Twas the week after Christmas, and all through the house the family was glued to their screen and their mouse. Ma had a new PowerBook, and the kid tons of games, and I a column deadline (as though nothing had changed). And as systems admin for the Horrigan clan, it was quite a relief to get back to my fan(s). I had moused through the season, and relatives I did see, and was often summoned to fix a PC, or teach some newbie a trick that can't fail, or once more show granny how to download e-mail. I dragged umpteen files on Macs old and new, and repaired bad permissions until I was blue. A wizard they called me, reputation intact. But, frankly, I'm a home boy, and I'm glad to be back. Many people received new Macs this holiday season and some did not. I am not sure who is better off. If you have a new machine, you will have to transfer all your old applications, documents, user accounts, passwords and preferences to it - a project that could take hours, or even days. Although it is still a lengthy process, if you have a newer machine and OS 10.3, its Setup Assistant will walk you through. If your old machine has FireWire, you can connect the two machines and start up the old one while holding down the T key. It will automatically mount on the desktop of the new Mac. From there, you can drag the files you need onto your new machine. The files people worry about most are old e-mail and contact information. These are in your Documents folder. If you use Microsoft Office, the important file is the Microsoft User Data file. One of the confusing things about OSX is that there is more than one of every important file. There are two Documents folders, two Applications folders, two Library folders with two Fonts folders in them - two or more of everything. Why? One set of everything can be assigned or licensed to the computer. These folders are found in the first directory column (the column to the right of a selected disk). This directory has Applications, Documents, Library, System and Users in it. But when something is assigned or licensed to you alone, it is found in the UsersYourname file. In the Yourname file, you will find other Applications, Documents and Library folders, but you (or the administrator) will be the only one who can access and use these files. Different applications will put important files in one, the other or both places, so be sure you drag the contents of both over to your new machine. If your machine is a pre-FireWire Mac, you can network to the old computer using an Ethernet crossover cable (this is the same as a regular Ethernet cable, except the outer wires are reversed on one end). The old Mac will then mount on your desktop and you can drag files to their new home. If your old computer was a PC, Detto Technologies makes an application called Move2Mac ( www.detto.com/move2mac , US$49.95) that networks to your PC via USB cable and transfers important files for you. But to open the transferred files, you will need a Mac version of the applications that created them. If you were not fortunate enough to get a new Mac, there are a number of ways to get your old one to feel like new. Drag all the old stuff you will never use on your hard drive to the trash (when hard drives get roughly 80 per cent full, they can corrupt files). Update all the applications you use every day. Check out www.versiontracker.com to find what's available. From Safari to Office, there are recent updates that make a big difference in performance and stability. Now would also be a good time to make a backup if you have been neglecting this necessity. Once your drive has been cleaned up, it is time for a little maintenance. The coolest tool for this is the new and free sterX3, available, at the moment, only on versiontracker.com. SterX3 will also optimise a disk by updating pre-bindings, or the links from applications to shared library files. Updating these makes applications start and run faster. You should restart your Mac, update your pre-bindings after installing any application, and then restart the Mac. SterX3 also repairs disk permissions, or instructions on who is allowed into what file. The permissions get changed a number of ways, and when they do things go wrong. If you use Microsoft Office, compact the e-mail database. Hold down the Option key while starting Entourage. A window will prompt you to undertake a major or minor rebuild. The minor one is usually sufficient if you have not had trouble with it. Every time you delete an e-mail, you leave its database slot empty. When compacting, you delete all empty slots, making the database half the size, which lets an application such as Entourage run faster.