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The problem: Getting everything from your old PC to the new one

How to transfer data - Part I

Data transfer methods - Part II

Moving the programs over

Setting up a new PC - Transferring data and programs


Gartner, the research firm, estimates that 43 million PCs were sold worldwide in the last quarter alone. That makes not far off 200 million PCs this year, or about half a million a day. A large chunk of these PCs are going to customers who have important data and programs on their old PCs that they need to transfer over. This article looks at the ways this transfer can be achieved.

First, the distinction in the treatment of data vs programs needs to be made. Copying data is relatively easy. Transferring programs over from the old (Source) PC to the new (Target) PC is a different proposition. In older operating systems - like DOS - the installation of a program involved relatively little or no background activity. All the files and folders required to run the program were conveniently stored in a folder (then called directory) created for the purpose. Moving that program over to another PC involved no more than copying that whole folder across. Windows has taken that beautifully simple process and applied a complexity to it in a way that only Windows can. Seemless program transferring across PCs is now almost an impossibility.

When a program is installed in Windows there is still the creation of a folder for that program but there is a lot more that happens behind the scenes. Files are added to the Windows folder, files are added to other folders, some existing files are changed, the registry is modified and all of this makes it tricky to transfer a program over from one PC to another. Successive versions of Windows came with vast improvements in reliability and security or not - but with each new version of Windows the integration of program and operating system got more and more involved.

What happens if just the program folder is copied over? Thats an exercise in futility because the program wont actually run. It needs to be installed on the target PC, not copied to it. And that requires the original installation disk. Or does it? Assuming there was an easy way of transferring programs over the job is still not done.

Its not just data and programs that need transferring over. Users often spend a great deal of time personalising their PCs, setting passwords, creating email accounts, doing their banking etc. In an ideal world the user wants to see the target PC seemlessly take over; they dont want to go through all the settings, transfer all their email, email rules and address books, fine tune all their application software, games and utilities, recreate templates, personalise their Windows settings etc.

So how is the setting up of the target PC most seemlessly and easily achieved? First, a look at the process of connectivity for any data, program or setting to be copied over the source PC and the target PC need to have some way of talking to each other and transferring files across from one to the other. There are two primary ways of doing this choosing from a range of external media, or connecting the target PC directly to the data on the source PCs hard disk.  

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This article was first posted on July 20, 2022. Note the copyright notice at the bottom of the page. We do actively prosecute content thieves.






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Last updated: Jan, 2010