What's New in Technology for March 2004

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The joy of buying a new computer can rapidly turn sour as soon as you start to think about transferring files, programs and setting from your old PC. It is a tedious, time-consuming process that seems designed to thwart all but the most technically savvy among us. Macintosh provides a simple user-friendly way to move data without buying special software or hardware. For Microsoft Windows users however, life is not quite so simple.

The Windows operating system has a built in transfer protocol like the Macintosh migration system but comparisons stop there. Unlike the Macintosh option, negotiating the Windows migration system is difficult. Microsoft has yet to provide better migration systems to accompany new Windows programs and upgrades. If you run Windows XP, you may be well aware that The Files and Settings Transfer Wizard for XP doesn’t even provide you with the option of migrating software from one machine to another.

The right migration option depends on the hardware you have and the new PC you’ve bought, the cabling options on the two computers, as well as your own level of technical expertise. Here are some choices to consider:

Buy an external hard drive for this and future data transfers
If you expect to purchase more computers in the near future and will be transferring data from one to another with some frequency, consider buying an external hard drive to handle the migration process. You attach the external drive to your old PC and copy all files and settings. You can then attach this external hard drive to your new PC and copy the files and settings on to the new PC’s hard drive. Please note that you will still need to reinstall your programs. This can be a cost effective option if you run a small business or home office and upgrade your computers frequently.

Use a specially designed migration package
These packages combine the software and cabling you will need to link both machines and transfer data. And there are many choices out there. There are several variables that dictate the best way to link your new and old PC to facilitate data transfer. And that is where the problem lies. An assessment of your hardware and some homework are needed.

As a rule of thumb the older the PC model, the more likely it is that you will have to deal with more a complex transfer process when you buy a new one.

First, check to see if your old computer has a USB port. If it does, that is a step in the right direction. Odds are your new PC - if you are purchasing a brand new computer--almost certainly will have a USB port. Migration products that hook up the USB ports on both computers are simpler to run than others requiring more complex cabling options.

Migrating data and settings from an older computer with no USB cable port migration often require some technical savvy. If this is the case, the first recourse is to use a so-called parallel cable, if both PCs have a parallel cable port. If the new PC doesn’t-and increasing numbers of new models do not-then the transfer process may require a third type of cable known as a crossover cable for Ethernet networking. The "Ethernet option" -- designed to work on all computers equipped with Ethernet networking ports-- is the most complex. Using it to move files requires changing network settings in Windows-a task beyond the capabilities of most users.

There are a variety of migration products available -including PC Relocator, Desktop DNA Professional, StepUp Migration and IntelliMover-- all offer different cabling options supposedly capable of handling all the different port hook-up variations. Individual user experiences with these products vary widely-what one person finds works fine for his PCs may not do so well for someone else with different hardware. Bear in mind that the information that accompanies migration products is often written by technical pros for "techies" and makes tough reading for users who have little networking knowledge. Not all instructions are imponderable. For a straightforward description of the data relocation process written in a user-friendly readable format, check out the information provided on by the maker of The Step Up Migration Tool.

Prices for migration products range from $40 to $60 depending on whether cabling is included in the package.


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