Moving Programs Between Windows Computers

A common confusion among Windows computer users is what is entailed in backing up and restoring programs (or "applications") and data from one PC to another (or to the same reloaded PC). We are talking about traditional programs used on Windows - the Modern-style "apps" of Windows 8 and above are a different animal.

All the "stuff" on your computer is basically either programs or data; the data would be word documents, videos, mp3 files and so on. Data is the stuff you can (and should) backup. Programs - and the operating system itself can be considered a kind of program - cannot generally just be copied from one computer to another. 

For example, if you have Adobe Acrobat Reader, you can copy that program's folder to another Windows computer - but the program won't work. Why? Several reasons, all revolving around the application installation process - items are added to the Windows registry, and other files are scattered around the Windows folder during installation.

While there are some specially designed programs that can be used without actually "installing" them - so-called "portable apps", they are the exception. This is why when you are migrating from one Windows computer to another, or are reloading a computer, the advice is usually the same:
  • backup your data
  • load the operating system on the "target" computer
  • install your programs again
  • restore your data
More details here at HowToGeek

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