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Migrating Data To A New PC

Moving a co-worker or employee and his or her data to a new computer can be a road fraught with New York City-sized potholes. Here are some concrete steps you can take that will make the move less bumpy.

Now, it's on to prepping data that will be moved to the new PC.

Passwords and Registration Have the PC user write down all passwords, including network, Website, and e-mail passwords. In many cases, they will need to be manually re-entered. In addition, all applications will need to be reinstalled on the new PC even though their settings may have been transferred, so have the user gather any shareware or commercial software registration codes that may be necessary. Although the Files And Settings Transfer Wizard should transfer critical Windows settings, such as network configurations, don't take chances, and manually record them. Rather than type these in, just hit the Print Screen key to capture a screenshot and paste it into a Settings document.

Software Updates Since most software will need to be reinstalled on the new PC, shareware apps, updates, manuals, and hardware drivers will need to be re-downloaded. Make sure you have the very latest versions. Burn these files to a CD for future reference, and name the files clearly: won't mean anything six months from now.

The Big Move

Files And Settings Transfer Wizard Now we come to the heart of the matter. If you and the user have done the prep work, this next step will be much easier. As mentioned earlier, products like Norton Ghost offer comprehensive data migration, but we'll first deal with the built-in Windows XP utility.

Located in Start/Accessories/System Tools, The Files And Settings Transfer Wizard can move a lot of settings and data, but it does have limitations. For one, if you need to migrate multiple user profiles to the new PC, then you need to run the Wizard separately for each user account. However, you can customize to a fairly detailed degree exactly what system settings and data will be moved via the Wizard. The Wizard will migrate Windows settings such as folder and taskbar options, network printers and drives, and modem dial-up configurations. It will also copy Internet Favorites and cookies, but will not copy userIDs and passwords stored in Internet Explorer's Autocomplete function, so again, make sure these are written down. Email account settings, addresses, and mail are handled for Outlook and Outlook Express, however, Outlook Express mail from multiple user accounts will be lumped together, so you may want to run a manual backup beforehand.

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As for applications, the Wizard will copy registry information and preference settings for a good number of applications, like MS Office, but it won't necessarily capture settings for all the programs you have installed. If you want to check if a specific program's settings can be transferred, browse to the text file Migapp.inf, which is located in the Valueadd\Msft\Usmt folder on the Windows XP CD. Again, bear in mind that all programs, including ones that have had their settings migrated, will still need to be re-installed.

Lastly, files and folders from common places like the My Documents and Shared Documents folders are automatically added to the transfer queue. However, you can manually add other files and folders to transfer as needed.

If both the new and old PCs are on a network, then the job is made much easier, and settings can be transferred via the LAN; if not, you'll have to use floppies, or another writable media such as CDs or DVDs. Whatever you do, if you want to move big data files, forget the in theory appealing but in reality slow-as-molasses "Direct Cable" null modem cable solution. Your hair will grow a few inches while you wait.

Peripherals Unless you're dealing with a networked environment, you'll also need to re-install hardware and the appropriate drivers. While re-installing scanners, printers, and the like, resist the temptation to plug in all the peripherals at once. Take the safe route and start with just the keyboard, mouse, and monitor. Add one peripheral per reboot, and make sure the last one you added is working properly before moving onto the next. This way, you'll save the massive headache that can occur when multiple install routines clash. If you do run into trouble when adding hardware and drivers, the solid System Restore feature built into WindowsXP can get you out of trouble, but don't rely completely on it. Go slow, and be safe.

The Operating System If the PC you're moving data to has a new and unactivated installation of Windows XP, ignore the Microsoft popup and do not activate WindowsXP right away. Hold off instead. You have a few weeks to finish this final step, and in the meantime have the person using the new PC give it a week or so to make sure that everything is running smoothly. This way you can be sure you won't have to replace any hardware or (perish the thought) the whole computer.

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