Moving Day: Get All Your Stuff On a New PC

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Unboxing a new ASUS PC laptop

Getting a new PC means it’s time to transfer your files, settings and applications to make yourself at home on your brand new system. To be fair, the first thing you actually need to do is to uninstall all that nasty bloatware slowing things down. Moving your stuff is really the second thing.

Move Your Files to the New PC

If your files are organized, putting them on a removable drive and transferring them to a new PC is as easy as copying-and-pasting. If you regularly back up your personal files to avoid disastrous data loss, you can always perform a backup and restore your personal files from the most recent backup, too.

If you’re less organized and have files and settings scattered across your system, this can be more challenging. Microsoft provides a free Windows Easy Transfer tool to speed things up. This software is included with Windows 7, 8 and 8.1. Microsoft also offers Windows Easy Transfer downloads for Windows XP and Vista. They’ll help if you’re upgrading from a computer running these older versions of Windows.

Run Windows Easy Transfer on the old computer first and it will help you transfer your user accounts, settings, documents, music, pictures and videos to a USB flash drive or external hard drive. Then plug the drive into the new computer, open Windows Easy Transfer on the new machine and quickly copy the old PC’s data from the drive to the new PC. This tool won’t transfer over your applications — you’ll need to install those afterward.

If you don’t have a large enough external drive lying around, transfer files between your PCs over a home network, which is typically a slower process. Use the Homegroup feature on Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 PCs to do this — open File Explorer or Windows Explorer and click “Homegroup” in the sidebar to get started.

Windows Easy Transfer on Windows 8.1

Consider What’s Stored Online

These days, much of your data is stored online — in what people call “the cloud.” Your email — even if you use a desktop email client like Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird — likely uses the IMAP email protocol. With IMAP, all your messages are stored on a server so you can access them from desktop email clients, smartphones and other devices. Store your files in something like Dropbox, OneDrive or Google Drive and they’ll be available on all your devices. Notes you have in Evernote, playlists you have in Spotify — it all syncs online.

Even your browser’s bookmarks and settings can sync online. Set this up before moving to a new PC if this stuff is important to you. Chrome can sync to a Google account, while Firefox syncs via the built-in Firefox Sync. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer only syncs if you’re using Windows 8 or 8.1, not Windows 7.

If a program’s data is syncing online, you shouldn’t have to worry about backing it up — you can access by installing the same program and signing in with the same account on the new PC.

Reinstall Your Programs

Now you have to reinstall your programs. This shouldn’t mean digging up old software CDs — download the most recent versions of most of your programs from the Web. You may need some software CDs, but not many.

Moving to a new computer is also a good chance to start over fresh without lots of software installed. Download programs as you need them instead of immediately downloading and installing every single program you had on your old computer. You may end up with a lighter, faster system.

One last tip: Deauthorize iTunes on your old PC if you’ve purchased content from the iTunes Store. This will free up an iTunes authorization so you can authorize a new PC to view that purchased content. Just click “Store,” then “Deauthorize This Computer” to deauthorize a computer in iTunes.

Photo Credit: Michael Sheehan on Flickr, Microsoft

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