Upgrading to a new PC is always a treat — that is, until you have to configure it. Re-installing all of your applications and moving over your documents and settings can be an all-day task, and even then there’s no guarantee you’ll catch everything. If you’re actually willing to try to copy Registry settings from an old PC to a new one, you’re braver than I.
That’s where Laplink Software’s PCmover Professional comes in. PCmover can transfer the complete configuration from your current PC to any new PC running the same version of Windows or a later one — applications, settings, and all.
To use it, you connect the two PCs via USB, a special Laplink Ethernet cable, or a network (wired or wireless). You can also use an external hard drive as an intermediary storage device, but this adds an extra step. Once both computers are prepared, moving your configuration to the new PC is practically a pushbutton affair.
I say “practically” because although the process is mostly automated and the default options will work for most cases, you’ll probably run into one or two glitches no matter what you do. Laplink cautions that certain types of system software, including firewalls and antivirus scanners, aren’t likely to work properly after the transfer, and that proved to be the case in my tests.
Other potential conflicts may be less obvious. For example, some programs installed on a Windows XP machine might not work at all on Windows 7. Migrating from 32-bit Windows to 64-bit Windows may also cause problems. PCmover can’t reliably predict these kinds of issues, so you may need some tech savvy to make sure everything transfers smoothly — but nothing compared to what you’d need to know to do it by hand.
You should also be aware of the license terms of the software you have installed. Many programs are licensed for use on only one computer, and moving those applications to a new PC may violate the license. For example, my copy of Office 2007 transferred to a new PC without a hitch, but when I went to launch Word, it told me that it detected a hardware change and that I needed to re-activate the software over the Internet. Re-activation worked fine for me, but your mileage may vary.
Those issues aside, the way my applications, documents, desktop items, bookmarks, and even my browser history showed up on my new PC seemed almost like magic. The actual transfer can take a while, especially over a network, but it really is a hands-free affair — just walk away, and PCmover will even email you when it’s done. If there’s a better way to upgrade to a new PC or laptop, I don’t know of it. Pricing starts at $59.95 for one migration, with discounts for volume purchases.