Jan 26

Moving files from old to new laptop

After all the energy involved in buying a new laptop, the next chore was waiting for me… personalizing the new computer, moving files & programs,  cleaning up the old one (to be used as a back up in my husband’s office).

I did some research on the Internet and found a lot of outdated tips written between 2001 to 2008 with only a few written in 2010. From all the information gathered, I followed the recommended steps to transition from the old laptop to the new one. I already knew it would not be an overnight thing, and boy, was I right. It took me about three months!

Here are the steps I took, most of which are based on a post of Popular Mechanics on how to move data to a new computer.

Old Laptop.

Get organized.

  1. Inventory which files, photos, videos and music you want to move, looking in all folders, including Downloads. You can also do a file search using the extension, such as .jpg (photos). Don’t forget your email and database files if you’re using a desktop program like Outlook.
  2. Get rid of duplicates, unless you have a good reason to keep.
  3. Organize files into folders, f.e. by project, year, topic or style for easy retrieval.

Back up.

  1. Save all your files to an external hard drive (HD) or a flash drive to backup and move (later). If you prefer, you can also burn them on DVD, but depending on the file sizes, that may take a while.
  2. Also back up your Internet browser bookmarks and favorites. Some programs (like Firefox) have backup features to make it easy to transfer.


  1. the software you want to keep
  2. preferred software settings
  3. application or website passwords
  4. then follow the list for your New Laptop (below), before proceeding to the next step.

Clean up.

  1. Delete files, photos, videos, music no longer needed
  2. Remove software that will not be used anymore in one of three ways:
    1. Use the program’s Uninstall option
    2. Use Windows’ Add/Remove feature in the Control Panel.
    3. Use special software if the above options fail. You can click here to buy Perfect Uninstaller.
      Never delete a program’s folder and think it will go away! Parts of the software may forever reside on your HD if not removed properly and could cause the computer to malfunction.
  3. Upgrade to newer versions of the software that will still be used.
  4. If you are getting rid of the laptop, be sure to scrub the HD with a special (free or paid) program. You can donate or recycle the computer, just don’t let it end up on the landfill.

New laptop.

  1. Get rid of preinstalled programs you know you’ll never use (see step 2 above).
  2. Copy the files, photos, videos and music from the external HD to your new computer. If you had already organized in folders, it will be fast. If not, this is the time to create those folders!
  3. Install (upgraded) software per your list.
  4. Personalize your software with the preferred settings and passwords.
  5.  Import your bookmarks, favorites, and email or database files.
  6. Check your list to make sure you have all the files and programs you want to transfer.
  7. Take a deep breath. then go back to the Clean Up section of the Old Laptop list above.

Done? Pat yourself on the back, you did it!!

Again, as you can see from the lists above, this is not something you may be able to do ‘quickly’ as it takes time to do all the backups, lists, reinstalls, etc.  It took me about three months, but that’s because I could only work on this on the weekends. You can certainly do it all in one weekend if you take the time. Of course there is always the alternative to pay for a program or service that will take care of the above for you (faster). It’s your choice.

Do you have other tips? Feel free to add your comments below so others can benefit too.