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How to transfer data from your old PC to a new PC

Getting a new PC or upgrading your hard drive to an SSD or a larger hard drive in your existing PC? You may need to transfer data from your old computer's hard drive to your new computer, or to an SSD or larger hard drive in your existing PC. There are several ways to do this. Let's separate it into two things, transferring software programs and transferring data files.

Transferring software programs

Software programs have to be freshly installed on your new PC from installation or setup files. For Windows programs you can't just copy the directory files of an installed program from the old PC to your new PC. For Linux programs you can, but again it's better to freshly install them making sure you have all the dependencies (other software needed to run the program). Also make sure the installation or setup files are compatible with your new operating system.

Installing paid software programs

  • Install all paid software programs that you own in the new PC directly from original installation CDs.
  • Or install from installation or setup files that you might have saved on your old PC and have copied to a new CD.
  • Or install from installation or setup files you can buy and download from the web directly to your new PC.

Installing free software programs

  • Install all free software programs that you want by downloading them directly from the web to your new PC. For example an office productivity suite, LibreOffice, downloaded directly from libreoffice.org. We use this instead of Microsoft Office and its great, plus free!

Transferring data files

  • If your old computer has a CD/DVD drive that is also a writer, copy (write) your data files onto new CDs or DVDs and then use these CDs or DVDs to transfer to the new PC.
  • Or if you have an external USB flash drive (you can get a USB flash drive for around 10 bucks), and your old PC has a USB port which it should, you can copy data files from your old PC to this USB flash drive and then from the flash drive to your new PC. This is probably the easiest method.
  • Or this third method below is the most comprehensive because you're going to take out the hard drive from your old PC and put in your new PC!

Installing your old hard drive in your new PC

Western Digital hard drive

Motherboard compatibility

This does require that your new computer's motherboard can handle your older hard drive. Newer computers have SATA hard drive connectors on their motherboards while your older computer may have a PATA or IDE hard drive with IDE connectors. You can get a connector adapter that allows you to connect a PATA hard drive to a SATA connector and even vice versa, again for around ten dollars.

You can also get an adapter card that fits into a PCI or PCIe slot in your new computer's motherboard that will provide the IDE or SATA connectors you require for your old hard drive.

Power supply unit compatibility

You also might need a connector adapter for your power supply unit (PSU) to connect power to your old hard drive, though most new PSUs still have the old molex power connectors needed for the previous standard PATA hard drives. Check the PSU connectors on the PSU in your new PC to see what's available.

Hard drive installation instructions

For detailed instructions on installing your old hard drive in a new PC go to the paragraphs on hard drives in our step by step instructions on how to assemble a computer.

Access your old files!

You could then keep the old hard drive in your new PC as an extra hard drive, or just copy the data files from hard drive to hard drive and remove the old hard drive.

If you keep the old hard drive installed in your new PC you probably should delete the old operating system (OS) on it. You don't want it to conflict with the new OS on the new hard drive. The same applies for software programs on the old hard drive, which as mentioned above need to be freshly installed on the new hard drive.

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