Treasures left behind by Windows Easy Transfer

Windows Easy Transfer does a nice job of copying the personal files and folders from an old computer to a new one. Applications are not transferred and must be installed from scratch on the new machine. There is a gray area, some files that bridge the domain of personal files and applications, files that applications write and store for a variety of customizations. Those files, stored in a folder called “AppData” are not transferred by Windows Easy Transfer. These files might contain important and valuable data that users would miss on the new machine.

imageTo illustrate the situation, I will provide a couple of examples.

Windows Live Photo Gallery stores copies of the original photos whenever any changes, such as cropping or exposure corrections, are made. Timagehere is an option “Revert to original” that allows going back to the image before any changes were made. That is a very important and useful feature. The “originals”, really copies of the starting image, are stored in a normally hidden folder. Windows Live Photo Gallery provides access to this folder in the Options menu, under the “Originals” tab. When you open that folder it looks about like the illustration here. It does not really tell you where the folder or the files are. Clicking on the down arrowhead in the address bar, reveals the location: C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Photo Gallery\Original Images, where “username” is your name. The default for Live Photo Gallery is to store these copies of the originals indefinitely. If you want to move these images to your new machine you need to do so manually. There is no warning or other indication in Windows Easy Transfer that this situation exists and that these files will be left behind.

Now it may well be that these “originals” are not treasures to you but just trash. But if they are treasures, copy them to an external drive. Warning: If you have a large number of photos and have kept these originals, the space needed may be quite large, and I mean many gigabytes, so you may need a large external hard drive. The good news is that after you have installed Windows Live Photo Gallery on your new computer it will have created the folder for the originals. Open the folder as described above and copy the originals from the external device. Live Photo Gallery will work and be able to revert to the original – at least it did for me in all my tests.

Another example: When you customize Google Earth with location pushpins, photo links, or other features, it writes the appropriate data to “kml” files and saves them in your AppData folder. These files are not copied by Windows Easy Transfer. When you install Google Earth on your new machine, any customization you made in your old computer just is not there. The customization files are located in a folder deep inside your AppData folder on the old machine. Where did I find them in the first place? They where in the “Roaming” subfolder under Google Earth. I found that copying them to the same location on the new computer just did not work. So I created a new folder in My Documents and copied the files to that folder. Using the File > Open dialog in Google Earth I could add my kml files and now Google Earth on the new computer shows my “treasures”.


My recommendation is that you keep your old computer with all that is on it until you have installed all your application on the new one and tested them out. Most programs are easily configured and will create the needed data that they store in the AppData folders.

Much of what is left behind in the AppData folders is indeed trash, but there may be some treasures that you will want to find and move to your new machine.

Other posts about Windows Easy Transfer:

Windows Easy Transfer, moving to new computer, moving files, AppData, application data

Moving to a new computer using Windows Easy Transfer

© 2011 Ludwig Keck


About Ludwig

Lending a helping hand where I can. . . My motto: If it is worth doing, it is worth doing well.
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7 Responses to Treasures left behind by Windows Easy Transfer

  1. Pingback: Moving to a new computer using Windows Easy Transfer | This 'n That

  2. Pingback: Moving disks, folders and files with Windows Easy Transfer | This 'n That

  3. Tom says:

    Ludwig, I found your post with a google search for [windows easy transfer appdata], because I had the same issue as you! But some of the other results showed that we’re just missing something. Apparently if you click “Customize” when making the backup, you _can_ select folders from AppData, or the whole AppData folder. I don’t know about the other hard disk stuff as I am not dealing with that, but you should maybe add this into your post since others might miss it.

    • Ludwig says:

      The site has a lot of very helpful information. Thank you, Tom, for bringing it to my attention.

      • Tom says:

        It turns out I solved your other issue too about having other hard drives dump to C:. If you hit “Advanced” in Windows Easy Transfer on the New Computer, it has two tabs, the first one says “Where do you want each account to go?”, which really helps since you can choose to have it make a new account instead of dump to the current, and the second says “Where do you want the files from the other hard drive to go?”. It doesn’t look like you can make subfolders for D, E, and so on, but if you catch it you should be able to realize it before it happens and maybe just customize the restore to not include the secondary hard disks.

        I was so used to USMT in Windows XP that this was all weird to me, but now that I’ve messed with it it’s not so bad.

  4. Luis R says:

    This is a gray area. Just used Windows Easy Transfer to transfer my settings and personal files from one computer to a new one but both have Windows 7 64-bit. I manually selected a lot of stuff for the transfer in hopes of transferring settings for a ton of programs that were listed but would not be selected in the default setting. To my surprise, a few programs were actually transfered and worked perfectly with Google Earth being one of them. But there is a catch. They don’t appear in the list of installed programs in the Control Panel. In the case of Google Earth, it is easy to transfer the customized places (My Places folder) by simply right-clicking on the My Places item and saving it in a kml file which is easy to import later.

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