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Migrating User Data : Windows Easy Transfer

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Windows Easy Transfer is designed for interactive use and does not provide the automation features for mass usage as offered by the User State Migration Tool (USMT). However, if you are working with an individual system in a support role or if you are dealing with a small number of systems, the Windows Easy Transfer utility can be a welcome feature.

The Windows Easy Transfer tool comes with Windows Vista, so if you are moving a user from one computer to another, what you need is ready to launch. If you are moving a user from an earlier version of Windows, you'll need to obtain it in one of two ways:

  • Run from installation DVD

  • Download from Microsoft

1. Running Easy Transfer from DVD

In the support subfolder of the Windows Installation DVD, you will find a folder named migwiz, and this contains the Windows Easy Transfer application (for example. D:\support\migwiz\migsetup.exe). Simply run the migsetup.exe file to begin. (A standard installation wizard is not displayed; it simply prepares itself and executes the migration wizard directly.)

This does require that you run as Administrator. Under Windows Vista you are prompted by User Account Control (UAC) to allow execution as administrator. However, most commonly this tool will be run on a Windows XP system, so you need to consciously ensure execution as an administrator. As per usual, this can be done either by logging on as an administrator or using the "Run As" feature. Administrator privileges are required in order to successfully scan and collect data and settings from other profiles on the local computer.

2. Downloading Easy Transfer from Microsoft

You can download Windows Easy Transfer for Windows XP from Microsoft at www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=2B6F1631-973A-45C7-A4EC-4928FA173266&displaylang=en

The download does require validation, but the download is free and anyone running a valid installation of Windows is authorized to access the download. Running from Windows Vista? The Windows Easy Transfer utility is actually installed as part of the operating system so no download or install is necessary. You can find it in the Welcome Center application (also accessible by choosing Control Panel => System and Maintenance and from its program group in Start Menu => All Programs => Accessories =>).

3. Understanding the capabilities of Easy Transfer

Windows Easy Transfer lets you move files and settings from one computer to another. It does not remove any files or settings from the source computer in the process. It allows for the transfer of the following items:

  • User accounts

  • Folders and files

  • Program settings

  • Internet related items

  • E-mail related items

NOTE

During use of the Windows Easy Transfer tool, the computer cannot be used. Any running applications must be closed, and the desktop is completely taken over by the application during the process.

Although Windows Easy Transfer does not handle migration of applications, a new tool is available as a beta download entitled Windows Easy Transfer Companion. It is based on a popular third-party migration tool named Alohabob PC Relocator, as part of Microsoft's acquisition of Apptimum, Inc. It provides for the migration of applications (beyond settings, the applications themselves). It works for a limited set of over 100 applications. It is not likely to address even most of your needs, but it certainly could be a help. At least for now, this technology is tied to Windows Easy Transfer and not USMT, so it is again more likely for use in migrations of very few computers.

The Windows Easy Transfer Companion beta is available for download at www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=39f724eb-4e37-4be0-adfc-786786e73e50&displaylang=en. An article discussing its use and a list of supported applications may be found at http://support.microsoft.com/kb/931696.

4. Using Windows Easy Transfer

After the Windows Easy Transfer application is launched, the desktop is taken over by the application. The application collects information on what it is you want to transfer, where you want to store it, and then does the work of collecting and storing the selected data.

Naturally, there are two distinct operations in using Windows Easy Transfer:

  • Collecting files and settings

  • Restoring files and settings

Collecting files and settings

The computer from which files and settings are to be migrated is referred to as the old computer by the Windows Easy Transfer tool. To make use of Windows Easy Transfer, sit down at the old computer and follow these steps:

  1. Launch Windows Easy Transfer. The tool must be run as administrator in order to access all areas necessary. Therefore if launching Windows Easy Transfer from a Windows Vista system, a User Account Control (UAC) prompt must be acknowledged.

    A Welcome screen appears as the first screen of the wizard (see Figure 1). It contains a summary of the tool's capabilities and links to help.

    Figure 1. Starting Windows Easy Transfer
  2. Click the Next button to begin. The resulting screen lets you continue a transfer in progress (if files and settings have been previously selected) or to start a new transfer.

