Dr Keyboard - Computing Answers You Can Understand
Dr Keyboard
Fact Sheets


Fact Sheet 6: Transferring data between computers

Firstly, a legal note: if you're transferring software, be aware that the license you have to use it probably only entitles you to use it on one machine at a time - you can't have it running on the new machine and the old one at the same time.

Installing that software should be as easy as inserting the original floppy or compact disc and re-running the set-up programme on your new machine. However, if you now have, say, an Apple Macintosh and your old machine was an Amstrad 8256, the old software will not run on the new machine. You may be able to buy a new or upgrade version which will do the job, but you might be unlucky.

What you might be able to do is transfer the data. For word processing files you can copy the files across to your new machine and start working, provided your new word processor can recognise the old file format. If it won't, check the 'Save as' list available on both programmes and find a mutually-compatible format - plain ASCII will work with any programme, and rich text format (RTF) works with most.

How you transfer them is more potentially more difficult. If both machines use the same size floppy disc, the problem is solved. If you have the common Amstrad three inch discs and want to transfer them to a machine with 3.5 inch discs, it's not as easy. You can buy a cable which will connect the serial ports on both machines, and transfer the files across one by one. Or you can use one of the many 'translation' agencies which will convert files not only between disc formats but also between file formats - say from Amstrad's LocoScript to Microsoft Word. They're not cheap, however - expect to pay something in the order of 20 to 30 or more per disc. LPS (020-7231-1376) are reputable and experienced in all format transfer matters.

You can also possibly install your old hard disc in your new machine - ask the company you're buying your new machine from if they'll do this for you if you don't feel up to it yourself. This will not only give you access to your old data but also all your old programmes.

Or you could opt to buy one of Iomega's external disc drives with interchangeable discs, either the 100MB or 250MB Zip or the two gigabyte Jaz. The external Zip, for example, can be plugged into the parallel (printer) ports of both machines and used to transfer files. Zips cost around 100, with each disc costing about 13. If you have a CD-Writer you could try using that, too, to transfer your files.

Under DOS and Windows you can use the in-built Interlink or Direct Cable Connection software or, if you're feeling even more ambitious, you could install a small home network between your old and new machines. You need two NE2000-compatible Ethernet cards, a suitable length of cable and an ability to read the Help files in Windows 95 which contains concise instructions on how to set up what's called a Peer-to-Peer network. The hardware can be bought for under 50.