The Files And Settings Transfer Wizard helps migrate user settings

You don't have to lose your users' data and settings when you migrate to Windows XP Professional. The Files And Settings Transfer Wizard can play a big role in making your migration efforts hassle-free.

Once you’ve decided to take the plunge and upgrade your existing desktop clients to Windows XP Professional, you’ll need to have a plan in place to migrate your users’ settings and documents. Of course, if you're using roaming network profiles and network file storage, or if you're choosing to perform an upgrade installation instead of the generally preferable clean installation, then the XP Professional task will be rather simple. For those of you who won't have those options, however, you’ll need to be proactive so that you can fully protect your user’s files and settings.

Luckily, the Files And Settings Transfer Wizard (FSTW) can help. Here’s a close look at what this tool can do for your migration efforts.

Introducing the Files And Settings Transfer Wizard
With the introduction of Windows 2000, Microsoft presented the User State Migration Tool (USMT). The USMT was a powerful innovation at the time, but it was somewhat limited in its usage, in that it could only move user profile settings from Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows NT 4.0 Workstation SP3 or later to Windows 2000 Professional. If you needed to move a user profile from one Windows 2000 computer to another, for example, you couldn’t do it. In addition, the USMT is entirely command-line based and requires you to configure its operation through several .INI files. The USMT works and is not entirely a bad solution when migrating large numbers of user profiles—but there’s a simpler way.

The Files And Settings Transfer Wizard solves many of the problems associated with the USMT in that it provides a simple GUI front-end to allow the configuration and transfer of both settings and files. If the computers from which you're transferring data have network connectivity, you can place the image file created during the first phase of the transfer process on a network share, making it easily accessible for the second phase of the transfer.

The FSTW can be launched in three different ways, depending on what you prefer and find easier.
  • You can use the Windows XP CD-ROM to launch the FSTW, as shown in Figure A, on the source computer.
  • You can create a Wizard Disk using the FSTW and then use this to start the process on the source computer.
  • You can also launch the FSTW on the Windows XP target computer by clicking Start | Programs | Accessories | System Tools | Files And Settings Transfer Wizard.

Figure A
The FSTW can be easily launched from the Windows XP CD-ROM.

Before I go any further, I want to quickly list what the FSTW can migrate. These items include:
  • Appearance items, such as wallpaper, colors, sounds, and the location of the taskbar
  • Action items, such as the key repeat rate, whether double-clicking a folder opens it in a new window or the same window, and whether you need to double-click or single-click an item to open it
  • Internet-related items, such as the home page URL, favorites or bookmarks, cookies, security settings, dial-up connections, and proxy settings
  • Mail items, such as your signature file, views, mail rules, local mail, and contacts

The following list details some of the settings that can be migrated. Note that only the settings are migrated, not the applications themselves—you will need to install the required applications before attempting to perform the settings migration onto the target computer.
  • Internet Explorer settings
  • Dial-Up connections
  • Phone and modem options
  • Fonts
  • Folder options
  • Taskbar settings
  • Mouse and keyboard settings
  • Regional options
  • Network drives and printers
  • Desktop folder
  • My Documents folder
  • My Pictures folder
  • Favorites folder
  • Cookies folder

Getting started with the FSTW
Before you can actually start using the FSTW, there are a few things you should be aware of to ensure that your migration is as smooth and hassle-free as possible.

Create custom folders first
If you have any custom folder arrangements on the source computer, you'll need to create these before starting the migration process. Let's suppose, for example, that you've created a folder on your users computers called SecDocs, where they keep all documents that are sensitive instead of keeping them in their My Documents folder. If you're migrating files from this location, you'll need to ensure that the location exists on the target computer and that the correct NTFS permissions have been assigned to it.

Create required user accounts
If the user account does not already exist on the target computer, you will need to create the required user accounts before you attempt to migrate the files and settings to the target computer. Ensure that the user account has all required NTFS permissions to allow it access to the location where the transfer image file will be placed, as well as any other folders of concern.

Log in as correct user
When actually performing the migration, it is absolutely critical that you're logged in as the user whose files and settings you're migrating at that time. Failure to use the correct user account will likely result in big problems. This is especially critical during the second phase of the migration process, when any existing user profile settings will be overwritten by those being migrated.

Ensure adequate free space
When using a network share to hold your transfer image file (the recommended approach), you'll need to ensure that it has adequate free space to support the operation. You can reasonably expect to use anywhere from 50 to 350 MB for the average user. I've performed migrations that varied in size from one extreme to the other: One newly created profile used just under 10 MB of space, while a very active user profile used almost 700 MB of space. Plan accordingly to prevent file space issues.

It's critical to keep in mind that the FSTW won't delete the transfer image after the files and settings have been successfully migrated to the target computer—you'll need to keep on top of doing this yourself.

Using the FSTW
By now you should be ready to migrate your files and settings. Launch the FSTW on the source computer, dismiss the opening page of the FSTW, and select the Old computer option. On the Select A Transfer Method page, shown in Figure B, you'll need to configure the location where you're going to place the transfer image. Figure B shows that I will be placing the image file on a network share, volume H.

Figure B
Ensure that your selected transfer location has enough space to house the transfer image file.

On the What Do You Want To Transfer? page, shown in Figure C, you'll need to select what you will be transferring. You can also opt to customize the configuration by placing a check in the Let Me Select A Custom List Of Files And Settings When I Click Next selection box. This customization is shown in Figure D. The ability to customize how the migration is performed is one of the biggest improvements that the FSTW offers over the USMT. In the USMT, as I mentioned previously, the migration was controlled by editing several .INI files—a task that proved to be quite cumbersome for many administrators.

Figure C
You can select files, settings, or both, as well as customize the migration.

Figure D
The FSTW makes light work of customizing the migration settings.

From here, you have only to perform the migration to the target computer. This is easily accomplished by providing the information the FSTW needs. As mentioned previously, the most important thing to remember is that you must be logged in as the correct user during both phases of the transfer process. When you're ready to migrate the settings to the target computer, simply launch the FSTW, this time selecting it as the New computer.

Looking back
Migrating your desktop clients to Windows XP Professional is a smart move, but one that will require some work on your part. The most important step in any process is the planning. Without prior planning, you can reasonably expect the rest of the process to be a difficult one at best. Planning to use the FSTW (and getting some practice with it in a lab environment) can help to make the move to Windows XP a smoother one.