Upgrading to a new personal computer (PC)

A checklist for moving information to a new computer



Documents, photos, programs, music, bookmarks and email addresses all need to be moved or re-installed but the first thing on your list should be to set up anti-virus (AV) protection and activation of the firewall. The AV protection will keep your new machine safe as you move thousands of files, while the firewall will protect a computer that has an Internet connection from a remote installation of malware.

This article is intended for users of IBM-compatible personal computers who are moving to a new machine and not necessarily for Macintosh PCs.   

Your checklist of actions is here. 


1.   Certain programs will need to be re-installed.  It can be helpful to inventory what’s on your old machine with a computer audit tool like Belarc Advisor or PC Audit, as you’ve likely forgotten everything that’s installed:
      Belarc Advisor

PC Audit

For programs like Microsoft Office, you’ll want to get out your CDs and installation instructions, being careful to install options that you use, such as the foreign language dictionaries or financial functions.  Other programs that are delivered via the Internet, like Google Chrome or Apple QuickTime, should be on your list – but delay the process until you’ve updated your AV protection and have made sure the firewall is operating.

2.   You’ll want a couple of writeable CDs to create a system repair disc (to get your basic setup back in case of a crash) and a system image disc (to get a more complete image).

 3.   Transfer of thousands of documents, pictures and music files is fastest if you are using an external hard drive (USB hard drive) on your old system.  

      4.   If you are using a router or wireless router, information can be transferred from machine to machine – but it will require appropriate settings in the operating system of each computer – and an Ethernet cables to connect your new machine to the router.
5.  A USB flash drive, also called a memory stick or “thumb drive”, can also be used to move files.  You’ll want the largest capacity possible but 8 gigabyte drives which should be adequate to the task of moving everything except video files are available for less than $10.
6.  In the old days, we’d have used diskette drives to move some data or possibly LapLink software to move data over a serial or parallel port.  But your new PC won’t have removable drives or serial and parallel ports.  It does have USB ports that are faster than any of these old technologies but WARNING: if you intend to use the USB ports you’ll need a special cable.  Connecting two computers with an ordinary USB cable can damage the ports of both machines, as a PC provides power to remote devices that are connected:



Two sources for these cables are Belkin, a cable and accessory supplier, and LapLink, which provides cable and software to manage the process:

Belkin USB networking cable  

LapLink PC Mover




STEP 1: Anti-virus software and firewall

Before connecting to the Internet, it is essential that your firewall is operating.  Your computer was built some months ago, so its virus definitions will be somewhat out-of-date.  That can hurt – and I speak from experience here.  On a computer that I installed a few years ago, I didn’t do the update and the H-P that I’d purchased had virus definitions that were 12 months old.  What made the problem serious was that the Microsoft firewall was not working.  Within an hour, due to the missing firewall protection, someone had seen the exposed machine on the Internet and installed Backdoor.IRC.Zcrew, a virus created since the anti-virus software was created .

Even if you haven’t connected your new computer to your router with an Ethernet cable, most desktop computers now come with a wireless card.  However, it should not be connected to your router until you do so in the Network and Sharing Center, located at the right of your toolbar:


Check that your firewall is operating by doing one of two things:

In Windows follow these commands:
Start/Control Panel/ System & Security/Check Firewall Status


Your Windows Firewall should be on (indicated in green) or should indicate that your anti-virus/security software is managing the firewall instead.

In a program like Norton Security Suite, the firewall in that product will indicate that it is running.

You now should proceed directly to connecting to the Internet to update the anti-virus definitions in your security software from Kaspersky, McAfee, Norton, Trend Micro or other supplier.


STEP 2: Remove the bloatware


Before installing anything new, it is best to get rid of any applications shipped with your computer that you won’t be using.  Once you’ve done this, the disk can be cleaned up with a defragmentation utility.  It will pay off later in faster disk speeds.

Uninstalling programs is done in Windows 7 with these steps:
Start/Control Panel/Uninstall a program


My newest system came with a number of applications that I won’t use, including several e-readers; Hulu Desktop; several Internet shortcuts; the Bing toolbar (for Internet Explorer); the RoxioNow Player; Norton online backup; and Microsoft Office 10.  I have other solutions that I use for each of these, including an earlier version of Microsoft Office.  The uninstall command is in the Control Panel:
Start/Control Panel/Uninstall a program


IMPORTANT: Be careful not to delete important system files such as Lightscribe software that manages your writeable CD/DVD drive; Internet security software; or audio and video drivers.  When in doubt, leave the software.  It can be removed later.

Once you’ve completed the Uninstall, If it does not eliminate a shortcut icon from your desktop or your Start menu, then simply right-click the mouse and delete the item.  Remember: removing an desktop icon or Start menu shortcut doesn’t delete the program and free up disk space : it only gets rid of the small bit of code making up the shortcut.

You may also want to stop certain programs from loading automatically each time the computer starts. 

I’ve disabled QuickTime, Java, Kodak Easyshare, Adobe Acrobat and several other programs to reduce the amount of memory being used. 

Since Microsoft has hidden the “Run” command in the newest version of Windows, you’ll first have to add it to the Start menu, using these instructions:

What happened to the Run Command? 

Then you can control what runs at boot with these steps:

·         Start/Run/msconfig/Make changes to System Configuration Startup


Note that after installing new software you may want to re-run msconfig to keep Quick Time and other applications from running launchers that take up memory and potentially conflict with other applications.


STEP 3: Clean up the hard disk. 


