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How to use the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard (FAST) in Windows XP and Windows Easy Transfer in Windows Vista and Win7

The Files and Settings Transfer Wizard is a very handy tool that can be used to save files and/or settings in order to transfer them from any computer running a version of Windows 95/98/Me to a computer running Windows XP. The Help & Support information provided for the the tool by Windows XP is not very informative or helpful, hence this article, which is intended to make good its deficiency.

I have used the abbreviation FAST to refer to it in this article. It is possible to create custom FAST files, so the utility can be used to create what are effectively custom back-ups of files and settings. But note that the destination of a file and/or setting transfer has has to be a computer running Windows XP. You can use it to save files and/or settings for your copy of Windows XP and then restore them if the computer suffers from an incurable system crash.

Using Windows Easy Transfer to save files and settings on a PC before you install Windows Vista/Win7/Win8 on the same PC or a new one

Instead of the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard that is used with Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 provide the Windows Easy Transfer, which allows you to copy all your files and settings automatically to an extra hard disk drive or other storage device (flash drive, recordable disc) and then install Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8. It saves the files and settings on your upgraded PC or other storage device/disc and then reinstalls them after Vista/Win7/Win8 has been installed. Unfortunately, all of your applications, programs, tools, etc. will have to be reinstalled from their installation media or CD/DVDs in order to register them with the Windows Registry.

Can Windows Easy Transfer be used to transfer files and settings between Windows XP and Windows 7 64-bit or Windows 7 32-bit and Windows 7 64-bit?


Not so long ago, I used Windows Easy Transfer successfully to transfer Windows XP's files and settings to Windows 7 Home Premium on a new PC. Can it be used to transfer the same files and settings from 32-bit Win7 to 64-bit Win7 on the same PC?

I have just upgraded that PC's motherboard, processor and RAM memory, but no matter what I tried, I couldn't get past the loading of the RAID or ACPI drivers - 32- or 64-bit. The Win7 64-bit installation gave an error message after loading the drivers when I tried to install it on the C: drive. I phoned Microsoft's technical support, but, trust my luck, they couldn't find my Product Key on their system and implied that I had purchased a pirate copy and hung up on me. Sweet Jesus, I can't tell you how much that pissed me off, because I have a genuine retail copy of Win7 purchased from Amazon itself, not from one of its Marketplace sellers. Nevertheless, I installed 32-bit Win7 without any special drivers and the system activated and was validated using that same Product Key.


Windows Easy Transfer (WET) should work to transfer all of your data and settings from Win7 32-bit to Win7 64-bit on the same PC and should work even better transferring from Windows XP to Win7 64-bit. Apparently, Microsoft has improved the tool. However, it is not possible to transfer from a 64-bit version of Windows to a higher 32-bit version. This is what Microsoft says:

"Windows Easy Transfer can't transfer files from a 64-bit version of Windows to a 32-bit version of Windows. If you're transferring from a 64-bit version of Windows Vista to a 32-bit version of Windows 7, you can move your files manually, or use Backup and Restore in Windows Vista. For more information, see Back up your files and Restore a backup created on a previous version of Windows on the Windows website. If you're transferring from a 64-bit version of Windows XP, you'll need to move your files manually." -

Note that WET can be used to transfer files and settings to a new Windows 8 PC.

How To Transfer Files, Settings & User Profiles From Windows 7 To Windows 8 [Guide] -

Note well that WET does not transfer most applications, programs or tools, because their entries have to be installed in Win7's Registry and only the installation process can do that, so all of them that require Registry entries to function will have to be reinstalled. When moving from 32-bit to 64-bit or vice versa, this includes WET selecting the proper DLLs and other support files for the new "bitedness". Luckily, WET also helps you to remember which applications were installed on the previous system, provides some guidance in the reinstallation and, in many cases, even helps with restoring your tweaks.

When making the transfer on a single PC, you can simplify the process even more if you have sufficient hard-disk space. For example, you could store WET's output from the first version of Windows (XP or 32-bit Win7 on an unused partition on the hard drive and them make WET import from there into the new version of Windows (Win7 64-bit in your case). That way there is no need to use a flash/pen drive or CD/DVD disc as a temporary storage facility.

