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How to get your data from Windows XP to a new PC

Alex Castle | April 8, 2014
With the Windows end-of-service deadline finally upon us, a lot of holdouts are hurriedly making the upgrade to Windows 7 or 8. Moving all your important files from Windows XP to your new computer may sound like just one more hassle.

With the Windows end-of-service deadline finally upon us, a lot of holdouts are hurriedly making the upgrade to Windows 7 or 8. Moving all your important files from Windows XP to your new computer may sound like just one more hassle.

Fortunately, it doesn't have to be that hard at all. Here are four simple options for transferring your data from Windows XP to a new PC without breaking a sweat.

Option 1: Flash drive or external hard drive

The most straightforward way to transfer your data to a new computer is by manually moving it from one PC to the next using removable physical storage, like a flash drive or external USB hard drive. The upside to this option is that you don't have to download any software or go through any special steps. Just plug your external drive into your old computer, drag your files over, and then plug it into the new computer and drag the files back.

There are two caveats, though.

The first is that you'll actually need enough physical storage to make the transfer. If the only external storage you have is a 512MB flash drive you got at a Circuit City in 2007, it's not going to be practical for transferring large amounts of data.

Fortunately, external storage has gotten quite cheap. You can get a reliable, brand name 500GB external hard drive for $70 on Amazon or Newegg. Not only will it help with the data transfer, but you'll be able to use it to back up your important files in the future.

The other issue is that you'll have to manually select the files to transfer. If you've been allowing your software to save files in the default location, then all of your important documents and files should be located in C:/Documents and Settings on your Windows XP computer. Here, you'll find each user's My Documents folder, which is the default location where Microsoft Office and most other software applications store documents. You'll also find the Desktop folder, which contains all the files you've dropped onto your computer's desktop.

Copy over all the contents of C:/Documents and Settings to your external media. Then, on your new Windows computer, move the files to the appropriate folders in C:/Users, which contains the My Documents and Desktop folders in Windows Vista, 7 and 8.

If you haven't been saving all your documents to the My Documents folder or one of its subfolders (and this, incidentally, is why you generally should), you'll simply have to search out the files that are important to you using Windows File Explorer.

Option 2: Cloud-based storage

If you don't want to invest in an external hard drive, you can also transfer data with a cloud storage service such as Dropbox. This can be a convenient way to transfer documents, but be aware that transferring large files (such as home movies) over a cloud-storage service can take a long time and eat into your monthly broadband cap, if you have one.

 

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