Transfer XP to Windows 7 with Easy Transfer
When you finally break down and buy a new Windows computer, it will come with Windows 7 or (if you happen to be reading this some time after I first wrote it), Windows 8. You've been using your old XP machine for far too long, you have hundreds of documents, perhaps thousands of pictures and who knows what else that you'd like to bring over to the brand new machine.
You can hire someone to do that for you. In very unusual cases, hiring someone might even be a good idea. However, for most people, transferring their "stuff" is easy. It is mostly clickety-click, answer a few questions and go relax while your data sails from the old computer to the new.
However, if you've never done this before, of course you will be concerned. You may have questions or you may not understand the directions you find on the Internet. There are things that can go wrong, too - aren't there always?
I'm going to show you the easy way. Most people can use this method. It's the least confusing and most unattended procedure. It uses a program that comes with your new computer (Windows Easy Transfer) and can be quickly installed on your old. If you have a typical home computer Internet setup, you'll be able to use this method.
We'll be using your home network to do this. You may not even realize that you have a "network" if you've only been using one computer, but if you have DSL or broadband Internet access, you probably do indeed have a home network - even if it is just one lonely computer.
You will need to have a router or a switch and possibly an extra ethernet cable.
Routers and switches, oh my!
See my "Basic Home Networking - routers and switches" if you need a basic idea of what these things are. I've put some pictures at the right here so you can see what to look for.
You are also going to need an extra network cable. If you don't have one, you could buy one at Staples, Radio Shack or similar places (although they will charge you much more than on-line prices usually).
Note that you are NOT looking for an "Easy Transfer Cable". That's a special purpose, more expensive cable that has little value outside of this need. An ethernet network cable is inexpensive and easy to find - your local "dollar store" might even sell them!
If your new computer is wireless and you have a wireless router, you CAN use that connection and skip buying the extra cable. Usually that will be a little bit slower than using a cable, but as most of this is going to happen while you sit in the living room sipping coffee and watching TV, that may not matter to you.
Another advantage of the cable is that it can be quite long - up to 100 meters (over 300 feet) if you should need to have the computers widely separated because of lack of space on a table, lack of electrical outlets or just for convenience.
If you do need or want to use a cable, check with your neighbors - one of them may very well have one you can borrow.
You'll plug the wire into your new computer and into a free port on the router or switch. Disable your wireless so that your computer isn't tempted to use that and slow you down. If you have any difficulty getting that part working, see my "A non-technical guide to understanding and fixing TCP/IP problems on a network".
You now have a network and can use Easy Transfer to transfer files and settings.
If you found an Easy Transfer Cable and would like to use that instead, you can. The instructions only differ slightly.
You can also use a USB drive or a shared network location. That's a little bit more complicated as it can involve extra steps. I'm not going to cover that here, but you can find other guides and videos that will.
Getting Easy Transfer onto the XP machine
Your new computer has Easy Transfer installed already. You'll find it in All Programs->Accessories->System Tools.
Your XP machine does not, and getting it on there is a place where you can run into trouble if you are hasty.
You can download Easy Transfer from Microsoft. However, Microsoft does have several versions of this:
If you accidentally download the wrong version, it not only will not work, but it may confuse you by trying to do the transfer and failing only after spending some time trying.
There is another way to get the right program on your old machine. That's to actually copy it from your new machine. The video I included below shows that method.
Microsoft has their own Easy Transfer video and you can find many more on YouTube. If you are still feeling uncomfortable about this task, I suggest watching a few of those - they can help you see how easy this really is.
You may have special situations that require a little more work. You may have been using Outlook Express on XP and plan on using Windows Live Mail on the new computer. Microsoft has a tool to help with that (sorry - they keep moving it and I can't find the link right now).
You might have other odd email transfer needs. This site has a number of articles that can help with those circumstances.
You might have a 64 bit version of XP and be transferring to a 32 bit Windows 7 (that is unusual!). You'll need to use Windows Backup if that's your case. Google for help with that.
Usually the easiest thing to do is just let Windows Easy Transfer run and then look to see what, if anything, went wrong or is missing. There may very well be nothing more you need to do at all. If there is, Google for it or seek more experienced help - at least you have done the major part of the work yourself.
I should also mention that if you buy a Mac (and you should!), transferring data is also not at all difficult.