Here are answers to some common questions about transferring files and settings.

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What is Windows Easy Transfer?

Windows Easy Transfer guides you through the process of transferring files and settings from one Windows computer to another. Using Windows Easy Transfer, you can choose what to transfer to your new computer and how to transfer it.

What can I transfer to my new computer?

You can transfer most files and program settings. Specifically:

  • Files and folders. Everything within the Documents, Pictures, and Shared Documents folders. Using advanced options, you can select additional files and folders to transfer.

  • E‑mail settings, contacts, and messages. Messages, account settings, and address books from Microsoft‌ Outlook Express, Outlook , Windows Mail, and other e‑mail programs.

  • Program settings. Settings that keep your programs configured as you had them on your old computer. You must first install the programs on your new computer, because Windows Easy Transfer does not transfer the programs themselves. Some programs might not work on this version of Windows, including security programs, antivirus programs, firewall programs (your new computer should already have a firewall running to help ensure safety during the transfer), and programs with software drivers.

  • User accounts and settings. Color schemes, desktop backgrounds, network connections, screen savers, fonts, Start menu options, taskbar options, folders, specific files, network printers and drives, and accessibility options.

  • Internet settings and favorites. Internet connection settings, favorites, and cookies.

  • Music. Electronic music files, playlists, and album art.

  • Pictures and video. Pictures—which includes any visual file type (for example, .jpg, .bmp, .gif)—and personal videos.

Which method should I use to transfer my files and settings?

There are several choices. Be sure to choose a method that works on both computers. For example, if you don't have a DVD drive on your old computer, you can't use DVDs for this procedure. Note that floppy disks cannot be used with Windows Easy Transfer.

Easy Transfer Cable

What you'll need: An Easy Transfer Cable and a USB port on each computer.

An Easy Transfer Cable is a specially designed USB cable that can connect two computers and be used with Windows Easy Transfer. It's one of the simplest ways to transfer files and settings to your new computer and works with Windows XP and Windows Vista. You should always start Windows Easy Transfer on your new computer and plug in the cable only when you're instructed to do so. Before you plug in the cable on your old computer, for example, you might need to insert the CD that came with it to install the Windows Easy Transfer software, and then continue the transfer process.

Where to get one: If you don't have an Easy Transfer Cable, you can order one online or from your computer manufacturer, or get one at an electronics store.

Note

  • A standard USB cable cannot be used to transfer files and settings between computers.

Network

What you'll need: A network with both computers connected to it and the ability to access the same network folders or locations.

Connect both computers to your network, start Windows Easy Transfer on the new computer (the computer to which you want to transfer files and settings), and then follow the instructions. To transfer files directly over a network without copying them to and from a network location, you'll need to get a Windows Easy Transfer key from the new computer and then type the key on your old computer before you can collect files and settings to transfer. The Windows Easy Transfer key acts like a password to help protect files and settings when you transfer them over the network.

DVDs or CDs

What you'll need: Writeable DVD or CD drives on both computers and enough writeable discs to hold what you want to transfer.

During the transfer process, Windows Easy Transfer will estimate how much disk space and how many discs are needed to transfer your selections. (A dual-layer DVD holds about 8.5 gigabytes [GB], a single-layer DVD holds about 4.7 GB, and a CD holds about 700 megabytes [MB].) Both computers must be able to read and write DVDs or CDs. Check the information that came with your computer to see if you have a CD or DVD drive that can read and write CDs or DVDs and whether it can read and write to a dual-layer DVD.

Start Windows Easy Transfer on your new computer, and then follow the instructions for using CDs or DVDs.

Note

  • If you are using Windows Easy Transfer to transfer information from Windows 2000 or Windows XP to Windows Vista, you cannot use DVDs.

USB flash drive or external hard disk

What you'll need: A USB flash drive (this requires a USB port on each computer) or an external hard disk compatible with both computers.

Start Windows Easy Transfer on your new computer (the computer to which you want to transfer files and settings), and then follow the instructions for using a USB flash drive or an external hard disk. During the transfer process, Windows Easy Transfer will estimate how much disk space is needed to transfer your selections. If you use a USB flash drive, try to use one with enough storage space for the entire transfer. If your USB flash drive isn't large enough to transfer everything at once, you can copy as many files as it will hold, transfer those files to the new computer, and then reconnect the drive to the old computer and repeat the process.

