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How I Deal With Inexplicable Change

Something I’ve said for a long time is that your approach to change – particularly change that’s out of your control – is one of the biggest factors that will determine just how successful you are at using technology. The better you can handle change, the happier you’ll be. I’m absolutely convinced of it.

Note that I’m not saying you need to like all change. Not all change is good.

I’m currently working on my next book, Saved! Backing Up with Windows 8 Backup, and I’m running into some changes that are so incomprehensible it’s making me think “WTH Microsoft?!”

Let me explain how I avoid ulcers in this ever-changing world of technology.

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Windows 8 Backup

Apparently there is no user interface to schedule automatic image backups in Windows 8.1.

You could in Windows 7, and I believe in Windows 8, but not Windows 8.1.

You can make image backups manually.

You can restore image backups, of course.

But if you want to schedule your image backups to happen automatically using Windows’ own backup utilities, it appears that you’ll need to deal with command-line tools.

That was my WTH1?! moment. It makes absolutely no sense to me.

I get to choose my response

I could get frustrated and angry.

Okay, I did, for a bit.

But I chose not to hold on to that.

Instead, I sighed, shook my head, and then spent a few minutes thinking about the options I had in front of me.

  • Avoid Windows 8 backup entirely. This might well be my recommendation for most users, but it’s not an option for me. I have a book to write specifically for those who choose not to take that recommendation, or simply can’t.
  • Avoid the feature, and focus on the (fairly nifty) things that Windows 8’s backup system does do. This isn’t really an option for users, in my opinion. The nifty things that it does (File History, to be specific) don’t overcome the limitation. System images are simply too important to ignore, in my opinion.
  • Use an alternative to the feature. A viable approach that I may well end up covering in the book.
  • Figure out how to do it “the hard way”, and try to make it easier. This is what I hope to cover in the book. It’s not that system image backups can’t be scheduled – they can. It’s just not pretty. People that need to do this (which is everyone who relies on Windows 8 backup, in my opinion) are going to need some guidance on how to set this up.

As I said, it ain’t pretty. But there’s a clear path.

Accept What Is One thing I cannot change

No amount of my complaining or being frustrated will change the way Windows 8.1 works, or the inexplicable decisions made by Microsoft.

It is what it is.

So what’s the point in complaining and being frustrated? It would only get in the way of implementing an appropriate solution, or writing about it.

It’s all very Zen and almost metaphysical, I suppose, but the bottom line is that the single most important point in a situation like this, at least for me, is understanding what is and is not in my power to control, and letting go of what isn’t.

But Leo, it’s not that easy!

I know. Seemingly random changes – particularly when they take away something important that was relatively easy to do  – can be very frustrating. I’m certainly not saying there’s no cause for frustration.

I’m also not saying that it’s easy to let go of that frustration.

What I’m saying is that you’ll be happier if you can. Because, really, it’s the only thing you have control over.

Be upset for a bit, but then research and outline your options, make a decision, take action and move on.

By the way, it’s not all bad news

When it comes to backing up, while Windows 8.1 seems to have made image backups more cumbersome2, the File History seems like a big winner. That’s something I will be recommending people turn on, I think, no matter how they backup their machines otherwise.

It’s convenient, it’s handy, and it’s another way to help protect your files from things that can go wrong.

And it’s hard to have too much protection. :-)

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Footnotes & references

1: Of course you can use any appropriate – or inappropriate – three letter acronym to the same effect.

2: I have to believe there’s a plan or reason or strategy behind these particular changes, but for the life of me I can’t see it.

6 comments on “How I Deal With Inexplicable Change”

  1. I remember there was a famous book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”. I love your Zen and the Art of Computer Maintenance articles. This weekend my (fully backed-up) HDD died. So I bought an SSD which I’ve been contemplating getting for quite a while. The different issues of partition size came up so I decided to install Windows 8 to take advantage of a license I’ve been sitting on. OK fresh install is probably better if not easier, but now MS won’t activate, saying it’s only for upgrading. OK I phone MS after searching for 2 hours to find a phone number (to save you hours in case you need it, it’s 1-800-936-5700). I explained my situation to a helpful tech guy in India and gave him the Windows 8 product key as well as the Windows 7 OEM product key. After 15 minutes when I told him I was in Germany, he said he couldn’t do it so he gave me the German number. I called them and they only work normal office hours. Now I get a message to activate every hour or so. Hopefully, they’ll work it out, but using Microsoft products sometimes really tests out our Zen. Microsoft seems to need a few “big picture” people to analyze the user impact of their decisions and pay more attention to the component between the keyboard and the chair. This article really helped me in this situation.

