A variety of ways for copying your data into Windows 7
If you treated yourself to a new Windows 7 computer for the holidays, the last thing you want to do is spend hours tracking down and copying all the data and configuration settings you want to move from your old computer to the new one. Here are a couple of suggestions.
If you treated yourself to a new Windows 7 computer for the holidays, the last thing you want to do is spend hours tracking down and copying all the data and configuration settings you want to move from your old computer to the new one. Indeed, if over the years you've installed programs and accumulated a lot of data, the chore can put a real damper on your holiday cheer.
The good news is that with Windows 7, Microsoft offers an improved set of tools to help both those upgrading their systems and, especially, those moving data and settings from an old computer with an earlier version of Windows to a new Windows 7 computer. If you're in the latter group you'll want to check out the Windows Easy Transfer utility that comes bundled with Windows 7.
There's also some bad news: The Windows Easy Transfer utility still has a few holes and certain users will have to fork out extra bucks for third-party software to do the job. We'll talk about that shortly.
Windows Easy Transfer
In addition to its very special virtue of being free, Easy Transfer is straightforward and easy to use.
To get things started, go to your older computer and install Easy Transfer. You can install it from the Windows 7 disc or download the utility at no charge from windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/products/features/windows-easy-transfer. Versions are available for 32-bit and 64-bit Windows XP and Windows Vista.
Once you've installed and launched Easy Transfer, you'll be prompted to pick your mode of transfer: USB transfer cable, network or an external drive. Next, you'll be given a transfer code. Simply copy down the code and move over to your new computer.
Once you launch Easy Transfer on the new computer and enter the code, the software will scan for transferrable items on the old machine and then allow you to select what you want to move. From a displayed list, pick the items to move, click on a button to begin the transfer and you're off to the races.
I found that Easy Transfer makes it simple to select files and settings to move, allowing you to select file types without having to specify each file individually. You can, of course, move folders of data, and Easy Transfer can even detect shared resources on a network. In addition, you can select to move e-mail contacts and messages, program configuration settings, and Internet and Windows user configuration settings, such as desktop backgrounds, screen savers and taskbar options, as well as browser favorites and cookies.
Easy Transfer also anticipates that you may not have the same user accounts and drive configurations on both computers. Accordingly, the program allows you to map user accounts and drives from one machine to the other.
If there's a knock on Windows Easy Transfer, it's what the utility can't do. Most notably, it can't move applications installed on an older computer to the new computer. Instead, you're required to reinstall all applications.
LapLink PC Mover
There are two primary reasons you might want to fork out cash for another program. First, if you're trying to upgrade a computer from Windows XP to Windows 7, you'll find that you'll be forced to start from scratch. By itself you can't use Windows 7 to upgrade a Windows XP computer without losing programs, files and settings.
The other reason is if you want to move not only your data and settings, but also your applications. As noted above, Windows Easy Transfer doesn't do that.
When I went looking for options, the only help I could find was from Bellevue-based LapLink Software. LapLink's PC Mover Upgrade Assistant — which you can find at www.laplink.com/pcmover — can solve both problems. And PC Mover can also help you upgrade from Windows 95, 98 or ME, though you'll need the Professional version of PC Mover to do so.
PC Mover works much the same way as Windows Easy Transfer. You first install the program on both computers, then select your transfer method: network, USB transfer cable or external drive.
Once you've connected the two computers, PC Mover will search your old computers for files, settings and applications and will walk you through selecting what you want to move to the new computer.
First, of course, PC Mover Upgrade Assistant comes with a price tag. To download the program for a single upgrade operation will cost you $19.95.
Second, in part because PC Mover allows you to move more than Easy Transfer does, you've got to make significantly more decisions using PC Mover than Easy Windows. Some users, frankly, will find it simpler — though perhaps more time consuming — to simply reinstall applications on the Windows 7 computer.
Also, PC Mover takes quite a while to move everything. You'll need to disable screen savers and power-management features to ensure that the operation isn't interrupted.
Finally, while I found that PC Mover did a very creditable job of moving applications such that they generally worked fine on the other end, some programs may need to be reconfigured a bit to work the way you had them before. I found this to be particularly true of programs that involve scheduling.
Patrick Marshall writes the weekly Q&A feature in Personal Technology.
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