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Vista's Windows Easy Transfer - How to Transfer Data From Your Old PC

written by: Joli Ballew•edited by: Christian Cawley•updated: 6/14/2009
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Vista's Windows Easy Transfer lets you transfer data from an old PC to a new one easily. Beware though, you don't want to transfer unwanted data, bog down your PC with unwanted configuration options and settings. Once you're ready, follow the directions here to use Windows Easy Transfer.

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    It's a hassle to set up a brand new computer. You have to reconnect to the Internet. You have to export and then import Internet Explorer Favorites and cookies, create new user accounts, transfer address books and e-mail messages, and somehow copy all of your personal data. It's a pain, and it can take days if not weeks to get it just right. Vista takes the hassle out of setting up a new PC by offering Windows Easy Transfer. With it, you can transfer all of this and more, all in one fell swoop. Unfortunately, if you simply start Windows Easy Transfer and accept the defaults, you'll also transfer over a bunch of stuff you don't want. That's what I want to address here - how to use Windows Easy Transfer while at the same time avoiding bogging down your brand new PC with unwanted material and settings.

    First, get rid of stuff you don't want on your old PC including but not limited to:

    • pictures, videos, music, data, and media.
    • old work documents, spreadsheets, grocery lists, to-do lists, and other unnecessary personal files.
    • unnecessary e-mail and email folders, Sent Items, and the items in Deleted Items.
    • favorites and temporary files in your Web browser.

    Next, make sure you have the following written down or backed up:

    • activation codes for software, as well as the CDs.
    • downloaded installation files.
    • a complete backup in case the worst happens.

    When using Windows Easy Transfer you have two choices. You can have two computers, an old PC and a new one, or you can have one older PC you want to upgrade to Vista with a clean installation. (If you upgrade to Vista, you won't have to do any of this, as all of your files and settings will remain intact.) For the instructions that follow, I'll assume you have computers, and old one and a new one, but the directions are basically the same if only one computer is involved.

    1. On the new PC, click Start, and in the Start Search dialog box, type Windows Easy Transfer.
    2. Click Windows Easy Transfer, listed under Programs, to open it.
    3. Click Next to start Windows Easy Transfer.
    4. Select Start A New Transfer.
    5. Select My New Computer.
    6. If you have an Easy Transfer Cable, select Yes, I Have An Easy Transfer Cable and follow the directions on the following screen to connect it. If you do not have an Easy Transfer Cable, select No, Show Me More Options.
    7. When prompted select from the following, regarding the requirement to install Windows Easy Transfer on the old PC: a. Yes, I installed it, b. Yes, my old computer is running Windows Vista, c. No, I need to install it now.
    8. If you chose A or B in the previous step, skip to Step 9. If you chose C, select and perform one of the following to install Windows Easy Transfer on your old compute (there are instructions for how to do this following each choice): a. CD, b. USB Flash Drive, c. External Hard Disk Or Shared Network Folder, d. Windows Installation Disk or Windows Easy Transfer CD.
    9. Select Yes or No when asked if your computer is connected to a network. If you choose Yes, you can save the transfer information to a network drive. If you choose No, you'll need select from CD, DVD, or Removable Media.
    10. When asked if you have a Windows Easy Transfer key, select No, I Need A Key. Write down the key.

    At the old computer, key in hand. Start the Windows Easy Transfer on the old computer:

    1. Click Start, and in the Start Search box, type Windows Easy Transfer. Alternately, you can input the Vista CD, or start Windows Easy Transfer in any alternate way you chose earlier, including from a network drive.
    2. Click Next to start Windows Easy Transfer.
    3. Select Start A New Transfer.
    4. Select My Old Computer.
    5. If you have an Easy Transfer Cable, select Yes, I Have An Easy Transfer Cable and follow the directions on the following screen to connect it. If you do not have an Easy Transfer Cable, select No, Show Me More Options.

    What happens next includes depends on what you want to do. You will have to browse to a location to save the information, though, that's a given, and it must be a location both computers can connect to and have permission to access.

    Once you prompted to save your data, you're almost done. You only need to select what you want to transfer. Choose from:

    • All User Accounts, Files, and Settings
    • My User Account, Files, and Settings
    • Advanced Options

    Choose Advanced Options. When you choose Advanced Options you get to choose what you want to transfer and what you don't.

    Finally:

    1. In the Advanced Options window, select the files, folders, and settings to transfer. Remember to get all of your personal data, and know that you may have to browse to find it all. Click Next.
    2. 2. Type a user name for the new computer. Click Next.
    3. Wait, and do not use either computer until the transfer is complete.
    4. Click Close on both computers.
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    Should You Use Windows Easy Transfer?

    If you'd rather install Windows Vista clean and transfer data manually (instead of transferring all of your data, including data you don't need), read the two articles here.

    Windows XP: How to Prepare for a Clean Installation (Part I)

    Windows XP: How to Prepare for a Clean Installation (Part II)

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