It can take a long time to set up your computer exactly the way you want it. By the time you’ve finished, it probably won’t look anything like the vanilla version of the operating system (OS) that loads when you turn on a machine for the first time.
As such, it can be an annoying process to migrate to a new computer, or even to create duplicate accounts on the same machine. Nobody wants to spend days digging through every option in the Settings app or transferring endless files and photos.
Luckily, it doesn’t have to be so time-consuming. It’s very easy to move your Windows 10 user profile. In this article, I’m going to explain a few different approaches you can try.
Behind the Scenes
Before I dive into the various methods, it’s wise to spend some time explaining the background. When you install a clean copy of Windows 10, either five or six system folders are created:
- Perf Logs — Records of your system’s performance and problems.
- Program Files — Where Windows installs most apps.
- Program Files (x86) — Where Windows installs any non-x64 applications (only available on x64 computers).
- Windows — The OS files and device driver.
- ProgramData — A home of some applications’ data and setting.
- User — Home to your files, media, and importantly, AppData folder.
Technically, you can move any of these files to a new machine. In practice, you should not move PerfLogs, ProgramData, Program Files, Program Files (x86), and Windows. There are too many variables that can create issues if you relocate them.
However, you can move the User folder, and it’s this folder the rest of the article will focus on.
Windows Easy Transfer
In previous versions of Windows, moving the User folder was easy; Microsoft packaged a tool called Windows Easy Transfer into the OS. The tool could move data files and folders, user accounts, configuration data for both Windows and apps, and Windows Registry data.
However, despite being a permanent fixture from Windows XP to Windows 8.1, it’s now gone. Therefore, we need to use alternative methods. Here are three of the best.
Warning: Create a system restore point and a make complete backup of all your data before attempting any of the following steps.
Moving Between Drives
Firstly, let’s investigate how to move the folder between different drives on the same machine.
This trick is especially useful if you’re running both an SSD and HDD. The SSD is often limited in space and can degrade quickly with several writes. It makes more sense to keep the User folder on your HDD.
When you run the app, you’ll see a message that reads “Unsupported operating system, continue at own risk.” You can ignore the warning and click the checkbox.
On the next screen, choose the new location for the folder and click Start. The app will take care of the rest.
Note: Windows will create any future profiles in your chosen destination.
Move to a New Computer
Profile Relocator is great if you want to shift files around on one machine, but what happens if you want to migrate to a different computer entirely? In short, you’ll need another tool.
For this, my recommendation is Transwiz. Like Profile Relocator, it’s entirely free to download and use.
For the app to work, you need to download and install a copy on both the machine that currently hosts your profile and the machine you want to move your profile onto.
If you only have one user profile on the host computer, you’ll have to create another one. The app cannot transfer a profile that’s currently in use. Attempting to do so will force the app to display the following error message: “The profile is currently in use. To transfer this profile, make sure the user has signed off and then try again.”
On the first screen, the app will ask you whether you’re working on the host computer or destination computer. Make sure you select I want to transfer data to another computer.
Next, you have to choose the profile you want to move. Make your selection and hit Next, then select the destination for the to-be-created ZIP file. The app will also ask you if you want to add a password to protect your profile from prying eyes.
The app will turn your profile into a ZIP folder. Depending on the size of your User profile folder, it could take several minutes.
Once the process is complete, put the ZIP file on a USB stick.
Now head to the destination computer and fire up the app. This time, choose I have data I want to transfer to this computer on the first screen. You will be asked to select the directory of the ZIP file.
On the next screen, you can give your profile a new name and decide whether you want it to be the default profile for your computer. Hit Next when you’re happy with your selections.
Let Transwiz unpack your profile. When the process has finished, you will be able to log into your created profile on the main sign-in screen.
Transwiz can do a lot more than merely move your User folder between computers. Here are some of the other features you might find useful:
- If you’re coming from Windows XP or Vista, the app can transform your User profile into one that’s compatible with Windows 7, 8, or 10.
- It can back up your profile for safety. You can create backups on external drives, internal drives, and a variety of removable media.
- You can pay for a Pro edition that includes a command-line interface, multiple profile support, and support for file exclusions.
The All-in-One Solution
If you want to move more than just your User profile (e.g. other files, settings, profiles, applications), your best solution is to pay $45 for PCmover Express. Amazingly, this expensive app is the Microsoft-approved solution. It’s essentially the direct replacement for Windows Easy Transfer.
There’s no denying it’s a powerful and holistic tool, but most users don’t need to pay the excessive cost for a one-time operation. You should only consider it if you’re trying to move multiple accounts and software, for example, if you’re an SME owner who’s moving employees to new machines.
Which Tools Do You Use?
I’ve introduced you to three tools that can help move your User profile, but there are more tools out there that can perform the same task.
If you’re highly competent, it’s even possible to move the folders using a clean install, Audit Mode, Notepad, and Command Prompt, but the process is way beyond the scope of this article.
How do you easily migrate User profiles between discs or machines? You can leave your suggestions in the comments below.
Image Credits: Milan Ilic Photographer/Shutterstock