Remember not to use WET to transfer Outlook data if you use Outlook, because doing so usually corrupts the Outlook Mail profile.

Click here! to go to more information about Windows Easy Transfer on this site. Use your browser's Back button to return to this point on this page.

How To Transfer Files, Settings & User Profiles From Windows 7 To Windows 8 [Guide] -

Windows Easy Transfer [Windows 7] -

Transferring files and settings: frequently asked questions -

Applies to Vista Home Basic, Vista Home Premium, Vista Business, Vista Enterprise, Vista Ultimate. -

You need to know how to run the FAST wizard from within Windows XP in order to import the file containing the files and settings, and you need to know how to run the FAST wizard from the Windows XP CD or from a specially created Wizard (floppy) Disk in order to be able to obtain the files and settings that you want to store and then transfer. Those are the two means used to export the file that the FAST wizard creates to another computer - or to the same computer if it's a clean installation of XP that you're performing).

1. - To open the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard, click Start => All Programs => Accessories => System Tools, and then click Files and Settings Transfer Wizard.

2. - To use the FAST wizard from the Windows XP CD, insert it in the applicable computer's CD/DVD drive and allow it to bring up its Welcome window. Select the Perform additional tasks option. In the next window select Transfer files and settings.

Alternatively, you can create a Wizard Disk (floppy disk) from within Windows XP, and the use it instead of the original Windows XP CD. To create such a floppy disk, run FAST by following the instructions under point 1. above. The option to create the floppy disk appears in the third window.

The FAST wizard's opening Welcome to the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard window says that not only Windows files and settings can be transferred. You can transfer settings for Internet Explorer and Outlook Express, and display (monitor) settings.

It also says that the best ways in which to effect a transfer is to use a direct cable connection or a network. However, FAST data (.dat) files are usually very large and a direct cable connection between two computers uses a cable connected between the slow legacy serial ports that some computers no longer have. In any case, the transfer would take hours. It's still true that transferring FAST data (.dat) files across a network is the best option, but, if I wanted to transfer a FAST file from an old to a new computer, I would save the file on the old computer's hard drive (if the old and the new computer are using the same FAT32 or NTFS file system), remove it and install it in the new computer. Both of the computers have to be using the same file system, because FAT32 and NTFS aren't compatible with each other.

The FAST wizard or the Wizard Disk can be run on an old system. It can collect and save the files and settings on the old computer so that they can be transferred to a new computer. When upgrading to Windows XP from an earlier version instead of performing a clean installation, you can save the files and settings from the old computer so that they aren't lost should the upgrade go wrong.

Performing an upgrade installation that builds the new version of Windows on top of the old one is not supposed to lose or change any files or settings, but it's never possible to know exactly what might happen. If you run the FAST wizard and the upgrade installation fails for some reason, you can perform a clean installation of Windows XP and then import the saved files and settings to it.

When using FAST while upgrading to XP or performing a clean installation of XP on the same computer, make sure that you place the export file that FAST creates in a safe place so that you don't receive a message saying that it's missing when you try to import it.

When the FAST wizard says: Select a transfer method, choose the Floppy Drive or other removable media option to burn it to a CD/DVD FAST can span multiple CDs on most CD/DVD burners.

The Other option saves the file to another partition or drive on the computer on which the FAST wizard is running, but not to the C: drive, because it is either going to be formatted for a clean installation, or Windows XP is going to be upgraded on that drive, during which it will change the settings.

Note that the FAST wizard can use any removable USB hard drive of flash drive instead of a floppy disk. A Compact Flash memory card or other flash memory card along with a card reader can be used instead of a floppy disk if the old computer doesn't have a floppy disk drive. All that is required is a little over a megabyte (MB) of disk space. When you run the FAST wizard on the old computer a screen comes up that says: Do you have a Windows XP CD. You must then select the option called I want to create a Wizard Disk.

