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New laptop and minimalistic attitudes

Image representing Apple as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

It was my birthday this week, and I finally pulled the trigger and bought myself the big gift I have been pondering for months: a new laptop.

Each time I get a new primary machine, it begins an adventure. How much of your old stuff do you really need to move over to the new machine? How vital are all those old files? Do you really need all those backup files?

I have been having this experience with computers since the mid-1990s. Each time it’s different. With some of my past computers, I have tried to transfer absolutely everything. Other times, I decided to simply burn copies of the “important” folders to CD, from which I could copy the things I needed as I needed them.

The result of this: a binder full of CDs labeled “desktop,” “My Documents” and “Music.” The vast majority of them have not been inside a disk drive since they were burned.

This time around, I have taken a somewhat different approach, inspired by my reading of Minimal Mac, a blog focused on the simplicity of Apple’s product design and the minimalistic lifestyle that some people adopt around their Apple hardware.

Quite a few posts on Minimal Mac recently have recounted the stories of people who have switched from larger Mac machines to MacBook Airs. With hard drive space, these people have had to adapt their computer usage habits, installing only the software they truly need to accomplish their goals.

In this spirit, I have so far tried to keep the software installed on my new computer to a bare minimum. Adobe CS3, TextMate, Twitter, Reeder, TextExpander, Transmit, Firefox, Notational Velocity, 1Password, Dropbox and Evernote for starters. (I would like to eventually get a copy of Final Cut Pro, but that’s going to have to wait for my savings to rebuild a bit.)

I have moved zero files across to this new computer.

That’s right, no files. No family photos, no music, nothing.

Why? How can I leave all that behind? Well, for one thing, it’s safely stored on the hard drive in my old laptop, where it will remain until I copy the vital bits onto an external hard disk or load them into some cloud service. For another thing:

I don’t need that stuff.

  • Music is handy, but I seldom listen to music on my laptop. I have an iPod. All my music is there.
  • Family photos are nice to keep, but the ones I don’t wind up sharing on Facebook with family are simply archives. Nice to look through from time to time, but not something I need to keep on my machine’s hard drive.
  • Old documents? If I truly thought they were important, I would have logged them into my Evernote account for syncing to the cloud and across every machine I use. If I was still working with them, they’d be in my Dropbox.
  • Videos? It’s called Netflix. It’s streams, people. No need to rip movies. (see also YouTube)

So… 750 GB hard drive. 705 GB available.

So, how careful are you with what you keep on your computer?