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Relocate Your Data (Part 1)

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Switching computers may seem daunting. We explain how to transfer all your files, folders and data seamlessly and safely

Many people hang on to their PCs for years, perhaps upgrading here and there and staying on top of any maintenance issues to ensure it continues to run as well as possible. However, there comes a point when nothing more can be done to revive an ageing computer – so it’s time for a new one.

Your shiny new PC will be faster and better in all sorts of ways

Your shiny new PC will be faster and better in all sorts of ways

Your shiny new PC will be faster and better in all sorts of ways, but switching to a new computer does leave you with the problem of how to transfer all the important stuff from the old PC to the new one – the innumerable files and folders that store your digital photos, music tracks, videos and who knows what else. Fortunately, this really isn’t as difficult or irksome as you might imagine. However, there are several different options available, depending on how much data needs to be transferred. They’re all fairly straightforward, but choosing the right method will smooth the process. In this article we’ll explore a selection of the quickest and easiest options for transferring data from an old to a new Windows PC.

Be prepared

Sensible advice for any PC user is to take regular backups of important files and data, preferably on to an external hard disk. If you’re already doing that then transferring your files on to a new PC is a piece of cake: simply disconnect the hard disk from the old computer, plug it in to the new one and just copy the files on to the new computer. It might take a little while, depending on how much data is stored on the hard disk, but this is certainly one of the easiest options for transferring data between any two computers. It’s also possible to take the hard disk from your old computer and attach it to a new one (see the box on the opposite page for details).

Sensible advice for any PC user is to take regular backups of important files and data, preferably on to an external hard disk

Sensible advice for any PC user is to take regular backups of important files and data, preferably on to an external hard disk

Not everyone heeds that counsel though, so the transfer process may need to begin from scratch. Of course, one option would to burn files on to one or more CDs or DVDs and then copy them across by inserting the media into a new PC’s drive. However, CDs and DVDs are a lot slower than hard disks, so this option could take quite a while – especially if you have dozens of gigabytes’ worth of music, photos and videos that need to be transferred.

Alternatively, if you have just a few important files or photos then it may be feasible to do it all with a plug-in USB memory key; these are very cheap nowadays, so could be a cheap-and- cheerful option for people who don’t have huge amounts of data to shift.

Get networked

A more elegant alternative is to connect all your computers together on your own home network. That might sound complicated, but many people will already have all the necessary equipment – which essentially means a router of some description. It may be necessary to spend a few rupees on a couple of Ethernet cables, but even that might not be necessary if both computers have got wireless-networking (Wi-Fi) features built into them.

With a router such as this one files can be transferred across a network

With a router such as this one files can be transferred across a network

Networking the old and new PCs together will allow you to transfer files by dragging and dropping the files. The actual transfer might take a little while, but once the network is set up, stuff can be transferred whenever it’s convenient.

Admittedly, creating a network between Windows PCs became a little more confusing with the introduction of Windows 7. It isn’t difficult to get PCs running different versions of the operating system networked, but it is complicated by the fact that different approaches must be taken in different versions of Windows. Microsoft has produced its own guide to getting all three recent versions of Windows network and sharing files at www.snipca.com/X4845.

Fiddly files

Unfortunately, not all files and data can be transferred on to a new PC easily. Transferring music, photos and other types of files is straightforward enough, but there are some things that are a trickier to deal with.

Windows Easy Transfer wizard offers selective control over the files  and folders that will make the journey from one PC to another

Windows Easy Transfer wizard offers selective control over the files and folders that will make the journey from one PC to another

Programs such as Microsoft Word or Excel can’t simply be copied to a new PC. In most cases, it will be necessary to reinstall such applications from scratch using the original installation discs. Downloaded tools and utilities can simply be downloaded anew, of course; but any data they contain will remain on the old PC, so refer to the software’s instructions for guidance on shifting to a new PC.

Emails can be particularly tricky to deal with, especially as Microsoft decided not to include an email program as a standard feature in Windows 7 (though the Windows Live Mail program can be downloaded from www.snipca.com/X4846. Similarly, transferring contacts, internet bookmarks and the countless ways you may have personalized Windows and its programs may seem difficult or impossible.

However, there is a way to ease the transfer of such fiddly files and that’s Microsoft’s Windows Easy Transfer tool. This is included with Windows 7 and is designed to transfer files from computers running Windows XP, Vista or, indeed, 7 itself.

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