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July 23, 2012 4:57 PM   Subscribe

What are the best practices for transferring files to a new computer in 2012?

My laptop is on its last leg, and Lenovo is shipping a new one to me tomorrow. Hooray! It's been a few years, however, since I transferred files from an old computer to a new one--and last time, when I used an external HD (which I still have, if that's the way to go), I ended up somehow losing a bunch of music.

All of my Really Important Files are synced and backed-up using a free Dropbox account. However, I also have 93 GB of music, 47 GB of video, and 16 GB of photos that need to be transferred, as well as an Adobe Digital Editions library of review books (think non-expired library ebooks), registered to my nook. Software that will need to be transferred/reinstalled includes paid copies of MS Office and Scrivener, Logitech Media Server, and Nero MediaHome. I already sync my chrome accounts. I'll be using Windows 7 on both computers.

What's the most painless way to get my stuff from laptop A to laptop B? Is a paid dropbox account the answer? Will transferring take forever?! Help!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If you have both computers connected to the same network/wireless hub each computer ought to be able to see the other one's hard drive via steps like these and you'll be able to just drag and drop folders from one computer to the other.

If you can do it this way it will be much faster than transferring through some web site or service, probably taking a matter of minutes, so if anything goes amiss it would be easy to just re-try. You'd need to reinstall the software separately.
posted by XMLicious at 5:22 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh man, I was really, really overcomplicating things. We truly do live in the future.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:33 PM on July 23, 2012

Copying 150GB over USB2 will take a little over an hour to an hour and a half.
posted by rhizome at 5:36 PM on July 23, 2012

There's also Laplink PCMover, which will copy everything over, in place, except Windows itself. You can exclude things from transferring. For MS Office and Adobe programs, they will be transferred and installed but you will have to re-activate online (only because MS and Adobe threatened Laplink), programs from smaller vendors should transfer over intact and activated. After you use this, everything is in place just like your old machine - icons, folders, stored settings of the programs you use, etc. The "Professional Version" including a special USB cable is usually available in Staples and Office Depot stores.
posted by caclwmr4 at 5:43 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I might be wrong, but transferring 150+ GB of files over wifi will probably take a long, long time. It's been my experience that moving files over Win 7 homegroup wirelessly is much slower than transferring via USB2, so you'd want to make sure you're using a wired connection. (I'm pretty sure that's what Rhizome was implying.)

It's not clear if you've used that external HD to back up recently...if not, you should. FreeFileSync is a good program to keep stuff backed up once you get your new laptop up and running.
posted by puritycontrol at 8:29 PM on July 23, 2012

Yeah, wifi will take quite a bit longer than USB/Ethernet.
posted by rhizome at 9:39 PM on July 23, 2012

I'd wire both computers to a gigabit Ethernet switch, then use Windows Easy Transfer.

As a working netadmin my natural reaction to anything labelled "smart" or "easy" is extreme skepticism and a very low expectation of success, but Windows Easy Transfer basically did what it said on the tin.
posted by flabdablet at 9:49 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sorry to hijack the thread, but how would one transfer paid programs from an old laptop to a new one? I'm not upgrading in the near future, but I too have things like Microsoft Word and various other things that would be a pain to get relicensed.
posted by mippy at 9:00 AM on July 24, 2012

mippy: you should have the installation CDs and use those to reinstall. If you don't, and the software is registered, particularly with Microsoft, you should be able to get replacement media with a phone call.
posted by rhizome at 12:52 PM on July 24, 2012

+1 for Windows Easy Transfer.
posted by schmod at 3:31 PM on July 24, 2012

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