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Save Your Settings, Save Yourself Some Headaches

April 19, 2001|JEFF LEVY |

In working with your computer over time, you've no doubt customized the way Windows and the programs you use work. Things such as new desktop shortcuts, wallpaper and color settings are lost when we start over with a new computer. Here are a few tips on how to preserve parts of your work.

Many of the changes you make to Windows are kept in the registry files. You can export the registry, but you'll create even more problems because the files also keep information about the drivers that power your sound, video and other cards and peripherals--which change from box to box.

The good news is that Windows stores Start Menu settings in the Start Menu folder, located at C:WindowsStart Menu. You can transfer the contents of the WindowsStart Menu folder to a new computer. The most efficient way to do this is by using a file transfer program such as LapLink or Fastmove. Both of these programs come with a cable that connects two computers and software that moves files and folders between them.

If you transfer the WindowsStart Menu files to a new computer, the existing files on that computer will be merged with the files you transfer, and the result might not be pretty. I recommend that you remove the contents of the WindowsStart Menu folder before you attempt the transfer. Some items on your Start Menu might not work if you haven't installed the related programs on the new computer or if you installed or moved them to a different place on the new computer.

Microsoft Word users should click Tools, then Options. Click on the File Location tab to find out where Word stores information about templates, auto-recover files, tools and start-up information. You can then transfer those files to the proper folders on the new computer.

If you have customized the Word spell-check dictionary, the custom version is contained in a file called Custom.dic. Click Start, Find and then Files and Folders. Type that file name and press Enter or click OK. Windows shows you the location of the custom dictionary file, and you can transfer it to your new computer.

On Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express, you can export the information to a file and transfer the file to the new computer. Click File, then Import and Export. Select Export to a file and then follow the prompts. You'll be asked to name the export file.

You also can remove the hard drive from your old computer and install it as your bootable drive C: in the new system. Your programs and Windows setup files will be available, but you'll have to install the correct driver files for the sound, video, modem, CD-ROM drives and other devices installed on your new computer. That could take some time, and it might prove challenging.

You can use the Internet to make a current backup of your important files and folders. Web sites such as and offer as many as 50 megabytes of free Internet storage for your files.


Jeff Levy hosts the "On Computers" radio talk show from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on KFI-AM (640).

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