What is Windows Easy Transfer & How to Backup Your Data for Transfer

Windows Easy Transfer is a great tool, included in all recent versions of Windows, which allows you to transfer data between computers and Windows operating systems. Let's say you want to upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 7 or from Windows 7 to Windows 8 - Windows Easy Transfer is the tool you can use to migrate your important files and settings. It works when transferring data between operating systems on the same computer but also when transferring between different computers. This tutorial will explain how Windows Easy Transfer works and how to make a backup of your data so that you can transfer it on another computer and/or operating system.

The Types of Data Backed up by Windows Easy Transfer

Windows Easy Transfer tries to be a helpful tool by backing up all or almost all of your important files and folders:

  • The default Windows libraries: Documents, Music, Pictures, Videos and Downloads;
  • Program settings for most of your programs - depending on how certain programs store their settings, they might make it into the backup or not. Also, older programs, storing their settings using ".ini" files in their installation directory, instead of the standard Windows folders, will not have their settings backed up & migrated;
  • Your Windows Settings: shortcuts, desktop backgrounds, sounds scheme, etc;
  • The user files and folders, for each user account defined on your computer. They will include saved games (for games that store their saves in a user's saved games folder), Internet Explorer favorites, virtual machines, the files found on your desktop, the contents of the user's shared folders, etc.

One thing to remember is that Windows Easy Transfer does not transfer your installed programs. Before making a transfer, you should write down all the applications you want to migrate over, manually download their latest versions and installed them yourself on the new computer and/or operating system.

How to find Windows Easy Transfer

To open Windows Easy Transfer, open the Start Menu and go to Accessories -> System Tools.

Alternatively you can search for easy transfer in the Start Menu search box and click on the Windows Easy Transfer search result.

If you still can't find it, use our Library of Windows 7 Shortcuts, andd use the shortcut we shared there.

Backing up Settings, Files and Folders with Windows Easy Transfer

Windows Easy Transfer is actually a wizard with steps you go through to make a backup of the things you want to transfer to another computer and/or Windows operating system. In the first window, press Next.

Next, you can choose the transfer method of the data between computers and/or operating systems. Since transfer cables are not that common plus network transfers can be slow, the most reliable and speedy method is to use an external hard disk or USB flash drive. In case you really want to use a transfer cable, here's a cheap and good option: Belkin Easy Transfer Cable for Windows.

This tutorial will continue using "An external hard disk or USB flash drive".

Next, you are asked which computer you are using now. Choose "This is my old computer".

Now Windows Easy Transfer starts scanning all the user accounts defined on your computer.

Once the scan is done, Windows Easy Transfer starts estimating the space you will need to back up your data. Wait a bit more until you see the space estimates.

At first, you might be scared by the space estimates you are given. Apparently, all the data in my user account needs a total of 570.6GB of space for making a backup. Well, if you are scared by the numbers shown, don't worry. You do not need to backup everything. First, click on Customize to see an overview.

As you can see, Windows Easy Transfer tries to backup everything. Since I already have backups for music, pictures, videos and other stuff that takes a lot of space, I will uncheck most of it. What I really want to have transferred are application settings and saved games from several games that don't use the standard Saved Games folder. Unfortunately, most games do not use that folder. How do I find them and make sure they get transferred? Read on to find out.

First, click on Advanced.

NOTE: If you are not interested in making a lot of configuration, simply click Next and ignore the instructions given for the next two screenshots.

Under your user folder, you can see all the sub-folders included in the backup. Deselect those you don't want included and select those which you do.

Regarding saved games, they are generally found in the AppData->Local sub-folder, under your user's folder. There, I selected all the folders which had game names or the names of companies producing the games I played.

When you are done making folder selections, click the Save button.

As you can see, my space requirements for making the transfer have decreased significantly, to only 1.4GB. To continue, press Next.

You are now asked to type a password used to protect your backup. Type it once in each field, make sure you remember it and press Save.

Windows Easy Transfer now asks where to store the data being backed up. Everything will be included in a single file with the extension ".MIG", from migration. Select the appropriate location on your USB hard disk or memory stick and press Save.

The backup process will take a while. If you have lots of items to backup, expect it to take a long time. Once finished, you are notified by Windows Easy Transfer. Press Next.

You are now being asked to open Windows Easy Transfer on your new computer and import the items you saved on it. Obvious, isn't it?

Well... press Next.

Finally, everything is done when it comes to backing up your data for transfer. Press the Close button to finish everything with Windows Easy Transfer on this computer.


As you can see, making a backup of your data with Windows Easy Transfer is not that difficult, just time consuming. It does take some configuration to make sure files, folders and settings you need are included, but it does its work well and you don't have to pay money for commercial alternatives. If you have any questions about this tool, don't hesitate to leave a comment.