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Back Up your PC &/or Transfering
Files and Software to a New PC   

Windows XP comes equipped with a utility called the "Files and Settings Transfer Wizard," designed to facilitate the movement of both documents and personal settings from your old computer to the new one. Thanks to this utility, transferring everything, from the entire contents of your My Documents folder to your network and/or dial-up connections data, screensaver, and display preferences to your Web browser and e-mail client customizations, is simplified. As long as your old computer is running a Microsoft operating system from Windows 95 or later, you should be able to run the wizard without trouble.

Unfortunately, this tool will still require you to manually install many of the programs in your old computer onto your new one. As implied in its name, the Windows XP "Files and Settings Transfer Wizard" will transfer some program files and program settings, but it will not install programs. Still, the wizard is arguably one of the more pragmatic approaches to the task at hand - and you already have it in your PC.

Understand, you might be better off manually installing programs onto your new computer for a number of reasons:

1. Clean installations of software repair files that might have become corrupted over time - possibly solving subtle software conflicts present in your old computer.
2. You are likely to be notified of updates, fixes and new program versions during installation. It's possible to transfer everything from your old computer, only to end up having to update a significant number of programs right away!
3. Transferring a program also transfers all of the junk left behind by previous upgrades. A clean installation avoids this problem, and keeps your new hard drive from collecting junk right away.
4. Some of the programs in your old PC - or newer versions of them - might already be installed in your new PC.
5. Programs copied from backup disks and drive images (clones) might not actually be installed, and the missing registry entries might prevent you from starting them, uninstalling them, or both.
6. Reinstalling software gives you a chance to determine whether some programs are truly needed, or simply taking up space in your hard drive. There's no point in transferring a three year-old copy of Real Player when you listen to your music files through iTunes.

Even if you have to reinstall a bunch of programs manually, doing so will still be less painful and less time-consuming than relying on floppy disks.

Before running the Wizard, there are some measures you can take to get everything ready:

Start by making a list of the programs present in your old computer. You can use it to keep track of what you need to install, as well as to identify entries that might be redundant or completely unnecessary.

Because the Wizard will not install programs but rather merely transfer some of their settings, you should start by installing your firewall, antivirus and other security software, as well as programs that you frequently use. As you'll see later, the Wizard will alert you to any other programs that ought to be present in your new computer if their settings are to be transferred.

Next, you need to decide on the physical means by which the data will move from your old computer to the new one. The best choice for moving large amounts of data is a network. In the absence of a network, your best bet would be connecting the computers directly using a null modem serial cable. You can find this inexpensive cable at electronics stores and those carrying office and computer supplies, such as Comp USA and Staples.

A third option would be using removable media such as CD-Rs and DVD-Rs. The Files and Settings Transfer Wizard will essentially back up files from your old computer onto the blank media, then restore them to your new machine. However, this process will be significantly more tedious and time-consuming than using a direct cable, and it should be reserved for situations in which relatively small amounts of data are being migrated.

Once you have settled on a transfer method, make sure the antivirus and antispyware software in your old computer are up to date, and scan the machine thoroughly. There is no reason to migrate infected and worthless files!

Now let's get started

You can find an excellent discussion on how to use the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard here:

I've distilled some of the information in that and other Knowledge Base articles below. Still, it wouldn't hurt to read that article to get an overview of the task at hand, or to refer to it afterward to help you put everything together.

To run the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard, simply click the START button on your new computer, then click ALL PROGRAMS / ACCESSORIES / SYSTEM TOOLS / FILES AND SETTINGS TRANSFER WIZARD. If you have any questions regarding how to connect your computers before proceeding, click on the appropriate link on the wizard's welcome screen. (The wizard will give you a chance to connect the computers at a later time.) Once you are ready to proceed, click NEXT.

The wizard then asks you whether the computer you are using is the new computer, or the old one. Make sure New Computer is selected, and click NEXT. The wizard will prepare your computer for the next step.

At this point, you are informed that the wizard needs to be run in your old computer as well, and are given the choice to either use your Windows XP CD, or create a Wizard Disk. If your new PC came with a Windows XP CD-ROM, select this option. Otherwise, insert a blank disk in the appropriate drive in order to create a Wizard Disk. Click NEXT to proceed to the Go now to your old computer screen. (You will need to return to this screen once the files are collected from your machine. If at some point you need to install programs on this new PC before their settings can be transferred, close the wizard, install the software, then repeat the above steps to get back to the Go now to your old computer screen.)

Now you are ready to collect files and settings from your old computer. The next steps will vary slightly depending on your previous choice:

If you chose to use a Wizard Disk:

(The following steps are taken from
1. Insert the Wizard Disk into the appropriate drive in your old computer.
2. Click Start, and then click Run.
3. In the Open box, type:drive:Fastwiz
Where drive is the drive that contains the Wizard Disk (such as A:Fastwiz).
4. Click OK
5. On the Welcome to the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard screen, click Next.
6. On the Select a transfer method screen, click the transfer method that you want, then click Next.
7. On the What do you want to transfer? screen, click the selection that you want, and then click Next. I recommend you click on Both files and settings. Note that when you make a selection, a summary of the items to be transferred appears in the Based on your current selection, the following items will be transferred list on the right side of the wizard. If you wish, you can scroll down the list to verify that everything you want (for example, mp3s) will be transferred.
8. The wizard will now collect your files and settings. If you selected a removable media in step 6, you are prompted to insert the media (floppy disk, or other removable media) and then click OK.
9. On the Completing the Collection Phase screen, click Finish.

If you chose to use your Windows XP CD-ROM

(Instructions taken from

1. Insert the Windows XP CD-ROM into the CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive.
2. Right-click Start, click Explore, and then open the Support\Tools folder on the Windows XP CD-ROM.
3. Double-click the Fastwiz.exe file to start the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard.
4. Click Next.
5. Click Old Computer, and then click Next.
6. Click the transfer method that you want to use, for example, floppy drive or other removable media, and then click Next.
7. On the What do you want to transfer? screen, click the selections that you want to transfer, and then click Next.
8. The wizard will now collect your files and settings. If you selected a removable media in step 6, you are prompted to insert the media (floppy disk, or other removable media) and then click OK.
9. Click Finish.

Regardless of the method chosen, the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard may alert you of programs that need to be installed in your new computer before their settings can be transferred. Chances are, some of the entries might be older versions of programs, or software you might not wish to install. If the list contains a program you want, install it in your new computer before proceeding. Otherwise, you can safely ignore the message.

Once the files have been collected, go back to the Go now to your old computer screen on your new computer, and follow the instructions. The wizard will guide you through the rest of the process.

Congratulations! Your new XP computer should now have a familiar feel and look, and contain most if not all of the files present in your old machine.

(And speaking of your old PC, if you are thinking of getting rid of it, you might want to read the following article, Skeletons on your hard drive: )

Hope this helps.

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