Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

I want to buy a new laptop. Can I transfer the programs from my Dell desktop to the new laptop, things like Microsoft Office, Windows Media, etc., or do I need to buy this software again?

As with so many questions here, the answer starts with "it depends".

It depends on what you mean by "transfer", and it depends on what the license is for each of the software packages.

You may have to re-purchase some, but I'm guessing that for most, you won't.

First let's define "transfer". If by that you mean "move" - removing the software from your old machine, and installing it on the new - then the answer is typically yes. As long as you have the original CDs to perform the install, or the original downloads, in the case of downloaded software, it's typically quite alright to install the software on your new machine, and delete it from your old.

All that simply relies on the fact that most (though not all) software is licensed to be installed and run on only one machine at a time. It doesn't matter what machine, just that there's only one.

"... most ... software is licensed to be installed and run on only one machine at a time."

Which leads us to the other possible definition of "transfer". If you mean "copy" - where you would keep your old machine and have the same software installed on both - then you need to check the terms of the license for the software you're talking about. Many, perhaps most, are per-machine. Others, however, are per-location, or per-person, or allow you to install on some fixed number of machines (perhaps 2 or 3), or keep it installed on a machine as "backup".

There are obviously many possibilities, many confusing possibilities, and the only real answer to staying totally legal is to check that license agreement for each software package.

Note also that this only applies to software that you've purchased and that isn't freely available. Windows Media Player, which you've asked about, is a free download, and you can install that on as many machines as you wish. Microsoft Office, even if pre-installed with your computer, is subject to licensing restrictions.

And in all cases, this is one another of the many reasons I strongly recommend you insist on installation CDs for all the software that comes with your machine. If you ever need to move, or reinstall to that same machine, you may simply be out of luck without the CDs. There are PC-to-PC settings and applications transfer utilities out there ... sometimes even drive imaging software can be used to perform this function ... but it doesn't always work reliably. The safest is always a clean install from the original media.

Article C2599 - March 21, 2006 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

John in Colorado
March 21, 2006 4:24 PM

Regarding MS Office, it depends from where you purchased it. Also, is the user keeping the old PC or or not. If a legal copy of Office was purchased from a non PC manufacturer (not pre-installed on the original PC) then Office has a license for 2 PCs (a desktop & a laptop). Student & Teacher Edition of Office comes with a license to install on 3 PCs. If it came pre-installed (e.g. from Dell) then it has a license for that PC ONLY. Yes, you get the big shaft when you purchase pre-installed Office. If the user is keeping the older PC then the second license must be used to install it on new PC).

Greg Bulmash
March 23, 2006 3:03 AM

OpenOffice.Org... as good as Microsoft Office for most people's uses and it's free. No worries about copying or transferring.

Not all commercial software has a freeware alternative that's a viable replacement. And some "viable replacements" are only viable if you're an uber geek and ready to twiddle for hours. But OpenOffice.Org is ready for prime time.

April 3, 2006 4:51 AM

Hi All, I have an issue having reinstaleld my Windows office onto a new Dell harddrive. It works fine and everything but my name and details no longer appear on the "Licensed to" box on load up of software, nor in the item properties field following save etc. Did I accidentally skip the bit where i was suppossed to enter this info?

many thanks, Tux

Beverly Neill
June 18, 2006 11:04 AM

Can I install old game hardware (95/98/ME) onto
my new computer with Windows XP? I have told yes by some and absolutely no by other.

June 19, 2006 5:09 PM

It depends entirely on the specific hardware that you have in mind. Some may work, some may not.

May 14, 2007 9:01 AM

I have a program that was put on my desktop for my business and now I want to put that onto my laptop. I do not have the cd's any longer. Am I able to copy that parogram someway?

robert alan
August 18, 2007 2:36 AM

My computer Dell was stolen and I have a windows xp disk. I want to know if I can install this legal copy of windows on a non dell computer

Scott Weber
December 15, 2007 12:54 PM

How do I cancel a registration on one machine so that I may register it on my new machine? I don't have the other PC any more and I need Office 2007 Pro Plus on my new machine. How can I do that?

January 8, 2008 6:34 AM

I have puchased a new pc and it has windows xp preinstalled I have the recovery cd but what other software do I need to load to make this a standard PC.


June 10, 2008 6:33 AM

I have an old computer with preinstalled Microsoft Office(so I don't have a CD).

I bought a new computer and I want to move MS Office on it(by that I mean that I don't care about keeping the copy on my old machine).

How could I do that?

October 6, 2008 11:39 PM

I have recently found a product that will move my software to a new PC very easily. No CD's or registration keys needed. I read a bunch of reviews and I ended up trying SoftRescue Pro ( i think). I was very happy with it. You can copy specific software applications, email, internet bookmarks & settings, My Documents, file settings, and probably a bunch of other stuff.

It was simple to use. Install on old PC, click what you want to transfer and it will archive it all for you. Then in order to transfer the software to a new PC, install it on the new PC, click what you want to restore/install on your new PC and click the "restore" button. It does the rest for you. It claims to be able to rescue 85-95% of all software for people. Worked well for me.

