Pin Me

Moving Files to Your New PC - Windows Easy Transfer and More

written by: John Lister•edited by: Christian Cawley•updated: 6/15/2009

The excitement of getting a new machine is often spoilt by confusion about what files you need to copy on to your new computer, and how to get them there. In the first of a three-part series we look at software designed to make this process simple.

  • slide 1 of 6

    When you get a new PC you have several options for copying across your documents, settings and even software. We'll start this series by examining Microsoft's own solutions to the problem and other commercial options.

  • slide 2 of 6

    Windows Easy Transfer

    If your new machine runs Vista, by far the easiest option is to use the Windows Easy Transfer software from Microsoft. The easiest way to run this is with a special Easy Transfer Cable which costs about $20-$30 from companies such as Belkin or Bafo. (Be sure to check the manufacturer specifically says the cable is designed for the Windows Easy Transfer system).

    You can also run the software with your old and new computers connected through a cable, or by copying files to a CD, DVD, external hard drive or USB stick. (We’ll further explore these methods in part 2 of this series.)

    There are several things to remember when using Windows Easy Transfer:

    • You must install the software on your old PC before connecting any cables, and be aware that this software only copies across files and program settings – not the programs themselves. You’ll therefore need to reinstall all your programs on the new machine before using Windows Easy Transfer.
    • You may find the software takes quite a while to copy across your files, so it could be best to leave it running overnight.
    • You will need to see what is happening on both computers during the transfer. If you haven’t got a new monitor with the new computer, you’ll need to switch your monitor’s connection back and forth during the process.
  • slide 3 of 6

    Another Microsoft option

    If you can’t use Windows Easy Transfer – for example, if your new machine runs XP, you can use XP’s Files and Settings Transfer Wizard. There’s a good description of this package on Microsoft’s website at:

  • slide 4 of 6


    There are many non-Microsoft programs which can help you copy over data and settings. Probably the most well-known is LapLink's PCmover, which retails for $49.99 for a download, or $59.95 for a boxed copy which includes a USB cable. Unlike the Microsoft products, it theoretically allows you to copy across programs rather than have to reinstall them.

    You should bear in mind that most file transfer packages (both by Microsoft and other firms) have extremely mixed reviews. It’s impossible to comprehensively recommend a particular package as every user’s needs and set-up are different. Unless you have a very simple set-up with comparatively few programs involved, you may find it more effective to manually copy across the files you need.

    In the next part of this series, we’ll look at the different physical methods of copying over your information in this way.

    To read the final part of this series looking at moving software, email and internet files read >>> Moving files to your new PC (part 3)

  • slide 5 of 6


    A Windows Easy Transfer cablePCmover software