As far as the great majority of users are concerned, Windows Vista was the greatest flop in Microsoft history and few points of view dare to contradict this. Proof is the sleuth of computer enthusiasts that still cling to Windows XP as the familiar grounds where stability and functionality combine smoothly into one easy to use operating system. When Vista came, all it took to bring it down before even starting to rise were the driver incompatibility issues and a number of programs that could not run on anything else but XP. Its slick looks were the only ones impressing the audience, but even this was viewed as unoriginal.
The endpoint here is that very few users committed to replacing a reliable XP with the relatively unfamiliar turf of Vista, waiting for all the loose ends to be tied up in Windows 7, which, as the voices of the experts claim, is a much better dish than Vista (I strongly concur).
However, plenty of users find transitioning to a new operating system quite a pain in the neck. The planning involved for having all data in familiar locations and all software installed and ready to roll with your own settings is discouraging for many users. But there are technical solutions to overcome all the trouble and bypass the most dreaded parts of the process.
PCmover is an easy solution designed to help you move programs, files and settings from the old operating system to the new one, in our case, from XP to Windows 7. All this sounds too intriguing for us to pass the opportunity of investigating the entire process. Armed with the Professional edition of the software we proceeded the migration operation from a Windows XP with Service Pack 3 and a brief list of software installed, to the soon to be officially launched Windows 7 RTM.
The computer used for the test was a Compaq 6820s model from HP, equipped with a Core2Duo CPU assisted by 2GB of RAM. As for the software we put on XP in order to test the migration, we chose those pieces that are most likely to be present on any user's computer: the latest version of DaemonTools Lite, Ashampoo Burning Studio 2009, Adobe Reader, Foobar2000, the latest Java, K-Lite Codec Pack with integrated Media Player Classic, Maxthon 2, Mozilla Firefox and PerfectDisk 10 Professional, PicPick and a small amount of documents, audio files and pictures. Besides this set of apps, some settings in the operating system were also changed.
PCmover installs quickly (pay attention to the screens if you do not want third-party software to be placed on your computer) and then proceeds to preparing the migration process. It will alert you that no miracles will be performed, so trouble with apps incompatible with the new operating system or hardware drivers will not be solved. You will have to verify yourself the compatibility of the versions of the programs installed on XP with Windows 7. Also, it would be a great idea to make sure that you will have the Windows 7 drivers for all needed hardware (although this should not be at all a problem).
Making all the preparations for a successful migration to the latest operating system issued by Microsoft is not hard work at all. PCmover has been built with the newbie in mind, so a guiding wizard is in place, giving all the explanations necessary to carry out the process. Actually, at the beginning of the procedure you are given the possibility to view a set of easy to follow instructions.
Preparing the data for the transition runs you through a set of screens presenting all sorts of options for you, but for a full migration you will need a serial number from the developer, otherwise only files of a single type can be moved (trial migration).
Although the application features multiple methods for accomplishing the job, we used the Windows 7 Upgrade Assistant. This is the easiest and most convenient way as it does not rely on anything else but the soon to be upgraded PC. Additional migration methods involved connecting two computers linked to the same LAN, through a Laplink Ethernet Cable (paid product), a file storage device (DVD, USB stick or external HDD) or a USB cable.
When it comes to preparing the application for the actual migration of the files, you have three choices to pick from: full migration (files, settings and applications), files and settings only, or just the files. The data to be migrated can be customized, so you have the chance to exclude those programs that are incompatible with Windows 7.
Although tailoring the migration is an operation for the advanced, everything is simple enough for the average user to cope quite easily. It is just a matter of selecting/deselecting options. PCmover can move to the new environment the wallpaper and screensaver, Outlook Express Identity and Address Book, your settings in Microsoft Word, IE settings, toolbars or BHOs. The application also comes with a startup manager that can help you enable/disable apps trying to start with the OS on the new machine (great for managing compatibility problems).
This was the preliminary preparation as a more detailed view is available after PCmover scans the machine and lists all installed programs, allowing you to pick those you want on Windows 7 individually. PCmover has no problems with moving entire accounts, either. It does not matter if they are password protected or not, the same features will be preserved on the new machine.
By default, files and folders not associated with specific applications will be transferred to the new environment. However, it is up to you to decide which directories should be included. And this is not restricted to data on the system drive, but on all partitions. So moving to a new computer should not affect you too much. It is an easy way to bring all your documents and files automatically to a new PC without having to spend time copying them manually over the network.
After all the preparations have been made PCmover will proceed to creating the file (Moving Van) with all the instructions on what needs to be moved/copied from the old computer to the new one. You should store the file in a place both computers have access to (on a removable drive should do just fine). If it is too large, you can break the file into smaller parts directly from the software.
With all this in place, PCmover's job is half done. The next logical step is to install Windows 7 on the new machine. If you are upgrading a single machine, it won't be a problem; simply choose the Custom (advanced) option when installing Windows 7 and do not format the partition (if you plan on installing on the same drive XP resides in) because PCmover will use the Windows.old directory as backup when copying files.
As soon as Windows 7 is in place you will have to re-install PCmover (pay attention to the screens if you do not want other code installed on the system). Getting settings, files and data on the new PC is a simpler operation as all you have to do is instruct PCmover with the location of the Moving Van. You will be asked for the backup location (Windows.old in our case) and the user accounts that should be migrated. One advantage of PCmover is that you can choose a new location on the new machine if the drive map is different.
Copying the data in the new location depends entirely on the volume of information that needs to be migrated, so don't expect wonders. At the end of this procedure the computer needs to reboot in order to make the necessary changes. After that you should have the new operating system with the settings, files and applications that were installed on the old one.
Our migration process went smoothly and took quite little time to complete because of the small amount of information involved. However, the application did its job quite well and with little hassle. After rebooting the machine to order all the new settings, we were welcomed by the XP default desktop background on a fresh install of Windows 7 (this may be quite disturbing for some users). The desktop was populated by all the data we had on XP.
StartUp This promptly popped on the screen (it'll start at each Windows launch, unless you set it otherwise) displaying the applications that were set to launch with the operating system, and giving you the opportunity to eliminate those that had trouble running on Windows 7.
Out of the apps included in the test, Daemon Tools was the only one that would not start properly and had to be re-installed. The rest of them weren't resilient to the change and acted normally in the new environment and all the data that was included on the transfer list was copied without any glitch.
Even the favorite links in Internet Explorer and Maxthon 2 and Firefox's bookmarks and settings were preserved, providing the same familiar environment and functionality as in Windows XP. The same happened with the settings in other applications migrated to Windows 7 and the user accounts specially prepared for the test.
PCmover did an excellent job migrating the programs and their settings on the new machine, and it is also flexible in providing various ways to transfer the data from one computer to another. It undoubtedly eases up all the work and planning required for a smooth transition to a new machine without having to adapt to new file locations and all. But there is one major disadvantage: the $59.95 on its price tag. The amount is definitely a drawback for many users, especially because it can only be used once, on a single source and destination computer.
All in all PCmover is truly a much easier and faster way to get a new computer up and running with the least effort. Your only care should be picking up the files, folders and applications to be moved to Windows 7.