Getting a new computer can be a hassle if you’ve got lots of programs left behind on your old one. You would think that using a drive image program to copy everything from the old drive to DVD or other storage medium would work just fine. Surprise!

It works fine, all right, but only to restore your old computer back to a point when everything was working well. It won’t copy the programs of the old computer onto the new one.

What about using one of those transfer programs? You know, the ones that advertise they can move everything from your old computer over to the new one. Well, they can move a lot of stuff over, but in our experience — which goes back a long way — they never, ever, move everything. In fact, they always fail to move the very program that you really wanted. Very mysterious.

Another thing that doesn’t work is to take the hard drive out of your old computer, connect it to your new computer, and then run your old programs on the new computer. Small programs will work, but anything like Microsoft Office or Photoshop cannot be run from an external drive.

The good news about taking the hard drive out of your old computer is you certainly no longer have to worry that someone can figure out how to hack into it and get your data, because they won’t have it. The other good news is all the data that was on that drive is still on that drive and you can connect it to the new computer’s USB port and read it and even store it back there. There are several companies that make devices and enclosures for connecting old hard drives to new computers. Do a search on “hard drive enclosures” or “reconnecting old hard drives” and you will come up with several. We like to remove the hard drive when getting rid of an old computer and have a couple of enclosures to keep them. When plugged in to a new computer, all their information is still there. Some drive enclosures are “hot swappable.” That means you can swap old hard drives in and out of the enclosure and read them on the fly, so to speak. If you have a new computer with a USB 3 port, take a look at NewerTech’s SuperSpeed USB 3 Universal Drive Adapter. It transfers data at 300 megabytes per second. 

But what about you old beloved Microsoft Office, or some other giant program you only use to tote up the month’s expenses and write a note? After all, it was expensive. Well, why not just forget about that one? You can get free programs very much like MS Word, Excel and PowerPoint from OpenOffice.org and KingsoftStore.com. Those programs have been run and tested for years. Free is always nice.

When it comes to free anti-virus programs, we like Avast or Kingsoft Anti-Virus. Anti-Malware from Malwarebytes.org is a good one for spyware. Our favorite free photo editors are Google Picasa and IrfanView. Where do you find these programs? Just like you find anything these days: Enter their names in the search box of your favorite Web browser — Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, whatever. Check out PortableApps.com for programs that can stay on a memory stick and be used on any computer that has the same operating system.

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