By Joe Stoddard. You bought a new computer. Now all you have to do is load up all that stuff from your old computer and get it to work. If you're a Mac user you can spend a few minutes dragging and dropping. Unfortunately, Windows' complicated registry system turns into an albatross when it's time to migrate your stuff. If you just copy the contents of your old computer over to the new one, nothing will work because the new hardware drivers won't match the old registry file. So how do you get everything from point A to point B?
If you saved the installation CDs, and if you've kept all your data files in a central folder like "My Documents," you can re-install your applications one-by-one, then move data over using your office network or a pile of disks.
There's a drawback, though. Remember all those "Don't lose these installation codes--you'll need them" e-mails you received? Now you need them. Your original installation CDs won't include the security patches and upgrades you've applied over time, not to mention all the little utility programs you bought on the Internet. Unless you've been hyper-organized, plan on spending lots of time on the phone pleading for new installation codes. And then you still need to re-create each program's personal settings and preferences.
Or you can use relocation software, which migrates everything--programs, data, and settings--to your new computer (in theory) without wrecking it. The best I've tried is Alohabob's PC Relocator 4.0 ($49.95), from Sunrise, Fla.-based Eisenworld (www.alohabob.com). Just connect the two computers, install the software on each computer, and wait. Alohabob has to compare and merge settings versus just copying data, so you will need zen-like patience. It can take a day or more to migrate 10 GB of data over a parallel port cable connection. Figure on checking in every now and then, just in case the software pops up an error message.
I used it to migrate data from a Windows 98 computer to a Windows XP Pro computer. The new computer booted properly, and most applications opened and ran normally. Exceptions were Microsoft Outlook, which had to be re-directed to its data file manually, and some older utilities that were too outdated for Win XP. (Eisenworld says to back up data you don't want to lose.) Bottom line, Alohabob still burned up a weekend, but was far less hassle, and required far less hands-on than a manual move to the new computer.