Windows XP users have put up an almost heroic level of resistance to Vista, but a large percentage of PC owners will end up moving to Microsoft’s latest operating system (OS) in the end.

The software giant has bowed to popular demand (nay, outcry) and extended support for the now seemingly stable XP until next year. Even so, the writing has been on the wall for this well-worn OS for some time. Are you prepared to tackle every issue that XP throws up once official support for it ceases? If not, you might as well face it: sooner or later, you are going to have to upgrade your OS.

If you’re making the move from an old PC or laptop to a new one, you’ll have to tackle the vast amounts of data and the numerous programs that have accrued on your current PC and decide which, if any, you’re going to take with you to see another day.

Vista has a useful transfer tool for just this purpose, but you’ll still need a way of physically connecting the old and new machines to copy files between the two. Several companies sell inexpensive cables that will do this, while the following tutorial explains what you need to keep and what you should really junk along the way.

1. Before you start transferring files and settings from one PC to another, you need to connect the machines. You can use a Windows Easy Transfer cable, but a 3m Belkin crossover network cable is cheaper and more versatile.

Step 1

Step 1

2. We’ll assume that you’re transferring files and settings from an older XP SP2 PC to a newer Vista one. Vista bundles a utility called Windows Easy Transfer (WET), but you’ll need to download an XP version from microsoft.com to run on the XP PC. Once installed, click Next and select ‘Transfer directly, using a network connection’.

Step 2

Step 2

3. Run WET on the Vista PC by selecting Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools. Click Windows Easy Transfer, then Continue and Next. It’s important to run the program on the Vista PC first, because WET generates a transfer key that’s later used on the XP PC to enable the transfer.

Step 3

Step 3

4. Select ‘Start a new transfer’ and, on the following screen, ‘My new computer’. This will tell the software which PC it’s going to copy files and settings to. On the Easy Transfer Cable screen, which checks whether you’re using its proprietary USB cable (as described in step one), select ‘No, show me more options’.

Step 4

Step 4

5. The next screen looks very similar. Here, however, it’s asking whether you’ve installed a version of the WET software on the XP PC. Since you did this in step 2, select ‘Yes, I installed it’. If both source and destination PCs were running Vista, you won’t need to install a separate version of WET.

Step 5

Step 5

6. Plug the crossover network cable into the network sockets on both PCs and click ‘Yes, I’ll transfer files and settings over the network’. If asked, click Yes to unblock WET from the Windows firewall, which may try to prevent communication via the cable. If you have a different software firewall, switch it off temporarily.

Step 6

Step 6

7. On the following screen click ‘No, I need a key’. WET will then display a randomly generated, eight-character transfer key. Write this down and keep it safe for use on your Windows XP computer. Each time a transfer is set up using WET, the program generates a new Transfer key.

Step 7

Step 7

8. Run WET on the XP PC, click Next and choose ‘Transfer directly, using a network connection’. Click ‘Use a network connection’ on the next screen and again answer Yes to unblock the Windows firewall. Select ‘Yes, I have a key’, then enter the transfer key that you wrote down in step 7. Click Next.

Step 8

Step 8

9. Decide whether you want Windows to choose which files and settings to copy or whether you’d prefer to choose them yourself. If you go for the automated option, you can still choose whether to transfer files and settings from one or all user accounts. We’ll go the manual route by selecting ‘Advanced options’.

Step 9

Step 9

10. Think carefully about the drives and folders you really need. This is the ideal opportunity to get rid of superfluous baggage you’ve saved just in case, but have never actually used. Click the appropriate boxes to deselect any file categories whose contents you can usefully leave behind when you transfer.

Step 10

Step 10

11. If you need more detail about your folders, make use of the category tree. Use ‘Add folders’ and ‘Exclude folders’ to pick folders to leave out of the transfer. Each selection you make in this way appears at the bottom of the category tree. When you’ve finished making your selections, click Next.

Step 11

Step 11

12. On the following screen, select a user account on the Vista PC to transfer the settings to. Click Next and map drives from your XP PC to those on the Vista one. If you’ve got a different number of logical drives on the two PCs, you can direct where the contents of the XP PC’s drives ends up. Click Next and the transfer will start.

Step 12

Step 12

13. Depending on the amount of data you’re transferring, the transfer process can take up to an hour. The single advantage of the pricey Easy Transfer cable is that it works at USB 2.0 speeds – up to four times quicker than a 10/100 network link. WET doesn’t transfer applications; only data files and settings.

Step 13

Step 13

14. When the transfer is complete, a summary of the files, folders and settings that have been copied is displayed. You can now unplug the cable from both PCs. If you need to transfer other files, simply reconnect it at any time and run WET again on both machines to select and copy what you need.

Step 14

Step 14