Transfer Files From a Really Old PC

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Rosalyn wants to move data from a 14-year-old, Windows 98 computer to a brand new one.

That's a challenge. The technologies used for moving files back and forth between computers have changed drastically since that time. In those days, you would likely have connected the PCs with a special parallel cable, but today's PCs don't do parallel. Your old PC might have a USB port, but if it does, it's USB 1.1, which is painfully slow for moving files.

Speaking of painfully slow, the old PC's floppy drive isn't much of an option, either. True, you can buy an external, USB floppy drive for the new computer, but moving a large amount of data on slow, 1.4MB disks would feel like moving your car from one town to another by taking it apart and carrying each piece individually on foot.

And unlike your new computer, your old one most likely can read, but not write to, CDs.

Both computers probably have ethernet ports, suggesting that you could get them working together on a network. But I'll be honest here: I haven't set up Windows 98 networking in years, and have never attempted to set it up with Windows 7. From what I've read, getting these two to play nicely with each other may not be easy for the inexperienced.

That's why I'm suggesting you remove the hard drive from the old computer and attach it to the new one. But even then you have a problem. A 14-year-old hard drive would probably use an IDE connection; modern PCs accept drives with SATA ports.

The solution is to buy something like the Bytecc USB 2.0 to IDE/SATA Adapter Kit. It effectively turns an internal hard drive--IDE or SATA--into a USB external drive. You remove the drive from the old computer, connect it to your adapter, then plug the adapter into the new computer--which you don't even have to open up.

One bit of advice: If you use the Bytecc kit, plug its power adapter into the drive, not into the Bytecc.

Note: This article was altered on 10/9/11. I corrected a typo in the headline. My thanks to Joseph Taflan for bringing it to my attention.

Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector writes about technology and cinema. Email your tech questions to him at, or post them to a community of helpful folks on the PCW Answer Line forum. Follow Lincoln on Twitter, or subscribe to the Answer Line newsletter, e-mailed weekly.

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