The 5 day Microsoft detox

In my first few years of running a small business I made a few mistakes. One of them looking back was investing too much in physical hardware and software – particularly Microsoft.

I was too used to the corporate world where everyone had Exchange (Outlook shared calendars and contacts etc) and Word / Excel etc. Not to mention my years being brought up on Windows computers.

The low point was spending $5,000 on a microsoft server the year before last.

The situation was critical. My friends got involved. I needed an intervention – I needed a detox.

So let my mistakes help you by introducing the 5 day Microsoft detox – a 5 day, step by step process for helping small businesses ditch the Microsoft mindset.

Day 1 – Ditch Internet Explorer

IE6 logo – As my son would say, movit

If you are using a Windows computer and you haven’t thought too much about browsers then there is a good chance you are using Microsoft Internet Explorer – and probably an old version. Most sources still have IE as the most popular browser (see browser stats here).

The latest version of internet explorer, IE9 is actually pretty good (apparently). But most of us web developers have never forgiven Microsoft for IE6 (or the IT departments that refused to get rid of it year after year).

So if you haven’t done this already, let’s start with a super simple first step – trust me you’ll feel better for it.

DAY 1 ACTION – Download Chrome or Firefox and set it as your default browser then uninstall IE.

2 – Uninstall Outlook and switch to Google Apps

If you come from the corporate world you are addicted to Outlook. But guess what. There is software that is free and better.

Google apps is a bunch of tools bundled into 1 including email (Gmail), calendars, contacts and tasks, docs etc.

Here are 6 reasons why Google Apps is better than Outlook.

  1. You don’t have to pay Microsoft every time you want to use the program on a different computer. You don’t have to pay anyone ever (as long as you go here, they make it a bit hard to find).
  2. You don’t have to pay your IT guy every time you need to do something simple (like add an email account).
  3. All of your computers and devices are automatically synced – no reading emails on your mobile and having them show up unread on your computer etc (this is the cloud, get used to that level of convenience).
  4. Gmail is smart – try to send an email in Gmail and include the word ‘I’ve attached’ but don’t attach anything. Gmail reminds you to attach it….I told you….smart.
  5. You don’t get SPAM – that’s right, it still gets sent but Google does a damn good job of filtering it out without any additional spam filters. I have my email all over the web unsecured, no spam filters and get hardly any spam.
  6. Google apps can have other extensions added to it to make it even cooler. For example I use Wisestamp for way cool email signatures and Insightly to have a CRM, project and people management tool built into Gmail (both free).

I could keep going but let’s focus on the detox.

DAY 2 ACTION – Sign up for Google Apps here and talk to your web guy or your IT guy about setting up your domain to support it. You can use the Exchange migrator to migrate if you want or just make a clean break.

Day 3 – Throw out your office server

DropBox – Get it

Now that you have moved to Google Apps and you are no longer using Outlook your motivation for having the server in the office is waining. The main reason you need it now is to store files.

But having a server in your office to store files is a pain. For one thing you generally have to manually back it up. Accessing it remotely is intensely slow and it’s ugly and takes up space.

So throw is out. Physically, pick it up….right now… and throw it out the window.

But wait before you do. Sign up for paid DropBox accounts for your team or a team account and copy your files across. Check our my article ‘why you need dropbox‘ for more on this awesome tool.

DAY 3  ACTION – Install DropBox then throw your server out the window (make sure there are no passers by, Microsoft employees included).

Day 4 – Uninstall Word, Excel and PowerPoint

Open office is not as good as Microsoft Office…But it works…. and it is free.

By day 4 of the detox the addiction is more or less broken. You’ve started to see the light and you’re in a panicked frenzy to find and throw any Microsoft product within sight. But slow down. Take a breath. You’re still using Word and Excel right?

One of the issues with ditching Word and Excel is other people are still using it so if you have any contact with the outside world you will still have a need for wordprocessing applications.

But there are 2 things you can do.

  1. For your internal documents use Google Docs (it’s also part of Google Apps). Everything is web based, you can access documents from any computer in any location, your team can work on documents at the same time, it rocks. If only the rest of the world used it!
  2. For cases where you can’t avoid working with software, download Open Office which includes free versions of a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation tool. It’s probably not as good as Microsoft Office and it’s a bit annoying learning the new icons and telling it to save in Microsoft’s format etc but it’s free… and it works.