  3. Choose Start a new transfer to continue. The wizard prompts to identify what task it is you want to perform by asking which computer the tool it is on, which the application is being executed: My new computer (to restore files and settings) or My old computer (to collect files and settings).

  4. Choose My old computer to continue. The next screen asks how you want to go about performing the transfer. Choices include using an Easy Transfer Cable, using a network connection, or using removable media (such as a writable CD, DVD, or USB drive). The first two options include using a network connection to perform a live migration directly from the old computer to the new one. If you are migrating operating systems, the target may actually be the same computer. Further, choosing the removable media option also provides the option to specify a network location (to store the payload as opposed to performing the transfer directly). Therefore, for the purpose of this walkthrough, choose Use a CD, DVD or other removable media to continue the process.

    NOTE

    Unfortunately, an Easy Transfer Cable is not simply a standard USB cable, but a proprietary one with a chip that allows for the connection of two systems. You cannot use a simple USB cable for this task. This option is intended for home users who do not have a network to support the migration. A handful of partners manufacture the cable for Microsoft (including Belkin) and are available online for around $20 to $40.

    Windows Easy Transfer next prompts for what removable media you want to utilize for the transfer. Options include CD or DVD, USB flash drive, or External hard disk or to a network location. Naturally, the right choice is dependent upon your environment.

  5. For purposes of this walkthrough, choose External hard disk or to a network location.

  6. On the next screen, specify the path to where the payload should be stored in the Network location field. We also recommend that this data be protected by entering an optional password (as is typical, the password must be typed twice to confirm it was entered as intended).

  7. Press the Next button to continue. You are prompted to choose what is to be transferred.

  8. You can choose All user accounts, files and settings; My user account, files and settings; or Advanced options. The recommended choice is All user accounts, files, and settings, but in order to see just what can be migrated, choose Advanced options.

    A progress bar appears briefly as Windows Easy Transfer determines what it will be able to migrate. When complete, a list of accounts, files and settings are presented with check boxes alongside each. All are checked by default, and any items you do not wish to migrate can be unchecked. There are also buttons to add specific files or folders or to specify other drives. At the bottom right, the size of the data to be transferred is displayed. Keep an eye on this if the space you have for the transfer is limited.

  9. After all desired items have been specified, click the Next button to begin collecting user files and settings. When complete, a message that you are ready to transfer files and settings to your new computer is displayed.

Restoring files and settings

The computer to where files and settings are to be restored is referred to as the new computer by the Windows Easy Transfer tool. To restore the data collected from the old computer using the previous steps, sit down at the new computer and follow these steps:

  1. Launch Windows Easy Transfer. If you have any running programs, you are prompted to close them before proceeding.

    A Welcome screen appears as the first screen of the wizard (see Figure 5.5). It contains a summary of the tool's capabilities and links to help.

  2. Click the Next button to begin.

  3. On the next screen, choose Continue a new transfer in progress to continue. You are prompted to identify how the data is to be retrieved: over the network or using removable media.

  4. Choose No, I've copied files and settings to a CD, DVD, or other removable media to continue.

    The wizard then asks where the files were saved: On a CD or DVD, on a USB flash drive, or on an external hard disk or network location.

  5. Choose On an external hard disk or network location to continue.

  6. On the next page, you can type or browse to the location of your settings file and optionally include a password in the field provided if you choose to enter one during the capture process. When you have specified the path (and if necessary the password) needed to access the data, press the Next button to continue.

    The Windows Easy Transfer wizard next asks that you "Type a new user name or click a name in the list" in order to specify the target account. You can use the same name or a new one. If you create a new account the password is not transferred to the new computer; instead the user will be prompted to create a password the first time they log on to the new computer.

  7. After you have specified a target user account for those to be restored, click the Next button to continue.

    A summary page is offered so you may review the selected files and settings. A tree-view is provided so you may browse what is to be restored, and at the bottom right, the transfer size is identified.

  8. Click the Transfer button to begin the restoral process.

    During the restoral process, you are warned not to use the computer or you may need to restart the restoral process. After the transfer is completed, a transfer summary is displayed with the option to see a detailed list of what was transferred.

  9. Click the Close button to exit Windows Easy Transfer.

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