Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
It's something we take for granted, but copying files from PC to PC is one avenue for malware to spread. I'll review the best way to stay safe.
I just bought a new PC. I want to transfer (download?) files from the old PC I am using to write this eMail to the new one. However,I'm afraid I may inadvertently be transferring malware as well. My present OS is Windows XP. I have 2 anti-malware programs installed on the old PC: AdAware and Reimage. My question - can I download files from the old PC onto CD's and then safely upload the data to the new PC? I believe my question is worth posting as the answer may help other novices like me.
Once again, I get to haul out my most common answer: it depends.
In general moving files from machine to machine is essentially what computers are all about, so certainly it must be safe to do so.
The trick, of course, is knowing how do it safely. I think you're on the right track, but I want to clarify the scenario a little and correct a little terminology along the way as well.
In general upload/download is the wrong terminology if you're talking about computers in front of you. We generally think of uploading or downloading from computers that are "far away" - like downloading updates, software, email, photographs and such from servers on the internet.
When we're talking about your computer and a CD that you might create, you're just copying files. You make a copy on the CD or copy it to the CD, and then when the disc is inserted into the other machine copy the file to that PC.
It's not an absolute, by any means, but conceptually a download feels like its more difficult or feels like it should take longer since it might be happening over a slower connection than a copy to something like a CD or locally networked computer.
It's true that there are always exceptions to the rules - and these aren't even rules. (Some people "download" files to a USB thumbdrive, I "copy".) But for what you've described, most folks would say you're copying files around.
Regardless of what you call it, moving files around is certainly one way that malware spreads.
The basic approach you're taking is a good one, but...
You haven't said exactly what files you're copying.
In general, data files are less likely to contain malware than programs. So if you're just copying, say, pictures around, or documents, you're at much less risk than if you're copying program (.exe, .dll) files.
Another thing to look at is where did the files come from? If they're files that you created then once again the chances of malware are lower than if they're files you downloaded from the internet or received from other sources. Similarly even if they are downloaded programs, (one of the more common sources of malware), did you get it from a place you trust?
None of these are absolutes rule, just things to consider as you move things around.
Try and at least understand what it is you're copying around and where it came from originally, and that'll help you understand the level of concern that might be warranted.
Of course the real trick to not accidentally copying malware is to not have it in the first place.
That means going back to the fundamentals on your old machine: good anti-virus protection, good anti-spyware protection, a firewall, and of course common sense.
I can't comment on that last attribute, and you didn't mention whether you have a firewall, but the anti-malware tools you have concern me just a little.
AdAware is an anti-spyware tool. Reimage isn't an anti-malware tool at all - it's a PC repair tool.
If I understand you correctly that leaves you with no anti-virus protection at all.
Before you copy files ... get some.
If you can be reasonably certain that your original older machine is relatively clean of malware and threats, then you're in a position to not worry as much and copy what you like in reasonable safety.
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