Q: I am changing from a PC with Windows 98 to another computer with Windows XP. How can I transfer the programs and files in my C:\ directory...

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Q: I am changing from a PC with Windows 98 to another computer with Windows XP. How can I transfer the programs and files in my C:\ directory to the new C:\ directory? I do not have too many, but some of the files are irreplaceable. I do not want to lose them.

— Henry E. Palao

A: Moving the data is easy and there are several ways you can do it, depending upon how much data you have. If you have only a relatively small number of data files, it’s probably easiest to copy the files to removable media, such as a USB flash drive.

Alternatively, you can connect the two computers directly to each other and transfer the files using either Windows utilities or third-party software, such as FastLynx or LapLink Pro. The fastest connection is using Ethernet cable but you’ll need to have network cards in each computer. And if you’re connecting the two computers directly using Ethernet — instead of actually having them on a network with a server — you’ll need a “crossover” Ethernet cable. By the way, if you want to try the Windows wizard for transferring files you’ll find more details at www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/setup/getstarted/bott_fstw.mspx.

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The bad news is that you can’t simply transfer programs from one operating system to another. Programs have to be registered with the operating system, and that is done by installing them. So you’re going to have to reinstall your programs on the new computer.

Q: I have an unusual Control Panel situation. I’m running Windows 98. When I double-click on Control Panel in Windows Explorer the window displays all the folders on the left pane and the Control Panel’s small icons in the right pane. If I right-click Control Panel and select Open, Control Panel opens correctly, with large icons alphabetically left to right and no folder pane. My goal is to get my Control Panel to display large icons only and always, and my Windows Explorer to display file details. It seems that the Control Panel and Explorer are now locked with the same layouts and if I change one, it changes the other.

— F.W., Shoreline

A: It sounds like someone reset the folder view in Windows Explorer and applied it to all folders. To change just the Control Panel, go to that folder and click on the View menu. Then click on Customize This Folder. Make your changes and they should stick.

Q: A little while ago, I allowed one of my relatives to use my computer while we were on vacation. Upon returning several things no longer work. Hyperlinks don’t work. The printer doesn’t work. The scanner doesn’t work. My CD-R burning drive doesn’t burn. Outlook Express works perfectly, and IE works for everything except the hyperlinks to other Web sites.

To make matters worse, every time I boot up, the computer tells me that I’m supposed to install SP2, but SP2 will not install. When it tries it says, “Internal Error occurred” and then “SP2 install did not complete.”

Is there a standard approach to finding problems with XP? I really don’t want to take the computer in for servicing if I can possibly help it. Is there a place I can write Microsoft and ask what could be the problem? Are the symptoms I’ve described by any chance ones you’ve run into before?

— Norm Strong

A: Alas, there is no standard procedure for troubleshooting problems with any operating system. It all depends upon the problems … and troubleshooting is a lot easier to do if you know what was done to the computer just before the problems occurred. Since you apparently don’t know what your relative did to the computer, you’re shooting in the dark.

If it were me, I’d probably start from scratch by reformatting the drive, reinstalling Windows and reinstalling the applications you want to use. A pain, I know, but probably less so than the tedium of trying to troubleshoot the problems.

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by e-mail to pmarshall@seattletimes.com or pgmarshall@pgmarshall.net, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.