DAY 4 ACTION – Start using Google Docs and download Open Office then uninstall Word, PowerPoint and Excel.

Day 5 – Cross to the dark side

If you look close enough you can see my computer.

By this stage after 4 days of solid cleansing, you feel almost dirty using a computer running Microsoft Windows. Here’s what I did.

In 2009 I bought a top of the line Windows 7 HP laptop. It was a serious powerhouse, 17″ screen, 6 gig RAM, Core i7 processor. It was more powerful than most desktop computers at the time. It costs me about $1,500 on ebay. Overall it was a pretty good computer, crashed a couple of times, had to replace the power chord. Altogether pretty good though.

Last year after getting an email from Apple about their annual sale I buckled and bought a 13″ Macbook Air. I had no reason to buy it, I think it was those damn sales pages that did it. The air had half the storage of my old laptop, almost half the RAM and was 4 inches smaller and cost about the same.

This computer seriously rocks. It’s so much faster than my old one it’s ridiculous and it’s so convenient that I hardly ever use my iPad now. I had heard lots of unofficial Apple brand ambassador types  tell me how good it was but their reasons just didn’t seem that compelling. It’s just kind of hard to put into words I guess. Just get one – it will make you happy and improve your sex life.


Results may vary, consult your IT professional before beginning the detox.

Have you done it?

I’d love to hear from successful participants in the detox. If you’ve successfully made the transition and ditched the Microsoft mindset I’d love to hear your success stories. If you think I’m an idiot I’d love to hear from you too. I’m so damn efficient now I have nothing else to do so keep the comments coming so I can respond to them!

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About Alex

Alex Retzlaff is the owner of A Website Designer and Web Circle.

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51 Responses to “The 5 day Microsoft detox”

  1. henry February 16, 2012 at 11:53 pm #

    am glad i stumbled upon this, am contemplaating buying the 13″ Macbook Air. glad you are happy with it , thanks for this post

  2. Dan February 17, 2012 at 9:17 am #

    Nice glad do help! Do it.

    Thanks for the comment.

  3. Rene@googleranking February 17, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

    I freaking love my Mac.
    Can’t believe I ever used Microsoft, why did we waste so much time dealing with the frustration?
    Life is so simple without Microsoft and all of its hang ups and blue screens.
    I actually gave up turning my old Toshiba laptop on because there were so many error messages I couldn’t handle it.
    I was very lucky at the same time one of my friends was selling his MacBook, I bought it not knowing much about Mac and I can honestly say that I will never ever turn that stupid old laptop of mine on ever again.
    Once you go Mac you never go back.

  4. Dan February 17, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

    Ha nice, I took a while to convert but yeah never going back now!

    Thanks for the comment.

  5. JosephJYoung February 18, 2012 at 2:06 am #

    Hi Dan,
    Thanks for the detox! I am with you on this! I am an animator as well and believe me the MAC world is where I am headed. Downloaded open office and trying it today.

    thanks for the list, appreciate your time given to this post…..


  6. Hezi February 19, 2012 at 7:25 am #

    I have an iPhone, but this is as far as I got into the “dark side” so
    Love your tip about “Google Apps”! I am looking for a CRM now, and I am definitely going to check
    Thanks for sharing! Will be back

  7. Wilhouse February 20, 2012 at 12:35 am #

    “Last year after getting an email from Apple about their annual sale I buckled and bought a 13″ Macbook Air. I had no reason to buy it, I think it was those damn sales pages that did it. The air had half the storage of my old laptop, almost half the RAM and was 4 inches smaller and cost about the same.

    This computer seriously rocks. It’s so much faster than my old one it’s ridiculous and it’s so convenient that I hardly ever use my iPad now. I had heard lots of people tell me how good it was but their reasons just didn’t seem that compelling. It’s just kind of hard to put into words I guess. Just get one – it will make you happy and improve your sex life.”

    I was all about this article until I got to this part lol. How can you say it has half of everything else at the same price and you’re still happy about that? I know they are extremely simple to use but come on I dont think it’s faster.

