Easiest/best way to move data to a new computer?

My current computer is starting to seem hinky – like not starting Windows at all on the first try yesterday, and various hesitations and slowness in starting programs – so I’ll probably get a new one very soon.

But the current computer runs Win7, and no doubt a new one would be Win10. I’m not concerned about reinstalling programs (or newer versions to replace them) but what about my data files? I have tons of my writing, plus photos and music and so forth. The current computer is backed up to an external hard drive using the built in Windows ‘Backup and Restore’ program. Will this be of any use to me? As in, can I plug the drive into a W10 computer and it will be able to read and extract my data files despite the different operating system?

If the old one keeps working long enough, can I just plug a cable (what kind?) into both of them and transfer stuff directly?

I could write the files out to however many thumb drives, I suppose?

Or upload everything to some web service then DL it to the new one?

Which method, or other something else, is likely to be easiest/safest in getting my precious data moved over?

Apparently you can restore your windows 7 backup to windows 10:

But remember Murphy’s Law “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”

So I would also get another external drive and simply sync the data to it. I use Syncback Free:
https://www.2brightsparks.com/syncback/syncback-hub.html

I would simply move the backup drive to the new computer and restore it per the instructions in PastTense’s first link. That will almost certainly work. If it doesn’t then you can look into other more onerous options (purchasing a new drive solely for the purpose of copying data, after which you presumably would have no need for it, seems rather excessively onerous to me; that should be your last resort). If both computers are on your home network you could export the old one as an SMB share and just drag/drop the files on the new computer. Copying the data to and from the cloud will take a very long time if you have a lot of data.

Make the jump to a cloud drive; there’s tons of them out there, and once all your files are there, you’ll never have to go through this rigmarole again. Added bonus: you don’t have to worry about catastrophic failures causing your files to be lost, nor do your own backups.

It’s cheap, too: If you have Amazon Prime, you can backup all photos for free. If not, it’s $12/year for 100GB. Google gives you 15GB for free. Microsoft, Apple, Dropbox, and a whole bunch more also offer free/cheap space.

Once you have it set up, copy all your files from your old computer to the cloud drive, then when you get a new computer, just point at the cloud drive. Voila. Done.

What Athena said.

I have Dropbox* installed on my two desktop and two laptop computers.
I can add or alter a file on any of the four and the other three all automatically record the change.
When I buy a new computer, I’ll download Dropbox - and all my files will immediately be there.
Job done.

*I have no connection with the company - it was recommended by a professional (and was free!)

You could fit the hard drive from the old computer to sit alongside the drive in the new one.

If there is not room, you can remove the old drive and put it in an external caddy with a USB interface. Plug it into your new computer and it should see the drive and you copy files whenever you want.

Backing data up to a cloud drive is a good idea if you trust google or whoever supplies the service and you don’t mind paying out every month for the foreseeable future. Cloud drives can be quite slow to use. Judge a backup service by how quick and reliable it is to restore. I would copy all your important stuff to a flash drives as a precaution and store them in a safe place.

How much data is there? I would simply copy your data to an external USB 3 device of appropriate capacity, move the USB device, and copy it back. KISS. After you’re fully happy with your new PC, take the HDD out of the old one, put it in an anti-static bag, and put it in a safe place.

If you have a computer and a backup drive connected to the computer you can lose all the data on both via malware/ransomware of some kind. So it is useful to have an unconnected drive even if it only holds the data from a few months ago.

I agree: see how much data you really have first. All the writing you ever did and will ever possibly do in several lifetimes will fit on the $10 thumb drive at the checkout line.

Music and pictures take up more room, but still may fit on a pretty small number of pretty cheap thumb drives. You’ll spend 15-40 minutes or something each way waiting for files to transfer, but cheaper and easier than anything else.

Whenever I have transferred to a new computer I have seen it as an opportunity to clean house. First thing was to think about what data I really wanted to save: Any word docs for example and pictures, even though they are backed up on a cloud.

Programs are a different case and I expect to download all the ones I need as and when - naturally I have passwords etc written down. The number one thing on the new machine is to delete all the crapware that manufacturers put on it. Second is to connect to the net and download a copy of AVG to make sure I can fend off any nasties. After that, it’s copy in the data I saved and then settle down and load Chrome, Word and Outlook. Most of the other stuff I will load when I need it.

