XP to Vista: How to transfer your data

In this quick guide we'll show you how to transfer your files and settings from an aging Windows XP computer to a new Vista machine.

From XP to Vista

One of the dreaded tasks of getting a new PC or laptop is updating the shiny new machine with existing contacts, pictures, and files from that old and aging PC running Windows XP. In this quick guide we'll show you how to transfer those files in a snap and prepare your old XP machine for the farm.

If you've purchased a new PC lately then it's more than likely it'll be pre-installed with the relatively new Microsoft Vista operating system. While the new operating system will take a little bit to get used to, users of Windows XP can transfer existing pictures, music, video, business files, email messages and contacts, and internet settings from your older machine to Vista with relative ease.

Unfortunately, applications, fonts and drivers can't be transferred automatically from Windows XP to Vista. Your favourite office suite, games, or accounting software will have to be manually re-installed and probably upgraded to work on the Vista platform. Before forking out any more cash on software applications, check in with the software vendors of your favourite applications as an upgrade may be available for free or a small cost. Enterprise users or power users who really want to keep application settings and need to transfer many desktops at once from XP to Vista are better to investigate the use of Microsoft's User State Migration Tool (USMT).

That aside, there are two options available for regular users to transfer settings; one manual and the other automated. We'll cover both in this article.

The automated way with Windows Easy Transfer

Windows Easy Transfer is a program included for free in Windows Vista which automates the process of moving files from Windows XP to your new computer. While we'll focus on Windows XP in this article it also works for Windows 2000 and transferring files from one Vista computer to another Vista computer.

At this point we should note that Windows Easy Transfer shouldn't be mixed up with the "Files and Settings Wizard" which originally shipped with Windows XP. This program worked in the past to upgrade from older operating systems such as Windows 98 to XP but shouldn't be used to upgrade to Vista. Windows Easy Transfer is the upgraded version of the "Files and Settings Wizard".

Before starting you'll need to decide how to migrate your information. Windows Easy Transfer supports the following methods:

  • A USB flash drive or external hard disk. This is probably the best option as you should already have one for regular backups. Make sure you have enough spare space before attempting to move your data.
  • A networked connection. This is a good option if you have a home network set up via a router already.
  • A CD or DVD. This is supported but might be a clumsy option if you have a lot of data.
  • A USB cable that can connect two computers. Companies like Belkin sell these for around AU$45.

After you've decided which option is best for you it's time to jump on your new Windows Vista machine. Before starting this process it's best to close all active programs on both machines. On the Vista machine, click the Start icon on the bottom left corner > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Windows Easy Transfer.

This will open up a new screen where you will be prompted with the following screen:

Click Start new transfer. On the next prompt click "This is my new computer". From there follow the prompts according to which method you have chosen from the list above. Unless you're using a USB crossover cable, the process will involve setting up the Windows Easy Transfer program (file name Migwhiz) on Windows XP, selecting the settings and files to migrate and following the correct prompts. Overall there are too many steps to include in this one article for all of the different options, but a step-by-step guide can be found here.

For the manual way to transfer your data, click on to page two.

Featured Video