The delivery of a new PC should be exciting. The promise of a faster CPU, more RAM maybe, and all that extra hard drive space could make a real difference to your applications, after all. But of course there’s a problem: you’ll have to reinstall everything on the new system, before you can begin to enjoy it.
So that means digging out all your installation CDs. Finding the relevant registration codes. Carrying out each installation. And then spending even longer reinstalling updates, locating add-ons and extensions, transferring data files, and making sure each application’s settings are exactly as you require. It’s a potential nightmare that could drag on at some level for months – unless you consider a possible alternative.
Laplink PCmover Professional 6 is able to examine your old PC, and detect its installed applications, data files, settings and more. You’re able to choose exactly what you’d like to transfer. And then the program will migrate your selected software, data and configuration to the new system, either directly (over your network) or via an external hard drive. This takes a while, but for the most part it’s an automated process: leave it running overnight and you can wake up to a new PC.
This isn’t quite as perfect as it sounds – understandably, there are some things PCmover can’t do.
You can’t migrate programs that appear on both PCs, for instance, even in a trial form, so you must remove any bundled version of Office on the new system before you migrate from the old.
System programs like antivirus tools are unlikely to be migrated successfully, and Laplink recommend you don’t try.
Some applications with copy protection may need reactivating. Music files protected with DRM might not play until you manually transfer licences. Hardware drivers won’t be copied across, and of course a few of your applications may simply be incompatible with the new operating system.
While these restrictions may cause a few complications, they’re no great surprise, and PCmover could still save you a great deal of time. But does it really work? We ran a live trial to find out.
PCmover Professional 6 doesn’t really care which edition of Windows you’re using, either on the old or the new PC, so presents no artificial restrictions on the type of upgrade you can make. Windows 7 doesn’t support upgrading from XP, for instance, or moving up an edition or two (Vista Home to 7 Ultimate, for instance), but PCmover Professional can handle it all. Great news.
We wanted to keep our trial straightforward, though, so just decided to transfer a test setup from Vista Home Premium to a Windows 7 Home Premium system.
Our old system was configured with just enough applications to see how well PCmover Professional would perform. So this included Microsoft Office, where Outlook was configured for a few email accounts and Word had an extension or two installed. Firefox was installed, extensions added, and made our default browser; the latest beta of Chrome 6 was included for good measure. We made VLC Media Player our default music player, and installed assorted utilities, like Process Hacker and the search tool Everything to see how they’d perform.
There’s more to your PC than programs, of course, so we also added plenty of data: documents, music, pictures, video files. And then we configured the PC to suit our needs: custom wallpaper, Explorer settings, power options and other Windows tweaks.
A real-life migration would pose far more complicated issues to PCmover Professional, then, but our trial would at least cover the basics: the transfer of applications, their settings, extensions and history, Windows configuration, data and more. Now it was time to put our plan into action.
A PCmover Professional migration starts by installing and running the program on the new PC. It takes the form of a simple wizard, so is very easy to use: most of the time you’re just reading straightforward prompts, maybe selecting an option or two, then clicking Next and repeating the process.
And the program starts by taking a snapshot of your system, recording details of everything you’ve got installed already. This is then used later to speed up the transfer process, by not trying to migrate an application that’s already on the new PC. It all worked smoothly for us, and was complete in just a few minutes.
The next step was to install PCmover Professional on our old PC. Here we were able to configure how the data would be transferred: via our network, direct PC to PC connection (USB or a Laplink Ethernet cable), or an external storage device (optical disc or external drive – our preferred choice). And then we got to choose exactly what we’d like to migrate: files, files and settings, or everything – files, settings and applications.
We selected the “everything” option, but there are advanced tweaks available if you need them. These allow you to decide whether you’d like to transfer wallpaper, IE settings, IE toolbars, Outlook mailboxes, cookies and more.
Some of these custom options are intriguing: “Always move MS Word settings”, for instance, which is turned off by default. “Always”? Does that mean the program will sometimes move them even if you don’t select this? And why isn’t the option turned on, initially? Could it cause problems of some kind? We clicked the Help button, only to discover that while there is a local Help file, it consists solely of a link to an online PDF file, which didn’ t mention any of these settings at all. Oh, well.