Geez guys, why are you making it so complicated? The OP already has a backup. Just restore it on the new computer. Period. Asking him to move all his data to the cloud, or even take the unnecessary step of copying all the data to a secondary drive (when it is ALREADY COPIED TO A SECONDARY DRIVE) is not the “easiest” way to do it.

D’oh! You are, of course, absolutely correct.

Thank you all for your advice. It sounds much easier than I was fearing. (Yes, I’ve changed from computer to computer in the past, but I was always able to bribe my computer savvy brother to do it for me.)

Special thanks to PastTense for that first link – so reassuring to have 'official’ish word that W10 will restore from my backup. That sounds easiest, so I’ll try it first. Yes, sometimes the automated method doesn’t work, but the risk of operator malfunction is far greater. Way too easy to skip over a file, or click delete instead of copy or something, especially during a long session. (Hey, I once formatted the wrong hard drive at work! Brain farts happen.)

I’m leery about cloud storage. What if the internet goes down JUST when I need my tax records or something? Plus companies sometimes just vanish, they can get hit with viruses same as the rest of us, and… basically my data is more important to me than it will ever be to anyone else.

I think I am also going to get some more thumb drives – I’m sure you’re right that the total size is smaller than I think. Text is small. I’ll copy the stuff I really care about to them. Maybe I’ll make two copies, and get one of my friends to keep a set for me. (I’ll offer to do the same for her, of course.) Fires can happen, houses DO blow up at times, we’ve just learned that lesson again here in Mass.

Maybe, maybe not. Have you ever tried restoring from a backup? The state of local backup is dismal at the moment. I’ve tried several varying backup solutions and had the unfortunate opportunity to attempt restores. It’s not as easy at it’s purported to be.

The chances of the internet going down / companies vanishing / companies getting hit with viruses versus your local storage going bad / getting a virus / not working for a restore is very much on the side of the internet backup. Yes, your data is more important to you than anyone else. That’s why you use Amazon / Google / Microsoft / Dropbox / etc. They have better backups, better virus protection, better uptime than anything you’re going to set up by yourself.

Put it this way: my company, a public company that stores sensitive information for millions of people, and would no doubt go out of business publicly and painfully if that information was stolen / hit by a virus / lost in any way, stores its information in the cloud as opposed to our very big, expensive private servers. Why wouldn’t you do the same?

I don’t care for the way G-Drive and Dropbox work. It’s far from the cheapest, but Carbonite was recommended by the guy who occasionally troubleshoots for me. Carbonite makes it very simple. One annoyance: It has in the past gotten glitchy and stopped backing up; required a re-install of the software. Not the end of the world and it’s stopped happening. Another annoyance–they won’t back up software. But the rest of my data is more important.

The level of service you can expect from a Cloud storage provider is very much related to how much you pay for the service. If you pay nothing or a small amount per month, they will make money some other way that you may not be aware of. The will be using the data to feed you ads or using your nicely tagged photos for their AI learning. Moreover, when it comes to restoring data to you computer. Don’t expect the transfer to be fast, at a time when you most need to get things back and you are completely dependent.

There is no such thing as a free lunch with these companies. They can be useful for storing all those zillions of photos and videos so they don’t clog up your computer forever. But save the really important ones in several places.

Business computing is a whole different ballgame as far as backup is concerned.

The usb flash/thumb drive solution is cheap and fast.

Cloud storage doesn’t work the way you think. Each computer you connect to it will synchronize a folder to the cloud locally (usually you can include/exclude folders via settings) so that your computer always has an “offline” copy of the documents. Then when you update it, it synchronizes that copy back to the cloud, where any other devices you have connected to it will download the updates the next time they connect to the internet. If the internet goes down just when you need your tax records from 7 years ago, you should be fine. You just won’t be able to synchronize any updates you made to it from a different device until you get the internet back.

You do realize how little that is, right? Just one hr of HD video is ≈14GB; anyone who has a GoPro & shoots in 4k (the default) quadruples that number. Documents are small but pics & video can be huge data hogs.

What about non-documents that need to be moved over – like browser bookmarks, and saved userids and passwords ? Does a Win7 backup includes those so that they can be restored to a new Win10 box ?

I use Google Chrome on all my devices, and I log in to Google with my Gmail account on all devices. All bookmarks are available wherever I happen to be logged in, as are saved userids and passwords.

So if you are a Chrome user, all you have to do is install Chrome on your new computer and log in to Google. Everything should be available.

I suspect the same is true of FireFox and Edge, but I don’t know for certain.