Moving Your Files To A New PC

Category: Software

Great, you got a new PC! Now that it’s out of the box and powered on, it’s time for you to move into it and make it your own. That means moving your personal files, customized settings, and the applications that you have come to depend on, from your old computer to the new one. 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 your documents, photos, data files and even settings stored in the Windows registry. There are several 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. You can copy Windows Easy Transfer from an older computer to a Windows 10 system, or search online and download it. But since it's no longer supported, and it doesn't transfer installed programs, we'll take a pass.

PCTransfer from iOBIT is a free program from the makers of Advanced SystemCare. PCTransfer will move your documents, data files, browser bookmarks, system settings, photos, and Outlook emails to a new Windows system. The web page for this software is a bit sparse on details. It does claim to transfer the data on your PC to a removable hard drive or new PC "with just one click." It doesn't say if transfers via cable or network are possible.

Transferring files to new PC

And again, it does not move your applications (installed programs). We're looking for something that will do the whole job, including the transfer of programs. Reinstalling all the software you've got is a tedious job. You'll need to find the installation media, and licenses for any software you've purchsed. So pass, again.

Laplink PCMover and Other Options

Windows 10 does not have a native file transfer program like Easy Transfer. Instead, Microsoft recommends Laplink PCMover for the job. The free Express version moves only data and settings. But PCMover Professional ($30) and PCMover Ultimate ($62) will transfer everything, including your installed programs. The Ultimate version comes with a SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Cable for faster transfers. 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 applications. Don’t bother downloading the free “trial” version. It only moves up to 500MB of data, and only 2 applications from one PC to another. A two-seat Pro license costs $50 and has the ability to transfer apps between local disks or from one PC to another. It can also rescue data from a damaged Windows PC.

Zinstall is a data 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 would not be on my list of software partners. It's also quite expensive -- the Zinstall WinWin program costs $119.

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 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.

You may run into an issue if the version you purchased is no longer available from the vendor. may help here, as they have a vast archive of not-the-latest-version software. WordPerfect 5.1, for example, (circa November 1989), has been downloaded over 7500 times. The OldVersion website is slow, and sometimes you may see an Error 500 or 502 error. Refresh the page and it will eventually get you there.

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 "Moving Your Files To A New PC"

Posted by:

21 Oct 2020

Yep, I got a new one. Back in early August. It's out of the box, but other than that, nothing's been done. I foolishly didn't order a kb and mouse, since I plan to use my existing one, but of course I still need to type on the new system. Note to self, next time, just get a cheap set from the maker as part of the config. So, I do plan to review your posting, but not right now.
Thank you.

Posted by:

21 Oct 2020

Great article Bob.

Could you expand on your penultimate sentence as that is likely the way I'd like to go. Maybe your next article, hint, hint.

"opt to keep NOTHING on the new computer, and restore everything to the new PC from a backup image taken on the old computer."

Posted by:

Andrew Larmour
21 Oct 2020

I need one that moves over to SSD drive

Posted by:

21 Oct 2020

Acronis True image comes with a WD SSD drive. works grate and is fast

Posted by:

tracy hartley
21 Oct 2020

I'm with Lucy! I have the same request ... more information about "opt to keep NOTHING on the new computer, and restore everything to the new PC from a backup image taken on the old computer."

I love that you mentioned WordPerfect 5.1. It was truly the BEST version!

Posted by:

JJ Coupling
21 Oct 2020

Many years ago, a computer wiz suggested that the most secure backup is a an external hard drive (SSD) that is a clone of the internal hard drive (SSD). In that way, if the internal hard drive (SSD) becomes infected or simply dies, it is only necessary to remove it and replace it with the external clone. The same external clone can be used to transfer/clone to the new computer/hard drive.

Posted by:

Mark Couch
21 Oct 2020

This is a great post and I could have used it a couple of weeks back when I was moving to a new computer and from Win 8.1 to Win 10. However, I found something that helped an awful lot and greatly simplified the process for me. I found a PC to PC Transfer Cable (also works for Macs, they say) that included PClinq5 and Bravura Easy Computer Sync Software. It was a cinch from start to finish. I found it on Amazon, but it may be available elsewhere as well.

