Ed Bott takes on the task of starting off fresh with a new PC and, always, offers up some great advice. This is one to file away for that eventual do-over.

Over the years, I’ve done this process dozens of times for business clients, family members, friends, and neighbors. I’ve got the process down to a series of checklists, all built around some core principles. First, this is a great opportunity to get rid of clutter and get a fresh start. Second, the best way to transfer data from the old machine to the new one is by physically attaching the old hard drive to the new PC. And finally, spending time upfront figuring out what needs to be transferred and what doesn’t can save hours of time and headaches later.

Trying to do large-scale data transfers with USB flash drives and cables can be problematic, especially on old, slow, problem-plagued machines. Why spend hours moving tens or hundreds of gigabytes of data from the old machine to a USB drive only to have to do it again with the new PC? Skip the two-step and do what I do: bring along a SATA/IDE-to-USB converter. Newegg sells Syba’s version of this device for around $20 including shipping. I own a couple and can recommend them without hesitation. An external power supply feeds the DC connector on the drive, and a two-headed adapter lets you connect any SATA or IDE drive directly to a USB port on the new PC. While the contents of the old computer are transferring to a folder on the new PC, you can tackle other tasks.

That tidbit alone is worth the price of admission. Good stuff!

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This [entire process] rarely takes more than a few hours, and when I’m done the client has usually learned some important skills along the way, making it more likely that they’ll be able to steer clear of trouble in the future.

Exactly. Anyone who makes more of this is just wasting their time. I have to continually re-install PCs because of all the testing I do, and while certain tasks (installing Windows, apps) do take some time, that’s not something a typical user will do very often. This isn’t as painful as people make it out to be.