Why WinME? My mother fears computers almost as much as she fears change.
March 9, 2007 9:00 PM   Subscribe

[WindowsFilter]: I need to back up and then transfer everything to a new computer. Difficulty: Old pc is WinME; hard drive is failing.

About a year ago I helped my mom pick out a new computer (HP m7470n) to replace her ancient WinME machine (10+ years old, custom built PIII 800 by a friend of my dad's). Knowing that her hard drive had already started down the noisy, sluggish and unstable road to failure, I made it as comfortable as I could: cleaned it up, defragged and burned her pictures, PST/PAB and documents to CD. I set the two computers up for filesharing so my mom (with dad's help) could transfer her files and install/configure the new pc.
Flash Forward to today...

She calls me in a panic because she can't update Windows to the new Daylight Savings policy. I also learn:

1. She's still using the old computer, and hasn't even turned the new one on in months.
2. The old pc freezes/locks constantly, and some days will not boot. When this happens, she uses my dad's laptop to do her email/ebay stuff.
3. She never transferred any of her files to the new pc.
4. Due to hardware and software limitations, no full backup of her drive exists.

Hive Mind, I need help! I need to figure out the best way to back the failing drive up, find software that will work in WinMe, and how to tranfer all of that to the new computer.
I also need a plan to ensure I don't overlook or miss anything in the process resulting in data loss/corruption and so that I can calm mom's hand-waving-freak-outery.
posted by ApathyGirl to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
At this point, the old system seems to be too unreliable to use, especially if you're trying to make backups.

I'd take the HD out of the old computer and connect to the new computer with an IDE to USB adapter. Think of it as a minimalist external drive, sans case. Then you can connect the drive to the new system and copy the files you need. I think this would be the cheapest and most reliable way to go.

If you have the skills, you could also substitute a real external HD case for the adapter. But external cases tend to cost more and are a bit more of a hassle when installing the drive.
posted by Cog at 9:27 PM on March 9, 2007

Heck, you could plug it into the new computer internally, and that's free, although I suppose if you were comfortable with that you'd have thought of it already. Still, it's an option, and not too tough-- just open the case, and plug in 1) one of the dangling black-red-yellow power cables and 2) the big flat ribbon cable (use the one from the old computer). There'll be one or two plugs on the main board that it fits into, you can't really go wrong. Turn it on and the rest should take care of itself.
posted by alexei at 10:10 PM on March 9, 2007

Best answer: First of all, unless you can prove otherwise, moving files from an unmaintained Windows ME machine to the new machine would seem to be a great way to ensure the new machine is compromised by viruses and trojans, too. Before you do anything, you'd need to do a full scan and clean up the old machine completely with current AV and security products, before doing anything that migrates files to the new machine. And then, you'd need to update the new machine to current patch levels and AV signatures. If you can't be 100% sure you're clear of viruses and trojans on the old system, you and your mother are way better off to let it go, than to move problems on to a new machine.

Next, you have the problem of migrating anything on the Windows ME machine that is related to her user account to the Windows XP machine. Passwords, profiles, preferences, etc. are going to be stored in different places on the Windows ME machine than they are on a Windows XP machine, as the user account database functions of WinME are significantly different than WinXP. You can use the File And Settings Transfer Wizard from a WinXP installation CD to pack up the relevant bits on the WinME machine, in preparation for transport, using this procedure.

You'll need to evaluate her old application software, to see if WinXP supports it, as old software that required direct access to the machine hardware may not run at all on WinXP (DOS games, DOS screen applications making video hardware calls, most direct printing applications, etc.) You also need to examine her other peripherals for WinXP support (obtain needed 3rd party drivers for printers, etc. that might not be included with WinXP). You then install new versions of software, drivers, etc. on the new box. Finally, you verify that what you brought over works, as much as it can, and you provide a means for backing it up in the future.
posted by paulsc at 11:02 PM on March 9, 2007

I'd take Cog's suggestion of the IDE to USB adapter, and as paulsc says, set up the new machine with updates etc. Only then plug the old drive into the new machine, and use the new machine to scan the old drive before you copy anything off it. That should be the best chance to get things off the failing drive. Actually, if you were careful about where you copy things, you could copy then scan the things you've copied, because copying per-se does not activate viruses.

As paulsc points out there will be things you can't just carry over easily, but I'd only be interested in the data at this point and it's probably time to leave the old WinME applications behind.
posted by anadem at 8:03 AM on March 10, 2007

Can you go there in person, or are you working remotely?

If there's no issue with space, I'd recommend copying every single file, just because it's safer.
posted by Pronoiac at 1:21 AM on March 11, 2007

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