Posted by:

Kathleen A Dombrowski
21 Oct 2020

Hi Bob, As usual, just when I'm about to do some tinkering, you show up w/a pertaining article. I broke down and purchased a 1T SSD for my PC. I have cloned before but did not want to go that route. Etsy has Laplink PC Mover Pro. latest ver. for $15.99. You know what I'll be up to tonight. Thanks for the great article.

Posted by:

Stuart Berg
21 Oct 2020

It's hard to imagine that restoring "everything to the new PC from a backup image taken on the old computer" will work unless the two PCs are identical. That's because different I/O devices need different drivers. For example, a Dell laptop has a different video driver than an HP laptop. There are some backup programs that can find and install the correct drivers in doing such an install, but making that statement "as is" is not correct.

Posted by:

21 Oct 2020

Moving an environment from one computer to another is either very easy or a giant tushy pain.
I started using computers in 1962. My 58 years of pushing bits have taught me when to hire someone. That's why I had a local computer store replace the failing system disk with an SSD.

Posted by:

22 Oct 2020

II will be replacing my desktop computer in a few months and will hire somebody who knows what they're doing to make the transfer. I did it myself when I used PC Link to transfer from the old, old computer to the one I have now, and it was extremely time-consuming and frustrating. My motto is :let the experts do it, as my time is valuable too.

Posted by:

22 Oct 2020

Hi bob
You can download windows easy file transfer as a separate program use it to transfer files from any windows version including Windows 10. It comes in a 32 bit and 64 bit version and one has to use the correct version depending on the windows one transfers FROM. It makes a file of all data on the computer just as it used to on Windows 7 when it was built in. I use it a lot and it works well to and from Windows 10

Posted by:

22 Oct 2020

boot Acronis with Universal Restore - works great.

Posted by:

Colin Isaacs
22 Oct 2020

Great article but like Lucy I would like a little more on this topic. I am an amateur with nearly forty years experience fixing business computers (I have fond memories of the CP/M operating system, 5 1/4inch floppy disks that were truly floppy, and DOS) and today I look after about eight computers all of different makes and genres in a small office and we typically upgrade eacgh once every three years (though the desktop I am writing this on is of 2012 vintage upgraded to Windows 10!). I am having to transfer everything from one computer to another typically about twice a year and I have used the paid versions of Laplink, Easeus, and Zinstall. My experience is that all of them are quite good but none of them successfully moves every application so I always have to go in and fix up three or four applications that did not transfer properly. Sometimes I find it is quicker to buy and install a new copy of some of the older applications rather than fiddle around uninstalling a partially transferred application, then finding the original installation files and serial numbers, etc. I am interested in this idea of moving entire partitions but like Stuart Berg I understood that just moving a partition containing registry files from one computer to another of a different make and model, and perhaps different O/S, would not work. Are you aware of any secrets on this? Maybe there is a way of assigning the contents of each of several partitions on the old a new computers to make transfers easier, for example registry in one partition, settings in another, applications in another, and data in a fourth? Would this help?

Posted by:

Marge Teilhaber
22 Oct 2020

New computer's all set up, so then I start DLg my apps to the new machine. My stuff is all on an external drive that I back up up nightly using Second Copy: documents, pictures, videos. music, work files (one containing 30GB and the other 83GB as an example) and hopefully I hit no snags. I would never consider using my old hard drive. That's for my external backup drive, of which I have two.

Posted by:

Bruce Fraser
24 Oct 2020

Just about all the major backup software publishers now have "universal restore."
Step 1: Back up your present hard drive as an image. Store the backup image on removable storage (like a portable hard drive).
Step 2: On the new computer, use the backup software's "boot from CD" tool. Restore the image from the removable storage, making sure to check the option for "universal restore."
Step 3: Remove the CD.
Step 4: Boot the new computer.
Step 5: Download and install the drivers for the different hardware.

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