You bought a new computer — but you need to copy your data from your old computer to your new computer…
That’s the question that new subscriber David McCartney asked – he wanted to know how to transfer his data to his new computer:
I recently discovered your website and solved a problem following your advice.
I would like to find out how I may transfer data from my old laptop to my new laptop using a cable.
I wrote back to David to say that I assume he means a network cable, and to suggest a solution. Over the years, there have been a number of methods developed to transfer data from one home computer to another.
One of the most famous was a high-speed (for the time) transfer system called LapLink, which used custom software and a custom cable connecting between the parallel ports of two computers. A variation of that connected the 9-pin serial ports, and later LapLink cables had both serial and parallel port connectors.
One of the easiest ways, in today’s world, is to use a large external hard drive. That gives you the advantage of being able to copy all the files to the external drive, and then copy the appropriate files and folders to the new computer.
With the external hard drive, start by copying everything from the old computer to the external drive (keep readying for suggests — Windows copy functions are not robust and will stop at any conflict). Then, copy the files you want onto the new computer. If you forgot to copy some of the files to the new computer, you should still have them on the external drive so you can copy them later.
In addition, the external drive acts as a backup copy, just in case — at least until you decide to delete those files so you can use the space.
The other common way to copy the files across a network, from one computer to the other.
If you don’t already have a router (if you have a cable or DSL Internet connection, you should have a router for security), you can buy a cheap router.
Using the router, you hook up both computers to the router. Turn on the router and then turn on the two computers. If you’re running XP or later, Windows’ networking functions are already installed and default to getting an IP address from the closest DHCP server — which should be your router.
Then, on the old computer, “share” the file folders that you want to copy.
You’ll also need to tell the firewall program (you are running one, aren’t you?) on both computers to allow Windows File & Printer Sharing to work.
Then, from the new computer, use Windows Explorer to navigate to the old computer, select the folder, and copy the folder or individual files to the new computer.
That will work great for a very few files. Unfortunately, if Windows Explorer has any problems copying, like the DOS Copy and XCopy commands, it just stops without giving you any useful hint of what went wrong. Fortunately, it does telling you that something went wrong, usually what went wrong.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t bother to tell you what file was involved or what it had been able to do successfully and what wasn’t done.
For a more robust solution, use the free (for non-business use) Karen’s Replicator (www.karenware.com), which will log errors.
By the way, I use Replicator to make nightly copies of my data from my main computer to another home computer for my backup. It’s built-in scheduling function works great.
Also, some image backup solutions (including Acronis True Image Home 2011) allow you to use their image backups as if they were drives, so you can copy your files and folders directly from them.