After taking our best guess as to the most appropriate settings, PCmover moved on, detected our applications and allowed us to choose which we’d like to migrate. And then we got to configure the migration in a variety of ways, choosing the user accounts we wanted to transfer, how our drives would be migrated (useful if there are drive letters on one PC that aren’t present on the other), and any folders or file types we didn’t want to migrate at all.
This was all quite straightforward, and once complete we left the program to collect together all the files and data it would be transferring, saving them in a “moving van”, in our case on an external USB drive. But if you don’t have one, and your PCs aren’t networked, then you can also have the moving van split into chunks for saving to several DVDs, say – very convenient.
And that was it, the hard work was done. All that remained was to return to the new PC, point its PCmover Professional installation at the moving van, and leave the program to “unpack”. A full migration would take considerably longer than then 30 minutes required for our trial, but that doesn’t matter as there’s no intervention required here, you can simply set PCmover running, and go do something else while your applications, settings and data are transferred.
We returned to our new PC once the migration was complete, rebooted, and immediately noticed a change: new wallpaper. Our desktop background of choice had made it from the old system.
A PCmover program, Startup This, popped up to explain that we had a few decisions to make. PCmover disables old startup programs by default, probably a good idea as you want to minimise potential problems when Windows loads. It’s very easy to reenable the startup programs you need, though, and in a few seconds everything was exactly as we required.
Our application transfers were very successful. Office made it across, add-ons, Outlook identity and email intact, so we could pick up our new messages immediately. Firefox and its extensions were transferred, and it was correctly made our default browser. Chrome had been migrated, too, as well, and all the lesser apps appeared and worked exactly as they did on the older system.
VLC Media Player correctly appeared, too. One minor flaw is that the program wasn’t correctly made the default for our media file types, but that was easily fixed. Otherwise the installation worked just as it always had: even the Recent Media list was intact.
And because PCmover had also migrated our data – documents, videos, pictures, music and more – we could even select tunes from VLC Media Player’s history list and have them play, immediately.
The only details that didn’t make it across were the relatively low-level Windows tweaks we’d made; our choice of power plan, Control Panel setup, Explorer configuration (no, we do not want to “Hide extensions for known file types”), and so on. But this isn’t particularly surprising. Windows 7 power plans work differently to those in Vista, for instance: you can’t directly translate from one to the other. So you may have to spend a little time post-migration setting up Windows to behave as you’d like, but this is relatively quick and easy. What really matters is the migration of your applications, and here PCmover Professional performed almost perfectly, transferring programs, extensions, history lists and more with no significant issues at all.
Laplink PCmover Professional 6 did a great job for us, then. But there really was no alternative. The program licence allows you to perform one full migration only, so if we’d made a mistake with our settings, or something hadn’t transferred correctly, there’s no option to “go back and try that again”. If you don’t like the migration results, then you can undo them, but if you want to repeat the process then you’ll need to buy another key.
This isn’t quite as harsh as it sounds. It’s possible to carry out a limited “trial migration” just of a particular file type – Word .DOCX documents, say – to confirm that PCmover is working at a basic level, before you try the real thing. Still, this does mean you have to pay particular attention to every single step of the migration process, as a single error could cost you later. (Another reason Laplink should provide better and more detailed documentation, just to help you along the way.)
Given that you are essentially paying for just one use of the full program, we were also surprised to see Laplink attempting to market other packages to us during the migration. One of the first setup steps will opt you in to installing the Ask toolbar on your new PC, for instance, and other screens recommend a host of additional packages (Parallels Desktop, Uniblue RegistryBooster, Laplink DiskImage, and more). We expect this in a freeware package – everyone’s entitled to make something from their work – but it’s more questionable in commercial software.
These concerns aside, though, PCmover Professional delivered all the migration functionality we’d expect, and more. It successfully transferred all our programs, their settings, third-party addons, histories, our data, and some Windows settings, and if you’ve a PC of any complexity at all then there’s no doubt the program could save you many, many days of hassle and hard work.
And while we’ve not covered them here, PCmover 6 also includes a couple of other tools. The Windows 7 Upgrade Assistant can perform an in-place upgrade, for example allowing you to upgrade a Windows XP PC to Windows 7 while keeping your apps, data and settings intact. And the PCmover Image Assistant is able to restore programs, files and settings from an old image or hard drive to a new PC. Check the Laplink site to find out more about these tools.