There are five critical issues that everyone upgrading to a new computer from an old one should think about (preferably before buying the new computer).
1. passwords for email and various websites
2. important programs from the old computer
4. transferring the files from the old to the new computer
5. making sure that the old data on the old computer doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
Step one: The passwords for your email, financial programs and various websites should be safely saved somewhere on your old computer or filed away manually. Remember, you may have “told” the old computer to “remember” them when you were using those programs or websites. The new computer and it's browser will not remember those passwords. Accordingly, before you recycle the new computer be sure you know your passwords so you can enter them on the new computer and “re-remember” them.
2. Next, it's important to understand that computer programs cannot be transferred from the old computer to the new computer and function properly in the Windows world. This means you must locate the installation disks for any old programs that you want to work on the new computer. Think Office Suite (Word, Excel, Outlook, etc.), Quicken, QuickBooks, ACT.
True, there are a number of companies that offer solutions that claim to bring programs and data for some (but not all) popular programs as well as printer drivers, network settings and other vital items via special software and cables (or across your home network). Unfortunately, our experience with these solutions do not allow us to comfortably recommend any of them.
Generally, we have run into two problems with the ones we’ve tested: they can’t transfer everything, and the new computer always seems to suffer quirky problems after the attempt.
Microsoft does offer a tool called Windows Easy Transfer that allows you to transfer profiles, files and settings only from older Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7 systems to a new Windows 7 system. (Details on how to use it are posted at http://bit.ly/9Rl4DV). We believe it is better to start over and enter most of this data manually.
So, with that concept in mind, the first thing to do is load your important programs on the new computer. Insert the installation CDs one at a time and follow the prompts.
Next, you'll want to load the utilities and other free Internet programs you use regularly like Adobe's Reader and Flash, Java, FireFox, Chrome, iTunes, Skype and Picasa. A great time saver for these programs can be found at Ninite.com. This nifty little site will allow you to create a special download/install program that will automatically install all of the programs that you select at once (this saves you hours of searching and downloading of these essential tools) and it’s completely free.
3. Now, what about your email? If you have G-mail, YahooMail, Hotmail or some other web-enabled email client, there is nothing to do. You can simply open it in your browser on the new computer.
If, however, you use Outlook, Thunderbird, Windows Mail or some other software that is installed directly on your old computer, making the transfer is a bit more complicated.
Start by loading the program on the new computer from your CD. Now, make a backup of the old email or export it onto a CD or flash drive using your old computer. Then, start the program on the new computer and restore or import the backup from the CD or flash drive. With that complete you will need to re-enter the email account settings on the new computer.
4. Let's discuss options for transferring the old files to the new computer.
Our favorite option for getting the data (documents, music, photos) from the old computer to the new computer also addresses the second concern of making sure your old info doesn’t end up in the wrong hands. Remove the old hard drive and put it into an external USB enclosure.
If you aren’t comfortable removing the hard drive from your old computer, have the company that’s selling you the new computer do it for you.
Once you have your old hard drive in an external enclosure, you can simply plug it into any USB port on the new computer and start pulling the files you want over to the new computer. If you’re like everyone that we’ve ever helped transfer old data, you won’t remember everything that you need right away and this solution allows you to easily access forgotten files for an extended period of time.
As a safety procedure, I suggest that you leave the old hard drive alone for at least a couple of months until you are absolutely certain that everything that you care about is on your new computer.
Another simple option for transferring files is to copy the files you want from the old computer to a DVD or flash drive. Then, re-copy them onto the new computer. Of course, networking the old and new computer or using a program like Ghost will also work but they are a bit more complicated and outside the scope of this article.
5. Finally, once everything is working fine for you and you are sure you have all the data you need, you'll want to deal with that old computer.
If you removed the hard drive in step four above, simply recycle the rest of it. If you moved the files some other way, you should format the old dive, before recycling it. To be absolutely sure, the data doesn't get into the wrong hands, take a hammer to the hard drive before taking the computer for recycling.
Your new computer should now be “up and running” and you should immediately notice improved performance. Your Internet browsing should be much faster and more enjoyable and you should feel great pleasure that you went ahead and made this new purchase!
If any of these steps are too confusing for you, please do not feel too embarrassed to take the two machines to your local computer professional. All reputable shops offer a new computer setup service that will be sure the programs, files, email and other data and settings are transferred properly for you.