Transfer Programs

Dear Computer Lady,

I just got a new laptop computer to replace my 8 year old Dell desktop computer.

I want to transfer everything over from my old computer to my new computer. How would you recommend doing this?

I have Mozy online back up now & can get files over but not programs. I have also saw when researched online some programs that claim to transfer all files & programs over from old to new computer….zinstall and pcmoverpro are some examples.

Just wanted to get your expert opinion and thoughts on this issue before deciding how I will do this.

Thanks for your time, and I hope to hear from you soon. Thanks, Bryan.


Dear Bryan,

I am glad to hear that you have the Mozy backup, this will make it much easier for you to transfer your data over to the new computer!

My advice for transferring your programs to your new computer is this: Don’t do it.

Most of the time, simply moving the programs from one computer to another just leaves you with a broken program. A program needs to be properly installed in order to work on any computer. Even if a program did work just by copying it, if there is any problems with the program, you will be copying those problems to your new computer as well.

Instead, take the time to track down your installation disks for your programs and install them on your new computer one at a time.

If you have programs on your computer that you purchased and downloaded, make sure you have the registration information, and possibly the original file you downloaded. Many software companies will allow you to download the program again and install it on your computer as long as you have the registration information. Some really nice companies will even help you if you have lost your registration information.

You might also run into a few programs that ran on your old computer, but will not run on the new one. This is especially true if the old computer was running a 32-bit operating system, and the new computer is 64-bit. You might need to purchase a newer version of the program, and in some cases, you have to wait for the company to catch up with the times and create a 64-bit version of their software.

As you are installing programs on your new computer and getting it set up, this is a good time to start preparing for your next computer move. I purchase a lot of programs online, so I keep a folder on my computer with these programs and their registration information stored together. Let’s say, I purchased a new 2 year subscription to AVG. When I download the file, I save it in a folder named, AVG. Then I copy the registration information that was emailed to me, paste it into a plain text file and store that in the same AVG folder as the installation file. Later, I will burn this folder and several others onto a CD or DVD. That way, when I need to re-install my operating system, or replace my computer, I can put in the disk and I have not only the files to install, but also the registration keys.

I have not used any of the programs that claim to be able to move your programs from one computer to another, but I”m guessing that it could potentially create quite a mess on your new computer.

I hope this helps you to get your new computer up and running.


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    • fixitmom59
    • May 6, 2011

    Dear Elizabeth, I learned this lesson from you long ago. I have upgraded at least 3 times since I started reading your newsletter and each time I have taken the time to reload all programs, and with so many of them coming from a download, I too, now save all exe. files in a special folder in preparation for the next upgrade. Even the programs that I download and then decide not to use, you never know when I might change my mind!!
    Thanks so much for all your help over the years!!!
    kathy a. in Kansas

    • ron007
    • May 6, 2011

    Good advice.
    I like to make a few of additional points when advising (soon to be) new computer owners.

    First, partition (subdivide) the hard drive. With typical HD sizes in laptops and desktops of 320 GB and up it makes sense. I like 60-100 GB for Windows and Applications. The rest for Data. This way when (inevitably) you have to re-install windows for one reason or another you don’t have to worry about losing your data during the reinstall.

    Second, buy at least 1 1TB or larger external drive. It will be used in the next suggestion

    Third, start doing image copy backups, to the external HD(s). External HD’s are better for backups for a few reasons:
    – doing full image copy backups to DVD is no longer practical in most cases (Blue ray will be OK for a while, when BR disk burners become generally available, AND the disks come down in price!)
    – when your internal HD dies, you still have access to your backups on the external HDs
    – if you have more than one external drive, you can keep one in a different location, just in case your house is broken into or burns down etc (worst case scenarios)
    – your external drive(s) will be unplugged, so it cannot be infected by any malware that happens to attack your computer.

    I like to do my first image copy after windows is installed AND Windows Update has applied all of the patches. That way, when you do re-install you can avoid having to apply that batch of patches.

    Then I install all of my “base” applications (from the installation disks and files saved as you suggested). And I do my basic customization to the apps, including pointing their default save location to the Data drive (and all of their patches and updates, of course). I make another image copy. This way I don’t have to go all the way back to installing windows. Now my first option is to restore the Windows + Apps image, saving more time. But if I want a different application mix, I still have option of going back to Windows only too.

    This way I meet all 3 conditions of the “Backup Best Practice” as defined by Steve Gibson

    Remember 1-2-3 to have good backups —
    – at least 3 copies of any file
    – in 2 different formats (say on a hard drive and DVD or the cloud, external HD is cheating a little)
    – at least 1 copy offsite — in case of fire, etc!

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