  8. chanikacha February 20, 2012 at 4:36 pm #

    Interesting! I do hate some of the apps of microsoft but many application only require windows. I also would love to change to mac but many of its application are very hard to find including some of its useful application. I do agree that ditching Internet explorer is a good way. I am now using google chome. This tips looks great thanks.

  9. Rebecca Reddy February 20, 2012 at 5:28 pm #

    However bad it is to be hooked on Microsoft, It is just as bad to be dependent on another company. Let’s make sure we are not robbing Peter to pay Paul here:) Do what works and stay flexible is what I say…Thanks for the Detox plan!

  10. Easther February 20, 2012 at 7:58 pm #

    Hey Dan

    Love the post, awesome Tips! you’re absoloutely right, I am currently in the corporate world working for HP, we’ve got meetings all the time, and of course, meeting invites is used and created from outlooks.

    I definitely be implementing your tips, specailly the Google Apps :) on my personal other laptops :)

    thanks for sharing this information

  11. Stacy February 21, 2012 at 5:58 am #

    I loved my Mac until it died (after about 6 years) and now I’m using a PC until I can get another Mac!

    Gmail, Chrome & Firefox – love them! Open Office is much easier to use than Word!

  12. Barnett February 21, 2012 at 8:06 am #

    LOL I did majority of the steps, but not uninstall WORD and Excel. I thought about but I came to conclusion that I rather stick with them. Sorry if I let you down.

  13. Dan February 21, 2012 at 8:21 am #

    HA, you did well. Not much point uninstalling it if you already have it but when you get a new machine you might think twice about buying it no?

  14. Dan February 21, 2012 at 8:22 am #

    Oh good to hear! 6years is pretty good.

    Thanks for the comment.

  15. Dan February 21, 2012 at 8:28 am #

    HI Easther, thanks good to hear! I can’t imagine HP will be implementing my ideas any time soon. Although I am reading Steve Jobs’ biography at the moment and was surprised to know his first job was there so you never know!

  16. Dan February 21, 2012 at 8:31 am #

    Well if the product is better and it costs nothing then I don’t think it’s just as bad but I get your point.

    Thanks for the comment.

  17. Dan February 21, 2012 at 8:34 am #

    Thanks for the comment, you’re half way there!

  18. Dan February 21, 2012 at 8:40 am #

    It is so much faster it’s ridiculous. I was pretty blown away. You click on programs and they just open, like straight away. You open the lid and literally wait 2 seconds for it to load. You can keep the lid closed for up to a month with no battery and it will open straight up. It’s pretty mind blowing. Even booting from scratch is super fast, I used to wait ages for Windows even on a super fast computer. Even little things like in windows I’d always close programs properly so they didn’t clutter the task bar down the bottom, but when you do so it takes ages to re-open them. On a mac closing programs doesn’t clutter the bar and it only sort of minimises them so you end up having everything open (but it not feeling that way like it does on Windows) so it’s super fast to get between programs.

    Thanks for stopping by, now go and get one and tell me I’m wrong!

  19. Dan February 21, 2012 at 8:41 am #

    Hi Hezi, it all starts from the iPhone, watch your wallet :)

    Thanks for stopping by.

  20. Dan February 21, 2012 at 8:44 am #

    Hi Joe, great hope you like it. Thanks for the comment.

  21. Jamella Biegel February 21, 2012 at 2:30 pm #

    Hi Dan,

    I like this post because it’s informative.

    I ditched Explorer awhile ago and started using Firefox. I also have a couple of gmail accounts, but still use Outlook too. For now I will stick with Word and Excel because I like them, and so many of my contacts use them. As far as crossing over to the dark side, not ready for that either!

  22. Dan February 21, 2012 at 3:54 pm #

    Well it’s always good to have something to look forward to :)

    Thanks for stopping by.

  23. Radu February 22, 2012 at 12:27 am #

    Hey Dan,
    Change is part of the game..It’s our responsability to keep up with it. Although not everybody will switch to the options you suggested I enjoy using Firefox( the most up to date version if possible) and the Google Tools. Open Office sounds interesting..Right now I’m using Microsoft Office, a very small amount time compared to 1-2 years ago. Simplication rules..what you said here, really makes the work online simpler.

