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Can This Cable Work With Windows 98?

There’s no other major item most of us own that is as confusing, unpredictable and unreliable as our personal computers. Everybody has questions about them, and we aim to help.

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 using the Belkin Easy Transfer cable, moving files from a Mac to a PC and backing up a Mac with Parallels virtual machine software.

Last week, you advised using an Easy Transfer Cable to transfer files from a Windows XP computer to a new Windows Vista computer. But what about those of us still using Windows 98 who want to get a new Vista machine?

The Belkin Easy Transfer cable I discussed only works fully when the old PC is running the latest version of Windows XP, although it will work partially with Windows 2000. But there are other methods for people using older consumer versions of Windows, such as Windows 98 and Windows ME.

You can, of course, use a two-step process, copying your files to recordable CDs or to an external hard disk and then inserting the CDs into the Vista PC, or attaching the hard disk to it and moving the files over. You could also use a USB flash drive in the same manner. Or, if you are skilled at networking, you could move the files over a network.

However, there are also some cable solutions that will work with Windows 98 and Windows ME. For instance, the Tornado, the cable with the built-in manual file-copying software I discussed last week, works with versions of Windows back to the SE edition of Windows 98, though you need to install driver software for that version. More information is at www.thetornado.com.

Another product I reviewed last week, PCMover from LapLink, also works with older versions of Windows, albeit with different cables that LapLink sells, not the Easy Transfer cable. Information is at laplink.com. Another similar product that has worked for me in past tests is IntelliMover by Detto, at detto.com, which also comes with cables.

I am a Macintosh user and plan to buy a new Dell with Windows Vista. How can I move my programs and files from the old Mac to the new Dell?

Well, first of all, you can’t switch your Mac programs to the Dell. They won’t run on Windows. But nearly all of the common files used on a Mac, such as Microsoft Office documents, text files, pictures, songs and Adobe PDF files, will work fine on your Dell.

I don’t know of a simple, integrated cable-and-software solution for such a Mac-to-Windows migration. So you’ll likely have to use recordable CDs, or an external hard disk or USB flash drive. Just make sure to use drives that are formatted for Windows. Macs can read, and write to, such Windows drives, but Windows PCs can’t natively read, or write to, Mac-formatted drives.

I have a Mac running Windows via the Parallels virtual machine software. I am also running an older Windows PC, which I back up to an external disk drive. Can I plug the external drive into the Mac and copy the files into the Parallels environment?

Yes. A virtual Windows computer running on a Mac behaves just like a regular Windows computer, so you can indeed plug in an external hard disk and copy the files over. In addition, as I mentioned last week, the forthcoming new version of Parallels includes a utility called Transporter that will move the entire contents of a Windows PC into a virtual Windows machine running on a Mac. See parallels.com for details.

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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.

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