Two utilities in Window 7 should be run.  The first is called Disk Cleanup and it clears out downloaded information and old files.  To find it click:
Start/All Programs/Accessories/System Tools/Disk Cleanup


Your hard disk should now be emptier than it was when it arrived but it is a bit like weeding out a 10-drawer file cabinet – space isn’t used efficiently.  To speed the computer up in the future, the disk should be defragmented.  On a new computer this process should take 20-30 minutes (though it can be hours on a badly fragmented system).  If your computer has fragmentation set to run automatically, simply override the automatic “warning”:

 Start/All Programs/Accessories/System Tools/Disk Defragmenter


STEP 4: Create a system repair disc.

 In the past you’ve probably received or created a Recovery disk for use when the operating system crashes or is damaged.   A system restore CD can now be created using these commands:

Start/Control Panel/System and Security/Backup and Restore/Create a system repair disc


Label your disk as a System Repair disc for 64-bit Windows, then store it with your original hardware manual in the safest location.

Creation of a system image disc can be done later when all of your applications are installed.



STEP 5: Set up your file structure.

In the past, Microsoft put all kinds of files under My Documents – My Music, My Webs, My Pictures, My Video.  Now Documents, Music, Pictures and Videos are all in separate “libraries”, which makes sense.  But it means that you’ll need to be careful in transferring files.  If you don’t, a music file, for example, will be duplicated in two locations under Music and Documents/Music, taking up more disk space and potentially confusing you later.

In addition, files were either “Shared” or allocated to a user and that hasn’t changed, though shared files are now labeled “Public”.  You’ll want to decide whether to make your files available to all users or put them in a private section.


STEP 6: Install new software.

Even if you’re installing software from a CD, there will be updates from the vendor’s Internet site, so it is a good idea to wait to install software to this point.


STEP 7: Transfer your data files.

There are several ways to move data files, including:

                * importing files from a backup drive

                * transferring files using a USB networking cable

                * using a USB thumb drive

                * networking your computers via a route


All of these steps move files over in a group using Windows Explorer, which is your computer’s file manager.  The easiest is either using your backup drive or a local area network (LAN).

 Before you can see other computers on the LAN, you have to enable your Homegroup network, allowing the new PC to see the older system’s disk drives.  In some systems using Windows 2000, only the new machine may be able to see the whole network.

 To enable a local area network use these steps:
Start/Control Panel/Network and Internet/Homegroup/Sharing Options


At this point, check all of the libraries, printers and streaming options on the page.  Now start Windows Explorer and click on Network and after about one minute, both computers should appear.  Select your old system and navigate to the files that you want to transfer from drive C:
C:/Documents and Settings/Owner name or All Users


If you are having trouble linking to your older computer, you may need to turn off the portion of the network linked to the wireless portion of your router.  When two networks are present, Windows 7 has trouble seeing a second PC.


STEP 8: Transfer your Internet browser settings.

Your Internet browser will come with its own home page, a default search engine (usually Microsoft Bing in Internet Explorer) — and no favorites or bookmarks.  The first two of these can be changed in Internet Explorer’s Tools/Internet Options menu:


Note the “Search” button to change your search option among the leading search engines.

You can also change your search choices by downloading toolbars from Google or other search companies.


Bringing your bookmarks over to a new browser is a two-step process:

1.  First “Export” a bookmark.htm file from your old browser.  In Internet Explorer the process is:

                a.  Open Internet Explorer

                b.  File/Import and Export/Export/Bookmarks/Favorites

                c.  The browser will probably place the bookmark.htm file in your My Documents folder.  However, it may be easier to remember where it is if you place it on a USB memory stick.

2.  “Import” the file into the new computer’s browser:

                a.  Open Internet Explorer

                b. File/Import and Export/Import/Favorites


In Google Chrome, the process is similar, though you click the Wrench in the toolbar, then:

Bookmarks/Import Bookmarks and Settings

 Bookmark manager in Google Chrome


STEP 9: Run a backup


Your system will have backup scheduled already if you have an external USB drive.  However, it is a good idea to run backup before using your system actively.  On a recently installed system Microsoft Word was used to edit an HTML file — and it damaged the web page.  My easiest solution was simply to reload the damaged HTML file off the backup drive and make my update to the web page with another editor. 

You may also wish to reschedule your system backup now to times when it won’t interfere with your work.



You’re all set to start using your new system, with all of the old files available.  But there are a couple of additional options to consider:

·         Theft protection, particularly for a portable computer.

  One such tool is the Prey Project, which enables you to find and disable a stolen computer when it is connected to the Internet.  I originally loaded it for a smartphone then put it on my other computers.

            ·         Create a System image recovery CD

Today a recovery image is set aside on your hard disk, rather than being shipped with the computer.  Windows 7 provides five options to repair software.  It can be copied to your backup USB drive or to a CD:

·         Startup repair that fixes problems relating to startup of the operating system, Windows 7

·         System restore that takes the software back to an earlier configuration

·         System image recovery to get back to applications used earlier

·         Windows memory diagnostic to check for hardware errors


The commands to follow:

State/Control Panel/System and Security/Backup and Restore/Create a system image


·         Export email addresses if you’re using POP3 mail.

 Many of us have been using PC-based email (like Outlook Express) for over a decade.  If you have, you’ll need to export email addresses to a new email package or to web-based email.  If you’ve switched over to web-based services like Hotmail or GMail, this won’t be necessary.

 To export addresses to Microsoft Outlook from Outlook Express, which is no longer in the Windows operating system:
1.  In Outlook Express go to the Address Book, the click:

File/ Export/Address Book

2.  Export the file as a CSV file for Microsoft Outlook to be able to read it.
3.  Use Microsoft Outlook’s File/Import to enter the address book on your new system.







Last updated: 11/1/2011
Email: aczernek@comcast.net