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Can you copy a program file to another computer and run it?


Can you copy a program file from a computer and run the exe file on the new
computer? Like a game file (Diner Dash) on the hard drive C: and copy to another
computer? Would then a double-click on the icon that just runs the game, would
it work?

In this excerpt from
Answercast #15
, I go through some of the steps necessary to get programs to
run on your computer – steps that require proper installation.

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Running an .exe file

Typically, the answer is no.

If a program required a setup (in other words, if you had to install the
program on the first machine), then copying the program file from that machine
to another machine will typically not work.

Typically, it won’t work because the setup process didn’t happen. The setup
process did things to the original machine that you wouldn’t be copying if you
copied just the executable file.

The kinds of things that it might be doing are:

  • Making changes to the registry
  • Adding information to the registry
  • Setting up files and folders
  • All sorts of different things depending on the kind of program that you’re
    dealing with.

So the short answer is typically, no, it doesn’t work like that.

Install programs properly

The right answer is to go out and get the installer for that program (get
the installation media for that program if you have it) and reinstall the
program on the new computer.

Portable applications

I do want to mention that there are a class of applications that are called
“portable.” A portable application meets the criteria that you’re looking

A portable application does not require a setup. You can simply copy that
application from machine to machine; run it and have it work. Sometimes, it
just works. Sometimes, it will auto install. But the fundamental premise is that
no real setup process is required. Simply copying the .exe file as you’ve
pointed out causes that program to work.

Most of the time, these days, those kinds of programs will explicitly call
out the fact that they are portable. In fact, for many popular programs, there
are even portable versions. For example, there’s a portable Firefox. I think
there’s a portable Thunderbird.

So that’s the kind of a thing… if you’re looking for a program that can be
moved around that way.

But if you’ve got an existing program that was installed on a PC, you need
to run setup.

Do this

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2 comments on “Can you copy a program file to another computer and run it?”

  1. I have a DOS program – MYM12 – that can be transferred from computer to computer and runs OK on windows versions up to and including XP. Is this true for all DOS programs?

    No, unfortunately not. Some, yes. Perhaps even more, on average. But I’ll stick with that rule of thumb: if you had to run a setup program to set it up then it’s not likely to just be able to be copied.

  2. I tried that a few times and spent several hours wondering what went haywire. “The @%#^&@ thing is right there, why don’t it go?”
    Now I copy the installer to a folder where I can transfer it to another computer.
    Be careful if you do this – you might be violating the law. Some copyrights only allow you to have ONE running copy on ONE computer at a time and you must uninstall the program from the first machine..


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