There is a drop-down menu that shows the floppy drive option as the top option. Any removable USB drive attached to a computer appears in the drop-down menu. Select it to make the Wizard Disk on that USB drive. Instructions on how to use the FAST wizard (that can be printed) are provided further down this page.

If you have a network set up with available hard-drive space on another computer, then you can use the Other option to save the FAST data file across the network to a hard drive on that computer.

The FAST wizard can be as a back-up utility. It stores almost everything that is unique or has been added to the initial installation of Windows XP. It doesn't do as good a job as some high-end backup utilities, but it does save everything that has been changed, therefore the file it produces is very large. With suitable access to recent export FAST file, it's possible to perform a clean installation of Windows XP on a system after a major crash, reinstall all of the applications, and then import all of the settings, account information, and all the files that you have added since XP was first installed.

What FAST supports

FAST can be used with all of the versions of Windows from Windows 95 to Windows XP, but Windows XP is the only supported destination for the transfer of files and settings. It can't be used to transfer files and settings from one computer running, say, Windows 98 to another computer running that version or another version of Windows.

FAST can transfer files and settings even if no upgrade is permitted from the original system - e.g., from Windows 95 to Windows XP.

FAST supports burning to CDs or DVDs. A quick way to test if you can use recordable discs is to attempt to access the CD/DVD drive from the Command Prompt. If that is possible, it burning FAST's information to CD/DVD media should work. Moreover, FAST should be able to span more than one disc. However, if you discover that disc-spanning doesn't work, save the file on your hard drive and burn it to CDs or DVDs from there.

FAST recognises many applications, including MS Office 97 and the files of newer versions of MS Office. If you discover that it doesn't detect the files of certain applications, browsers, or an ISP such as AOL, manually add any folder that contains files that you definitely want to transfer.

By performing a Custom Transfer, it's possible to back up the settings for one specific program or one folder, such as My Documents, or even one specific File Type.

Multiple User Accounts

With regard to the transfer of the files and settings of multiple User Accounts, FAST can transfer the files and settings that are visible to it from the particular User Account from which it is being run.

All of the files are collected, but the private settings from the User Accounts that aren't logged in to are not collected.

People using Windows XP with multiple User Accounts have reported that the only way to move multiple account settings is as follows.

1. - Create a FAST transfer file that includes all of the files and settings that you want to transfer - on a global basis - with you logged on as the Administrator instead of being logged in to a User Account.

2. - Log in to each of the other User Accounts, and create a separate Settings only transfer file for it.

3. - Set up each User Account manually on the computer to which you are making the transfer. Then, log in to each individual User Account and import the transfer file containing the Settings only data for that account. You should find that all of the settings can be transferred by using this method.

Some notable information on the FAST wizard

1. - Unless you're already using the latest version of Windows XP, it is advisable to use the latest version of FAST. The best way to do that is to install the Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) update (which incorporates Service Pack 1 (SP1), after installing XP from its original CD. At the very least install all of the Critical Updates from Microsoft Update. Those actions ensure that you're using the latest code.

You can then make a Wizard (floppy) Disk to use instead of the original version from the Windows XP CD. Note that the option to create such a floppy disk doesn't appear when the FAST wizard is run from the Windows XP CD.

If you don't have access to the SP1 or SP2 updates, you can probably make successful use of the FAST wizard that is on the Windows XP CD that predates the Service Packs.

2. - Passwords are obviously not transferred when you import files and settings from a previous installation of Windows XP. For more information read the MS Knowledge Base article called Passwords Are Not Migrated by the Files & Settings Transfer Wizard or User State Migration Tool (283734).

3. - A hard drive cannot be excluded from the selection process. The FAST wizard searches all of the available partitions on all of the installed hard drives for the type of information you have selected. Hiding a partition of drive doesn't prevent that from happening. The only method you can use to exclude a drive from the process is to disconnect it before running the FAST wizard. The option to exclude hard drives will probably be introduced into Windows sooner or later.

