Vista User Migration: Poor performance
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Windows Easy Migration Splash Screen
Part of Mitch Ratcliffe’s series comparing the Windows Vista and Mac OS X user experiences, this step-by-step walk-through of Vista’s Windows Easy Transfer application shows that there is still some work to be done in Redmond.
When launched, the Windows Easy Transfer application opens with an explanation of how it works and the options you’ll have. If you need more help, there are links to information about the versions of Windows supported (XP and Vista only, all earlier versions of Windows cannot use this migration tool). Click Next.
Choosing the type of transfer, new or continue
If you are doing this for the first time, the obvious choice when asked if you want to start a new transfer or continue a transfer in progress—one that has been interrupted for some reason—you know what to choose.
However, I found after two transfers that had been interrupted were restarted that Windows Easy Transfer had either not made any progress on those transfers or had lost any record of a previous transfer. The transfers hung immediately on restarting.
It appears that restarting a transfer does not work reliably.
This image gallery features only screenshots of the target (new) computer running Vista. An older computer must be updated to run Windows Easy Transfer, something we’ll cover in a moment.
When you choose “My new computer,” you are designating it to receive the files you are about to migrate. Or, perhaps it would be more accurate to say the “files you are about to try to migrate.”
To cable or not to cable?
Windows Easy Transfer purportedly works over a wired or wireless network, as well as by copying files to a CD, DVD or USB flash memory key for transfer. Belkin, among others, offers an Easy Transfer Cable, a USB-to-USB cable that Windows Easy Transfer is supposed to recognize and use without any additional configuration on the target computer (more on this later).
In this case, I tried to migrate using an Ethernet network, then a Wi-Fi network, to which both computers were connected. Both networks were recognized by the application and seemed to work, but then the transfers hung.rnrnTo chose other forms of network connection or discs, select “No, show me more options.”
Get ready to update XP
Now that I’ve selected an alternate method, Windows Easy Transfer asks how I want to get a copy of the application onto the XP system from which I am migrating. You see, there must be a copy of this application on both systems in order for it to work.
Choose an installation medium for XP
I inserted a Flash drive and selected the USB flash drive option. It is also possible to copy files to a shared network server that the XP system can access to download and install Windows Easy Transfer. Or, you can burn a CD.
Copying the XP version of the application
After you select the medium for delivering Windows Easy Transfer to your XP system, in this case using a USB flash drive, the application guides you through creating the copy.
I select the flash drive from a list of drives. If I’d chosen to burn a disc, the list would have asked which drive is my CD burner.
Load Windows Easy Transfer on XP
Here’s my USB flash drive inserted in the ThinkPad X41 where my old data resides. When the drive is recognized, Windows XP asks if you want to run Windows Easy Transfer. If you choose to explore the drive, you will need to find the application icon and click it.
Select the transfer connection
I’ve opted to use my IP network to move the old user files to my new computer. Windows Easy Transfer then attempts to start the network connection.
Had I chosen to burn a CD or DVD containing the files, I would have to start this process on the old (source) XP system after launching Windows Easy Transfer on it. Then, after the disc was burned, it could be loaded on the new (target) system and the data imported.
In this situation, I have more than 5GB of data and only a CD burner, which would take close to a dozen disc to move.
The authentication key
Windows Easy Transfer uses a one-time key generated by the new computer and that must be entered on the old computer in order to move files. Do not close Windows Easy Transfer on the new computer before or while you are entering the key, because it will no longer be valid. Both systems must be on and the application running for the key to work.
This approach cuts down on the potential for unauthorized migration of user data. However, if there was a confederate inside a company running the application, an intruder could use Windows Easy Transfer to suck up all the data on old systems.
An example key
Here’s a key generated by my Vista machine during this test. You must key it into the older machine in order for the two systems to recognize one another over a network.
At this point, it was impossible to continue taking screenshots without interrupting the migration process. Windows Easy Transfer indicates the two systems have connected and the key has been successfully exchanged. We’re ready to transfer….
Creating an inventory
Windows Easy Transfer examines the old system for user accounts, preferences and other data that can be transferred. This took approximately five minutes over a network.
Not to ruin the story, but I never got this far with an “Easy Transfer Cable.”
Selecting the data to migrate
Windows Easy Transfer presents the system, administrator and user settings that can be transferred to a new Vista installation. Documents, including the Desktop folder, Favorites (bookmarks), My Documents, My Music, My Pictures and My Video can be transferred for each user.
At this point, it still looks like smooth sailing. Compared to the Mac Migration, Vista’s Windows Easy Transfer has taken approximately the same number of steps to get to this point in the migration process.
Vista seems to be cooking with gas
A dialog appears saying that the application is collecting files and settings for transfer. So far, so good.
Houston, we have crashed
After three hours, the Vista progress ribbon still seems to be flowing along, but the system has been “preparing to transfer data” for two hours and 45 minutes. The progress bar on the old system has stopped moving at six bars, without any progress for the past two hours.
This transfer is aborted.rnrnI then tried the transfer again, leaving it to run overnight. The next morning, the progress display is the same, still preparing to transfer data.
Starting over, cable in hand
Keep in mind that I’ve already repeated the transfer setup process twice without success. Off to Office Depot, where I fork out $54 (after tax) for Belkin’s Easy Transfer Cable, a USB-to-USB connection with an indicator LED in a plastic widget in the middle of the cable. Seen here.
Let’s start over, again.
Been here, done that
Again, when launched, the Windows Easy Transfer application explains how simple this is going to be.
I click Next.
Start another new transfer
When I try to resume the previous transfer, I am taken directly to the “I will use the network” option and cannot use the nifty new Belkin cable.
So, I start another new transfer and proceed, again, to the next screen.
Still on the new computer, still no migration
You and I have seen this option before. Select the “My new computer” option, as this is the view from the target computer.
The dialog is virtually the same on XP, except that it is configured to be the source system by default and provides only the choice of using the cable, the network or a form of removable media.
Do I have a cable? I've got a $54 cable right here
Here Windows Easy Transfer asks if I have my Easy Transfer Cable. Surely, this is going to be easy, because that word is all over these products.
I click that in fact I have my cable.
This is the end
In the next screen, I am told that it is time to install the Easy Transfer Cable and connect my computers. Not quite yet, though, because I have to do some upgrading on the old machine.
Following the instructions, I take the driver CD that came with the cable and install the drivers on my old computer. I restart the system just to be sure that everything is copacetic.
This dialog assures me that when I connect the cable to both the old and new computers it will be automatically detected and the migration will begin.
I plug it in and nothing changes. No inventory of the old machine appears, the application just hangs. I have checked every firewall and connection to ensure access is correctly set. I have tried this Easy Cable five times, at least, and left it to for an hour to see if anything happened. Nothing.
This is a bad migration experience.
As I said in the accompanying article, Lenovo’s System Migration Assistant worked the first time and moved the same settings Windows Easy Transfer promised to.