Taking the pain out of upgrading computers
Alan Zisman (c) 2006 First published in Business
November 28-December 4, 2006; issue 892
High Tech Office column
With most users already having a computer, getting a new one can mean a
tiresome process of trying to transfer documents, reinstalling
applications and struggling to configure the new computer to work like
the old one.
Recently, I treated myself to a new Apple
iMac (yes, the modest 17-inch version). When I powered it up for the
first time, within a few mouse clicks I saw a screen asking if I was
moving on from an older Mac, which I was. The next screen instructed me
to turn off the old Mac and to connect it to the new one with a
Firewire cable (all recent Macs include Firewire ports, unlike most
PCs). Once connected, it instructed me to turn the old Mac back on
while holding down the “T” key.
The old Mac booted up as an external hard drive. On-screen, the new Mac
let me choose whether to transfer stored data files, applications or
settings. I picked all of the above.
The computers chatted for a few moments, then let me know that I was
transferring 60 gigabytes of files, that it would take an estimated
five hours or so, and that I should just go away.
In fact, it took about two and a half hours. Afterwards, the new Mac
continued booting, but when it was done had the familiar look and feel
of the computer I was replacing.
All my documents, photos, music and more had transferred over. The
desktop wallpaper was my old standby; all my applications were right
where I had left them.
There were a few minor loose ends: I needed to re-select my preferred
screen saver, download the latest iTunes version and point my backup
software to the new computer’s hard drive. But all in all, as Mac
fans love to say, “It just worked.”
Simply, smoothly, no muss, no fuss.
There’s nothing equivalent when you buy a new Windows system, though Microsoft
next-gen Vista offers a Windows Easy Transfer that promises to move
data files and system settings but not applications. But PCmover, an
add-on utility from Bellevue, Washington/Vancouver-based Laplink Software
comes close. I gave PCmover a test, transferring applications, data and
settings from a Windows 2000 system onto another computer that had a
fresh Windows XP installation.
It’s a quick install onto the new computer and the old one. The
software needs to be running on both.
Data can be transferred across a network, using a relatively slow
parallel port data cable or using specialized USB cables. (Laplink
sells USB 1.1 or faster and more expensive USB 2.0 data cables, either
bundled with the software or on their own.)
Tell the software how you’re connecting, and if you’re
using the network, make sure your firewall is set to allow it. After a
few mouse clicks (more than the Macs required), the software told me
that it was prepared to transfer my thousands of files and a surprising
70,000 configuration settings.
Using my work’s Ethernet network, the four gigabytes of files
took about an hour to transfer, and again, the new computer booted up
with pretty much everything I might want in the right place. In this
case, I had to set up the networked printer, but not much else.
PCmover costs about $60 for a single licence good for one move; the
assumption is that it’s software that you really need only once.
(Multiple licence packs are available.)
While I’m a bit uneasy about recommending software that you can use
only once, it saved me two days or so of tedium.