Windows Tip Sheet

Migrating to Greener Pastures

Move user files and settings easier with Microsoft's USMT tool.

It’s a new year, and I guess a lot of companies are buying new computers, because the forums on my Web site,, have been abuzz with questions about migrating users’ Outlook PST files, Outlook settings, Word docs and other personal information—not to mention their profile settings. Unfortunately, that’s a complex set of data to migrate, and scripting—well, VBScript, at least—isn’t going to make the task any easier.

Fortunately, Microsoft is here to the rescue! You’re probably familiar with Windows XP’s Files and Settings Transfer Wizard, which can gather up all of a user’s personal documents, Outlook settings, and yes, even PST files, and transfer them all to a new computer. Well, there’s a scriptable—batch-file scriptable—version of the Wizard called the User State Migration Tool, or USMT. You’ll find it at, and it’s the perfect way to help automate desktop computer migrations. It’s basically two tools: One that gathers up settings, and another that applies them, so you can add it in a logon script, as part of a pre-migration cleanup of the old desktop computer, and so forth.

The tool’s smart enough to realize that users keep their settings everywhere, not just in My Documents, and so it searches the entire computer. There’s a programming interface that makes the tool extremely scriptable and automation-friendly, and you can create .INF files to tell the tool how to move data and settings associated with your corporate applications. It has a little bit of a learning curve (although the docs are, frankly, great) to get everything going, but it’s worth the effort as the tool makes it easier to keep users happy when they’re getting a new machine.

Cool Gadget
Creative MuVo Micro N200
Creative's MuVo Micro N200 comes in various memory sizes from 125MB to 1GB and eight colors.
In the battle of the MP3 players, Apple’s iPod may reign supreme (I’ve got one), but in the gym or when you’re out for a run, size matters. Creative’s MuVo Micro N200 fills the bill: Hardly larger than a pack of chewing gum, it’s basically just a smart USB flash drive (you can use it to transport files around, too) with an external battery pack and a pair of headphones. It even includes a utility to convert MP3s to Microsoft’s smaller WMA format to pack more tunes into the device.

More Resources:

Other companies have gotten into the migration act, too, including CellarStone and LapLink. To be fair, LapLink’s been doing this for ages; I remember their old cable-based solution that moved data by using a computer’s parallel port. My computer doesn’t even have a parallel port anymore, but LapLink’s new PCmover product doesn’t need one anyway.

About the Author

Don Jones is a multiple-year recipient of Microsoft’s MVP Award, and is Curriculum Director for IT Pro Content for video training company Pluralsight. Don is also a co-founder and President of, a community dedicated to Microsoft’s Windows PowerShell technology. Don has more than two decades of experience in the IT industry, and specializes in the Microsoft business technology platform. He’s the author of more than 50 technology books, an accomplished IT journalist, and a sought-after speaker and instructor at conferences worldwide. Reach Don on Twitter at @concentratedDon, or on Facebook at

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