This week a reader writes, “I am ready to purchase a new laptop. If I start using a cloud storage service, will I be able to access and download all of my programs and data into the new laptop as opposed to having someone at the dealer do this for me?”
The quick answer is “probably not.”
Cloud backup services are a great way to back up your documents, which can easily be copied to any new PC.
You can back up your whole hard drive to a cloud backup service like iDrive, but those whole disk backups can only restore onto the same PC. This would be handy if your hard drive dies, and you replace it with a new one. Manually copying your app folders to a cloud data service to a new PC will just give you a headache.
I personally use Microsoft OneDrive, which has a setting to automatically back up my Desktop, Documents and Pictures and Videos folders. Any files I add to those folders will automatically sync to my OneDrive cloud storage and are available from virtually any internet-connected Mac, Windows PC, tablet or phone.
I’ve been saving all my writing for this column in my OneDrive for years. One of the nice features about OneDrive is if I save a Microsoft Word document to OneDrive, it automatically saves my document. I can start writing on one computer, close that document whenever I like and then if I open it from another computer, the cursor will be exactly where I left off and I can keep writing.
Plus, I never have to worry about losing access if my hard drive fails.
So what should you do when you buy a new computer?
Start by logging into Windows for the first time, establish a Wi-Fi or wired internet connection, and then take your time and reinstall your programs. A new computer is a great excuse to reload your apps, either from the original installers or from updated versions downloaded from the internet. Start with the ones you use most often, then work your way down to lesser used apps. You can always just wait to load those until you need to use them.
At any point, you can download the OneDrive installer and log in to have access to your data files. You may have issues moving purchased digital music or videos. You should be able to redownload them from the point of purchase.
Of course, any cloud storage service can be used to move your data from one computer to another. If you use Google Drive or Apple iCloud, the same advice applies.
There are third-party PC transfer utilities like PCmover Professional from Laplink for $59.99, which will do a pretty good job if you are bound and determined to transfer apps to your new Windows PC.
Macintosh users have it easier. Apple has a utility called Migration Assistant, which can transfer apps, users and data files from an old Mac to a new one. I’ve used it with success, but for my last few new Macs, I’ve updated my apps manually.
Jim Rossman is a tech columnist for Tribune News Service. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.