Digital Focus: Touch Up Portraits, Part 2

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Q&A: How Do I Transfer My Pictures to a New PC?

I have several hundred digital photos currently stored on my hard drive. I am planning to buy a new computer. What is the best way to transfer my digital photo collection to my next computer? Should I buy an external hard drive?

--Harvey Kantor, Columbus, Ohio

This is a great question, Harvey: It's a problem almost everyone will face eventually. There are a lot of ways to transfer your photo collection to a new PC; it's just a matter of picking the solution that seems easiest or most convenient to you.

If you have a lot of files, I suggest using Windows' Files and Settings Transfer Wizard. It's a Windows XP utility (you can find it in Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools) that lets you copy all sort of stuff to a new computer, including system settings, e-mail files, and your documents, music, and pictures. If your old computer is a Windows XP machine, start the wizard there first and follow its directions. If your old computer predates Windows XP, then run the wizard on the new XP system first, and it will help you copy the wizard to the old computer to complete the transfer. The wizard can transfer data via a serial connection cable, removable memory cards, a CD-R, or a home network.

If you don't want to use the wizard built into Windows, don't worry; there are other strategies to try:

  • My favorite way to copy data is to connect the computers to a network and just drag and drop folders between them.
  • If your old computer has a CD-R drive, you've undoubtedly been using it to back up your photos in 650MB to 700MB increments. You can use those backups to move your photos (along with data files you may have backed up) to the new system, although it will not be as easy as using a network connection.
  • As a last resort, you can install the hard drive from your old computer as a temporary addition to the new PC; it will show up as another logical volume with its own drive letter. From there, just drag and drop your files to the new drive's My Pictures folder, then remove the old hard disk when you're done transferring files. Of course, you must handle the drive with care during the process; thumps and bumps have sent more hard drives to the data graveyard than any other mishap.

Whatever method you choose, you can probably avoid the expense of an external hard drive just to copy some files to a new PC. Good luck!

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