Migrating to Vista using Windows Easy Transfer

by [Published on 26 July 2006 / Last Updated on 26 July 2006]

This article walks you through how to use Windows Easy Transfer to migrate user accounts, files and program settings from an existing computer running Windows XP to a freshly installed new computer running Windows Vista.

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In the past, administrators who wanted to move users from Windows 2000 desktop computers to Windows XP had two choices: upgrade existing computers to Windows XP or install a fresh copy of Windows XP on a new computer and migrate the user's files and program settings from the old computer to the new one. While upgrading is the easiest option (since it automatically migrates user settings), it has two disadvantages: users are stuck with older hardware, and a messed-up computer just gets messier.

That's why I have always preferred migrations instead of upgrades when it comes to desktop computers. And if you wanted to migrate from Windows 2000 to Windows XP, you had two tools to use: the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard (for migrating individual machines in a small business or home office environment) or the User State Migration Tool (USMT) for enterprise environments that need greater control over migrating large numbers of machines.

Things are the same in Vista, only they have been updated. First, a new version of USMT, namely version 3.0, will soon be available for migrating older versions of Microsoft Windows to Windows Vista and I'll be looking at USMT 3.0 in a future article. And second, the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard has now been replaced by the easier to use Windows Easy Transfer tool, which is the focus of this article.

Using Windows Easy Transfer

Let's walk through using Windows Easy Transfer to transfer user files and settings from a Windows XP machine to one running the latest build of Windows Vista. The way I've set this up is that my XP box and Vista box are both running as virtual machines within Microsoft Virtual Server, and I've taken the screen shots below from the main Virtual Server Administration window. Note also that this article is based on a pre-release (beta) version of Windows Vista, so a few things might change between now and final release.

To begin the transfer, click the start button and type "easy" (without the quotes) into the Start Search box and hit Enter to start Windows Easy Transfer (this is easier than finding it in System Tools under Accessories). If you get a User Account Control (UAC) prompt, click Continue to allow the program to run. Figure 1 shows the first screen of the Windows Easy Transfer wizard:

Figure 1: Starting Windows Easy Transfer on the target Vista machine

Click Next and choose the option to Start a New Transfer as shown in Figure 2:

Figure 2: Select the Start a New Transfer option

Choose the option This Is My New Computer since the Vista box is our target machine (see Figure 3):

Figure 3: Choose the This Is My New Computer option

If Windows Firewall is enabled on your Vista machine, a prompt will now appear asking you to enable an exception to allow Easy Transfer to work over the network. Accepting this prompt opens a program exception for %SystemRoot%\System32\MigWiz.exe, the executable for Windows Easy Transfer.

Next you'll be asked whether you have a USB cable you can use to perform the transfer between the two computers. Since we're going to perform our transfer over the network, select No in Figure 4 below:

Figure 4: Choose the No option to perform the transfer over the network

In the next screen of the wizard, select the I Need To Install Windows Easy Transfer option. This is needed since our source computer is running an earlier operation system (Windows XP) which doesn't have Easy Transfer installed on it yet (see Figure 5):

Figure 5: Select the I Need To Install Windows Easy Transfer option

Next choose the External Hard Disk Or Shared Network Folder option in Figure 6, as what we'll do is save the Setup files for Easy Transfer onto a network share that both computers can access:

Figure 6: Choose the External Hard Disk Or Shared Network Folder option

Of course, if you want to burn the Setup files to a CD you can use the other option instead, but this article will use the shared folder method instead.

