Windows Tip Sheet

Migrating User Settings

Transfer a user's settings, preferences and files from one PC to another with this free Windows scripting tool.

A user on recently asked if there was a way to write a script which would move a user's settings, preferences and documents from an old PC to a new one. That'd be quite a script to write: You'd need to scan for the files, export hundreds of registry keys and do heck knows what else to successfully apply everything to the new PC. However, a script would be easier than trying to use the File & Settings Transfer Wizard on a few dozen machines, which is what the reader was faced with.

Which is proof that VBScript -- or any tool, for that matter -- isn't the right tool for every job. In this case, the right tool is the User State Migration Tool (USMT), currently in version 2.6, which is free from Microsoft. It's usually on the Windows product CDs, but you can download it here for the latest version.

It's essentially two tools, Scanstate and Loadstate, which provide the same functionality as the File & Settings Transfer Wizard, but in a scriptable, command-line format. Use Scanstate to bundle a user's stuff into a migration file, and Loadstate to apply the file to a new PC. An .INF file provides pretty granular control over what gets migrated (USMT comes with five sample files for different migration scenarios), such as applications, system settings and so forth. Best of all, USMT works on everything back to Windows 95 for source systems and Win2000 and WinXP for destination systems.

About the Author

Don Jones is a multiple-year recipient of Microsoft’s MVP Award, and is an Author/Evangelist 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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