Getting old data to a new PC

Question

I am resisting the purchase of a new laptop with much needed hardware upgrades. My concern is moving current programs/ software etc. to the new unit. What can be done to download everything and install it in the new unit?

- Richard

Answer

This question was answered on December 5, 2008. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

Your question brings up one of the most important issues when buying a new computer that most buyers and sellers of computers never discuss The companies selling you a new computer would rather not get involved in this part of the process because it can get thorny

With Windows based computers, making your new computer look like your old computer can be very time intensive or in some cases nearly impossible, so managing your expectations about what the new computer will look like is a good first step

The key elements to getting your new computer to function like your old one are the original CDs for any desired programs, the associated data and your personalized settings You can’t copy programs from one Windows computer to another because they must be installed

There are a number of companies that sell products that claim to transfer your programs and data from one computer to another, but in my tests all of them have had major shortcomings and I am not apt to recommend them as ‘the solution’ (the worst ones created corruption in key areas on a brand new computer, which required that the system be completely wiped out and started from scratch)

The best possible outcome will come from someone manually installing and configuring the new system with only the programs, drivers and settings that are necessary

Let’s start with the most important part of the transfer: your data.

Transferring raw data files from one computer to another is fairly easy as long as you know where the data resides on your old computer and where it needs to go in your new computer (which is usually the first stumbling block for non-technical users)

In my 20 years of helping folks with the transfer of information from one computer to another, one thing has remained consistent: most users have no idea how much personalized data exists on their computer.

Everyone is aware of the their documents, pictures and music but what about your e-mail messages (not just your Inbox), contacts/address book, printer drivers, network settings, network shares, wallpaper and any of the customized settings in just about every program?

The best possible solution to make sure that you transfer everything that you care about to your new computer is to take EVERYTHING to your new computer (at least temporarily)

In our service process for a new computer, we remove the hard drive from the old computer and attach it as a second hard drive on the new computer and transfer everything into a folder on the Desktop called “Old Hard Drive”.

If you only bring over what you “think” you need, you will likely run into a situation where you forgot about some minor item, which can be a big problem if you have already sold, donated or wiped the contents on your old system.

With the “copy everything” method you simply keep the ‘Old Hard Drive’ folder until you are sure that you have extracted all the data and settings that you want and have them in place so everything is working properly on the new computer Once you are absolutely certain that everything is in place, you simply drag the ‘Old Hard Drive’ folder to the recycle bin.

Once you have installed your desired programs on your new computer, moving the data from the ‘Old Hard Drive’ folder into the proper location on the new computer is what’s called “data import” and requires that you know where it goes on your new computer (My Documents from the old system to Documents and Settings on the new for example).

My advice to anyone contemplating the purchase of a new computer that isn’t familiar with all the steps of data transfer is to negotiate the cost of this critical work BEFORE you make the purchase so you aren’t left to figure it all out for yourself AFTER the purchase.

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Author

Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on December 5, 2008