How I spent my year-end holiday part 1 of 6: Migrating my production laptop to Windows 7

Posted: December 17, 2009 by ralliart12 in 1-hour notebook
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It has been many days since my last blog entry. System re-format of my production laptop has been completed to a satisfactory level. In a way, it proves to be a major refresh in my experience with setting up new systems; as well as a (coerced) opportunity to archive, restructure & organize my critical data. Sometimes one really need a “scorched-earth” policy to decide which data to keep on-board the laptop, which data to re-locate to an offline/external volume & well, which data that you have been accumulating for no good justification at all. I encountered the inevitable “filename-too-long” issue with Windows’ file system, i.e. the folder-levels are too deep causing an absolute  file-path of >255 characters

Windows will prevent moving/deleting certain files & folders if they are buried too deep within a directory hierarchy

Well, some data has to be trashed; it is unavoidable. Nonetheless, migrating to Windows 7 also meant the revision of my “format.txt”, which is currently in its 5th edition. I’m considering whether to publish the contents of that document, but am a bit reluctant to do so due to the amount of hard work I’d invested in it on my own time, research & painful experiences. Even if I upload, it will be a “Director’s cut” per se, as the full uncut version will have more thorough explanations of why each step is performed at which point using which approach. I don’t think anybody will be keen to read the full-length article too.

UPDATE: I was looking for screen captures of this error & chanced upon this blog entry, which lead me to a Microsoft knowledge-base article that provides a work-around (this is not a real solution in my opinion; the issue still exists within the file-system) for older versions of Windows.

Discounting the amount of time to prepare for data backup & planning an updated version of the procedures, the time expended on the actual system migration is 2 days. The user interface of the Windows 7 platform simplifies & centralizes many UI elements which made many of my steps unnecessary; yet, in other aspects of the system control, most notably the “Advanced Power Options”, Windows 7 caters for a finer-level of manipulation:

I went through the entire configuration...2~3 times on different machines I setup

…which implies more time invested to tweak those. In addition, I abandoned Media Player Classic, Ahead Nero as well as Lavasoft’s Ad-Aware applications as the former candidate was replaced by a more streamlined candidate, VLC (after considering GOM Player, KM Player, SPlayer), and the later 2 apps elevated to the status of “bloatware”. Nero is replaced by ImgBurn, which after my roaming around in various non-affiliated forums, proved to be a more reliable disc authoring app specific to the Windows 7 platform (no offense to CDBurnerXP, which is remarkable on XP systems). The most troublesome of the whole migration is a customized Firefox environment & more in part due to, the migration of my music library to the new iTunes installation. In fact, the iTunes fiasco took the better part of the 2nd day of system migration.

The reason is because I invest heavily in smart playlists, which meant I must retain my play & skip counts and individual song rating for my sole library. It is further complicated as I have both music within my “iTunes Music” folder, “My music” folder as well as podcasts and AppStore applications for my iPod Touch. As if life wasn’t hard enough, I’m moving to a different Windows system as well as a new version of iTunes (version 9). Windows XP (old system) & Windows 7 have different directory hierarchy for the “User documents” location;

The "My Documents" folders that we are so familiar with, have shifted location in Windows Vista & Windows 7

iTunes 8 & iTunes 9 have different ways of structuring their “Home” folder as well:

This is how my "iTunes Music" folder was organized originally

iTunes 9 way of structuring its Home folder

In short, because of the way I store my music & moving to a new Windows’ & iTunes version, in order to retain my music library, it takes *some* “due diligence”. As this point in time, I wish to credit 2 authors for which this iTunes migration will not be possible. The 2 tips are:

#1. “How to use a few playlists to eradicate broken links in iTunes library”. Comment: this one is really smart: link

Btw, some smart guy managed to accomplish this in less playlists than the original author of the tip, BUT! I encourage one to review my response to his tip:

[Damn! I lost my response to the smart guy’s updated method!]

