I've come across a variety of ways to move music and other files around, so that they're not stuck on an outdated computer. After all, the MP3 collection on the old office PC does you no good when you're in the living room.
I installed LapLink Gold 11.5 software ($100) on my 5-year-old Windows 98 machine as well as a new Toshiba Media Center PC laptop with a WiFi wireless card, hoping to make my digital life more mobile. You can try the same thing with Eisenworld's AlohaBob PC Relocator Ultra Control software ($70). The software can transfer not only files but also whole programs, your desktop, e-mail addresses and screen savers.
My goal was to rescue personal files from a computer I bought in 1999 that runs Microsoft's Windows 98 operating system.
It has universal serial bus ports, but they don't always work well. I created hundreds of documents on this computer, downloaded a lot of music, stored some pictures and saved a lot of half-finished computer games.
This isn't a huge problem in the age of home networking, where everything is supposed to be conveniently connected to everything else in the digital home. But I've got one of those old analog homes with lots of old analog stuff in it. Making the transition and liberating my data was a bit more of a hassle than it should have been. But I did it.
The data were far more than I could have easily transferred by e-mail, floppy disk or even CD. So even though I cycled through more computers, I always kept the Windows 98 machine around. If I wanted to listen to my music collection, I was stuck sitting in front of the computer in the office.
To get started moving data, I first connected the two machines with a USB cable - USB 1.1, because the old machine can't handle the faster USB 2.0 standard. Then I started up LapLink.
The opening screen on LapLink lets you scan your entire hard drive at a glance. You also can look into another hard drive on another machine. I did this, and then simply dragged the folder with all of my music from my old machine and dropped it into the right folder on the new machine. The files started transferring just like that. It took some time to move all that data, but it was a lot less time than if I had burned a bunch of CDs.
So now all of my music was on my Toshiba Media Center PC laptop, the Satellite P25 Series ($2,149). I took it to my living room and turned on the computer with a remote control. I clicked on the My Music option and there were all of my music files and playlists. I clicked on a playlist and the music started playing as I sat and listened. Then I turned on a music "visualizer," which started showing psychedelic graphics on the screen that moved to the beat of the music.
For those who don't have a Media Center PC, you can still move your music to the living room. The GameShark Media Player from Mad Catz Interactive ($50), software for the Sony Play Station2, lets you use Ethernet or wireless technology to pipe music, pictures and movies from your PC to your home stereo. (I've tried this, but it isn't necessarily the greatest experience because of the GameShark's poor interface.)
Even so, I still didn't feel my data were mobile enough. So I loaded software for a Gateway MP3 music player, the DMP-X20. This wallet-size jukebox music player ($299) can hold 20 gigabytes of data, which was enough for my entire collection (and more, up to 8,000 Windows Media format songs).
Using Windows Media Player 9, I transferred the entire batch of music to the Gateway Jukebox. Again, it took a short amount of time, and suddenly I could take my entire music collection on the road.
To get the most out of my music and listen to it in my car, I went to Fry's and bought a $20 adapter kit. I plugged the adapter into my Jukebox and the other end into the cassette deck. Soon enough, I was driving in my car, listening to Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road," liberated from my old Windows 98 computer at last.