When you upgrade a machine from Windows 95 to Windows 98 or from Windows 98 to Windows Me, the upgrade process tries to preserve the machine’s applications and data. However, depending on the OS you’re migrating from, when upgrading Windows XP, you may have to perform a few new steps to save that data.

You can upgrade a single user machine from Windows 95, 98, or Me, and the Windows XP Setup program will automatically preserve any files and settings. But when upgrading from any other version of Windows, such as Windows 2000 Professional, you must migrate the settings of the user performing the upgrade—usually the Administrator—and all of the other user profiles on the machine. This is where the Files And Settings Transfer Wizard comes in.

You can take it with you
The Files And Settings Transfer Wizard is a utility that preserves the files and settings associated with each user on the machine. The wizard can also help you to transfer user information to a different computer or to a different operating system on the same computer.

The wizard runs from within your previous operating system, extracts all of the necessary information, and puts it in a format that Windows XP can understand—which can involve a hefty chunk of data. So before you run the wizard, you must set up a location where you can dump this information. You could either connect to the network before beginning the process or have a CD-RW drive (or other high-capacity removable media) ready to go.

Using the Files And Settings Transfer Wizard
To run the Files And Settings Transfer Wizard, insert your Windows XP installation CD. If AutoPlay is enabled, you’ll see the CD’s splash screen appear. If the splash screen doesn’t appear, go into My Computer and run the CD’s setup.exe file to display the splash screen.

On the splash screen, click Perform Additional Tasks, followed by Transfer Files And Settings. Doing so will launch the Files And Settings Transfer Wizard. If you’re running the wizard on a machine that’s already running Windows XP, the wizard will ask you whether the machine is old or new. Select the option for an old machine, since this is the machine (or operating system) that you’re extracting files and settings from.

At this point, you’ll see a screen that asks you what type of transfer method you want to use. The most practical method is to create a file and send it to a network drive or to a CD. To do so, select the Other option and specify the location that you want to write the file to, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A
Indicate where you want to send the extracted data.

After clicking Next, you’ll see a screen that asks what you want to transfer. You may transfer files only, settings only, or both files and settings. The default option is to transfer both files and settings. As you can see in Figure B, there’s a list to the right that tells what will be transferred.

Figure B
The wizard gives you the option of transferring files, settings, or both.

You might have noticed in Figure B that there’s an option that allows you to create a custom list of files and settings to be transferred. If you select this option, you’ll see a screen similar to the one shown in Figure C.

Figure C
You have the option of building a custom migration list.

This screen allows you to add and remove files, folders, and settings with a click of a button.

Figure D
Pay attention to any special instructions that you may receive.

Once you’ve selected the objects to migrate, you may see a screen similar to the one shown in Figure D. This screen is designed to provide you with any special instructions related to the applications that you are transferring. Click Next and the wizard will start the copy process. When the copy process is complete, click the Finish button to close the wizard.

After installing Windows XP, you can import the settings that you extracted by running the wizard again. This time, when the wizard asks you if you are using the old computer or the new computer, select the New Computer option. Simply follow the prompts. When you get to the screen that asks you for the location of the extracted information, fill in the path to the file where you saved the information. Windows XP will read in all of the necessary information, and your new computer is ready to use.

Theory vs. reality

Have you used the Files And Settings Transfer Wizard during a Windows XP upgrade? Did it work as planned? What problems (if any) did you encounter? Would you recommend that others use this tool? Post a comment to this article and tell us what you think.