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Don Watkins

Transferring Programs And Files To A New Computer

By Don Watkins



So you have that nice, bright, uncluttered computer as a gift or you picked up a steal on a year end sale. No worries, that seemingly endless disk space will be gone in no time.

Problem is setting it up as your primary computer and getting it just the way you like it. Sure the Windows Files and Settings Transfer wizard will take care of some basics but what about programs? Sure, you have the CD's for your "big" applications and you can sit around and feed the new box CDs, enter finger breaking validation codes and spend countless hours downloading updates or you can just forget about them and not do anything with the new box except glare at all that disk space.

Okay, so that last is a poor use for a new machine and thankfully there are alternatives in the form of migration programs.

There's Chlorine In My Gene Pool - Desktop DNA

The first I looked at was Desktop DNA which I recall from the Windows 3.x days. It's been purchased by Computer Associates from Miramar System. Their claim is that it "is the quickest and easiest way to transfer and safeguard your PCs DNA from one PC to another." Details are available here and a trial is available here. They had some sort of rebate thing happening where the final price would be $19.99 but you know the deal with rebates; unless you're willing to sacrifice small animals under the full moon the price is $59.99. I downloaded the trail and checked out the list of things they could move for me. Apparently I don't have many of the "hundreds of the most popular applications" that it handles. Sheesh, I could have set up all that stuff from CDs in less than an hour. Hopefully it's better at moving DNA than it is programs.

Sufficiently depressed I don't bother to try it, nothing there I want to move so I move on....

Windows Easy Transfer Companion

Originally this section was devoted to PCRelocator but then Microsoft bought it and it went away. It has now resurfaced as Windows Easy Transfer Companion which is, as of this writing, in beta. However it is still available for public download in the US.

I haven't tested the new version but it does claim to transfer programs and files. However it is limited to transferring from XP to Vista. If you'd like to give it a shot it's available here.

Heavy Lifting - PCMover/Move Me

Next up to bat is  PCMover from Laplink. Laplink and I go back to the DOS days when I used it to move files from the PC to the laptop and vice versa. In the interest of full disclosure they were a client when I ran forums on CompuServe. This was just after electricity was invented.

The company has changed personnel since then (as well as their name, the company name was previously Traveling Software) and I no longer know anyone there but I have fond memories of Laplink so I'm anxious to try PCMover

If you want the downloadable version, your purchase of Move Me will run you $39.95. If you want the physical box with a USB cable it'll run $5 more. Since I'll do all transfers over an existing LAN and I'm hip deep in USB cables as it is I go with the download option.

Like PCRelocator there are options other than a LAN including loading files on a USB attached hard drive, first load up the "moving van" on the old machine, hook up the USB hard drive to the new machine and then fire up PCMover on the new box.

Using the LAN method it's not even necessary to use the IP address of the new computer, Move Me will look for another computer on the network running Move Me and show it for selection or you can use the network option and display all computers in the work group. Cool.

Move Me offers some options such as NOT moving hardware device specific files. Good idea, it could get messy if you installed driver x in a machine that depends on driver y. It's not something I would recommend but you can even elect to move your spyware.

Move Me recognizes that I don't have a drive D: on the new computer so it offers to put the drive D: files on the old computer in a folder on the new machine. I decline. Next it starts building an inventory of everything on the old computer and so the "moving van" file starts the process. The data is compressed so it doesn't take as long as it could but you're gonna want to go and watch TV or eat dinner as the transfer took 1.5 hours for my 20Gb plus of stuff.

After the transfer the new machine reboots and wham, there's a clone of the desktop from the old machine. All the desktop items from the old machine are there, even the shortcuts that were on the drive that wasn't transferred so, of course, they don't work. Move Me even transfers the startup program groups but disables it and allows you to pick and choose which transferred startup programs to enable.

All of the programs I'd moved with PCRelocator worked with Move Me with the exception of that pesky CD burning program. Move Me moved everything else including files in my documents, IE favorites, all my Office stuff, etc. with the exception of a few files that were busy by my own actions (for example I didn't shut down my email program so my email store wasn't transferred) and Acronis True Image and, of course, the programs that were on drive D:. It was like a machine clone without the problems associated with cloning a hard drive and installing it in a new box. Impressive.

Download the 2.4Mb spyware free trail version by clicking here.

The Bottom Line

Desktop DNA doesn't make the cut and when it was available the $70 for PC Relocator was kind of stiff compared to Move Me at $40.

Move Me is well thought out and well crafted and will certainly do the job as much as it's technically possible. I'm going with Move Me as my top pick.

Time to reformat and reinstall and I'm gonna wear this validation key out. Hope the Microsoft cops don't break down the door before I get this finished...

Until next time best in computing.

A later addition. I was so impressed with Move Me that I decided to give it a shot at migrating from XP to XP64, especially since it's not possible to directly upgrade and sure enough, it did a decent job. Not as good as it did with XP to XP but then I'd added some stuff to my XP machine since I did my original test. Specifically it didn't move SQL Desktop Edition (I've been playing around with Visual Basic and Visual Web which also installs SQL desktop) but it certain did the job with everything else. Another high mark for Move Me.


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