WinWin is the oddly named tool that transfers user accounts between Windows PCs. It’s designed to copy not just documents and settings, but installed programs as well, from any Windows computer running Windows XP or later, to another (typically more recent) Windows computer such as a new purchase. (See all software utilities reviews.)
It has some competition. There are other similar third-party tools, the best known being Laplink PC Mover. Microsoft also includes free software called Easy Transfer within Windows, which is limited to migrating user profiles and settings, but not applications. If you go down this route, you’ll still need to reinstall any existing programs manually on your new PC.
WinWin aims to simplify the process as much as possible while putting on a very friendly face, with carefully written explanations of any inevitable technical decisions the user must make. (See all PC Advisor software downloads.)
Zinstal WinWin: operation
WinWin offers a multitude of ways to back up files on a computer’s hard disk, and makes the whole process really straightforward. It presents a number of typical scenarios you might find yourself in.
The first is to backup from one old PC to a newer one, either via a direct network connection, in which you install the WinWin software on both PCs; or via a container file, stored on a NAS or external hard disk. It also lets you migrate your documents, user profiles and settings from an intact hard disk taken from a broken PC.
The container files are in VMDK format, but unfortunately, you can’t take this file and load it straight into VMWare or VirtualBox, which would have been great. But you can use it to import your old account into a freshly setup virtual machine.
Within a few clicks you’ll be copying your C:\ drive in whatever way you specified. The user guide goes into detail about performance issues, explaining that backing up via a wireless connection will be slower than gigabit ethernet, for example. This might seem obvious, but it’s a useful reminder for inexperienced users.
We tested the software in a few ways. The first was a direct copy from an HP laptop running Windows 7 to a container. We then imported our files and programs from this into a Windows 8 virtual machine.
It takes a while to create the file, and we noticed that at no point were we asked to encrypt or password protect it. This may be of more concern for corporate users migrating PCs with sensitive data, and while WinWin is aimed more at novice users, we’d still prefer some added protection.
The entire process takes an all-or-nothing approach. You can’t choose to leave out certain files or choose to backup only specific software or documents. It removes a potentially confusing decision from the user, but it does mean containers can be very large. The HP laptop backup came to 150 GB, most of it program files, so you must of course ensure you have sufficient storage space available. (See also: Laplink PCmover Professional 8.)
Zinstal WinWin: SSD mode
In this case, the SSD mode is very helpful, if you are transferring to a desktop PC with a small SSD for its operating system and a hard disk for data – a common configuration for many people. You might not have enough space on the SSD for the entire backup, so this mode moves only the user profile and settings to the SSD, with the rest of the data to a disk you specify. Again, you don’t get much choice on how it does this.
Reimporting to the virtual machine took a while too, not helped by our setup, with the backup located on the same hard disk as the VM. A fast external USB 3.0 disk would definitely be quicker.??Once the process was complete, and the VM rebooted, all our old shortcuts to applications were back on the desktop, exactly as they were on the other PC. Documents, pictures and files were back in the user folder and even the background was swapped to the custom one from the HP laptop. We’d consider that a success.
We tried a second test from a Windows XP virtual machine, with Office 2007 installed, to a physical Windows 8 system. It worked as well as before, including copying notes and emails from Outlook across.
The lack of encryption security is perhaps a cause for concern, and WinWin isnt especially flexible in providing a way to exclude items from the backup. For that, you might want a more advanced tool. It also seems slightly expensive. A single license for Laplink PC Mover is around half the price, at $59, and can be found online for less still. But Zinstall undoubtedly has a good product on its hands with WinWin, and perhaps with a little refinement it could be even better. Overall Zinstall WinWin absolutely does what it says on the tin, and in our tests was an effective way to migrate from an old PC to a new one. It's definitely worth recommending for anyone without a lot of technical knowledge who has just upgraded their computer.