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Transferring data files is easy - just copy over the files that you know you need. But programs are an entirely different ball of wax.

I'm switching from my 10-year-old Windows XP desktop to my new Dell laptop with Windows 7 Pro and XP mode. I've read your instructions on how to find and transfer my OE email files and address book. What is the best to way transfer all of my data documents and program files from my old machine to my new virtual machine? What else besides My Documents and program files should I transfer to end up with more and less what I knew and loved on my old desktop?

In this excerpt from Answercast #63, I discuss transferring one computer system over to another.

Transferring files and programs

The data files are simple.

My Documents might be one case where I would not just copy the entire folder; I would actually carefully examine what's in that folder and copy over the files that you recognize and that you need.

Programs need installation

Programs are more problematic.

You cannot just copy over program files. Windows doesn't work that way. That will fail to copy all sorts of important settings and other things that may have been installed when the program was set up. The only reliable way to transfer programs from one computer to another is to reinstall them on the new computer.

What that means is that you'll want to reinstall them on your Windows XP mode machine from the original installation media or the original downloads that you (hopefully) have saved.

Data and programs are different

Data files are easy. Like I said, just copy over the files that you know that you need. But the programs are an entirely different ball of wax.

I would strongly suggest that you make sure you've got a good inventory of the programs that you want and have the original installation media for all of those programs, including any product keys or unlock codes to activate the product once it's installed.

Article C5943 - October 22, 2012 « »

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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.

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1 Comment
Dan
October 23, 2012 9:46 AM

When you install your XP programs on your new system, you don't necessarily have to install them in your virtual XP. You might be surprised how many of them will run on your Windows 7 system without any problems. I try them first on my Windows 7 system, then if they have problems, try them in my virtual XP (so far there has only been one program I tried that I had to move to the virtual XP)

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