Easiest way to move files and programs?
October 24, 2008 8:30 AM   Subscribe

What is the easiest, most foolproof way to move files and programs from an old PC computer (XP) to a new one (presumably Vista, sigh).

I've looked through the archives and nothing quite answers my question. I don't want to move the hard drive itself (or mess with hardware in any way) and I only have one monitor so I don't think I can hook the two computers together. Or am I missing something obvious?

The files I need to transfer are mostly music and photos. I also have outdated copies of Adobe CS (from back before they even called it that) and MS Office that I can't afford to upgrade...I am assuming they will still work with Vista, although I might be wrong. (Also, the need to keep old programs is why I'm sticking to PC, I have considered the Mac option!)

Am I so hopeless that I should just pay someone to do it? I used to be fairly handy with computers but my skillz are about 10 years out of date, I think.
posted by JoanArkham to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Wait are you thinking you can just transfer Adobe CS from one computer to another? You can't. You need the installer disks.

How much stuff are you talking about? Other than moving the disk, the thing that comes to mind is buying an external hard drive, backing up your old computer onto that, and then moving it off that drive to the new computer and pulling it off the external drive. It sounds like you don't have your drive backed up anyway, so the external drive would be really good to have for backing up your new computer. If I hadn't backed up an internal drive, I wouldn't pull it out of the first computer in the first place.

If it's under 16 gigs or so, you could buy a flash drive and transfer it that way, that would be the cheapest solution.
posted by sully75 at 8:38 AM on October 24, 2008

I might be missing something with your question, but purchasing an external harddrive and transferring files that way makes the most economical sense for now and in the future (as it seems safe to assume that this is not going to be your last computer).
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 8:38 AM on October 24, 2008

It might be worth mentioning that if you have an iPod or some other mp3 player that isn't full you should be able to use that as an external hard drive.
posted by cincinnatus c at 8:45 AM on October 24, 2008

A friend of mine once had to transfer important files (years of law client records) from a Win98 PC that had no network card, no USB, no modem, no CD burner, nada. Normally he would have just taken out the hard drive, but the computer was so decrepit that he didn't dare open it up. He ended up transferring all the files through the parallel port using a program called Total Commander. Took forever though, if I remember correctly.
posted by PsychoKick at 8:48 AM on October 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yeah, you need to get your original software install discs if you want Adobe/Office on your new PC.

For music/photos, get a USB drive if they're small, and an external if they're big (as sully75 said).
posted by Jairus at 8:55 AM on October 24, 2008

It might be easier than you think to move the drive itself. I'm guessing if you buy a new computer, it would have the capacity to add a secondary hard drive, and it is just a matter of plugging in a couple cables... but if you really don't want to mess with that, I'd go with the external hard drive or using a flash drive or ipod to move files in steps as others have suggested. Sadly, though, I wouldn't count on programs being able to copy very easily unless you still have the installation files or discs.

And, hey, cheer up--no need to sigh about Vista! You might like it!
posted by tushfestival at 8:56 AM on October 24, 2008

Best answer: Invest in an external hard drive. This will be your easiest option by far. You can get very large drives or $100 or less.
As a bonus, you can use the hard drive as a backup of all your important files.
posted by arco at 8:57 AM on October 24, 2008

Best answer: This askme is about Windows Easy Transfer,which is software designed to transfer between XP and VISTA. You will need to buy a special cable, however (about $35).
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 9:06 AM on October 24, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! Yeah, I was kind of hoping to not have to re-install the old Adobe and Office programs. I think I have the install CDs somewhere, but it is going to take some digging.
posted by JoanArkham at 9:12 AM on October 24, 2008

Or get a KVM switch and use both machines.
posted by mandal at 9:19 AM on October 24, 2008

You'll have occasional problems with some programs, but you could try using VMWare Converter to create a VM of the old machine, then run it using VMWare Player (or equivalent) on the new machine. I've done this; there are hiccups, but it mostly works.

...this will cause heart attacks in some product activation methods, so it's possible you'd have to call up obscure tech lines and tell them you replaced your motherboard or something...

Note: if you keep an untouched, unopened backup of the VM file, you can avoid caring about WGA and the like. Every time you find you need something from the old machine, copy the VM and run the copy -- you'll have 3 days before Windows Activation starts disabling things on the VM. I suppose you could get crazy and monkey with the time settings on the VM, but I find it easier to just nuke it & use a fresh copy (yeah, I'm lazy that way).
posted by aramaic at 9:44 AM on October 24, 2008

I second getting an external harddrive, but if you want to keep your old computer in service, you can also use VNC to your advantage. I have an old computer I need to use occasionally, but not so often that it wasn't worth getting a KVM switch. UltraVNC is free, it works across platforms (even on the iphone!), and it's got a built-in file transfer deal if you don't want to have to really network the computers together in Windows, which, for some reason, was always a pain in the ass for me.

I run it as a service on the old machine, and whenever I need to use it, I turn it on, give it a minute to boot, and then run the client on my current computer. Piece of cake. The file transfer has been pretty quick for me, and it means I don't have to go through the rigmarole of transferring the files via usb to the external drive, swapping everything, and then copying it to the new machine via usb. I can do it directly over ethernet. Also, I inevitably forget to copy something, so I don't have to keep swapping the monitor et al. around to deal with it.
posted by averyoldworld at 11:34 AM on October 24, 2008

One backup strategy I use is making clones of a hard drive. I mean EXACT copies. I have two thinkpads that are carbon copies of each other and periodically, I insert a hard drive into the second hard drive slot on my main thinkpad, make a clone using EzGig software, then remove it to a file cabinet where I store my backup thinkpad. I do this because it used to be a work thinkpad and contains lots of good software I don't want to buy again or replace. Pretty much the same reason as you.

If your new box has Vista disks with it, perhaps you can upgrade a clone of your drive from XP to Vista in your new machine. (I'm one of those folks who is done buying new OS's from Microsoft. I will never own it. I don't know anything about Vista, so you'll have to take my suggestion with a grain or pound of salt!)

If it works, it has the secondary advantage of not affecting your old machine at all. First. make a clone disk. I use EzGig because I got it for free and it seems pretty bullet proof for cloning. EzGig has an auto-adjust feature which moves old disk contents byte for byte, AND automatically makes adjustments to the partition size. Once you have a clone, stick it in your new machine and see if it'll boot. (It may find hardware it doesn't recognize, but it may work, too. Most of the time, this trick works OK for me.) If you can get it to boot XP on your new Vista box, use your Vista disks to do an upgrade, and see if your old software all works.

This is the first approach I would try were I in your shoes. Some issues (like your old drive being IDE instead of SATA) may cause you some headaches, but if you like to tinker, this is an approach you might want to think about using.

Also, you mention that you might be able to find your install disks "with some effort", and I think if you can find them, you're in good shape. The best thing you can do is to make a box for all your install disks and save them. This crap comes up all the time.

Good luck!
posted by FauxScot at 5:45 PM on October 24, 2008

If the computer is hooked to the internet, you could upload to Syncplicity (it's still in beta and still unlimited) or Adrive (50gb free) and then download back to the new computer.
posted by Justus at 2:54 AM on October 26, 2008

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