So you’ve taken the plunge and purchased a new PC. It’s an exciting day. But what’s the best, most hassle-free way to transfer all those many gigabytes of files like pictures, video, programs, and settings to a new PC? The answer depends on the state of the old computer and your new OS. Let’s look at a few scenarios and solutions:
Windows XP, Vista, or 7 to Windows 7 64 bit or Windows 8.1 – Windows Easy Transfer
If you’re moving data from an older – but still functional – Windows XP, Vista or 7 PC to a new Windows 7 64-bit or 8.1 PC, the easiest method is to use Windows’ built in Easy Transfer tool. You’ll just need either two displays, or the patience to move a single display from old PC to new and back again. To get started, just launch and run the tool on the old PC, then follow the prompts to select the data you’d like to transfer. The tool gives you the option to do this via External Hard Drive, Network, or Easy Transfer cable, all of which we’ll discuss in more detail in the manual transfer section below. Once that process is complete, launch the Easy Transfer tool on the new PC, then follow the prompts to complete the transfer, unpack, and reinstall your data. Windows Easy Transfer will even move some programs without having to reinstall from scratch, as well as user accounts, emails, favorites, and settings.
Check out the video below for a detailed walkthrough of the process:
OS versions not supporting Easy Transfer – Manual Transfer
If you’re moving from a working PC with an older version of Windows or a non-Windows based OS, you’ll need to manually transfer your data using one of the methods below. Programs and settings will not transfer over, but your key data will.
External Media (USB key, DVDs, External Hard Drive) – An external media device such as a hard drive, large USB thumb drive, or DVD/Blu ray discs, are one way to move large amounts of data. Simply manually bundle your data from the old PC into a single location, then drag and drop to the new media (in batches if necessary due to size limitations). Then, connect the media to the new PC and drop into its new home.
USB Easy Transfer cable – If you’re able to get the new and old PC close together, a tool called an Easy Transfer cable is a great option. These cables connect via USB to each PC, allowing you to easily transfer data and most settings. Most cables come with a basic software similar to Windows’ Transfer tool to make the process even easier.
Network – If your old and new PC are both connected via Home or Business network with file folders discoverable, you can transfer data wirelessly. The speed of the transfer will be dependent on your network’s bandwidth.
A non-working computer to new Windows 7 or 8.1 PC – Slave the old drive
If the old PC has officially bought the farm or is just not bootable for some reason, the only way to recover and transfer that data will be to connect the hard drive from the old system as a slave in the new system. You can do this permanently and use the old drive for storage, or temporarily until your data is moved. For a step by step on slaving a secondary drive, check out this tutorial.
A couple of things to note about this process:
- If your old PC conked out due to a hard drive failure, this process won’t work unfortunately.
- Make sure you run a virus scan on the old drive before moving any files! Moving an infection into your brand new PC will seriously ruin your day.