No easy way to transfer laptop contents - East Valley Tribune: Business

No easy way to transfer laptop contents

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Posted: Saturday, May 16, 2009 3:36 pm | Updated: 2:56 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Data Doctors: Q: 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

A: 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.

Q: 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

A: 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 make 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, etc. need to make it to your new computer.

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 a long time, the various attempts to solve it with an easy-to-use software program have been less than successful.

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 and settings. 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 frequent complaints from users across the Internet: 1. they don’t get the job completely done on complex transfers, and 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 I have run, 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 new computer is make a bunch of registry changes (which is required for the transfer programs to work) that may cause instability in the operating system.

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.

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 one.

Too many people buy a new computer when their old one would work just fine after a thorough cleanup.

Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the “Computer Corner” radio show, which can be heard Saturdays at noon on KTAR 92.3 FM or at www.datadoctors.com/radio. Readers may send questions to evtrib@datadoctors.com

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