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Moving to a new PC probably lies somewhere between losing your mobile and divorce on the list of life's traumatic events. The thought of having to reinstall all your best loved applications and, more especially, re-establishing the hundreds of settings within them that make your computing life a bit more comfortable, is daunting. It's enough for many of us to have put off moving from Windows Me to Windows XP for ages and now to be thinking twice about moving from XP to Vista.
PCmover 3 is here to help reduce the stress. It scans your old system, works out all the things you might want to migrate to the new one, moves them across and settles everything down so the new system seems strangely familiar. Or that's the theory.
There are a few caveats on the things PCmover won't move. It won't move device drivers, which is probably as well in the case of XP to Vista migrations, as there's still a lot of incompatibility between Vista and older drivers.
The program also leaves it to you to handle product re-activations on software that's protected in this way - it's not a way to circumvent copy protection. Finally, if you have copyrighted music on your old PC, protected by some form of DRM, you may need to move the licenses for the tracks manually.
To run the program, install it from CD or downloaded file on both systems - the source machine you're migrating from and the destination one you're migrating to. You'll need to connect the two machines together, ideally with a double-headed USB cable, available from Laplink and supplied free in the boxed version of the product. If you prefer, you can use a network link, an external hard drive or DVD, a series of CDs or even a pair of parallel ports, though that's slow.
To perform a migration, PCmover first creates a ‘snapshot' file on the destination PC and this has to be loaded on the source PC, so the program can compare the files and applications and draw up a ‘moving van' list of what needs to be transferred.
Once the snapshot has been read, you can choose to migrate everything on your PC or, new in version 3, to focus on the parts of your system you want to migrate. You can choose your source drives, particular filetypes to exclude - such as TMP and BAK files - and individual applications.
Laplink claims PCmover 3 doesn't have its own database of applications, but uses the same mechanism Windows Add or Remove Programs does, to build a list of what's installed. It will even, optionally, search for programs which don't add themselves to the Windows registry.