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Transfer Data from one PC to another


OK, so you've got your shiny new PC but you have tons of data/programs/emails/documents/pictures etc. on your old one. What do you do? We'll spell out the best ways to transfer that data.

Note, this is not going to cover transferring programs. Unfortunately, with programs, you do need to re-install them on your new PC. You could use utilities like FastLynx and DNA (Miramar) that make the copying easier, or you could use just your Windows Explorer screen. Other utilities exist that will allow you to copy programs over from one PC to another but our earnest advice is to install the programs afresh for best results.

Before you do anything of course, the old advice still holds: backup, backup, backup.

Our # 1 choice: Setup a network. 

You probably have a network card in your new PC. Many PCs come with network cards built into the motherboard. You are less likely to have a network card in your older PC. If you don't you may need a "USB to Ethernet Adaptor". It's a little device that will fit into the USB port of your PC and - as the name suggests - give you a standard RJ45 network connector. If neither of your PCs has a network card then you'll need two of these adaptors. Do note that this presumes the presence of a USB socket (even if it's only the older USB 1.1). 

You could of course add a network card into the older PC  (and the newer one if it needs it). Networks cards are fairly inexpensive. But first check whether your PCs have any warranty seals as you don't want to invalidate your warranty by opening your PC.

You will also need a crossover network cable. This is slightly different to the network cable you'd use to connect your PC to a hub in that one pair of the wires is ... well, crossed over. The cable will have an RJ45 plug at each end which plugs into your two network cards.

Alternatively, you could setup a wireless network. Again, you can external wireless LAN cards for your two PCs.

How do you setup a network? Well, that a question for an article of it's own. Read your Windows help file - it'll give you some advice. Do a search on the internet and you'll find thousands of articles helping you to setup a network. Or call a knowledgeable friend.

Our #2 choice: Use a CD ReWriter or DVD Writer

This could be an external one if you don't have an internal writer in your older PC. It's a bit slower than a network connection, and not suitable for large volumes of data, but using a CD doesn't involve the aggravation that network connections can sometimes be for the uninitiated. Bear in mind that with a CD you are copying only about 600 MB of data at a time and with a DVD only about 4 GB of data at a time. Rewrite-able (RW) disks would be your choice for obvious reasons.

Our #3 choice: Use a USB devices like a USB pen

Again, this assumes USB ports in both machines and you are limited to the maximum capacity of the USB drive but it's quick, it's convenient, and doesn't involve spending a lot of time configuring the PC/devices/drivers.

Our # 4 choice: Moving hard disks

This is lower down on our list as some companies - including ours - do warranty seal their PCs. Taking the cover off could affect your warranty. That said - you can take the hard disk out of the older PC and set it up temporarily in the new PC for the purposes of data transfer. The easiest way is unplug a DVD drive or CDRW in the new PC and use that cable for the temporary hard disk. The new PC will probably pick up the hard disk with no input from you but on some machines you may need to go into the BIOS and make a change or two in relation to IDE primary/secondary and master/slave settings and/or the boot sequence. 

Note though that if your new PC has RAID or SATA you could end up with a PC that doesn't boot (unless you understand RAID arrays and how SATA drives are configured/setup). For example, you could plug your older hard disk in and find that the PC can't detect the RAID array and therefore can't boot into Windows. Or you may find that the hardware change you made (of swapping an optical drive for a hard disk) resets the BIOS and you have to configure the BIOS/CMOS as well as the RAID BIOS before the PC will see the RAID array and the Windows installation on it.

OK, that's the other reason it's at #4 and not #1: there is a higher chance of something going wrong.

Other ideas

If you are ordering a new PC consider ordering it with an IDE caddy. That will provide you with a removable tray into which you can temporarily fit any hard disk you've already got. And this won't invalidate your warranty on the PC itself.


Poweroid are specialists in the manufacture of Quiet PCs, Video Editing Workstations and Dual Processor machines








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Last updated: Jan, 2010