Amy Carpenter
October 21, 2008 4:19 PM

I took a Microsoft Access Database from one old computer to a new computer and tried to print reports and Open report action canceled came up help

November 12, 2008 10:40 AM

I tried coping files and settings using the MS system utility, from one old Averatec running XP to one new ASUS eee 1000 running XP. The problem I'm having is I can't get past copying the relevant files from the old system, because the old system doesn't have enough remaining disk space. I've deleted more than 3 GB of junk, the most that I can, and the MS file/settings transfer utility still runs out of disk, presumably building whatever catalog it needs to build to do the transfer. I run into this whether attempting a transfer via an 8 GB usb stick or an empty 40 GB USB external hard drive, so I assume the problem is NOT with the size of my transfer medium. And yes, I do (or rather, my wife does) want to preserve everything I can. So can I use the file transfer utility without burning up my remaining disk space (5 GN remain on a 37GB drive), or do I need to look for some other transfer method? Thanks.

February 16, 2009 3:11 AM

Leo, I just purchased Microsoft Vista at Circuit City. When I went to install there was NO DVD and only one half of the product key. Circuit City will not reimburse me, or exchange for something else. Do you know of a way to get the software and install. Need the software/key legally. I have proof of purchase. Thanks!!!

March 14, 2009 10:09 PM

Hi Leo,

2 question on Microsoft Windows Professional XP & Microsoft Office Professional Edition 2003. I have both of programs on my older computer, but want to remove it & install it on my newer computer. Both computers are generic's my husband built them. Can I transfer the program from one computer to the other or do I need to ask Microsoft for their permission? I am also a part time college student, so to buy a license or 2 more programs would be expensive for me.

Thank you.

March 24, 2009 11:35 AM

also purchased a new machine hp , question , I have family history in my old Aptiva in documents , but I have lost the vidio. ?? new monitor did not solve , where can I start to try and retrive this . direct connections between both computers? usb, ,or does this work. the old computer will still play music of discs. thanks Leo

August 16, 2009 4:21 AM

I have just installed Microsofk office student on my laptop and and am able to load on 3 pc. I purchased a dell notebook and need now to load onto this computer, butI need to get from one computer to the other as there is no place to put the disc on the notebook ?

November 25, 2009 9:31 PM

my new computer has windows 7, and it won't let me install my microsoft picture it program. I don't have the original windows xp cd from the old computer, so can I transfer that over. Would the picture it program work then?

December 5, 2009 1:21 PM

I brought an Asus for my daughter for Christmas I want to transfer Word and Excel to her computer, I do not have an install CD, it is on my computer can the software be transfered to her computer or do I have to buy new software.


January 4, 2010 1:50 PM

I bought office 2003 and installed it one my hp home computer, now I have a notebook which has no disc drive, how can I transfer office without having to buy new all over again?

January 29, 2010 5:54 PM

we just got a new computer with window 7 and we really need to transfer all of the setting for a program we use and we are not sure how is there software or a tool or program that does this also we have a msi all in one computer and in order to record in our studio the speakers need to be turned off so there is no feeback but when we turn it off it doesn't record is there anything we can do?

January 31, 2010 12:48 PM

I think you can use Zinstall for that? My husband used it to move stuff to our new computer, I think everything worked...

February 13, 2010 5:05 AM

I realize that there are licensing restrictions on MS Office, but what about reinstalling 2003 MS Word considering the fact that it's out of date and I'm not asking for much? My old computer is no longer working -- motherboard went bad -- and I have the MS Word installation discs for my new computer (a gift that arrived without any WP program) but got a message stating "you are not authorized" when I tried to install using the old keycode. Attempted to contact MS to see if there are ever any exceptions to their rules, but couldn't find a way to contact anyone except a "virtual tech". Should I just give up and buy a new (expensive!) WP program?

February 17, 2010 5:25 AM

For all of you Microsoft Office people. There is a software called Open Office, its free and is compatible with all MS Office Applications.

Suzanne Hughes
April 16, 2010 2:05 PM

I have office 2007 which I installed on my desktop using the disk, I have now purchased a notebook which has no disk drive. I was wondering if there was anyway of transfering the software using a USB so that I don't have to purchase the office package again? Thanks.

December 12, 2010 10:11 PM

LEO: why do ytou always have to MUDDY ut the water with your comments about SW copyright issues??? Are you a CLOSET SW thief with guilty conscence?? You never seem to take a shot on this issue.
Most people have computers who crash and burn and need to move/transfer FILES AND PROGRAMS from a dead computer to a new one, and are not thieves, as you are emplying.
The software companies are well aware of how to protect themselves, their main and almost fool proog is the use of their SPYWARE within their UPDATE DOWNLOAD system, and their high cost for their software.



January 10, 2011 2:07 AM

You may consider to use WETC (windows easy transfer companion ) and PickMeApp.
* WECT may transfer your XP programs and settings to Vista and supports about 100 programs
* PickMeApp may transfer programs and settings to and from XP and Vista (xp2xp,xp2vist, etc). They claim to support unlimited number of programs. PickMeApp may solve transferring programs from one HDD to another on the same PC.

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