BOOT CAMP 485 (17/07/07)

Moving to a new PC part 1


It is said that after the death of a loved one and divorce, moving house is one of the most stressful experiences you can have. No arguments there but I would also put moving to a new PC fairly high on the list, judging by my own past experiences, and the tales of woe and pleas for help we receive.


Over the last few months the number of emails we’ve been getting on this topic has been growing steadily and you don’t have to look very far to see the reason why. Windows Vista, launched back in March, has prompted a lot of PC owners to upgrade. Many of you, it seems, are making the move to a new PC for the first time, or the last time you did it all the data you needed to transfer across would fit onto a couple of floppies. Ah, those were the days…


Now, with hard drive capacities often exceeding 100 gigabytes and PCs used to store everything from a lifetime’s music collection to precious family photo albums and video collections things have become a bit more complicated.


Apart from being highly impractical the use of floppies is no longer an option for most of us since few new PCs and laptops have the necessary drives any more. On the other hand there are now many more ways to transfer large volumes of data and settings from one PC to another, including a utility built into Microsoft Windows and we’ll be looking at some of the most popular methods in detail over the next few episodes of Boot Camp. But we begin this week with some general tips for organising your files and ensuring that the data on your old PC is more accessible and therefore easier to move around.


Most of what you will want to transfer to your new PC falls into one of two categories, which for the sake of argument we’ll call ‘user’ data and ‘genera’ data.


User data includes personal and program-specific items like your address book and contacts list, email account settings, web page bookmarks, email messages, custom dictionaries for your word processor and configuration settings for any other major applications.


General data is everything else and this includes all of the files you’ve created, such as documents, spreadsheets, databases etc., plus anything else you’ve stored on the computer, like audio and video files, software downloads and zip files for the tools and utilities you’ve accumulated over the years.


This covers a lot of ground to cover and it’s easy to forget something so I would start by making a list of everything you want to copy from the old PC to the new machine. Lists are good, they help to focus your thoughts and you can tick things off when they’ve been done. By the way, if you have any hidden or encrypted folders on the drive you’ll need to include those as well, especially if you plan to dispose of your old computer or reformat the drive.


User data is best tackled on a program-by program basis and we’ll be looking at popular applications like Word and Outlook Express in more detail in a couple of weeks. However, you can prepare the ground by creating a new folder, which will act as a container for your user data files. To do that open Windows Explorer or My Computer, highlight the C:\ drive icon then go to File > New > Folder and rename it ‘newpc’.


The next step is to gather all of your general data files into a small number of readily accessible folders. If like most PC users you have given newly-installed office and multimedia applications free reign to create their own filing systems you probably have documents, image and audio files all over the shop. You can either collect them together in the Windows default folders (My Documents, My Pictures, My Music etc.) or better still, create new ones, though this is only practical if you have a fair amount of free hard disc space.


The idea is to leave everything where it is, just in case you need to re-use your PC, and make copies of the files and folders you want to move and put them in new custom folders. As before open Windows Explorer and create a new folder on your C:\ drive called ‘Pictures’ and into that Copy (keyboard shortcut Ctrl + C) and Paste (Ctrl + V) all of your individual image files, and folders containing images. Create another folder called Music and put your audio files into that and repeat for any other file types that you have a lot of, and are currently in several different locations.



Next Week – Moving to a new PC part 2





List of words compiled by a word processor’s spell checker, not recognised or contained in the program’s own dictionary



A simple and ideally memorable sequence of two or three key-strokes, used to invoke a frequently used action or activity within a program or application



Compression scheme used reduce the amount of data in a file by discarding irrelevant or repetitive information



Here’s something else you can do to help speed up and simplify the transfer process, get rid of all of the rubbish in your General Data folders. This means being ruthless and deleting all of those fuzzy, dark and out of focus images in the Pictures folder, unplayable tracks in your music collection, and old program downloads you’ll never need again. You should also get rid of the duplicates, exact copies of files, which were created accidentally or when moving things around. One easy way to do that is to use a freeware program called HD Cleaner, which has a duplicate file remover utility.


Don't forget, there's a full archive of previous Boot Camp Top Tips at



© R. Maybury 2007, 1107


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