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by JB Burke

Q. My Vista laptop fell, and the screen no longer works. It boots and runs with an external monitor. The laptop is several years old, so I will get a new one rather than have repairs done. How do I recreate my computing environment on the new Windows 7 laptop?

A. It isn't fun to rebuild on a new system, but you'll come out ahead in the long run. The new system will be faster, and Windows 7 has advantages over Vista – it boots faster, UAC (User Account Control) isn't as annoying, home networking is simplified, etc.

First, you should get an external (USB) hard drive – that will be used to backup your data (photos, word documents, email, spreadsheets, etc.), program settings and user account details from the injured laptop. Do that promptly, while the old laptop still operates. The fall could still show up in further damage – possibly causing the hard drive to fail. You can get an external hard drive at Costco, BestBuy, Sam's Club, etc. I suggest a 1TB (terabyte) or 2TB drive so you will have space for its long term use – backing up your system to prevent other future tragedies.

Next download a free program, Windows Easy Transfer for Vista, from Microsoft. Install that on your Vista computer and run it. It will let you chose what to transfer to the new system and what to ignore. It will write that data to your external hard drive.

Next attach the external hard drive to the new computer and run Windows Easy Transfer again (it's already on your new computer – just click the Start icon, and type "easy transfer"). Follow the instructions shown to restore all those files and settings to the new computer. Note – you will need to install your own applications on the new computer. Windows Easy Transfer doesn't do that for you – but as I said, it will migrate your application settings. So when you run those applications, they should look just like they did on your old computer. You can search "Windows Easy Transfer" online for more detailed instructions.

Published: Courier 5/20/12 - Page 5C