With the prices of electronics so low these days, many of us will find shiny new computers under the tree this year.

Hooking up the computer is fairly simple if you follow the instructions that come with the computer. What about your "Favorites," "My Documents," "My Music," and all those forwarded jokes in your email? They are still on your old computer. Can those be transferred?

There are many ways to transfer data from one computer to another, from data transfer kits to network transfer, there are many other ways to get this accomplished. My favorite method, and the one we use every day, is to transfer your data to a portable hard drive and then to your new computer using the copy and paste method in Windows Explorer. It is easy to do, reliable, and all it requires is a portable hard drive or a number of jump drives that have about 40 to 60 gigabytes of available space for you to copy your old files and transfer to your new computer.

If you want specific instructions on how to do this, email me and I will be happy to send you a step-by-step instruction manual. As far as buying the hard drive, you can get them most anywhere, but I urge you to find a local merchant who can assist you.

We all have traditions for the holiday season. Every year, my wife and I watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade together and this year was no exception. This year the advertising for Macy's had a different impact on me than in years past. I listened to commercial after commercial exalting the benefits of shopping at Macy's and watched the clips of people saying, "I shopped at Macy's," or "You can find me at Macy's every afternoon."

While Macy's has every right to advertise this way, it got me thinking of a new tradition that we should all try to integrate into our shopping this year, where possible. Ahwatukee has been built on small businesses since Millie's Hallmark, The Original Burrito Company, Cactus Jack's, ACE Hardware and Safeway were first established many years ago as anchors of our community. While these establishments are still alive, many mom and pop shops have fallen by the wayside in these trying economic times. All of us local merchants depend on your patronage to survive.

Your local shoe store, for instance, may know you and your children by name and give you special treatment because you are a longtime customer. Can you get that from the big chains? If you go into a local shop and tell the owner what you are looking for, I guarantee they will do their best to find it for you, and call you when they do. If you can find anyone in a mall store to listen to you, do you think they will go out of their way for you? I doubt it! To them you are just another face they will never see again, and they could care less if you are happy or not when you leave. They have thousands more of you coming through their doors every day. As a small business owner myself, I make certain every customer is happy when I leave so they will recommend us to their neighbors. Sometimes this means working long hours and weekends, but in our book, the customer comes first! One new customer the other day commented: "You never seem rushed, and you explain everything to me in terms I can understand. I like that!"

America was built on the small business entrepreneur. We need to support them or they will go away.

Mike Smothers is president of Ahwatukee-based Smothers Computer Services, a mobile computer repair company. Send questions to mike@smotherscomputers.com or call (480) 753-7667.

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