Escape from Windows 98

Last Updated on October 1, 2010 by Dave Farquhar

There’ve been a few times that I’ve met someone who was stuck in an old Windows 98 PC because it had all their software and data on it, it was set up the way they liked it, they may or may not have all the installation media, and it would take several days’ worth of labor to set up a new one like the old one.

So usually in that situation I just bubblegum and duct tape the system together as best I can.

No longer. Not now that I’ve discovered PC Mover.PC Mover is a Laplink product. It’s really pretty simple. Set up the old PC and new PC on the same network (ideally the new PC should be as pristine as possible), install and run PC Mover on the new PC and follow the prompts. Eventually it will tell you to install and run it on the old PC. Follow the prompts there, and it will do its very best to move all of the programs and data to the new PC.

I literally set up Mom’s old Windows 98 PC and her new(er) Compaq Evo D51C (running Windows XP), set the options, watched for 30 minutes, then went out and spent an hour mowing the lawn. About 15 minutes after I came back inside, it was finished. Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure her Windows 98 PC only has a 10-megabit NIC in it, so under what I would consider reasonable conditions, the migration would have been faster.

Now I wish I’d thought to change the NIC out.

But at any rate, at the end of the process, I rebooted the new computer and it came up looking just like her old PC. Her desktop looked the same, all her data was in the right place, and her old programs ran.

System-level stuff like antivirus and CD burning software won’t transfer, but that’s not PC Mover’s fault. Utility software is usually very OS-specific, and if I manually tried to install the Windows 98 version of Norton Antivirus in Windows XP, it would tell me to get lost. She can install her scanner, and XP will detect her printer and take care of setting that up for her.

When I ran PC Mover, I selected the advanced options and deliberately de-selected stuff I knew she wouldn’t need, in order to speed up the transfer and lessen the likelihood of something going wrong. But I’d be reasonably comfortable just letting it run on autopilot.

The resulting system does have some unneeded cruft on it, but I can live with that. Windows XP is worlds better than Windows 98 ever was, and this Compaq is newer and probably better than her old computer too. Maybe running CCleaner would help with the junk, but for now I’m just going to leave well enough alone.

PC Mover costs about 40 bucks, but I think it’s worth it. The last time I worked on someone else’s PC, I charged $50 an hour (which is probably too little, considering what a lawnmower mechanic or plumber charges). It would probably have taken me 4-6 hours to do what PC Mover did in two, and that’s assuming I would have been able to locate all of the old installation media.

Whether you need to move data and programs to a new PC running XP or Vista for yourself or for someone else, I think PC Mover can make the job a lot easier for you. It worked so well for Mom’s PCs, I’m thinking I ought to use it to migrate a couple of old PCs I’ve been keeping around to newer hardware.

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