her computer across country, all the way to California. Before she left she had me upgrade her RAM to 8G and do some housekeeping. Included with this was setting up a backup drive so she can move without worrying about losing data if something happens to her computer in transit.

It occurred to me that others may be in the same boat (or van or whatever), and planning major moves of their own, so here are some tips for packing and schlepping.

Cross Town Traffic
Faithful readers may recall that I moved from my tiny house in Ann Arbor to more spacious digs out in the country south of town some 4 years ago, (see URL below). This involved many trips back and forth with small items, and a massive moving van for everything else.

The first thing I did back then was to design and have built my new office, so it was ready just before we moved in. (20’ built-in desk, shelves, cabinets – room for all my photo, machining, and electronics gear. Heaven on Earth, but I digress…)

For my computer move, I double-checked that everything was backed up, wrapped up the monitor in a blanket, put it on the seat in my mini-van, stuck the computer on the other seat, put all the rest of the gear in boxes, tucked them in the van, and away we went. All the photography gear went into its road case and ancillary gear such as printers and scanners went in the next load on the seats. Several hours of wiring and plugging in later, I was back online and ready to rock. Or write one of these articles, or something.

Point was, this was all pretty straightforward and easy, nothing like a move across country. So how do your prepare for that?

Leaving on a Jet Plane
Step one, as mentioned above, is to make sure your data is backed up. Quickest/cheapest way to do that is via an external hard drive. These days you can get a 2TB drive for less than $100; that much storage will last you for many years, unless you take a lot of photos or video. If that is the case, you probably already have external drives just for those files – just make sure those drives are backed up.

Or, you can avail yourself of the various storage offerings in the Cloud, but I don’t recommend that for a lot of reasons; see my previous articles on this below. Or if you must, do both; put small size files on iCloud or wherever, and the photos and video on local storage. Just keep in mind all the issues with entrusting your files to 3rd parties. And don’t forget that uploading a boatload of photos to the Cloud all at once will take a lot of time.

A little Traveling Music
The same goes for your mp3s and other audio files. Here you get a break: if you synch your music library to your phone or iPad, or whatever, you have a back up right there in your pocket or purse. Ditto your contact information; phone numbers, address book, etc.

Here I make an exception to my general distrust of the Cloud: I do back up my contact info to iCloud. I figure it doesn’t need a lot of security, and would be nice to have if my phone gets stolen while I am travelling and I need to restore a new phone with my data while I am somewhere I don’t have access to my desktop Mac. YMMV.

Drive, He Said
Anyway, now that you have your data in at least two places, what next? Well, the big thing is: don’t put your external drive into the same box with your computer. If you do that and something happens to that box, you are up a creek and should be paddled. For the most secure experience, put the computer in the moving van and take the drive with you as you drive or fly to your new home. That way, if something goes horribly wrong, you can still buy a new computer and dump all your data into it. My client above is also shipping her car, and was considering packing the computer in the trunk, but her shipper discouraged her, telling her thefts from cars are common. The computer, well-clad in bubble wrap, is going with the rest of her belongings.

This can also be extended to home security: if you leave your external drive plugged into your desktop computer, and a burglar breaks in and steals it, he or she will also grab anything plugged into it. A better plan is to keep the drive in a closet or drawer far from the computer, and bring it out regularly to maintain your backup.

On the Periphery
OK, computer is sorted, what about the rest of the gear? Let’s talk printers and scanners. For a laser printer, remove the toner cartridge and put it in a plastic bag. As long as it is in the printer, there is a possibility that it could get jostled or turned upside down, in which case toner gets spilled everywhere.

Inkjets are another matter. There are a lot of different opinions about this online, but I think it is a good idea to pull out the ink cartridges and put them in individual bags to minimize mess. If your cartridges are mostly empty, consider recycling them and installing fresh ones when you arrive. You may also want to bag up the printer in plastic to prevent the various ink lines from drying out in a long move.

Bon Voyage!

Mike moves to the country:


A Cloud on the Horizon:

Mike Gould is staying put for the moment, was a mouse wrangler for the U of M for 20 years, runs the MondoDyne Web Works/Macintosh Training/Digital Photography mega-mall, is a laser artist, performs with the Illuminatus 3.0 Laser Lightshow, and welcomes comments addressed to

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