( dpa )- There are times when changes in your life - leaving a job, school, or striking out on your own - will necessitate figuring out how to package up all of your important data to take with you. And if you've been using one PC for a long time, chances are good that you have lots of data you'd rather not lose. When you arrive at your new location - and settle in with your new PC - you'll save hours, if not days, by having packed up your data as carefully as you might pack a suitcase full of life-long possessions. Here's a step-by-step guide.
Move your bookmarks
For most people, Internet bookmarks are more than just a casual collection of sites that they've stumbled upon. They're the result of years of carefully culling through what's available online to arrive at those sites that are essential to getting through whatever your day has to offer. So it makes good sense to know how to package them up and move them to a new PC.
If you're going to carry a USB key or other portable storage device to get your data from the old computer to the new, then exporting your existing bookmarks may make the most sense. You can use your Web browser to do this.
With Internet Explorer, open the File menu, and select Import and Export. The Import/Export wizard will appear. Click Next, and then select Export Favourites from the following screen. You'll then be given a chance to choose which favourites (or bookmarks) you'd like to select. Just choose the default folder, and all of your bookmarks will be exported. On the following panel, you should select the location on the external drive to which you will save your bookmarks. After that, your bookmarks will be exported. Just reverse the procedure when you get to your new computer.
With Firefox , you'll need to open the Bookmarks menu and then select Organize Bookmarks. Doing so opens the Bookmarks Manager, a new window from which you can perform all kinds of maintenance tasks on your bookmarks, including importing and exporting. To export your Firefox bookmarks, go to the File menu, and select Export. You'll then need to select a location for the bookmarks, and click Save. All of your bookmarks will be saved to a standard html file, which you can copy to any portable storage device and then import into your new computer using the same Bookmarks Manager dialog box.
These days, you can also store your bookmarks online and retrieve them from whichever computer you're using. Google, Yahoo, and MSN all offer online bookmark storage to those who have an account, which is free. Of the three, MSN's Windows Live Favourites (http://favourites.live.com) site is the easiest to use. Without having to install a separate toolbar, you can sign in to the site and upload your bookmarks in a single click. Once uploaded, they can be referenced from or downloaded to any computer, anywhere, so long as you have your user name and password.
Packing up your e-mail
Don't forget your e-mail! You probably have years' worth of e-mail stored on your computer. Some of it you'll no doubt need to have at your disposal in the future.
While you can export your e-mail files using the export feature in your e-mail application, it makes good sense to invest a small amount in a program that automates the procedure. That's because a lot can go wrong in exporting and importing e-mail and other information typically stored in e-mail programs today.
AJ Systems' Eazy Backup 4 (http://ajsystems.com/ezb.html) will back up everything from most popular e-mail programs and put it all in one file, which you can then restore to your new computer with the help of the same program. Rinjanisoft's EZ Backup for Outlook (http://www.rinjanisoft.com/ezbackup.html) creates a nifty executable file containing all of your e-mail and contact information. You can take the file to a new computer, run it, and not even need to have the EZ Backup program installed in order to restore your data. Rinjanisoft also makes Presto Transfer (http://www.rinjanisoft.com/prestotransfer.html), which can be used in the same way to back up files from most popular programs, e-mail or not.
Moving important files
Go through all of your applications, one by one, and make sure you know where files are stored on your hard drive. If you always use default settings in Windows, then it's like that all of your files are stored in the folder called My Documents in XP or simply Documents in Vista.
In Vista, this folder is easy to find. Just open the Start menu, select Computer, and then click the Documents link under Favourite Links. All of your documents will appear to the right. Select everything (Ctrl-A), and then copy the entire contents to an external drive.
In XP, you can do the same thing, except from the Start menu, you'll select the entry called My Documents. When you click My Documents, a folder will open that contains all of the files and folders that store your files, so long as you didn't change the default locations in any of the programs themselves. Copy the contents of this folder to an external drive, and then copy the data back when you get to your new PC.
Storing your stuff
Up to this point we've talked about taking your files with you by means of portable USB flash drive or another type of external, portable storage. The only trouble with that method is that you'll have one more piece of equipment to keep track of as you wind your way to your new location - and your new PC. You also run the risk of losing everything if something should happen to your portable storage.
There's possibly a better way, especially if you don't have gobs of data to move. Open up a free account with an online storage site such as Mozy (http://mozy.com). Mozy gives you two gigabytes (GB) of storage space for free. Or if you have a free Gmail account from Google, you can use the Gmail Drive Shell Extension (http://www.viksoe.dk/code/gmail.htm) to turn the gigabyte-plus storage space normally allowed for e-mail into what looks like a normal drive to your Windows system. With online storage, you can just copy your backed up bookmarks and data to the drive, move to your new computer, and then reimport everything from the online repository.