Lately, I've been talking to people who are finally ready to move to Windows XP Professional. What's interesting about this situation is that virtually none of the people I've talked with in this group are really interested in upgrading their current Windows version. Rather, they've reached a point where they find their current OS installation so cluttered and confused that they don't want to risk an in-place upgrade, which would move the clutter and confusion to a newly installed OS. As a result, I've been peppered with questions about how to back up data and configuration information so that users can upgrade their computer, reinstall their applications, and still maintain their machine's accustomed "look and feel," as well as the data that they don't want to lose.
In many cases, the questions about backing up data were the easiest to answer. Most of these users employ multiple hard disks, so I merely suggested that they move data that they want to keep to their secondary hard disk. Everyone I talked with was surprised to learn that XP Pro includes a tool that lets you save most of your configuration information, along with application settings and Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) preferences and bookmarks. That tool is the File and Settings Transfer Wizard. You can find it on an installed copy of XP Pro (as well as XP Home Edition), and you can also run it from the XP distribution CD-ROM.
To run it from the distribution CD-ROM, launch the fastwiz.exe file from the Support\Tools directory on the XP distribution CD-ROM. Follow the prompts, and tell the application where you want to store your collected files and settings. You can keep them anywhere on your new OS system installation you'd like. The application will churn for a while, then produce a list of the items it can save for you. Verify the list, direct the wizard to continue, and it will round up all the selected items and store them in the place you specified.
At this point, you can install XP and remove all traces of the previous OS by deleting, recreating, then reformatting the partition on which you'll install XP. When the installation is complete (including the reinstallation of your applications), run the File and Settings Transfer Wizard from Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools. Tell the wizard where you specified your information to be stored when you ran the wizard before the installation. The wizard will then prompt you to log out and then log back on to enable the changes.
You can find the text of the entire Windows XP Professional Resource Kit, with information about the File and Settings Transfer Wizard and all the other utilities XP includes online at the "Microsoft Windows XP Professional Resource Kit Documentation" Web site. Go to