Does migration software for new PCs work?

Question

I am in the process of purchasing a new Laptop; what is the best and most reliable software to transfer all files, pictures, software, etc. from my old to my new Laptop?

- Jimmy

Answer

This question was answered on May 13, 2009. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

For Windows users, one of the biggest hassles when buying a new computer is getting it to look like the old computer (for Mac users, this transfer is much less complicated).

Over the years of owning a computer, many personalized settings are created that makes the computer act and look the way we want it to; this is both a blessing and a curse!

Everything from your programs and data files, to pictures, music, videos, printer drivers, e-mail addresses and messages, favorites, bookmarks, your home or business network settings, digital camera and scanner drivers all need to make it to your new computer.

While this problem really began with the release of Windows 95 (the first Windows version that was machine specific) and has continued to plague computer users to this day.

Although the problem has been around for a long time, the various attempts to solve it with an “easy to use” and “reliable” software program have been less than desirable.

The paradox is that the programs that offer to transfer programs and data so you don’t have to reinstall everything from scratch and then restore your data files only work well with simple transfers.

Microsoft offers Windows Easy Transfer for Vista users ( http://bit.ly/xfer ) but it only addresses Microsoft files & settings.

In other words, if you have a complex configuration, the third-party programs tend to run into lots of difficulties; if you only have a couple of programs that need to be transferred, then they fare much better.

But if you only have a couple of programs to transfer, doing it the old-fashioned way (manually installing from CDs) is no big deal and there is no need to spend the money on a fancy program.

In my tests of these programs over the years, two consistent problems occur (and are consistent complaints from users across the Internet):

#1: They don’t get the job completely done on complex transfers

#2: Very quirky behavior follows the transfer attempts

When you have a lot of programs and customized settings to transfer, none of the programs can get everything transferred properly, which leaves you with the equally time consuming task of figuring out what made it over and what didn’t.

In virtually every test that I have run, very strange behaviors were exhibited after the transfer, such as funky printing issues, delayed startup times or various features in programs that did not work.

The worst thing you can do to a brand new computer is make a bunch of Registry changes (which is required in order for the transfer programs to work) that may or may not cause instability in the operating system.

I assure you that if spend money on a program that causes problems on a brand new computer, you won’t be a happy camper.

If you want the highest chances of reliability, stick to the old-school method of installing programs from scratch and restoring / importing your data from backup Make a list of everything that you want from your old computer and then find the original CDs or calculate the cost of buying new software or make a note that you will need to download the software.

To make transferring files easier, you could also put your old hard drive into an external enclosure and plug it into your new computer to transfer your data over as you discover what you need.

In either case, don’t overlook the value of planning your migration BEFORE you buy a new computer so you can minimize the surprises that come from poor planning.

If you aren’t up to the task, there are a couple of other ways to approach this issue: buy your computer from a company that will perform the exhaustive migration tasks for you or clean up your existing computer for a fraction of the cost of a new computer (too many people buy a new computer, when their old one would work just fine after a thorough cleanup).

In technology, there is an abbreviation that you should remember: TCO (Total Cost of Ownership).

Make sure you understand the real TCO (in money, time and frustration) before you plunk down your hard earned cash on a new computer!

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Author

Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on May 13, 2009