Using Windows Easy Transfer in Windows 7

So far we have looked at two ways of installing Windows 7 on your PC Clean/Custom Install or In-Place Upgrading. Many persons will be buying Windows 7 on a new PC when its released and would like to get their personal data from an old PC to the new PC running Windows 7. Windows 7 offers an easy, convenient way to make the move with the built in Windows Easy Transfer utility. As you can see in the screenshot below, I have a lot of files on my old PC running Windows 7, and I would like to get those files over safely over to my new computer also running Windows 7. First lets find out what it is Windows Easy Transfer:

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My old computer

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. 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.
    • Program settings. Settings that keep your programs configured as you had them on your old computer. 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. 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.

Windows Easy Transfer sounds like just the solution I am looking for to move my personal data to my new computer.

Launch Windows Easy Transfer

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Launching Windows Easy Transfer utility

1. You can find the Windows Easy Transfer utility by clicking Start > type: Transfer. Or click Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Windows Easy Transfer.

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2. When you start the Windows Easy Transfer, a wizard gives you an overview of what you can transfer and what will happen after the process is completed. Click Next to begin.

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3. You have three methods of transferring your data from your old computer using Windows Easy Transfer:

  • An Easy Transfer cable is specifically designed to work with Easy Transfer to move your personal data from an old PC to a new computer.
  • Network which is the method I will be using for this tutorial, requires that both PC’s have a network port installed and using a CAT5 cable to connect both computers.
  • If you have an external hard disk with sufficient space, you can let Easy Transfer backup your data in a single file.

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4. After clicking the Network option, you are asked to identify the computer you are using now. In this case, I am on the new computer.

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5. Next you will be asked to install Windows Easy Transfer on the old computer, my old computer is already running Windows 7, so I will click that option.

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Our next step now as the instruction says is to get an authorization key from the old computer before continuing.

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On the old PC, follow the same procedures by selecting the same method you will be using to transfer your files, with the exception of identifying the Old computer when asked.

6. Once the authorization code has been generated, go back to your new Windows 7 PC, click Next and enter it and click Next.

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Entering authorization key on new computer.

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Easy Transfer analyzing the old Computer

7. A connection will now be established between both computers and Windows Easy Transfer will do a set of scans on the old PC to determine what can be transferred. You will be able to select accounts and shared files that you might want to transfer.

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Creating an account on the new computer

8. Choose Advanced Options if there is some specific options you would like to apply such as Creating a specific account for your personal files on the new computer. My old computer has the account ‘Andre Da Costa’, I would also like that account on the new computer, so what I will do is click in the ‘User account on the new computer:’ list box and click Create User, enter appropriate information and click Save.

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New Computer left, Old Computer right, Transfer in progress


  • Do not use the old and new Computer’s during the Transfer process.

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Errors during Transfer, you can retry transferring, if you continue experience errors, check all files and click skip and transfer the file or files manually.

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Programs Report 1 Programs Report 2

When the Transfer process is complete, you can view a report of what was transferred along with what you will need to reinstall.

The time it takes will vary depending on the data set (amount of information) you have stored on the old computer in addition to the user accounts that you might be transferring. I must say the transfer was a success except for an error I had with Easy Transfer reporting Windows Live Mail open on the old computer, refusing to transfer my storage folder. But after loading Windows Live Mail on the new computer, everything seemed to be ok, I could access all my messages and newsgroups  just fine.

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Windows 7 (new computer), successful transfer..

And there you have it, an easy, convenient, secure and reliable process of transferring personal files and settings from your old computer to your new PC running Windows 7. My default wallpapers, taskbar layout, account picture, even my Firefox Bookmarks, Windows Live Writer settings were all transferred successfully.The only thing I need to do now is reinstall the applications recommended by the Windows Easy Transfer utility.

Lessons to learn

What I have discovered is that although Windows 7 64 bit will allow an Easy Transfer of personal files and settings from 32 bit Windows to 64 bit Windows, it will not do a vice-versa, see the proof below.

Easy Transfer

Oh really? I didn’t know that!

Interesting huh? I thought so too, but it brings up the question, is this a sign of the final hurrah for 32-bit Windows? Microsoft has not stopped development of 32-bit applications or operating systems, since Windows 7 will be available in both 32 and 64 bit flavors when its released to manufacturing. It does however bring up the issue of supporting 32-bit technology going forward where Windows is concerned. I asked a trusted colleague Bryant Zedegan, editor of popular Windows enthusiast community why Microsoft would prevent Easy Transfer from 64 bit to 32 bit computers, here is what he had to say:

In strictly logical terms, blocking migration from 64bit to 32bit Windows likely exists in order to discourage rolling back to an old instruction set. Based on what Windows Easy Transfer is able to migrate, I doubt that there would be any significant issues with allowing for migrating data in the 64-to-32bit direction; it’s just one of those things where Microsoft wants to ensure that migration to x64 happens without users rolling back.


In a sense, the industry has been going through a transition from the old architecture for quite some time. Its something that happens every now and then as advances occur, examples include the transition from 16 to 32 bit instruction set during the the 90’s. 64-bit has been much slower because of early lack in available device drivers and programs that can harness the full benefits of what 64 bit has to offer such as a larger memory address space, meaning the ability to utilize 4 GBs or more of RAM, increased performance and stability. The release of Windows XP Professional x64 in April of 2005 and Windows Vista x64 in fall of 2006 help to boost the transition, a vast majority of Windows based desktops and notebooks now come with 64 bit processors built in and large amounts of memory. Windows Vista 64 bit has also seen greater adoption in recent times. But this does not mitigate the fact that there is still a large deployment of existing 32 bit only systems out there such as my Dell Dimension 8300 purchased back in March of 2004 that I have upgraded over the years and runs even Windows 7 32-bit well with full functionality such as advanced Aero window management effects.

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Conclusion and Recommendations

My primary aim was to at least maintain some consistency between both desktops where personal files and settings are concerned. Although I learned a hard lesson, I was able to transfer back some of my personal files and settings manually from the User folder and AppData directory in Windows 7 64 bit to Windows 7 32 bit, I still lost some personalized settings along the way though. My recommendations for persons in a situation similar to mine is to use the create an Windows Easy Transfer file method and keep a copy of the file if you plan to continue using 32 bit Windows on that same computer you transferred from. This creates a safety net for restoring your personal files and settings, although a lot of available space will be needed for storing this information during the transition.


Step-by-Step: Windows 7 Upgrade and Migration

A Look at Improvements to Windows Easy Transfer for Windows 7

Explore the features: Windows Easy Transfer

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