UPDATE #1: found my response in an email somewhere. Here goes:

[Anyway, here’s the more relevant findings:

With regards to “UPDATE January 2009” on your tip pages contributed by Josh Watson, although right-clicking while holding down “Shift” key makes the “Delete” menu item appear in the smart playlist, clicking delete does nothing. I tried twice on my Smart Playlist, “Missing Files”. No activity whatsoever. In the end, I used your method, i.e. “To get around this, I selected all tracks in my Missing Files folder, did Files\New Playlist from Selection (since it won’t let you drag & drop the dead tracks to a playlist), and then deleted them from there.” to delete the orphan files from a static playlist.

With regards to the same update as above, specifically this section:

“Also, you need to add the following rules to the Dead Files list:
“Podcast” “is” “false” –> or it will include podcasts
“Kind” “does not contain” “Audible” –> or it will include audiobooks (nearly deleted mine!)
“Kind” “does not contain” “MPEG” –> or it will include vodcasts (nearly deleted mine!)”

I feel that it is ‘okay’ to let podcasts remain in the Missing Files, because ultimately the individual podcasts that remained ‘captured’ inside the Smart Playlist, ‘Missing Files’ will still be orphan files, & I have no idea why anyone wishes to retain entries of broken/orphan podcasts in their library. In addition, I have a ‘hunch’ that ‘MPEG’ is NOT the only type of video file supported in iTunes, hence even filtering out ‘MPEG as a Kind’ may still delete someone’s video files, although, again, I have no idea why someone wishes to keep broken entries of video files in their library UNLESS the video is already on their iPod & they wish for the video to remain on their iPod.

With regards to Lee McKay’s update on Sep 2009, his method of using 2 playlists does not have the ability to catch/filter out/pin-point orphan video files/podcasts, because of:

“2) Make a smart playlist called “Missing Files” with the rules set as ” ‘Playlist’ ‘is’ ‘Music’ ” and another rule set as ” ‘Playlist’ ‘is not’ ‘All Live Files’ ””

That’s all from me. & thank you for the smart tip.]

#2.“How-to-edit-iTunes_library.xml-to-reflect-new-music-file-path-then-corrupt-fresh-iTunes_library.itl-to-force-iTunes-to-regenerate-new-iTunes_library.itl-from-updated-iTunes_library.xml-to-retain-metadata-from-old-iTunes-music-library”. For a better understanding of this tip, pay extra attention to Part II of this article.

Nonetheless, I have to re-subscribe to all my podcasts as well as re-sync all my iPod Touch applications upstream due to my own negligence. Can’t blame nobody but just have to embrace the situation & move on.

UPDATE #2: Anyway after performing the iTunes migration & restoration, in my opinion, iTunes method of organizing multimedia definitely has room for improvement. As cloud storage plummet in costs, I suggest that each individual has his iTunes media, be it music, videos, ipod applications, etc., stored perpetually in the cloud, managed by his iTunes account. This way, any re-installation of iTunes due to technical circumstances, can be totally encapsulated from any impact to his media. Upon the fresh installation of iTunes, he just needs to login to his account, & all his previous media will be accessible. Likewise, friends can showcase their favourite songs, movies, etc., on each other’s PC simply by logging into their account on their friend’s computer. Isn’t this way more user-friendly?

UPDATE #2a: I believe the preceding implementation will resolve 2 additional problems. Having your account, profile/configurations stored in the cloud means that any system format will have your podcast subscriptions & auto-delete preferences restored seamlessly when your new system is up & running. Furthermore, although most savvy users are currently shifting their music collection off to an external volume, such volumes housing large collections of multimedia are usually non-portable 3.5″ external hard disks or even NAS devices. So if I want to synchronise my music while I’m outside with my netbook (& to a lesser extent, remove finished podcasts), I can’t do it without lugging my external storage along. If my media is actually stored in the cloud, I can sign into the same iTunes account/profile on my netbook (or any number of disparate devices) & still synchronise my iPod “properly” against a single media source (instead of having any nasty surprises as compared to if I sync one iPod against a few different external volumes of media, if that is even possible).

So besides the iTunes issue, all the rest of the system migration is not as tense as my previous system migrations; I guess my attitude towards this whole aspect of my life has become less anal-retentive”. Happily enjoying my Windows 7 Ultimate system for the time-being (except when I write this entry I was actually on a plane). Oh btw, did I mention what happened to my laptop right after the decision to migrate it was made? To find out more, read part 2 of this “holiday special”.


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