TechProGuild FastAnswer: Moving Windows XP desktop settings from one computer to another

When you give users a new computer, invariably they will spend hours reconfiguring it to match the settings on their old computer. This FastAnswer will show you how to use the Files And Settings Transfer Wizard to migrate settings faster.

Save time. TechProGuild members can download the preformatted, ready-to-print version of this FastAnswer handout. The next time this problem arises in your organization, simply print and distribute the file directly to end users or members of your IT staff.

The problem

When you give users a new computer, they may spend valuable time reconfiguring preferences to match those on their old computer. Not only is this time unproductive, but it can also make the migration process more painful than it should be.

The cause

Microsoft has always given Windows users the ability to customize their desktops. Given this freedom, users seize the opportunity to make changes to Windows' default configuration, in some cases customizing almost everything. When users receive a new computer, they almost immediately want to start personalizing it. They want everything back the way it was on their old computer and may spend hours customizing their new machine.

The solution

One way to keep users from wasting time personalizing their workstation is to just migrate the settings for them when you deploy the new computer. Understanding the problem, Microsoft tried to make the migration easier by creating the Files And Settings Transfer Wizard. You can put this solution to work by using the following steps.

  1. Set up the new computer and connect it to the network while also leaving the old computer connected to the network. The old computer must be powered up, but the user doesn't need to log on.

  2. Start the Files And Settings Transfer Wizard by clicking Start | All Programs | Accessories | System Tools | Files And Settings Transfer Wizard on the old computer.

Note: The Files and Settings Transfer Wizard allows you to move settings to new Windows XP workstations from Windows 9x and Windows 2000 (as well as Windows XP). Because the wizard doesn't exist on Windows 9x and 2000, you must run the wizard on the new computer, selecting the location as New Computer. You can then create a Files And Settings Transfer Wizard disk that you can use on the old computer to migrate files.

  1. Click Next to bypass the introduction screen.

  2. On the Which Computer Is This? screen, select whether you're currently on the new or old computer and click Next.

  3. You'll then see the Select A Transfer Method screen. Choose how you want to transfer the files—over the network, to a floppy disk, or by using a direct connection. Click Next.

  4. On the What Do You Want To Transfer? screen, select whether you want to migrate only the settings, only the files, or both. Chances are, the user will want to transfer everything, so accept the default selection of Both Files And Settings. Click Next. To customize (or specify) which files to transfer, select the Let Me Select A Custom List check box before clicking Next.

  5. Some settings may not transfer automatically if a user has programs installed on the old computer that don't exist on the new one. The Install Programs screen that appears next will warn you of this possibility. Click Next.

  6. The wizard will then collect and move the files. Depending on the transfer method you chose, you may have to go to the new computer, restart the wizard on that computer, and then import the settings.

Alternate ideas

There are other ways to move a user's desktop configuration from one computer to another. For example, in a networked environment, you can use roaming profiles so that users' settings follow them no matter where they log on to the workstation.

You can also use the tips in the article "Migrating user files and settings." As a more restrictive alternative, you can lock down Windows' customization features through a group policy that will limit or eliminate a user's ability to change settings, thereby removing the issue entirely when you deploy a new workstation.

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