  2. Your article is appropriate. Just recently Yahoo changed it’s “My Yahoo” Homepage and Email formats, which I hate. After some ranting and searching for a way to return to the previous format, I took a deep breath and accepted the new format. I still hate the new format, but since nothing I say or do will make a difference, take a deep breath and move on. What’s the prayer, “give me strength change the things I can change, patience to accept the things I can not change, and the wisdom to know the difference”.

  3. Thanks for the psychology session. I have been in need of it so that I can calm down and deal with my new Win8.1 (after XP) without draining my nervous energy and heading for tranquilisers.

    Relative to the average user, I consider myself to be a power user. My laptop is tweaked to my preferences for the sake of increasing productivity and for using many non-Windows applications. I use shortcut keys wherever I can and having upgraded from Off 2003 to 2010 at the same time, I experienced so many changes which rendered the muscle memory of previous automatic keystrokes useless. I have found some workarounds but they add an extra key to the routine.

    Why 8.1 should take away our control of wireless networks left me annoyed and stunned. Uncle Google has eventually resolved that problem in many cases by taking me to ‘under the hood’ procedures which give me the control I used to have.

    There are so many settings and actions that had accumulated in the past many years – I estimate that there could be around a thousand configuration items needing setting. No joke. I have a notebook in which I document these changes and it extends to about 20 A4 pages. The learning curve is significant.

    Several trusty programs which initially appeared to run, have begun to show features which no longer work. It has meant research to find applications which will be able to import the data files created over many years by the old trusty app (perhaps via 3rd party converters) and which will approximate its operating functionality. It has taken me near on 4 weeks of severely impacted productivity to reach a point where I run into maybe one issue each day.

    Friends wonder at why this affects me so much. Firstly, those who are reasonably savvy but use any given OS for the standard Word, Excel etc functions accept the changes and settle down quickly. Those not as savvy, complain bitterly about how routines they had carefully learned over the years no longer apply. Friends who make equally intense use of their computers as I do, exhibit the same annoyance and frustrations.

    I find it very hard to believe that the new software was created by the same company (MS) which created the previous software. In the majority of cases, I see no advantage in the changes. The changes appear to be made to satisfy the need of a new programming group wanting to stamp their style on the new software – irrespective of whether the change is an improvement or how the end user is affected. I can only guess that the Microsoft motivations are commercial and not in the interests of productivity nor of computing efficiency. It is only the MS monopoly of the market which keeps the market in the grasp and allows them to get away with it.

    • The thing that helped me the most with Windows 8 was learning to “Just type” when on the tiled interface. I can almost always find what I want. It’s good for my brain too because it makes me remember the names of programs.

      • Similar for me. I used Classic Shell for years because I preferred the Windows 98 Start Menu to the XP one. Now that I’m using Windows 8.1, I no longer use Classic Shell. It’s much faster to open the tile screen and start typing. The search in Windows 8 is so much faster than previous versions of Windows. I also have all of the programs I use daily pinned to the Task Bar (I’ve been doing that since Vista). I find the tile screen itself to be pretty useless. It could take up to several minutes to find what I’m looking for. Believe it or not, I’ve never even looked at all of the tiles.

  4. I love change!! I realize sometimes it is frustrating to learn the new ins and outs, but life without change is pretty boring to me. Same as when I sit behind my drum kit, if I don’t learn something new nearly every time, then I get frustrated. Maybe being a musician has made me love change; I’m asked sometimes why I don’t play the numerous fills on songs I normally would, and have to explain that it is time for a fresher perspective, at least for awhile. I even get excited over new GUI’s of a programs I have been using for years (hint, hint CCleaner!).


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