XP to Vista: How to transfer your data

Transferring files and settings manually

For some the process of the Windows Easy Transfer program is a bit long and can be done much faster by manual means. This is especially the case if you're looking to move just a few items such as contacts or document folders. To do this you'll need a USB drive or external hard drive with enough spare space on it to move all of your data. Here's a few tips on how to transfer your data from some of the most commonly used programs.

Transfer music, video, folders and files manually
With a new computer comes the opportunity to spring clean your digital life. Manually transferring your old files might be a longer task than using an automated program, but it's a good chance to decide what to keep backed up, what to transfer to your new PC, and what to throw away. The easiest way to do this is to use an external storage drive, such as a USB thumb drive or an external drive. Power users who have networked their house with a storage device might want to use that option.

The premise behind manually moving files is the same for whatever option you choose. Simply connect your storage device to the Windows XP PC and copy and paste the folders you want to backup and move to your new Vista machine. As a safe keeper, you may want to keep a formal backup using the Windows XP tools. Click Start > Accessories > System Tools > Backup. Simply follow the user prompts and back-up your data to an external drive of your choice or blank CD.

Transfer Microsoft Outlook settings

  1. On your Windows XP machine open Microsoft Outlook and click File > Import and Export
  2. Click Export to File and choose Personal Folder File (.pst)

    (Credit: CNET Australia)

  3. Save the file on your external USB storage device
  4. Unplug your USB storage device from the Windows XP machine and connect it to the computer running Vista
  5. Open Outlook and click File > Import and Export.
  6. Click Import from another program or file and select Personal Folder File (.pst)
  7. Find the .pst file on the USB storage device and click Next
  8. Select which data you want to import and click Finish to complete the process.

Mozilla Thunderbird and Firefox
The easiest way to transfer your Mozilla Thunderbird email settings and Firefox browser bookmarks is to install and use a utility called MozBackup. In this case, you'll need to install the software on both your old XP machine and new Vista PC. This nifty tool works by backing up your Thunderbird and Firefox profiles into a single file (.pcv) and easily importing them on your new machine.

To export your data using MozBackup simply download and install the utility on the Windows XP PC, follow the user prompts, and save the .pcv file to your USB drive. On your new Vista computer, install Thunderbird and launch MozBackup and choose the "Restore" option. Follow the prompts and import the saved .pcv file from your external hard drive. Once the MozBackup has finished, launch Thunderbird and you will find the restored data should be ready to use.

Users of the Firefox browser may want to try a nifty plug-in tool called Foxmarks, which syncs bookmarks across multiple computers automatically. Simply install the browser plug-in on each computer you want to sync your bookmarks to.

Internet Explorer
To save your Internet Explorer bookmarks, or "Favourites" as the browser calls them, takes a few quick steps.

  1. Open IE on your Windows XP machine and click File > Import and Export
  2. Select Export Favorites
  3. Select the favourites you want to export or select all of your favourites and save it to the external USB drive
  4. Connect your USB storage device to the Windows Vista machine and fire up IE
  5. Click File > Import and Export and select Import Favorites
  6. Select the folder on your external USB storage device where you saved the bookmarks (by default it is bookmark.htm) and click Finish.

Cleaning up your XP machine
Once you've salvaged the useful information from your old PC don't just throw it to the curb. If it's still usable you may want to give it away to a charitable organisation or sell it on eBay. If it can't be saved then you might want to investigate whether it can be recycled. Many vendors and local councils these days offer services to pick up and recycle used computer equipment.

However, before passing your computer to anyone else you need to delete your personal files. There's a lot of information stored on a computer over its lifespan and there's a very real risk of other users accessing your personal information and using it in a malicious way. The most secure way to prevent data theft from your old computer is to remove the hard drive and physically destroy it. We've found one firm and steady blow with a hammer will do the trick. Multiple blows will obviously decrease the security risk of your data ever being retrieved again. Of course, this will make the computer rather useless to anyone else unless they buy a new hard drive.

If you do trust the recipient of your old computer then it's a good idea to follow these steps:

  • Delete all of your personal files and folders with a free tool like SuperShredder which deletes files completely from your hard drive. Don't just put the files in Windows XP's Trash folder.
  • To delete everything on the disk including the operating system then use a free utility such as CMRR's free Security Erase Utility. (Follow the instructions in the "read me" file.)
  • If you have the original Windows XP CD then re-install the operating system.

That should conclude our short article on upgrading from Windows XP to Vista. Feel free to put your feedback or tips in the comments section below.

Add Your Comment 8

Post comment as

roguespeare posted a comment   

Bought a iMac last week. Returned it this week. Wireless mouse had to be reset at Apple store. Outlook, Palm Pilot, Tax files, etc. would not data transfer. I would have spent days to update. Navigation was tedious. Internet speed was S L O W. Don't know about Vista (I have XP) but at least for me the iMac is worthless.


jayson posted a comment   

I had a mac, it was stolen. Decided to buy a pc with vista, because I had a fair experience with xp. Trying to put all my xp data to vista is a living nightmare. Went to the Apple Store the next day. GET A MAC!


Ubuntu. posted a comment   

Macintosh is far too restrictive, and Vista is useless. Choose door number three.


Demps posted a comment   

I was told when I ordering my dell just about two months ago that I could get XP put on it by this tech gal. I didn't order the laptop for a couple days later and this guy then tells me no way, they don't do that I can only get the Vista. I didn't think it could be that bad, even though my brother said he wasn't real happy with his Vista. That's a frigging understatement. Vista stinks. I have had nothing but problems. There are some nice things they added that you can do now, but why change the entire configuration, just leave XP alone and add those additional cool add-ons. Instead of making you a dang computer-sciencewhatjumacallit.


John Ralph posted a comment   

I agree - Vista is terrible - I took my Dell back to get XP installed - best decision I made otherwise get a Mac. The mac will be my next upgrade given the feedback on Windoze 7.


binjuin90 posted a comment   

how to upgrade windows xp sp3 to vista home edition


terry posted a comment   

Outlook contacts file cannot be directly transfered to Vista home basic mail.
You need to export them from Outlook then import to Express on the XP machine. Then save the file to a external drive. You will then be able to import to Vista mail.


Jason posted a comment   

Shouldn't this article be titled "How to move your data from Vista to XP"?! I lasted two weeks with Vista and then bought a Mac. If you're reading this and are undecided, jump ship now. There's no reason not too. Escape before it's too late!!!! Arrrrrgggghhhhhhhhhh! :)

Sponsored Links

Recently Viewed Products