Now specify the UNC path to the network share where the Setup files for Easy Transfer will be copied to (Figure 7):

Figure 7: Setup files for Easy Transfer will be copied to the Transfers shared folder on VSBOX64

Click Next and the Setup files are copied to the shared folder (you may be asked first to provide credentials for connecting to the share). After this is done, select Yes in Figure 8 below as we're going to connect the two machines together over the common network they are joined to in order to transfer settings from the old machine to the new one:

Figure 8: Select the Yes option since both computers are on the same LAN

You'll need a unique key (password) for the transfer to occur, so select the No I Need a Key option in the next screen (Figure 9):

Figure 9: Choose the No option to create a unique key (password) for the transfer

The next screen will display your key (write it down) and tell you to go to the source machine (the XP box) and install Easy Transfer from the shared folder where the Setup files were placed (see Figure 10):

Figure 10: It's time to move to your old computer to continue the transfer process

So we'll now go to the XP box and open the share \\vsbox64\transfers and double-click on MigSetup.exe, which is found in the MigWiz folder in the share (Figure 11):

Figure 11: Run MigSetup.exe to install Easy Transfer on the source (XP) machine

You'll be prompted to close any open programs that are running on the source machine—do this. In the next screen, choose the Use a Network option to directly transfer your files and settings over the network from the old machine to the new one (Figure 12):

Figure 12: Select the Use a Network option

Again, you can use a different transfer method if you want to, such as temporarily storing your user files and settings on removable storage such as a CD, DVD, or USB drive, or directly transferring them to the target machine using a USB cable connection. In the next screen, select the Connect Directly To Your New Computer Through a Home Network option (Figure 13):

Figure 13: Choose the first option to transfer files and settings directly over the network

At this point, if Windows Firewall is running on your source (XP) machine, you'll be prompted to open a firewall exception for Easy Transfer—do this. Next, you'll be prompted to supply the key (password) created earlier when you ran Easy Transfer on the target (Vista) box—do this too (Figure 14):

Figure 14: Type the key generated earlier

At this point if you go back to your target (Vista) box you'll see that the machines are connected and ready to perform the transfer (Figure 15):

Figure 15: The Vista box is ready to receive user files and settings from the XP box

Now choose what to transfer (see Figure 16). Easy Transfer can transfer files and settings for all user accounts on the source computer, for files and settings of the currently logged on account only, or as you may decide to specify (I chose the Everything option):

Figure 16: Choose which user files and settings to transfer to the new machine

At this point, you'll be informed about what files and settings are going to be transferred to the new machine (Figure 17). In my example, this means files and settings for the local Administrator account and another account called Bob, and various other files and registry settings:

Figure 17: The files and settings that will be transferred are now displayed

Note that you have the option of renaming accounts being transferred to the new machine (see Figure 18 where I renamed the account for Bob to Robert) or mapping accounts on the old machine to existing accounts on the new machine:

Figure 18: Bob says he prefers being called Robert now that he's been promoted to management

Click Next at this point and the transfer process begins. Files and settings are packaged and when this is done the message "Go to your new computer to finish transferring your files and settings" will appear. At that point you'll be asked to confirm your user account mappings (or renamings) on the new machine, and you'll again be presented with a screen like Figure 17 above that confirms the files and settings that will be transferred during the process. Click the Transfer button and the transfer process begins, and once it's completed you'll be informed of what has taken place (Figure 19):

Figure 19: Transfer is complete

If you click Show Me Everything That Was Transferred, you'll get an HTML report concerning the transfer, which you can save or print for reference purposes (Figure 20):

Figure 20: The Transfer Report

Note that the files and settings on the old computer are unchanged by this process, so if your transfer goes badly for some reason, you can still use the old machine and can start a new transfer if needed.


Windows Easy Transfer is a quick and easy way for users to transfer their files and settings from their old computers running earlier versions of Microsoft Windows to their new computers running Windows Vista. Easy Transfer is simple to use, supports several different transfer methods, and is ideal in a small business environment if you only have a handful of desktop computers to migrate.

The Author — Mitch Tulloch

Mitch Tulloch avatar

Mitch Tulloch is a widely recognized expert on Windows administration, networking, and security. He has been repeatedly awarded Most Valuable Professional (MVP) status by Microsoft for his outstanding contributions in supporting users who deploy and use Microsoft platforms, products and solutions.

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