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date 8.Nov.2021

■ Transfer documents from an old laptop over your WiFi router

I try to hold on to the same laptop for as long as I can, but once every five years or so things start going funny, slow and unreliable, so it's time for a new laptop. The exitement of new hardware is quickly eclipsed once you start reinstalling tons of apps, developer software, virtual machines... You don't want to go through such hassle every day! Then of course come the documents, music, photo collections etc that must be moved from the old laptop to the new one. This blog should help you with this latter errand.

There are various methods to get the old files onto the new laptop, e.g. via a USB stick, or through cloud storage. However these methods are straightforward and don't need much explaining. Instead I will explain step by step how you setup your home network and copy the files without cables. Here are the ingredients:

You gain access to the various network property pages using your start menu and its search capabilities. Many times there are main ways to access the same settings, shared among "old school" control panel windows and some metro style new settings dialogs.

◪ STEP 1. Enable local network file sharing
For both the old and new laptop, you must setup a private network connection that allows file sharing. We begin with right clicking on the wifi icon on the taskbar
wifi properties
and pick the menu command Open network and internet settings. This will give you access to the properties of the wifi connection. Tick the Private network profile, meaning that you trust it to enable more open access. Remember to do this for both laptops.

network profile

Next open the regular control panel, find the Network and Sharing Center and click on Advanced sharing settings. Assuming you are connected to your home wifi, it will show as the current private profile, and you tick the following highlited options, that include "turn on network discovery" and "turn on file and printer sharing". Perhaps these options are already enabled, otherwise you must enable them and click Save Changes button.

That should be all for setting up your home wireless network. I assume that you haven't changed the default workgroup name; if you have, make sure both laptops have the same workgroup name.

◪ STEP 2. Share the folders to be copied
This is for the old laptop, where the source files are stored. If you keep all your personal files into My Documents folder, then that's the only one you need to share. If you have documents stored in other locations too, just repeat the sharing for all of them. Right click on the folder(s) to be shared and pick Give access to > specific people menu command. Older windows versions called this menu Share with.

Here add the username you login with in the new laptop to assign access rights. I always give myself the same name on all my computers since college, one less thing to worry about.

◪ STEP 3. Transfer documents from old to new laptop
If everything was setup properly, when you run xplorer² on the new laptop, it should be able to see the old one (\\ZTOSHIBA in this example) under the Network folder tree node. In there you should be able to see all the folders shared in STEP 2 above. Point the inactive xplorer² pane to the destination folder, and copy the folders using <F5> key.

network access

After all this, you will invariably notice that wireless file transfer over wifi is very slow (I saw 2.5MB/sec), meaning that it will take ages to grab the old files. You may see an improvement if you connect the 2 laptops with RJ45 cable and use the wifi router as a traditional cable network hub.

And the morale of the story: If you connect a decent USB3 external hard disk, the transfer speed will be 10 times faster, so even if you have to do it 2 times (copy from old then copy to new laptop), you are still 5 times better off doing it the "low tech" way. It will also save you from network setup headaches like your antivirus or firewall making things harder or impossible to connect. So was this a waste of a blog post? You tell me <g>

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