Walt Mossberg

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The Fastest, Easiest Way to Transfer Files

Here are a few questions about computers I’ve received recently from people like you, and my answers. I have edited and restated the questions a bit, for readability. This week my mailbox contained questions about transferring files to a new computer, disks for the Firefox browser and sharing operating systems within a household.

If you have a question, send it to me at mossberg@wsj.com, and I may select it to be answered here in Mossberg’s Mailbox.

What is the fastest and easiest way to transfer files and programs when switching to a new computer? It will be from a Windows PC to a Windows PC and I have stored a lot of music in Musicmatch that I want to transfer over.

The fastest and easiest way is to use a special “migration” program, which transfers files in bulk via a cable that connects the two machines. When I last tested these, the best was Detto’s IntelliMover, which costs $50. More information is at www.detto.com.

However, IntelliMover transfers only data files, including music and settings. It doesn’t move over programs, such as Musicmatch itself. The only program I’ve tested that does that is Alohabob PC Relocator Ultra, by Eisenworld (www.eisenworld.com). It costs $70, and it also transfers files and settings. In addition, it can move over some, though not all, programs.

I am buying a PC with Windows XP. I want to use the Firefox browser, but I have a dial-up connection, so I would like to buy it on a disk. How do I do this?

Mozilla, the parent organization for Firefox, sells the browser on CD from its online store, at store.mozilla.org. However, the online store is currently closed while it is being revamped. So you might have to wait awhile to order your CD. However, the installation file is relatively small, at just 4.6 megabytes, so it might be possible to download it without much pain, even over a dial-up connection.

My 16-year-old son has just built his own PC using the Windows XP operating system. He is about to build another PC for his brother. Can we still use our existing Windows XP operating system for the new PC, considering that the new PC is to be used in the same household?

No. Microsoft licenses Windows XP for only a single computer and requires that it be “activated” over the Internet so that the company can block it from working on additional PCs. It makes no difference if the second PC is in the same household. Apple offers a multiple-computer family plan for its operating system, but Microsoft doesn’t.

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Because of the volume of e-mail I receive, I can’t routinely answer individual questions by e-mail, or consult on individual problems or purchasing decisions. I read all questions I receive and select three each week to answer in the column.

Write to Walter S. Mossberg at mossberg@wsj.com

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