4. - The monitor's screen resolution might not transfer. If so, the screen probably won't appear as you like it, but that can be sorted out in the usual way via Display Properties by right-clicking an empty space on the Windows desktop and then clicking Properties in the menu that presents itself. For more information read the MS Knowledge Base article called Display Resolution Is Not Migrated by the Files & Settings Transfer Wizard or the User State Migration Tool (302763).

5. - FAST doesn't support exporting more than 63,000 files. Multimedia files, such as sound files, images, or video files, are usually very large compared to data files. Moreover, they can't be compressed much, if at all, because they are already in a compressed state, and so add most of their whole sizes to the eventual size of the FAST export file. The more of them there are, the larger the size of FAST export file.

6. - In case you are wondering what the User State Migration Tool (USMT) mentioned above is, it's a version of FAST for administrators on a Microsoft server-based domain, which means that it is only used in Windows XP Professional, because the Windows XP Home Edition cannot connect to a network domain. It has all of the functionality of the FAST wizard, but it also permits administrators to customise specific settings by making unique modifications to the Windows Registry. It is designed for network administrators only. Individual users don't have the right to use the USMT, Moreover, it requires a client computer that is connected to a Windows server-based domain controller. For more information on it, read the MS Knowledge Base article called Description of the User State Migration Tool for Windows XP Professional (321197).

7. - If you use the FAST wizard to back-up an Outlook Express Identity, delete or rename the main Outlook Express folder under Program Files before restoring the files and settings, otherwise all of your mail and news folders will be restored into the existing files, resulting in each message in each of the relevant OE folders (Inbox, Outbox, Sent Items, etc.) being duplicated. You would have to delete the duplicates manually, or make use of a program such as DBXtend. -

DBXtend was still available at the time of writing (July 2006), but the improved program is now called OEX. -

Outlook Express has been replaced by Windows Mail in Windows Vista ( in Windows 7 it is Windows Live Mail).

Windows Mail [Vista]-

Windows Live Mail [Windows 7] -

Troubleshooting a saved FAST file

As with back-up files, or files burned to CD/DVD discs, you should always make sure that the FAST file that you have created was saved properly (isn't corrupt). The best method to do that is to import the new file to the system from which it was saved. To do that click Start => All Programs => Accessories => System Tools => Files and Settings Transfer Wizard and make it import the file. You'll see the following error message if the file has been corrupted in any way: The location that you specified does not contain any stored information. This message means that the saved file is corrupt, cannot be recovered, and that you should start the whole process from the beginning.

If you can repeat the process for some reason, a very powerful tool called the Fastconv Extraction Tool can extract information from a corrupted FAST file. You can read information about it and obtain a download link to it from here: Dealing with corrupt Files and Settings Transfer Wizard (F.A.S.T) image -

How to use the FAST wizard to obtain the files and settings from an existing installation of Windows XP

It would be a good idea to copy and print these instructions before you run the FAST wizard.

1. - Run the FAST wizard under Accessories => System Tools. The Welcome window comes up. Click the Next button. The new window has a heading that asks Which computer is this? There are two selectable options: New computer and Old computer.

Even though you're using FAST in your current computer, choose the option called Old Computer to collect data. The Please wait window should appear. There won't be any indication on the screen that the wizard is in action. As long as you can see the IDE light on the front of the computer flickering, the wizard is busy working.

2. - Now you have to select how and where to save the data: FAST data (.dat) files are usually very large, so you can't use floppy disks unless you're performing a Custom Transfer that involves a very small amount of data. Click the Next button. The window that comes up has a heading that says: Select a transfer method. There are three options: Direct cable, Floppy drive or other removable media, and Other.

Note that Windows XP SP2 adds a fourth option to the Select a transfer method window called Home or small office network.

The Other option is probably the best one for the needs of most people. It is shown selected in the image below.

The Files and Settings Transfer Wizard  window that provides the options of where to save a FAST data file

Save the FAST .dat file to a partition or drive on the computer on which you are running FAST (other than the C: drive). In the above image, a folder created on the G: drive called FAST is the destination. Using a different hard drive is the best destination in case things go wrong on the drive containing the C: drive's partition. If you have the computer on a network, save the .dat file to a drive on another computer on the network.

