How Do I Transfer Programs Between Computers?

By Margaret Worthington

During the process of upgrading computers or trying to switch from one to another, you may have wondered if there is a simple way to transfer all of the programs on one computer the other. The short answer to this question is that there is not a quick, simple way to do so; however, there are some strategies you can employ to make the transfer of software between computers as easy and painless as possible.

Uninstalling the Software

The best and quickest way to transfer software between computers is to just uninstall it on your first computer and install it on your second computer. Most software packages will handle this type of transfer just fine, but if you have software that requires a complicated registration scheme, you may have to go through more work.

Transferring Software with Complicated Registration Schemes

Software products like ArcGIS or Adobe CS4 require an unusual amount of activation steps before you can use them on a computer. This process makes it extremely difficult to transfer these programs (and ones like them) from one computer to another because once they are installed, you aren't expected to move them around much, if at all. The best thing to do in a situation like this is to just start uninstalling the program on one computer and installing it on another. Generally, there are deactivation sequences that you can go through with the software--either on your computer or over the phone with the software company--that will make the transfer process seamless. This process will involve deactivating the software on your first computer, installing it on your second computer and then activating it again. As long as this process is done correctly, there should be no registration issues.

Hard Drive Trick

If you are upgrading computers, then you may be able to get away with a little hardware trick. Be warned, this trick is not guaranteed and could result in damage to the data on your hard drive, so back up anything important before starting. If the computer you are transferring to has a similar hardware configuration as your first computer, you can try swapping the hard drives of the computers. This will leave all of your programs intact but may seriously confuse the Windows installation when you boot it up because it will see that all of the computer hardware has suddenly changed (even if the hardware is identical, there may be very small differences that confuse Windows).