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Can I use backup software to move programs?

Question: Hi. I’m thinking of buying some backup software. Can you give me some advice please? I use a PC tune-up from AVG and it wiped everything from my computer. Fortunately, it has an option to reinstall deleted files, so I was okay. That’s why I started to research the subject, so it wouldn’t happen again. That’s also how I came across your site. I’m using Windows 7 Premium and I have many programs that I use daily to manage my website (apart from other things). I have an external disk drive, but I don’t use it. I’m thinking of buying a new computer in the near future, which will have Windows 8 installed. I want to be able to move programs from one computer to another without losing the data within them. Can I do this or not using imaging software?

When it comes to imaging or backup software, I recommend Macrium Reflect. Ideally, you should be using this (or any kind of backup software) already, if for no other reason than to back up your files.

In regards to your question, however, you need to remember that backing up and moving programs are two different things. I’ll explain why that’s important.

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Moving programs and files

Some backup programs, including Macrium’s Pro version, have the ability to restore the backup of one computer on to another. This is technically pretty complex, so I tend to be skeptical. I don’t necessarily recommend that you try it.

If it works, Macrium moves the existing operating system, applications, and data to your new machine and cleans all of the hardware differences that it might encounter along the way. It’s also important to note that Macrium actually moves the operating system. In other words, your Windows 8 machine just became a Windows 7 one because Macrium moved the backup.

You could then upgrade that machine back to Windows 8.

In this case, the backup program isn’t a true solution to moving the applications and the data unless the backup also moves the operating system.

Try a different approach

Now, there are utilities out there that will move programs. Traveling Software’s PC Mover is one. But this kind of procedure is just as complex as just moving an operating system from one machine to another, so I’m again skeptical. But if you want to give them a try, go for it.

The approach that I typically recommend is to install the applications that you use on your new machine from their original media.

The approach that I typically recommend is to install the applications that you use on your new machine from their original media.
You can then use the backups that you’ve been taking on your old machine to move all of your data files. You can also use any other technique to get the data files over there – like just copying those data files from one computer to the other.

Ultimately, this is the most reliable approach. It’s a bit of a pain because you’re installing all of your applications from scratch, but they are clean installs for your new operating system. Once you’re done, then make sure to back up regularly.

That’s why I still recommend that you start with backup software. It won’t help you solve the move problem, but it definitely will help you solve the disaster problem when that eventually happens.

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2 comments on “Can I use backup software to move programs?”

  1. Leo
    Your comments on back up software cannot be hammered home too often particularly when you recommend a first class back up software like Macrium which has the advantage that the back up can be used on different hardware. I personally back up my PC on a daily basis which may be seen as a little paranoid but it comes into its own when one morning you switch on and find yourself with a blank screen or worse still the blue screen of death.
    Please keep up the good work.

  2. Hi Leo,
    I would have thought that the main argument against copying your image from say an asus machine to say a toshiba machine would be the the lack of drivers, you could probably migrate your system image ok but then it wouldn’t boot up, a bit of a minefield methinks.


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