November 9, 2006


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Your data’s new home
Transferring to a new PC
By John “jaQ” Andrews

Sooner or later, you’re going to get a new PC.

Your 90Mhz Pentium with MMX won’t last forever, no matter how devoted you are to running stripped-down software and only essential applications. One of these days, you just have to upgrade.

When that time finally comes, are you going to abandon all your old documents, application settings, logs and whatnot? No! You can take all those with you without physically transplanting your old hard drive. You just need to know how.

Software vendors want to make it easy for you, of course. Consider PC Relocator from Alohabob. Like most retail programs for Windows, it comes in a nice box, friendly graphics, the whole nine yards. It roots through your old system and marks all your programs, settings and personal files as stuff it wants to move. There’s usually a transfer cable of some kind included, so you hook up the old PC to the new one and in a few hours your new PC feels a lot like your old one — only hopefully a lot faster.

Similar programs include Laplink’s PCmover and Detto’s Intellimover. You can also take your chances with Microsoft’s built-in Files and Settings Transfer Wizard, but that doesn’t move everything.

You can also go the hard-core route and do it yourself. Yes, “hard-core” is code for “cheap.”

Moving to a new PC isn’t just a welcome upgrade, it’s also a time to take stock of what’s really necessary. I don’t mean “who needs money and power when you have the love of family” or anything lame like that, I mean why transfer all kinds of stuff you don’t need? The transfer programs mentioned above do give you some options, but when it’s a matter of unchecking a box, you might not truly consider the advantages of leaving old stuff behind.

Case in point: I used to run a program called Waterfall on my PCs. This fantastic little app supposedly turned off parts of the CPU that weren’t being used, saving power and reducing heat inside my computer. Well, newer CPUs do that all by themselves. If I still ran that program, it would be taking up precious hard drive and memory space that could hold more funny cat clips from YouTube. All I’m saying is, think it through.

Moving your own files also provides a great chance to really get to know your system. Programs store stuff all over the place, despite Microsoft’s gentle prodding to have it all in one directory for simplicity’s sake. If you’re smart, you’ve already gotten into the habit of storing all your documents in, surprise, My Documents, so moving that stuff should be a piece of cake.

But what about e-mail? If you only use Yahoo!’s Web interface, fine, don’t worry about it, but if you download your mail with Outlook Express or Mozilla Firefox or something, it’s stored on your PC in the most bizarre places. Find that location and it’s like revealing the Wizard of Oz. (Hint: Google the name of your mail program for documentation, usually by users rather than developers, on where your mail might be stored. It varies by program and operating system.)

Instant messaging transcripts are the same way. If your instant messenger stores old conversations, they’re likely somewhere on your PC. The same Google hint applies here. Any games saved right before you rescue the princess? Log of every key pressed since 1997? Find it and transfer it. Enjoy the hunt.

11/2/2006 Hotkey heaven

10/26/2006 Computer to go
10/19/2006 Tech news roundup
10/12/2006 A different drummer
10/05/2006 Who needs TiVo?
09/28/2006 Disk drives without disks
09/21/2006 Movies, just click your mouse!
09/14/2006 Laptops for less
09/07/2006 GPS everywhere
08/31/2006 The printer dilemma
08/24/2006 A series of tubes
08/17/2006 More music, more places
08/10/2006 How big is your drive?
08/03/2006 It's a WiFi world
07/27/2006 Fancy a spot of memory?
07/20/2006 Under the sea
07/06/2006 eBaysic training
06/29/2006 You paid money for that?
06/22/2006 Processing ... processing ...
06/15/2006 C:\Run for the border
06/01/2006 The keyboard is mightier
05/25/2006 Geek phone home
05/18/2006 Super highway information
05/11/2006 How to host a site
05/04/2006 If they mated
04/27/2006 Apples to apples
04/20/2006 Flash uber-drives
04/13/2006 Web site, by you
04/06/2006 Ayyy, jaQ's right!
03/30/2006 Choose wirelessly
03/23/2006 Tax programs cometh
03/16/2006 And the Spammie goes to...
03/09/2006 Take in the Vista
03/02/2006 Cheap moviemaking
02/23/2006 Go directly to iJail
02/16/2006 Will you stamp your e-mail?
02/09/2006 War of the machines
02/02/2006 Faster than a speeding packet

01/26/2006 Free software made simple
01/19/2006 The Worst of CES
01/12/2006 Radio you
01/05/2006 Making Movies
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