John from Pine Bluff, Arkansas writes:
Would transferring my documents to an external hard drive be the best way to preserve my files if I have to get a new computer when XP is phased out?
John, an external hard drive is a good place to back up your files when you make the switch from XP. Even without that change coming, it really is a good idea to keep you files backed up somewhere just in case your computer crashes.
But I will assume you also want to transfer many of your files to your news computer. By files, I don’t mean programs. While you can transfer documents, music, photos and other files easily to an external drive, the same cannot be said for programs. Any programs you have will need to be reinstalled on a new computer. These programs would have to be compatible with your new operating system and also have a license that can be transferred to another device or be licensed for multiple devices.
Depending on the amount of files you have, an external drive might not be necessary to move the files. It’s possible a large flash drive might accomplish the task of moving the files to another computer. Though, the external drive is a good idea to have around for regular back-up of files.
A product like a Targus Transfer Cable which comes with built-in software can be a great way to transfer large amounts of data.
Another solution is cloud storage  – you could use a service like SkyDrive or DropBox and upload your important files, then you could access them from your new computer.
Many stores will also transfer your files for you, but they charge a fee. It’s much more economical to back things up yourself.
I’m glad you’re taking steps to make the move from XP. Microsoft will end support in April of 2014 and with security support gone from Microsoft, XP systems will be vulnerable to attack.