[HOWTO] Move Your Files To A New PC

Category: Software

So, you bought that new PC - congratulations! Now that it’s out of the box and set up, it’s time for you to move into it and make it your own. That means transferring to the new machine your personal data files, customized settings, and the applications that you have come to depend on. Here are several ways to move files and programs to a new PC…

Transferring Files From Your Old Computer

There is an important divide between PC transfer programs. It’s pretty easy to move data files and even settings stored in the Windows registry. There are plenty of free utilities out there that will do this job; in fact, one is baked into Windows 7 and above. But it’s a lot trickier to move applications, such as Microsoft Office, games, or other installed programs from one hard drive to another. Utilities that move apps often cost money.

Windows Easy Transfer is the free data-moving utility built into Windows 7 and 8. (but not Windows 10). Just typing “Windows Easy” into the search box on the Start menu will find this utility; then click on its name in the results list to launch it.

You’ll have the option to transfer files over an Easy Transfer cable, a special USB cable made by several vendors. Belkin’s Easy Transfer cable goes for $28 on Amazon. You can also transfer files over a network. But for migrating all your data to a new PC, you should use an external storage drive or USB thumb drive of suitable capacity.

Transferring files to new PC

Selecting the external storage option tells Easy Transfer to create one file on the external device that contains all of your data and settings, as opposed to copying files individually across a cable or network. After the Easy Transfer file is created, you can use Easy Transfer to copy everything from that file to its proper place on the new PC. One drawback to Easy Transfer is that it will only copy browser settings and bookmarks from Internet Explorer. If you use another browser, such as Google Chrome or Firefox, you're out of luck.

PCTransfer from iOBIT is a free program from the makers of Advanced SystemCare. Like Easy Transfer, PCTransfer will move only data files and settings, not applications. Also, it does not support transfers over cable or network; only the external drive option is available. And unlike Microsoft's Easy Transfer, PCTransfer will copy browser settings and bookmarks from Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.

Laplink PCMover and Other Options

Windows 10 does not have a native file transfer program like Easy Transfer, Instead, Microsoft has partnered with Laplink to include with Windows 10 a basic version of Laplink PCMover. The free Win 10 version moves only data and settings. The paid versions move applications, too. Prices range from $20 to $60 depending on how many user accounts and PCs you need to migrate. I've used paid versions of Laplink PCMover twice, and found it did an excellent job of moving my files, settings and programs from an older Windows system to a new computer.

The EaseUS Todo PCTrans Pro migration app gets high marks from users for simplicity and reliability. It migrates data, settings, and most applications. Don’t bother downloading the free “trial” version. It won’t transfer any of the files you select. A two-seat license costs $50 while the unlimited enterprise version is $300.

Zinstall is a migration tool that some readers have mentioned to me. But you may want to avoid it after reading this Cnet forum thread. A company that threatens to sue a customer because he asked for a refund is not on my list of business partners.

The tool you choose depends on how many programs you have installed on the old computer, how important they are to you, and whether or not you have the installation media (and license keys) for them. If you've installed a program from a CD, chances are good you still have that disc, and the license or activation key.

But when programs are downloaded from the Internet, quite often the "installer" file is discarded after the program is up and running. Likewise, if you purchased a downloadable program, you may have deleted the email containing your proof of purchase and activation key. Of course it's possible to download the program again (OldVersion.com may help here) and contact the vendor to see if they will re-issue your activation key. But all that can take many hours or days to complete.

Some users prefer a "clean" approach to a new computer, in which they copy only their personal files from a backup, and install software as needed. Others may opt to keep NOTHING on the new computer, and restore everything to the new PC from a backup image taken on the old computer. It's good to have choices.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "[HOWTO] Move Your Files To A New PC"

Posted by:

11 Nov 2016

Others may opt to keep NOTHING on the new computer, and restore everything to the new PC from a backup image taken on the old computer. It's good to have choices.
This would be installing all drivers etc from old pc.
How's that gonna work?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Macrium Reflect has an option to "restore to dissimilar hardware." I've not tried it myself, but I assume it works.

