(MoneyWatch) Computer upgrades are among the most painful and frustrating experiences in our digital universe. When you get a new PC, Microsoft (MSFT) makes possible -- fine, not necessarily easy, but certainly possible -- to migrate your data from one computer to another.
But your existing programs? That's something else entirely.
Not only do you have to dig out your old discs and re-install all of your programs, but there are other annoyances as well. Consider Outlook, for example: If you have a number of POP accounts configured, you'll have to rebuild them from scratch on the new PC. There's no way to copy your Outlook settings to a new computer, at least not with the tools that Microsoft provides with Windows.
If you're about to embark on an upgrade to Windows 8 (or even Windows 7), there are alternatives that let you move all of your applications and data easily to the new computer. Both Laplink and Zinstall are two programs that can easily migrate all of your stuff -- both documents and programs -- from your old PC to your new one.
Both of these apps work more or less the same. No matter which you choose, you need to install the program on both your old PC and your new one, and connect the two PCs via a local network. They then work automatically, moving your programs between the PCs so, when the process complete, your apps are ready for business and configured just as they were on the old computer. Zinstall costs $119, while Laplink Professional is $60.