Clone one PC's settings to another

One of the biggest hassles after buying a new PC is transferring your old PC's data, settings, and applications to the new one. But it's better than reconfiguring Windows to your liking each time you switch PCs, which can be downright frustrating.

When Windows XP goes on sale later this month, such migrations will undoubtedly become more common. To make the move easier, SkyDesk has released a program called SmartClone. The program primarily targets people who are buying a replacement PC, but SkyDesk says it can also be used to store critical data and settings in order to restore them if an upgrade goes awry.

SmartClone makes easy work of migrating everything from the customized dictionary in your word processing program to a digital music collection. The program lets you save your settings either to removable media, or to another PC connected via USB or parallel cables, the Internet, or a local area network (LAN).

SmartClone supports Windows XP Home and Professional editions and previous Windows versions including Win 95/98/ME/2000. The 1MB program is available for download through SkyDesk's online store for US$50. It's geared towards consumers and small business with limited IT support.

Data Moving Made Easy

The program has a wizard-driven interface that prompts you to select which type of settings you want to migrate and what kind of connection you're using. Then it gathers settings and starts the transfer.

SmartClone joins a crowded field of data-transfer software and services. One major difference between SmartClone and other data migration competitors such as AlohaBob and Upgrade Commander is that SmartClone's purchase price includes the right to save up to 2GB of settings data on SkyDesk's servers for up to 90 days. Stored data is encrypted and can only be regenerated using SmartClone's proprietary Backup SC utility.

SmartClone does not transfer entire programs, only program personalities such as custom templates, macros, or application plug-ins. This is a plus for dial-up modem users who would have to spend hours online to clone entire programs. But it's a minus for broadband users looking to transfer their applications. Another negative: SmartClone can only take advantage of existing networks, so in order to use a USB cable to transfer files, for example, you must first set up a USB network between the two PCs--not an easy task for novice PC users.

The Competition

Other data-transfer vendors are also gearing up for Windows XP's scheduled October 25 launch. On October 10, Eisenworld expects to upgrade its AlohaBob software to support Windows XP and 2000. It supports USB, parallel, and LAN data transfers, but won't work over the public Internet. The new shrink-wrap version goes for $50 (parallel cable included); a download version is available for $39. AlohaBob also allows you to transfer programs in their entirety.

Other PC-based "relocation" utilities include Upgrade Commander ($50), PC Sync ($100), and Detto Technologies' IntelliMover 3.0 ($50), available only by calling the company's toll free number (+1-866-338-8663).

Another option is PCFirst's PC2PC Migration Service, which downloads and runs inside your browser as a Microsoft Corp. ActiveX control. It works over direct parallel and USB connections, or a local area network.

Given the abundance of migration products, you have little excuse for not picking up on your new PC where you left off on your old one. Be aware, however, that some software titles are not supported by these migration software packages.

These programs tend to migrate the settings of specific programs--not all programs. For example, SmartClone supports approximately 100 software titles but doesn't support the cloning of any version of Netscape's browser or e-mail software. Other migration programs may not support oddball software applications and games. And though some programs such as Eisenworld's AlohaBob claim to transfer any program in its entirety, the compatibility of a Windows 95 software program in Windows XP is another story and not guaranteed, Eisenworld says.

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Tom Spring

PC World
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