This post was written by TechRepublic member Ron K.

I recently ran across a discussion thread where a TechRepublic member inquired about PC deployment and how to move data and software between systems.

Right off the bat, I want to say that I’m not a computer professional. I know, for the most part, how to keep a small home network of five computers running. I can support and protect my home users, but they are already computer savvy, which makes my “job” a lot easier.

Having just bought new computers, I was also looking for a solution to migrate my data. Microsoft operating systems have the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard. However, I’ve discovered that this only works if the computers have the same OS and are at the same level of update.

There are several other 3rd-party program migration solutions for moving files and settings. And of course, you could easily use an external USB drive to copy over data, but what about the programs themselves?

Enter PCmover Pro by Laplink, which claims to be the ONLY migration utility that moves files, settings, and even programs from your old PC to your new PC.

I have two old computers, one with XP MCE and one with XP Home Edition. Both are setup exactly the way I like them with no issues. My two new identical quad core PCs have XP Pro already installed.

Sure, I could have reinstalled everything and tweaked the new machines, but I dreaded that thought. I just wanted my PCs to work with my programs the way they’re supposed to.

Having created recent data backups and Ghost images, I decided to take a chance on PCmover. I went to their Web site and bought the two-license download. Laplink sent me the license numbers via e-mail, and PCmover downloaded without a hitch.

Here’s how it works. You install the same license version of PCmover on both the new and the old PC. Once PCmover is running on both machines, you enter the license number – once per transfer/transaction – and follow the easy-to-understand dialog boxes.

The first question you’ll receive is, “Is this the new PC or the old PC?” As instructed, you’ll prepare the new PC first.

There were several options for transferring files, and I chose the network option as the fastest method. I also used a KVM switch. A computer can be located in another room if you elect to transfer files over a network, and there isn’t so much dialog that you’ll be running back and forth all day once the transfer begins.

The program also offers total or partial migration. I chose total. At that time, PCmover starts building an index of everything that’s on the two computers.

From the second, old computer, you’ll be presented with a list in the familiar directory tree structure. Simply uncheck any programs or files you don’t want to move to the new PC. You can also choose the new location of your files if you have multiple partitions on your old PC. [Please note: You will need another program to create separate partitions on your new computer before using PCmover, because it will not create the partitions for you.]

Once PCmover’s “Moving van” is transferring files from the old computer to the new computer – in my case, across the network – all you have to do is wait. In my case, moving 280 GB took approximately 20 hours, and the other one was considerably less (28 GB) and thus faster (about 3 hours).

Once the migration finishes, you’ll be prompted to reboot the new computer. It was nice to see all of my familiar icons and even my wallpaper on my new PC. However, that would not have meant anything if the programs weren’t there – but they were.

And for the most part, the programs worked! One thing that didn’t transfer correctly was my preferred e-mail client, Thunderbird, so I’ll continue to use that on my old PC thru my KVM switch.

Adobe’s Web Premium Suite CS4 and Microsoft Office 2003 balked at first, but during the reinstall steps, it only went as far as reading parts of the first 2 of 3 discs before the applications worked right. As far as I can tell, everything else is performing just the way I like it, including our three printer and all of our network shares.

I want to add that PCmover’s support was top notch. I had pre-purchase questions that weren’t covered in their Web site’s FAQs. I was able to start a chat session with their tech support within a couple of minutes, and all of my questions were answered satisfactorily.

I realize that many people will eventually move from XP to Vista or Windows 7. Unfortunately, I’m not in a position to test PCmover’s migration abilities there. However, they claim to be able to migrate to operating system updates safely, and after my positive experience, I’d try them again if I was moving up a few steps in my OS.