Save Time with Window's Easy Transfer Utility

Tuesday Nov 24th 2009 by Ronald Pacchiano
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Whether you’re upgrading to Windows 7 or buying a brand new computer, you’ll need to get the old files over to the new system. Ron Pacchiano shows how to do it faster using Windows Easy Transfer utility.

With the launch of Windows 7, many people will soon either upgrade their computer’s operating system or purchase a new P.C. Either way, you need to save your existing data. This can be an arduous task. Rounding up documents, pictures and music, backing up e-mail messages and account settings and making a list of the applications that need to be reinstalled can be intimidating and time consuming. However, a Windows 7 utility called Windows Easy Transfer makes the process much easier.

Windows Easy Transfer has been around since Windows XP.  Unfortunately, earlier iterations of this product have been cumbersome and notoriously unreliable. With the release of Windows 7, Microsoft made it easier and far more efficient. With a minimal amount of effort, you can back up all of the data on your computer, including system settings, such as e-mail configurations and Internet Favorites, which you can transfer back to the PC in a few easy steps.  

Some people have purchased the Windows 7 Upgrade they can simply upgrade their existing OS with all of their applications and data in place. For many, this is true. For others, Microsoft’s draconian upgrade requirements make this option unlikely.

Windows 7 Upgrade Issues

The Windows 7 Upgrade works under certain conditions. For instance, if you upgrade from Windows Vista Home Premium, 32-bit, to Windows 7 Home Premium, 32-bit, you shouldn’t have any problems. However, if you want upgrade to the 32-bit version of Windows 7 Professional instead, you’re out of luck. According to the Windows Upgrade Advisor, the 32-bit version of Home Premium can only be upgraded to the 32-bit version of Home premium or the 32-bit version of Windows 7 Ultimate.

Also you can’t perform an upgrade from any 32-bit version to any 64-bit version. In those circumstances you would have no choice but to perform a custom installation that requires you to wipe out your old Windows configuration. Check this complete chart outlining the upgrade path for Windows 7. Bottom line: a simple upgrade isn’t possible for everyone.

For example, I run Windows Vista Enterprise, 32-bit on my laptop, and I wanted to upgrade it to Windows 7 Home Premium, 32-bit. I originally planned to upgrade my OS, but I needed to perform a clean install. Windows Easy Transfer utility let me backup all of my data and system settings quite easily.

I installed Windows 7 after the backup, completed all of the security updates and verified all of the drivers were working. Then using Windows Easy Transfer, I restored my data to the laptop. All of my documents and pictures were back in their respective folders, my desktop folders had been restored and even my bookmarks were available.

Windows Easy Transfer also generated a detailed report on which files had been restored. It did this for each user account and even showed a list of applications that had been previously installed on my old system. When applicable, it provided a link to download that application. I expected this would work with common apps like Adobe Acrobat Reader and Realplayer, but it even showed me where to download the client software for my HAVA Titanium HD Wi-Fi TV streaming hardware.

The most impressive thing about this process: after I reinstalled Microsoft Office 2007 and launched Outlook, I found all of my mail in place and ready to use. All of my custom folders and each of my five e-mail accounts were fully functional. I didn’t have to import a PST or hunt down any mail servers or usernames and passwords. It simply worked.

Windows Easy Transfer it does have some limitations. It will only work when transferring data from a 32-bit OS to another 32-bit OS or from a 64-bit OS to another 64-bit OS. It doesn’t matter which version of Windows you use (XP, Vista, Win7, Home, Professional or Ultimate), but it has to be the same bit version. In addition, it doesn’t transfer the license for any Digital Rights Management (DRM) content that you have. This isn’t so much a problem with Windows Easy Transfer as much as it is with DRM in general, but it is something you should be prepared for.

Windows Easy Transfer supports transfers using any of the following methods:

USB Easy Transfer Cable: A dedicated, high-speed cable used to transfer your settings from one PC to another. Belkin offers a cable capable of moving 30GB of data an hour and it costs $28.99 at Amazon. In our example below, we’ll upgrade an existing PC, so we won’t need the cable.

Network Connection: This works like the USB cable except it runs over your existing Ethernet network.

External Hard Disk or USB Flash Drive: These drives are relatively inexpensive and, ideally, you should already be using these for regular backups. The only requirement is that the drive needs to be large enough to store all of your data. Use an external drive that is at least the same size as your system’s hard drive.  If you have a 120GB HD then your external drive should be at least 120GB.

I’m going to walk you through the process using an external hard drive because it’s the least complicated, arguably the fastest and by far the safest. That said, Microsoft has complied a very thorough walk through of each option.

You need to do a couple of things before we start the transfer. First, to use Windows Easy Transfer you must have administrative rights on the PC. Next, the version of Easy Transfer built into Windows XP and Windows Vista won’t work with Windows 7, so you need to download and install the updated program to your current system.

Windows Easy Transfer is available for both the 32 and 64-bit editions of Windows XP (SP2 and higher) and Windows Vista (SP1 and higher). Just download and install the appropriate one for your system.

With the software now installed, we can begin.

  1. Connect your external HD to your system
  2. Launch Windows Easy Transfer by clicking Start/All Programs/Windows Easy Transfer 7. When it starts press Next. On this screen select the transfer method you want to use. Select An external hard drive or USB flash drive.
  3. When the software asks “Which computer are you using now?” select This is my old computer. The program will begin scanning your system. When it completes its scan, you can click on the customize link to review or modify the current selections. Once satisfied with your selections, press Next.
  4. Here you have the option of assigning a password to the transfer file. Press Save to continue.  
  5. Select the location for your transferred files. This would be your external HD. Press Transfer to begin the file creation process. Note: Do not use your computer during the transfer!
  6. When the process completes you see this message: These files and settings have been saved for your transfer. Click “Next”. On this screen Windows Easy Transfer displays the file name and location of the Easy Transfer file you just created. The file name should be “Windows Easy Transfer – Items from old computer.MIG”. Click Next, and then click Close.
  7. Verify that the file saved to your external hard disk, and then disconnect the device from your computer.

At this point go ahead and install Windows 7 onto your system. Ensure that all of your device drivers are functional and run Windows Update. Once that’s done, reconnect your external HD to the computer to complete the data transfer process. If you have new Windows 7 system as opposed to an updated one, just connect your external HD to it and proceed.

  1. Click Start. In the search box, type Easy Transfer. At the top of the list of results click Windows Easy Transfer.‌
  2. When it starts press Next and select the transfer method you want to use. As before, select An external hard drive or USB flash drive. On this next screen though, select This is my new computer.
  3. This screen will now ask “Has Windows Easy Transfer already saved your files from your old computer to an external hard disk or USB flash drive?” Select Yes and browse to the file’s saved location. If you assigned the file a password, enter it now and press Next to continue.
  4. Verify that your accounts are checked and press Transfer to begin the restoration. Once your restoration completes, you’ll have the option to review the Easy Transfer Reports. These reports provide detailed information on what was transferred to your new system. The report is broken down into two sections; the Transfer report and the Program report. The Transfer report illustrates exactly what was transferred; user accounts, documents, total number of files, original and new file locations, etc. The Program report tells which Vista programs are no longer in Windows 7, applications that could not be identified and most importantly, a list of applications installed on your old system along with links to find and download them.
  5. Finally, close the application and restart your PC to complete the process.
Overall you should find this to be a fairly painless and simply procedure. It is incredible easy to use and far more efficient then doing it manually.

Ronald Pacchiano is a contributing writer for SmallBusinessComputing.com.

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