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Easing the Pain of Moving to a New Windows PC

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Moving from PC to PCI love technology, but not when it comes to switching PCs — moving all the data and applications from one Windows (s msft) machine to another is not always as easy as it could be.

I thought I’d share some tips gleaned from my latest move to a new desktop. My way isn’t necessary the best way, but it may give you some ideas when it comes time for you to make the switch. Here are the steps that I took.

  1. Back up your data. Use an online backup service like BackBlaze or Mozy. (Solo web workers should have an offsite backup solution, anyway) I also have an external drive that does nothing but back up my computer’s data. The free built-in Microsoft Windows Synctoy took care of my syncing. Make sure you synchronize everything, including the data on any mobile devices.
  2. Take a computer inventory. Run System Information for Windows (SIW), Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder and Belarc Advisor.  Save the output files in Gmail or someplace where you can access it from any computer. These free applications create a list of installed software, license keys, hardware inventory, network information and other details. These apps are all free.
  3. Put the computers near each other. This makes the move easier and allows you to check what’s on the old computer and install it on the new PC and compare the setups. It’s also worth checking which apps are used frequently. While the inventory software lists all the installed applications, you might not need to exactly duplicate your setup. The key is to get the important and most frequently used tools and software installed so you can get up and running on the new machine. Then, if you find you need one of the apps you didn’t move over to the new machine later, you can install it. Don’t pressure yourself to get everything installed.
  4. Install the applications and tools. Dig up all your software, download the ones that don’t have a CD/DVD and download updated software. Some of my software (Palm Desktop, for example) is so old that I didn’t bother using the original CD/DVD to install it. Instead, I went to the companies’ web sites to download the latest versions.
  5. Share folders over the network. Turn on network file-sharing by opening Explorer. Find the folders you want to copy to your new computer, right-click the folder and select “Share.” Look for the option to share the folder (it’s different in Windows XP and Vista). Doing this, I shared the folder with all my work documents so that I had instant access to the documents I needed without waiting for the online backup to do its job. The online backup application then restored the rest of the files.
  6. Copy the data from old to new.
  7. Start using the new computer. I plan to keep the old computer nearby for a little while so if I run into something I need to customize or verify, I can look at it and update the new computer accordingly.
  8. Set up a backup system. Whether you used one before or not, put a backup system in place. Even new computers mess up and you never know when some disaster decides to make life harder for your home. It can happen. I was in my grandparents’ house when it caught fire.

Having many of my applications and data in the cloud made this the easiest and fastest desktop transition ever.

What other ways can you ease and speed up the transition from old computer to new?

6 Responses to “Easing the Pain of Moving to a New Windows PC”

  1. Effectively managing pc inventory across the LAN, WAN, and now more than ever, the Internet, can be a daunting or even impossible task. I talk with IT Managers who struggle to understand what it is they have out there to manage. Successful IT support starts with knowing what you have. If you are looking for a solution that provides the reporting and detailed inventory of every system I would highly recommend looking at the pc inventory software from Kaseya.

  2. @OBR, I use remote login on my laptop. I prefer to work at the desktop because it’s in my home office and sets the right mood to get work done. Laptop — not as much, but I do work on it.

    @Ben, that’s exactly right! A way to restore your customized software and Windows settings without carrying over the garbage left on the old PC. I keep all my data in one big folder — but of course, some settings automatically go under Application Data.

  3. ben nguyen

    Besides installing all the 3rd party applications, the biggest pain for me is to setup all the little things. For example, unchecking the hide file extensions, show system files, view details… adding context menu items in explorer (hjsplit, cprompt, etc)

    The ideal way of backing up your settings/apps is to image the drive, however that only works if the new pc has the same hardware.

    What would be nice is if an application could image a drive minus hardware specific settings/drivers (i.e motherboard, etc), and then slipstream it onto an installation cd so everything is automatically installed/configured based on the new hardware.

  4. I recently switched from a desktop to laptop, and keep VNC on the desktop, so if I need to get to anything, I can just open an app on the laptop and use the desktop like I was sitting right there. It’s helpful because I didn’t move over all my applications (some I only use once / year).