Note

  • To decide what method to use, consider how much you are transferring. If you're transferring everything from all users or all of your user account files, for example, an Easy Transfer Cable or a network is a good option because the transfer can take a while and you won't have to worry about having enough room for everything. If you're only transferring a few files or folders, then consider using removable media such as CDs, DVDs, or a flash drive, any of which might be as fast as using an Easy Transfer Cable or a network.

How long does it take?

How fast your files and settings are transferred depends on a few factors:

  • The amount and size of the files and settings you transfer

  • The speed of your computers

  • The transfer method you choose: Easy Transfer Cable, DVD or CD, USB flash drive, external hard disk, or networking

Generally, the more you transfer, the more time it takes. The faster the computers and the faster the transfer method (for example, an Easy Transfer Cable or networking for many files, a USB flash drive for fewer files), the faster the transfer will be. But whether the transfer takes a half hour or several hours, it's usually more efficient to use Windows Easy Transfer than to copy everything manually.

How do I decide what to transfer?

When you run Windows Easy Transfer on the old computer, you can transfer all user accounts, files, and settings to the new computer or transfer your user account, files, and settings only. You can also use an advanced option to transfer specific folders. Here are the choices:

  • All user accounts, files, and settings (recommended). Use this option to set up your new computer like your old one. For example, if you've already created user accounts on the new computer, you can match accounts on the old computer to accounts on the new computer (using the same or different names). If you haven't created accounts on the new computer, it doesn't matter, unless the new computer is on a domain. In this case, you should create the domain account on the new computer before you use Windows Easy Transfer. You can transfer accounts from the old computer by creating the accounts, using the same or different names, on the new computer during the transfer process. If you create accounts during the transfer process, you will be asked to create a new password the first time that you log on to the new computer. For more information, see Change your Windows password.

  • My user account, files, and settings only. If you will be the only user on your new computer, use this option to transfer the information that is associated with your user account on your old computer, and any system and program files or settings that you shared with other users and that you might need on the new computer. If you create user accounts during the transfer process, you will be asked to create a new password the first time that you log on to the new computer. For more information, see Change your Windows password.

  • Advanced options. If you want to transfer some user accounts but not others, or if you want to transfer specific folders and shared system or program settings, use this option. If you're not sure which folders are important to transfer, we recommend that you use one of the other options, or refer to the Help for each program that you want to use on the new computer to make sure that you transfer the folders and settings you'll need.

Which versions of Windows will work with the transfer process?

You can use Windows Easy Transfer to transfer files and program settings from a computer running Windows 2000 (files only), Windows XP, or Windows Vista to another computer running Windows Vista. Start Windows Easy Transfer on the computer running Windows Vista, and then follow the instructions.

Or, if you upgrade a computer from Windows XP to Windows Vista, your files, settings, and programs will be transferred automatically during the upgrade. You do not need to run Windows Easy Transfer.

Note

  • You can't use Windows Easy Transfer to transfer files and settings from a computer that is running Windows XP Starter Edition. Instead, on your old computer, you'll need to select the files that you want to transfer, and then copy them to a CD, DVD, USB flash drive, or external hard disk. After you've copied the files, you can manually transfer them to your new computer. If your old and new computers are connected to the same network, you can also copy files to a network location, and then copy them from the network location to your new computer. If you're not sure which files you need to copy—for example, to transfer your e-mail inbox or program settings to the new computer—check the Help for the program to try to find the file names and locations on your old computer.

Can spyware, viruses, or other types of malicious software be transferred?

Yes. If you transfer files from the old computer that contain malicious software, that software can be transferred to your new computer. We strongly recommend that you run antivirus and spyware protection programs at all times, especially on your old computer, before you select files to transfer. After you're transferred files to your new computer, run those programs on the new computer to make sure that no malicious software was transferred.

How do I copy Windows Easy Transfer to my old computer?

You can copy Windows Easy Transfer to your old computer using a CD or DVD, a network (if both computers are connected to the same network), or a USB flash drive. Choose the type of storage device that your old computer can read. If you are using an Easy Transfer Cable, use the CD that comes with the cable to install both the Windows Easy Transfer software and any drivers on your old computer before plugging in the cable. If both computers are running Windows Vista, then both computers already have the Windows Easy Transfer software and you don't need to copy it to your old computer.