How to Quickly Transfer Your Files and Settings to a New PC (or Mac)

By Chris Hoffman on March 8th, 2016

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Migrating your files, settings, and programs to a new PC can be a little intimidating, especially if you’re not completely organized. These tools and simple tips will help you get started.

This process will be simple if you’re already creating regular backups. If everything’s scattered all over your old PC, you could lose it if your hard drive dies or you have another computer problems. Backups are essential.

Transfer Your Stuff to a New PC the Easy Way

Getting a new computer is a lot of fun, but it can also be a huge pain. Who needs to deal with moving all of their files, settings, and applications manually?

PCMover by Laplink is the easiest way to setup a new PC — you just install the PCMover app on each of the computers and follow through the easy wizard. It’ll let you select what you want to move while leaving behind the junk that you don’t want to keep.

It’s such a great solution that Microsoft partnered with Laplink to transfer outdated Windows versions to Windows 8 or 10, so it’s definitely the product you need to try.

Get PCMover and Setup Your New PC the Easy Way

Use a File-Transfer Tool

There are many file-transfer utilities for automatically moving your files, settings, and programs to a new computer. You’ll have to install the programs you use on your new computer afterwards, but these will help you move your files and some important settings over. Those personal files are the most important thing to migrate, anyway. Popular tools include:

Windows Easy Transfer: Microsoft offers their own tool, known as “Windows Easy Transfer.” It’s built into Windows. Unfrotunately, it’s become less useful in Windows 8.1 and no longer has the option to transfer files and settings over the network. However, you can still connect an external hard drive to your old PC, run the Easy Transfer wizard to transfer your stuff to the drive, connect that drive to the new PC, and run the easy transfer wizard to transfer your stuff from the drive to the new PC. The tool is built into Windows 7, 8, and 8.1. Launch it by tapping the Windows key to open the Start menu or Start screen, typing “Easy Transfer” without the quotes to search for it, and pressing Enter. If you’re upgrading from Windows Vista or XP, you can download the Windows Easy Transfer tool from Microsoft.

Mac Migration Assistant: Apple offers a Migration Assistant tool built into Mac OS X, which can help you migrate from an older Mac to a newer Mac. It can also help you migrate from a Windows PC to a Mac. Download the Windows Migration Assistant from Apple to get started or launch the Migration Assistant tool included on your Mac. (Press Command+Space, type Migration, and press Enter to open the Migration Assistant application.)

There are other tools you could use, too — including the paid Laplink PCmover software, which Microsoft partnered with to help Windows XP users upgrade to Windows 7. It’s not free anymore, though — and you probably won’t want to pay for commercial software just to move your stuff to a new computer.

Use a Backup and Restore Tool

You should be regularly backing up your files. Assuming you are, you could just perform one final backup of your PC and restore the files from that backup onto your new computer.

Careful with this, though — if you back up with Windows Backup on Windows 7, you can’t import those backups into a Windows 8.1 computer. Windows 8 contained a “Windows 7 File Recovery” feature, but Microsoft removed it in Windows 8.1.

But, if you’re backing up to an external drive with practically any tool — from integrated Windows backup features to Time Machine on a Mac or a third-party backup solution — you should just be able to restore those files onto your new PC. On Macs, the Migration Assistant can also import files from a Time Machine backup.

Just Copy the Files

The manual solution works for basic backups, and it works for basic file transfer too. Connect a sufficiently large external hard drive to your old computer and drag-and-drop (or copy-and-paste) all the files you need from your old computer onto the drive. Disconnect the drive from the old computer, connect it to the new computer, and move the files onto the new computer.

Yes, it should be that simple — and, if you organize your files properly so you know where everything important is on your computer, you can quickly locate them to copy them over manually.

This will obviously just grab your personal files, and not important settings. If you want to copy web browser bookmarks over, for example, you may want to export them from your browser and then import them into the browser on your new computer. Modern browsers like Chrome and Firefox (and Internet Explorer, but only on Windows 8) have sync features that can automatically migrate these to a PC if you log in with the same account on each.

Cloud Storage Tools

Cloud storage services can make it easy to migrate to a new PC, too. You likely rely on a webmail service like Gmail, Outlook.com, or Yahoo! Mail. if you don’t, your email server probably at least uses IMAP instead of POP3. This means your email is stored securely on a server somewhere, so you don’t have to worry about migrating your email to your new computer unless you still use POP3 to access it.

The same is true for other services that store your files, settings, and other data online. Cloud storage services like Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive work well for this. Install the client on your PC and dump your files into it. Log in to that same account on your other PC and it’ll download the files if they’re stored online. Windows 8.1 has OneDrive integration — Microsoft wants you to store your files in OneDrive so they’ll be accessible on all your PCs without all the file-transferring effort, but you could also use a different service.


Moving to a new PC should be fairly easy. With most tools, you’ll have to install your favorite programs afterwards and configure them. But the most important thing to bring forward is your personal files and data. That’s what the tips above will help with.

Image Credit: Michael Sheehan on Flickr

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 03/8/16
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