Click the Next button.

A window comes up that presents several options. The Settings only option requires only two or three floppy disks, because settings don't take up much space. However, the Both files and settings option usually results in a very large amount of data, so don't use it unless you need to back up the files.

The settings you want to transfer are manually selected under the heading: Based on your current selection, the following items will be transferred.

Note that when the Files only option is selected when performing FAST on Windows XP, HTML files associated with Internet Explorer are not transferred, because they are transferred with Internet Explorer, not Windows XP. However, HTML files associated with another program, such as the Dreamweaver website designing application, are transferred. Zip files (files with a .zip extension) are not transferred unless they are in a specific Chosen folder.

Performing a custom FAST transfer

To perform a custom transfer, place a check with the mouse in the box shown in the image above (in the lower left hand corner), and then click the Next button.

There are three options. You can select specific Settings, say, for Outlook Express, Specific folders, or File Types.

In other words, by removing all the listed programs for which you do not want to transfer the settings, you can select specific settings, for instance, only the settings for a specific program. You can also remove all of the settings and then select, say, a single folder, such as My Documents. You can also select one or more specific file types, or any mixture of the three options. You can add any folder that contains files that you definitely want to transfer in case FAST leaves them out. You can create several sets of transfers, each of which treats a program in different ways.

After you have made your selection, clicking the Next button starts the Collection Phase. How long it takes depends on how much data you have selected for collection.

Some programs require special treatment. For example, if you select programs that have to be installed on the computer before the settings are installed, the FAST wizard brings up a list of them with a warning message.

After you have made your choices, clicking the Next button, starts the Collection Phase, which can take a long time, depending on how fast the computer is and how much data is involved in the transfer.

The FAST wizard saves the collected data automatically to a folder as a numbered file with .dat extension. Note that if the A file already exists. Do you want to overwrite it? message comes up, it means that a file by that name already exists. If you click the Yes option, the existing file will be overwritten. You should only overwrite the file if you're sure that you don't want to lose its contents.

How to Import FAST files to the same computer or to a new computer

Open the FAST wizard (Start => All Programs => System Tools) on the computer running Windows XP to which you are transferring the files and settings.

Click the Next button in the Welcome window. Select the New computer option in the new window - headed with Which computer is this? - and click its Next button.

The window that comes up is headed by Do you have a Windows XP CD? Since you have already collected the files and/or settings, you can just place a check mark the last selection in this window, which says: I don't need the Wizard Disk. I have already collected my files and settings from my old computer.

Click that window's Next button. You can just click the Next button on the window that comes up with the heading Now go to your old computer.

A window presents itself that has this heading: Where are the files and settings? In this example, the files and settings were saved to a folder on drive G: called FAST, so you have to make use of the Browse facility of the last option called Other to browse to that folder.

Click the Next button in that window to initiate the transfer. A window comes up with Transfer in progress... on it that provides the usual upload/download graphical display of the transfer's progress.

When the transfer is completed, a window comes up telling you that the process is over. You just have to click the Finish button and you're done.

MS Knowledge Base articles on the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard

Click on an article's reference number in the table below to go to that article on Microsoft's site.

HOW TO: Use Files & Settings Transfer Wizard in Windows XP
HOW TO: Use the Files & Settings Transfer Wizard with a Wizard Disk in Windows XP
HOW TO: Use the Files & Settings Transfer Wizard By Using the Windows XP CD-ROM
Files & Settings Are Not Transferred When You Use the Files & Settings Transfer Wizard
Passwords Are Not Migrated by the Files & Settings Transfer Wizard or User State Migration Tool
Display Resolution Is Not Migrated by the Files & Settings Transfer Wizard or the User State Migration Tool
"Home or Small Network" Option Is Unavailable in the Files & Settings Transfer Wizard [Applies only to Windows XP SP2]
How to Troubleshoot Issues with the User State Migration Tool & the Files & Settings Transfer Wizard

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