November 9, 2006

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Your data’s new home
Transferring to a new PC
By John “jaQ” Andrews  jandrews@hippopress.com

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.


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07/20/2006 Under the sea
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06/15/2006 C:\Run for the border
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05/25/2006 Geek phone home
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03/30/2006 Choose wirelessly
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03/09/2006 Take in the Vista
03/02/2006 Cheap moviemaking
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02/09/2006 War of the machines
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