In chapter 4 of my book, PC Fear Factor, I provide a step-by-step process for transitioning from your old computer to a new computer. The process includes all of the steps required to migrate your data from your old machine to your new, and how to install all of your applications on your new machine. It also goes into a number of very important facets of the transition process, including preparing your old computer for disposal.

Because users have more data on their computers and more applications installed than ever before, a new class of applications called PC migration tools is making its way into the marketplace. One of these applications, Eisenworld’s PC Relocator Ultra, received a very favorable review on December 19 in the Wall Street Journal.

I am not going to review the product here – the WSJ does a good job and I’ll take it on face value that PC Relocator Ultra is well deserving of the positive review.

Rather, I want to discuss why I think PC migration tools, as a class of applications, are not a good idea.

First of all, there is the cost. PC Relocator Ultra costs $70. Does it really make sense to spend $70 for an application you will only use one time? And you can’t use it more than once – the license agreement restricts you to one target computer.

Then, there’s the practicality. I think most people are like me – they go several years between computers. This means that your new computer is likely to have a different version of Windows than your old computer, which in turn means that many of the applications on your old computer cannot be migrated because they are not compatible with the new version of Windows. For example, I have Roxio’s Easy CD Creator 4.0 on my Windows 98 machine. This version of Easy CD Creator is not compatible with Windows XP, so I will have to purchase and install the latest version of the product when I buy a new PC.

Additionally, many of the applications I use come preinstalled on my new PC – the latest version of Microsoft Office, for example. So again, I would not want to migrate my old applications to my new machine.

There are a handful of applications I do want to migrate – things like Norton Ghost, Panavue Image Assembler, SnagIt, and some utilities, but I find it just as easy to reinstall the programs on my new computer. Many were programs I downloaded from the web, and I need only run the install program (which I always save along with any registration keys) again. Furthermore, installing these programs one at a time gives me the opportunity to test each program to see if it is compatible with my new computing environment, whereas if you migrate a dozen programs over to your new computer and you have a problem, you will have no idea which program caused the problem!

Now let’s talk about data migration. If you are a responsible computer user, you are already backing up all of your data frequently, most likely to CD’s. Migrating the data is as simple as taking a fresh backup from your old computer and restoring it to your new computer. There is no need for a special PC migration tool to facilitate this task. In fact, I find it disturbing that anyone would use a PC migration tool to migrate their data, because the inference I draw from this is that they don’t backup their data!

No, I just don’t see the value of a PC migration tool. At the same time, I’ve no doubt that these tools will sell well because the concept sounds good. But so does a solar powered flashlight, until you think about it.

Post Script: If you are interested in learning more about PC Relocator Ultra, I suggest you check out actual opinions from real users, rather than rely on the WSJ review. You can find 17 such reviews here. Note that 60% of the review are negative, and some of the negative reviews point out the same issues I mentioned above.

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Alan Luber