3 ways to get your personal data from Windows XP to new PC

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With the Windows end-of-service deadline finally upon us, a lot of holdouts are hurriedly making the upgrade to Windows 7 or 8. Here are four simple options for transferring your data from Windows XP to a new PC without breaking a sweat.

1. Flash drive

The most straightforward way to transfer your data to a new computer is by manually moving it from one PC to the next using removable physical storage, like a flash drive or external USB hard drive. The upside to this option is that you don’t have to download any software or go through any special steps. Just plug your external drive into your old computer, drag your files over, and then plug it into the new computer and drag the files back.

The first is that you’ll actually need enough physical storage to make the transfer. If the only external storage you have is a 512MB flash drive you got at a Circuit City in 2007, it’s not going to be practical for transferring large amounts of data.

The other issue is that you’ll have to manually select the files to transfer. If you’ve been allowing your software to save files in the default location, then all of your important documents and files should be located in C:/Documents and Settings on your Windows XP computer. Here, you’ll find each user’s My Documents folder, which is the default location where Microsoft Office and most other software applications store documents. You’ll also find the Desktop folder, which contains all the files you’ve dropped onto your computer’s desktop.

Copy over all the contents of C:/Documents and Settings to your external media. Then, on your new Windows computer, move the files to the appropriate folders in C:/Users, which contains the My Documents and Desktop folders in Windows Vista, 7 and 8.

2. Cloud storage

You can also transfer data with a cloud storage service such as Dropbox. This can be a convenient way to transfer documents, but be aware that transferring large files (such as home movies) over a cloud-storage service can take a long time and eat into your monthly broadband cap.
Beyond that, free cloud services tend to offer small 5GB to 10GB storage limits, which may not be enough storage to handle all the data you want to transfer. A cloud service also requires that you manually pick the files to move over. If you’re not comfortable deciding which files to transfer, you might find one of the following two automatic file-transfer applications helpful.

3. Windows Easy Transfer Tool

Windows 7 and 8 come with a built-in tool for transferring user data from one Windows PC to another, called the Windows Easy Transfer tool. Once you’ve downloaded the file and installed it, just run “Windows Easy Transfer Tool for Windows 7” on your Windows XP computer and walk through the steps. Choose “An external hard drive or USB flash drive” when asked where you want to save the data, and then wait while the application scans your system.
On your Windows 7 or 8 computer, just open the Start Menu or Start Screen (respectively) and type “Windows Easy Transfer,” then click on the utility application with that name. Click next, then click on the button marked “Yes.” This will allow you to navigate to the file you saved on your external hard drive or cloud storage folder. The Easy transfer tool will automatically transfer over documents, bookmarks, and other User data.

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