    Thanks for sharing,

    PS: Luv the design of your site and the free offer from the footer. Really smart! How did you do it?

  24. Lily Rose February 22, 2012 at 5:44 am #

    I couldn’t agree more with you. I’ve done most of these things already.

    I just need to gather up enough money to by Macbook Air. But it will happen!

  25. Dan February 22, 2012 at 9:26 am #

    Ha nice, you won’t regret it!.

    Thanks for the comment Lily

  26. Dan February 22, 2012 at 9:28 am #

    Thanks, yeah I use Firefox a bit, I ditched it when they put that little coloured firefox thing up the top left it looked so out of place it annoyed me. Interestingly enough that doesn’t appear on the mac.

    Thanks for the compliment, we just hand coded the pop-up but I think you do similar things with plugins like pop-up domination etc.


  27. Tosin February 22, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

    Hi Dan,

    Great tips you got here.

    Apple has overtime become endearing to the world. People could not fathom why they clinged to microsoft for so long. I bet microsoft would not have had any share in the market if Apple can first, or maybe microsoft’s ‘laziness’ made Apple good.

    I absolutely love Google Apps. They make life so much better and I definitely recommend them anytime.

    Thanks for sharing :)

  28. Dan February 23, 2012 at 2:46 pm #

    Well I think Apple did come first! They had a product out before Microsoft were working with IBM in 1980 or so, I don’t think it was a timing thing. Still you’d have to give it to Apple in the end the way their business is these days compared with Microsoft.

  29. Kyle Mattys February 23, 2012 at 4:15 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this. I’ve been using Chrome ever since. I’m gonna tryout the Google Apps. I’m not a fan of OpenOffice so I’ll stick to MS Office 2007. As for OS, I’ve used Windows and Ubuntu Linux. Never ever touch a MAC before. Most people here are Win users and MAC is rather expensive here.

  30. Julie February 24, 2012 at 12:02 am #

    I try to avoid Microsoft, BUT I can not afford MAC, so I simply use Linux with OpenOffice applications. All of them are free and I am more, than happy with them.

  31. wmonou February 24, 2012 at 5:54 am #

    Hi Dan,

    same here i use ubuntu but still have seven for my photoshop work and some games :D.

    but one simple questions Dan.. since you ditch IE and you are a web designer. How do you take care cross platform browser website design? you know sometime your client may think about it..

  32. Dan February 24, 2012 at 11:32 am #

    Hi Kyle thanks for the comment.

    Sounds like you are half way there!

  33. Dan February 24, 2012 at 11:33 am #

    Hi Julie, nice. I haven’t used linux much on my personal computers.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  34. Dan February 24, 2012 at 11:35 am #

    Hi thanks for the comment.

    I’ve got access to plenty of Windows machines. At least 7 that I can think of! So I usually just use one of our other machines but I believe you can run Windows on a Mac as well or you can use browser testing tools like browsershots o there are a few software options you can get for your computer.

  35. Dan February 24, 2012 at 11:36 am #

    Actually I should mention I’m the only one in our company that uses a Mac. But I think if I bought any more computers now for staff I would probably buy them MACs if I could afford it!

  36. Adam James February 26, 2012 at 9:39 pm #

    LOL, Dan this is genius.

    I’m moving on to day 4 now, but I’ve already got an iPhone and an iPad, hope that counts towards day five ha.

    I hate microsoft with a passion, Word is only a rip off of lotus 123 anyways.

    5 years ago microsoft had such a monopoly they were taken to court regarding breaking up the company, and now Apple’s iPhone business is worth more than all of microsoft. ha.

  37. Dan February 28, 2012 at 7:47 am #

    Hi Adam thanks, iPhone doesn’t count, everyone has an iPhone lol!

    The Microsoft v Apple story is fascinating. I’m reading Steve Jobs’ book at the moment no doubt it’s a bit one sided but it’s just amazing how they started, where they got to and where they are at now. I think Steve Jobs would agree that Microsoft more or less just copied other people’s stuff but were smarter about it (I don’t personally have a problem with that). It sounds like Apple was the only company that thought building their own software and hardware was a good idea now it seems it’s worked and others are changing their attitudes.

