For some of us, the prospect of upgrading to the latest version of Windows is seen as a great opportunity to have a digital clear out and start afresh with a computer that only has what we need on it. You can reorganise all those photos, get rid of shareware programs you don’t use anymore, only install software you know is compatible and of course be safe in the knowledge that your PC is totally free of malicious software.
Conversely, there’s a lot of people that just want to click ‘go’ and leave Windows upgrade to do its thing. Then, when they come back, Windows is all shiny and new and everything else was where they left it.
Now, traditionally the two upgrade paths have been mutually exclusive and you’ve had to choose between fully automatic or completely manual. However, with Windows Vista, Microsoft has added a piece of software, called Windows Easy Transfer, which makes transferring everything from one Vista computer to another, incredibly easy. The real boon, though, is that when combined with special USB cables, like this one from Belkin, this new software allows you to transfer data from your old XP installation to your brand new Vista computer.
Windows Easy Transfer, then, is a tool that’s built into Windows Vista that provides a single easy to use interface for transferring all your user accounts, files and folders, program settings, Windows settings, and, pretty much everything else you can think of. By default, all that’s left untouched are the basic Windows files and your actual programs but you can select/deselect as much as you like to be copied across.
There are a number of ways Easy Transfer can transport the data. First, by using a standard network, secondly you can use removable media like USB hard discs and writeable CDs/DVDs and lastly you can use a custom USB cable like this one. As well as providing a way of upgrading your XP installation, these USB cables are also the fastest way of transferring your data.
The transfer process doesn’t copy across actual programs so you’ll need to install them first. I say first as the installation process may overwrite your personal settings, so best to copy them over afterwards.
To do a Vista to Vista transfer you simply run the program on each computer and follow the onscreen prompts. To upgrade XP you must first install the transfer software that comes with the cable, and then run it.
To test how easy this process was, I installed Vista on a spare laptop then transferred everything from my work machine to the laptop. This included 40GB of music, several thousand photos, all my user settings and a miscellany of other bits and bobs.
Now, rather than trying to describe each step of the process, I’ve taken screen grabs from each computer along the way. I’ve then annotated each one to explain what’s happening. Hopefully that should give you an idea of what you can and can’t do and, really, how easy the process is.