Networking

Review: Laplink Software's PCmover Professional

PCmover targets individual users and organizations needing to migrate data, settings, and applications from one computer to another.

As every IT practitioner knows, desktop migrations are either simple, straightforward affairs or wearisome flirtations within Hell's innermost circles. Laplink's PCmover, with its migration assistant designed to move user profiles, data and applications easily from one PC to another, aims to make the process straightforward. Unfortunately, as Dante recorded so famously within The Divine Comedy, those guilty of laziness risk forever lamenting within the Fifth Circle of Hell or at least configuration hell.

Specifications

Who's it for?

Laplink Software's PCmover targets individual users and organizations needing to migrate data, settings, and applications from one desktop or laptop computer to another. Business and enterprise versions are available for servicing multiple desktop migration needs, including when user accounts, entire drives, application add-ons, proprietary programs, settings and other elements must be migrated to new systems.

What problem does it solve?

When the software works as designed, PCmover Professional simplifies the task of migrating users' applications and corresponding registry entries, files, domain and local user accounts, drives, folders, add-ons, ODP connections, browser settings, and other elements between systems. Depending upon the applications and programs migrated, no further user or administrative actions may be required to transfer account, programs, files and settings and get up and running on a new system.

Standout features

  • Ambitious migration design: PCmover strives to migrate everything from a user's account (domain or local) settings, applications, respective registry settings, browser settings, add-ons and more from an old system to a new PC. When such migrations complete properly, much time is saved, as applications need not be reinstalled, settings need not be updated and numerous other small details need not be customized on the new system.
  • Numerous migration methods: PCmover enables migrating existing data and settings via LAN or WAN networks, using simple external hard drives, via a USB cable or using DVDs, among other methods. The support for numerous migration methods makes it easier for users and businesses to migrate systems as their needs require.
  • Enterprise support available: An enterprise version is available to assist larger organizations in automating the workstation migration process. Administrators can leverage the enterprise version's PCmover Policy Manager to configure and enforce policies dictating what can and cannot be migrated, as well as source and target destinations.

What's wrong?

  • Single migration licenses: PCmover Professional licensing is structured to enable a single migrations. Thus, when purchasing a softare license for the product, that license is good for migrating one Windows system to one other machine. The license cannot later be used to migrate the second installation to a third workstation. Unique serial numbers are generated for each migration instance.
  • Doesn't always work: Numerous user-related experiences posted publicly on the Internet suggest PCmover doesn't always work as advertised. Some of the blame is directly related to users' lack of knowledge and expertise. For example, some users blame slow transfer speeds on Laplink having included USB 1.1 cables with some versions of the software. Technology professionals recognize it's the computer's motherboard bus limitations, hard disk speed and corresponding USB standard that dictate transfer speeds, not the cable. Regardless, it's asking a lot of any product to attempt migrating an unlimited number of software, application and setting configurations from one hardware platform running one OS to another wholly disparate box with different hardware and often a different operating system.
  • Piracy-enablement risk: Users frequently report having to re-authenticate, re-authorize, re-register and re-authorize software applications migrated using PCmover. When migrating iTunes, QuickBooks, Microsoft Office, Norton Antivirus and other applications that all tie product keys to specific systems, these steps will quickly prove time consuming. Worse, if users blindly follow prompts, they may inadvertently pirate software. For example, it is a violation of the Microsoft licensing agreement to migrate a Microsoft Office suite licensed as OEM software to another system.
  • Potential version confusion: Laplink offers numerous versions of PCmover. There is a home version, a netbook platform, an update edition and a business (professional) version as well as an enterprise platform. Each targets a specific niche and includes different features and capacities, which could prove confusing to some users and support technicians.
  • Old hard disk must be operational: A minor, but important, note. Many users and organizations choose to deploy new systems only when an old unit has failed. If the old unit's hard disk is no longer functional, performing the migration using PCmover is not an option.

Competitive products

Bottom line for business

Desktop migrations are complicated, complex processes. Many organizations choose to implement carefully constructed Active Directory forests and finely tuned profiles to ensure new desktop migrations are as painless as possible by pushing data, settings and policy responsibilities to centrally administered servers. Still other organizations architect careful hardware standardization routines combined with disk imaging practices to quickly and easily deploy new systems.

Occasionally, less-prepared organizations must migrate a user's workstation en masse. PCmover provides an option for those needing to migrate existing accounts, applications, settings, and other elements. Those viewing PCmover as a panacea for migrating desktops for which product keys and other license codes have been lost, however, may find themselves disappointed; applications typically recognize when they've been moved to a new system and will prompt users for authentication.

User rating

Have you encountered or used PCMover? If so, what do you think? Rate your experience and compare the results to what other TechRepublic members think. Give your own personal review in the TechRepublic Community Forums or let us know if you think we left anything out in our review.

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About Erik Eckel

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

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