First Look: Belkin Easy Transfer Cable for Windows Vista and Laplink PCmover for Windows Vista
The Belkin Easy Transfer Cable for Windows Vista ($40) and the Laplink PCmover for Windows Vista ($60) can handle some (though not all) of the heavy lifting involved in transferring programs and data from an older Windows XP machine to a new Windows Vista PC, but the quality and quantity of help varies.
Belkin's product is a bidirectional USB 2.0 cable that leverages the Easy Transfer software in Windows XP and Vista for moving documents and settings only. You must install the included driver on your old Windows XP PC (no installation required for Vista) and then plug the cable into both systems. Easy Transfer takes over and starts the migration--at least in theory. In practice, I had to restart the process several times to get the transfer going. (I did not try the limited edition of PCmover, also for documents and settings only, that Belkin throws in.)
Moving apps requires an additional operation: You must download the free beta of Easy Transfer Companion from Microsoft's Web site and install it on both the XP and Vista PCs. Again, I had to restart the process a few times before the transfer worked. Easy Transfer Companion cannot migrate all software; before beginning the transfer, the utility creates a report saying which programs it supports and which might prove problematic (iTunes is one of the latter). You can opt to try moving the problem apps anyway--I didn't try doing so, but it may work.
The two-step migration process took some 3.5 hours in all to move content from my laptop with 27GB of data. Some games and utilities were left behind, but at the end I was able to run all my major productivity apps, including Lotus Notes 7 and Adobe InCopy CS2, on the new machine. Another plus: You may use the product for as many migrations as you wish.
In contrast, you can use Laplink's pricier PCmover (which also comes with a bidirectional USB 2.0 cable) for only one full-blown migration (additional licenses go for $37.50; the retail version costs $70 and adds file-synchronization software), and you must install it on both PCs. But PCmover justifies its price with a polished, easy-to-use interface that has Windows Easy Transfer beat, hands down. For starters, the entire move is a one-step process; in my case, 27GB of data took the same 3.5 hours, but I didn't have to return midway through to start a different migration app. The setup screens let you work out potentially confusing specifics, such as whether the PC is the old or new system, thereby eliminating the repeated setup glitches I ran into with the Belkin kit.
PCmover was not without flaws, however. For some reason it didn't import my Internet Explorer bookmarks, but it did manage to make the Vista Start menu look like the old XP version--a result I didn't expect. Like Easy Transfer Companion, it failed to move some apps, including a few that appeared to have transferred but did not run when I tried to launch them.
With both the Belkin and Laplink products, most programs that use product activation required reactivation on the new PC. And the moves might have been a lot faster had I used an ethernet network rather than the USB cables. Still, these products took over a big chunk of my PC migration chores. If your budget can handle it, pay the extra $20 for PCmover to minimize the hassle; if you're reasonably tech savvy, have to migrate several PCs, and want to save what could be significant cash, you might find the awkward Belkin/Microsoft approach good enough.
Belkin Easy Transfer Cable for Windows Vista
Unlimited but clumsy Vista migration at a good price.
Current prices (if available)
Laplink PCmover for Windows Vista
Easy-to-use migration software works for only one XP-to-Vista move.
Current prices (if available)