    I think with the cloud movement and less reliance on software and incompatibility issues as well as the takeup of other Apple products is only going to help them get more market share in their computer business too.

  38. Jim Jenks March 2, 2012 at 4:32 am #

    Love this post. I’m a big Apple fan but I don’t know if I could give up Word altogether but I definitely like not having to rely on Microsoft for everything. I have a Macbook Pro and I don’t know if I’m quite ready to jump into an Air but I have been seriously thinking about it with all of the cool things you can do with cloud storage and stuff like that. Thanks for the post, I will definitely be making some more changes.

  39. Dan March 2, 2012 at 4:55 pm #

    Hi Jim, awesome thanks for the comment. The air seriously rocks I really love it. I don’t really do that much heavy lifting with it (i.e. huge photoshop files or big video files etc) but so far it seems so much faster than my old windows 7 powerhouse laptop, I’m well happy with choosing the Air over the Pro the portability is amazing.

    Thanks heaps for the comment.

  40. Elisa March 14, 2012 at 10:49 pm #

    I tried that with linux Ubuntu, but I missed some programs. Now, I’m again on Windows using mostely MS software.

  41. Rebekah Brooks March 21, 2012 at 5:19 am #

    My only complaint is I wish Macs were more affordable. But they are high quality and dependable so you get what you pay for. Perhaps used Macs are the way to go?

  42. Dan March 21, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

    Hi Rebekah thanks for the comment. Yeah well the way I looked at it was I paid the same amount but got something with less specs. Like my old Windows 7 laptop was $1,500 and the macbook air was $1,200 I think. It’s a 17″ with a huge hard drive vs a 13″ with hardly any hard drive but the air is a lot quicker for anything I work on and it’s plugged into a monitor most of the time so the size I am happy to deal with.

  43. Gareth April 9, 2012 at 10:51 am #


    How would I use my email address with apps, love the thought of using use google products all in sync?

  44. Dan April 10, 2012 at 11:39 am #

    HI Gareth, you can use your own domain, it’s all part of the sign up process you need to make a few changes at your domain level. We don’t offer these services to clients but check out Flying Solo forums there will be someone on there who offers this sort of thing if you need the support or you can just use the paid version of Google apps and you get support directly from Google.

  45. Dimitrov December 10, 2012 at 2:09 am #

    Hi, good article thank you!

    I could compare friendship with Mac much better than Microsoft, but when your enter into “Mac domain” you harldy can use other gadjets because they do everthing uncomatible.

    Of course I think it is useles to give so much money for office suite when there are so much other choises available these days like web based google docs and much more powerfull open office. It is wise to invest these money in other aspekts of the business rather than in Microsoft soft.

  46. Alex December 10, 2012 at 11:55 pm #

    Hi Dimitrov. Good points. Microsoft’s “monopoly” has faded out and seems all but gone. They still have a presence, but no longer such a dominance.

  47. Antonio Perez January 9, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

    I ditched Windows a while back when I found Ubuntu :D There are still somethings I need to use Windows for (certain programs, really good video editing programs, etc.).

    For the most part I haven’t looked back since getting rid of Windows. I can do most things I need to do on Ubuntu. If I can’t I’ll jump on my girlfriends computer ;)


  48. Alex January 11, 2013 at 12:54 am #

    Hi Antonio. Good point about “certain programs.” I’ve had my favorites. And “good luck” getting on your girlfriend’s computer! ;)

  49. Bob Dent February 20, 2013 at 6:52 pm #

    Hi, thanks for the good points.
    Actually I think that everybody have to pay for software only if he knows what functionality is looking for and is paying especially for. Otherwise is better to use freeware software until he determine his special needs.

    For example if one doesn’t have extensive needs of text edition probably best choice will open Open Office. But one is advance text edition user probably will invest in solid build product as Microsoft Office. The situation is the same with google we base office. It is light and useful but for small jobs.

  50. Alex February 22, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

    Hi Bob. I agree, just starting out you need to test the waters, so to speak. Some free software can be amazingly full-featured, though. When it comes to business, you should only pay for what you really need.

  51. Juliet May 3, 2013 at 6:13 pm #

    This is a great post, thanks for sharing it with us! You’ve got some very strong ideas!

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