BOOT CAMP 489 (14/08/07)

Moving to a new PC part 5


This week we are looking ways of transferring data from an old PC to a new one utilising cable and network connections, we’ll also be covering the Windows utilities that are supposed to make the job easier.


The advantages of using a cable link between two PCs are fairly obvious, there’s no need to tinker with your PC’s innards and there are no concerns over the compatibility or reliability of removable media or storage devices. On the minus side it can be slower than some of the other methods we’ve looked at, it will involve some expense and you can run into difficulties with firewalls and file sharing permissions on some combinations of Windows.


There are three basic connection methods: Serial cable, USB Data Transfer Cable, wired (Ethernet) or wireless (Wi-Fi) network connection. You can also use the Internet – see this week’s Top Tip and older PCs can use a parallel cable connection, though parallel ports have virtually disappeared from PCs in the last few years but if you are interested there’s more information in Boot Camp 68.


Serial COM ports are rapidly going the same way and it is a method of last resort since it can be painfully slow (up to 115k bits per second…), moreover you can’t use any old Serial cable, it has to be a ‘null modem’ type (aka serial file transfer or ‘LapLink cable), and they can be quite hard to find these days.


USB data transfer is definitely worth investigating. It’s easy to set up a link and quite fast too with data transfer speeds typically between 5 and 12Mb/s (much faster if both PCs have USB 2.0 ports). The only proviso, apart form both PCs having USB ports, is that you must use a specially designed adaptor lead. If you try connecting two PCs together using a standard USB cable you’ll probably destroy the ports on one or both computers. USB transfer kits with the special lead and software are widely available from PC suppliers and online for around £15.00.


Using a network connection to move data between two PCs is without doubt the best method in terms of speed – up to 100Mb/s, and it’s very straightforward, provided the PCs in question are already connected to a network. If so you probably already know what to do, which is to mark the folders and files you want to move as available for sharing. On the other hand setting up a network from scratch for a one-off transfer job is probably not a good idea as it can be time-consuming, and expensive if you have to buy networking hardware and cables. If you want to have a go at setting up a home network then have a look at Boot Camp 455, otherwise you are better off using a USB data transfer cable, or one of the other methods outlined in part 2 (Boot Camp 486) of this series.


We’ll round off this week with a quick tour of the data transfer utilities include with Windows. XP has the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard and this works with Windows 95, 98, SE, ME, NT4, 2000 and XP (32-bit only) computers. It’s reasonably easy to use, simply run the Wizard on the ‘New PC’ -- the one you want to move the data to – by going to Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools. Create a transfer disc on a floppy and load this on the old PC (or use the XP installation disc). Run the program and select the files, folders and settings you want to transfer. This can take a very long time but once that’s done you return to the New PC, select the transfer method (cable, floppy, removable media or network) and leave it to get on with it. It can be very slow, and in my experience prone to glitches and error messages that may mean you have to go back to the beginning and start again.


Windows Vista has the Windows Easy Transfer (just type ‘easy ‘ in a Search box) and although it is marginally easier to use than the XP Transfer Wizard, and more secure, it is more limited in scope in that it only works with Windows XP and other Vista PCs. The transfer options are geared towards a purpose-designed USB cable, called the ‘Easy Transfer Cable for Vista’, which currently sells for around £15 online. You can also elect to use a network connection, CD, DVD, USB or removable disc drives but it’s definitely happiest with the USB lead option. The procedure is broadly similar to the XP Transfer Wizard though there are some additional steps including the creation of a ‘key’, which ensures that no data will be shared with any other PCs. It is reasonably quick (depending on the transfer method of course), and probably your best bet when migrating from XP to Vista.


Next Week – Moving Word, Outlook Express and IE Data






Communications port, usually referring to older type Serial and Parallel data sockets  



Industry standard networking system that allows the transfer of data over cables at speeds up to 100 megabits per second



Type of serial communications cable, configured for two-way data transfer between a PC and a modem, or two PCs




If both of your PCs have an Internet connection you could transfer relatively small amounts of data (no larger than 1 to 2 Mb, for example) via email attachments, though clearly that could be a very slow and tedious business. A slightly better alternative would be to upload your files and folders to your own personal web space – you almost certainly have some free space provided by your ISP – using an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) program. Alternatively you could use one of the many online storage and backup services, however all of these methods are going to be relatively slow and possibly quite pricey and should only be used if you cannot use any of the other methods we’ve looked at in the past few weeks.



© R. Maybury 2007, 0708


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