Posted by:

11 Nov 2016

I bought Laplink's PCMover to use for moving files and settings from two of my Win7 machines to two new ones with Win10. Imagine my surprise when I used it on one pair of computers just fine, but when I tried to do the same with the second pair, it wouldn't work.

Turns out the software is limited to one use, although I had no idea that was the case. I read all four sides of the box before I bought the program, and nowhere did I see that limitation. Well, after running into the roadblock the second time, I had my wife see if anything on the outside of the box referred to the one-use limit, and by using a magnifying glass her younger eyes found a notice printed in the smallest font we had ever seen.

I'm sure the manufacturer did that deliberately, because if customers knew the software was so limited, they'd buy something else.

Posted by:

Nigel A
11 Nov 2016

I have used Laplink products starting in Dos 3 or 4 days to synchronise between my first laptop and first PC, and right up until transferring to my present PC. Every time they have worked very well and exactly as advertised. They are well worth the money. The only problem is that the old PC has to be still working and sometimes that hasn't been the case.
Keep up the good work Bob, I learn lots from you.

Posted by:

Paul H. Henning
11 Nov 2016

Bob: You stated that "Microsoft has partnered with Laplink to include with Windows 10 a basic version of Laplink PCMover." I don't see it in my list of Win 10 "apps" on my laptop; is it hidden away somewhere?

Posted by:

12 Nov 2016

I just love reading your pages - this time a great
discussion on 'Variations on a Theme'

Really just to let you know you are never wasting your time.

Also love the Comments Section afterwards - they
are really welcome adding so much flavour.

Posted by:

12 Nov 2016

I keep all of my installation programs, text files, photos, videos, music and other stuff on a separate external hard drive. That way there's no need to use any of these programs to transfer files from one PC to another. I just plug in the hard drive and it's all there to use.

Posted by:

12 Nov 2016

If you're a user of Firefox and Thunderbird, moving those settings over is easy using a small free utility called Mozbackup. This one is also handy just to back up your settings and email messages from time to time to an external device of your choice so should your PC fail you you can easily restore them.

Posted by:

14 Nov 2016

Been in the PC business for 25 years and have been using Fabs Autobackup for most of the 25. The individual who wrote the code for this great software is from France that's why .fr web address.


Posted by:

14 Nov 2016

Binfer is an awesome way to transfer files between computers. It is the least complicated. Visit http://www.binfer.com for details.

Posted by:

26 Nov 2016

I had an experience like Doclocke's above, with PC Mover not working for a second migration. But when I called PC Mover and told them I had specifically decided to not buy versions marked for single use only (clearly marked as such at Amazon), over the phone they authorized my copy to work again an indefinite number of times.

Posted by:

27 Nov 2016

Looks like that free PC Mover option is now $14.95. This is the page other sites link to for the free version. I think when the free Win 10 upgrade offer stopped the free PC Mover offer did too.


Posted by:

28 Nov 2016

I did not think that you would promote iOBIT which is a company who many PC tec's say steals technology from other software makers.

EDITOR'S NOTE: That story (allegations that IoBit stole MBAM's virus definition file) dates back to 2009, and to my knowledge there has not been any recent incident.

Posted by:

Andrew J
06 Jan 2017

I paid a years subscription for this software at the end of December 2016. For once I never checked for online info other than noting the glowing reviews which it now seems they, or a proxy, wrote on their behalf. After reading Bob Rankin's review I emailed them with all the issues Bob raised and stated I was minded to uninstall their system due to my concerns.

In response a company email from a Joe B Edwards (Customer Service Representative)who, by the title, I suspect is a freelance operator working for the company, ignored all the issues. He simply advised me how to terminate the irritating pop up adverts which constantly ask one to upgrade for more expensive options.

Before their response I had decided to uninstall the programme and have done so. Just emailed them to complain about not addressing the issues and that I'd already removed their software. Also told them if they were an honourable company and the software genuine they should refund my annual subscription. However I will not be holding my breath!

Will use the Bob Rankin site again to check for this kind of information and also (I note) much other useful hints. Thanks very much for the help.

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