Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement
Net or shared drive required
With no cables to mess with and a petite 2.5MB download that installs SmartClone on both the source and the target PCs, installing and launching this utility takes just seconds. You can either migrate using the Internet--in which case you need Net access to use SmartClone--or by moving the data to a network drive, removable drive (such as a Zip drive), or to a CD-R/RW drive by burning a new disc. (SmartClone doesn't yet let you use the traditional cable method to connect two PCs.)
Migrates to and from XP
SmartClone's interface is entirely wizard-based. It presents 13 clear steps; each details a specific chore, such as selecting which application settings and files you want to migrate.
SmartClone can migrate files and settings for Windows 95, 98, Me, 2000, and XP. But SmartClone migrates OS files and settings only to and from equals--from Windows 98 to Windows 98, for example--or from an older OS to a newer. SmartClone beats pc2pc in this department, though, since it will migrate from one XP PC to another, or from Windows 2000 to XP.
Moves settings, not software
Like IntelliMover, SmartClone moves settings and associated documents for only a limited number of applications. It doesn't pick up Microsoft Word on the old machine, for instance, and transport that word processor to the new box the way Aloha Bob does. You'll still have to install Word on the new PC yourself.
The list of apps SmartClone does handle is much too short--just 23--although it includes powerhouses such as Microsoft Word and Excel, WordPerfect, Quicken, and Act. For the listed programs, SmartClone transports user settings--in Word, for instance, it's supposed to move such things as customized toolbars and the spell-check configuration--and documents created by each application. SmartClone also migrates Outlook and Outlook Express messages and address books and the contents of any Windows folder you select.
Migration the easy way
Once you've decided what you want to move, SmartClone's migration process is so simple even a kid could do it. After connecting to the Internet, you run the wizard on the source PC, hand over a credit card number, choose a username and a password, and check boxes to select what will move. SmartClone does the rest: it analyzes your choices, then compresses your files and sends them to SmartClone's servers for storage. Once that's done (depending on your Net connection speed and the amount of stuff you're migrating, this chore can take hours), fire up SmartClone on your new PC, connect to the Internet, enter your username and password, and wait while the utility downloads the migration file and installs the changes. It's hands-off all the way.
SmartClone recently added support for network drives (which must be accessible from the source PC) and removable drives, such as Zip or Jaz, or CD-R/RW drives, as an alternative to sending files and settings to SmartClone's servers. It's a better deal all around, assuming you can access a network drive or have a removable or CD-R/RW drive; the price is a flat $49.95, no matter how much you migrate, and the migration goes much faster. Generally, SmartClone's migrations are small enough to fit on one CD-RW disc or a couple of Zip cartridges. (Remember, it doesn't move entire apps, just document files and application settings.)
Among SmartClone's additional tricks: if you go the SmartClone server route, you can set it to upload from your old PC at any time, even the middle of the night--handy when you're migrating a work computer's settings to, say, your home PC and don't want to tie up the company's Net connection during work hours. And SmartClone automatically encrypts the data it sends using 56-bit DES (with additional protection provided by encryption keys unknown even to SkyDesk), so there's no chance of a hacker intercepting and decoding your data. Not even SkyDesk workers can see your data when it's on their servers.
Slow and sloppy migration
Unfortunately, migration can take forever. Don't use SmartClone unless you have a broadband connection or tons of time. When we migrated machines using slow dial-up links to the SmartClone server, a basic move of just 13MB took well over two hours. In comparison, IntelliMover migrated seven times as much data in a third of the time.
Worse, the migration is sloppy. Although general Windows settings such as screensaver, resolution, and mouse-pointer size always made it to our new PCs during test migrations, other settings didn't. In one migration, none of our Microsoft Word 2000 settings made it to the new machine, which was equipped with Word 2002. (However, when we migrated from the same version of Word, everything went fine.) In three test migrations, SmartClone successfully transferred our Outlook and Outlook Express address books only once.
When things go wrong, you can call a toll-free number (staffed 12 hours each weekday but not on weekends) or submit queries via e-mail. You can also undo a migration if you're totally dissatisfied; we backed out of several without any problems.
SmartClone can cost a fortune. SkyDesk charges you based on a sliding scale tagged to the amount of data you want to upload from one PC to another, so fees run from $49.95 for a 250MB allowance to $199.95 to migrate 2GB. The only way to avoid such steep fees is to cram the migration on a network, removable, or CD-RW drive, in which case you'll pay a flat fee of $50. IntelliMover costs just $10 more and migrates any amount of data with an ultrafast USB cable.
We like SmartClone's Internet angle and love the flexibility it brings to migration. But it's nowhere near as thorough a tool as our favorite in this category, IntelliMover. You're smart to skip SmartClone until it dramatically beefs up its list of supported apps.