How to basics: transferring bookmarks, usernames and passwords to a new PC

Features David Hayward Jan 22, 2013

David Hayward has a look at some how-to basics, starting with transferring your internet settings

If you were lucky enough, upon unwrapping the gaily coloured boxes under your tree, to find that one of them contained a brand spanking new computer, the odds are - after jumping with joy - you will have realised that you now faced the onerous task of getting the blasted thing up.

Computers are very personal things, and if your Christmas followed the same trajectory as several of ours have, it will then have been a couple of hours (and as many mince pies) later, before the desktop was looking as it should, you have installed all the software that will happily see you through the first few months of use. The really tricky business of getting any new machine up to spec, though, is that your old computer has all of your web browser stored usernames and passwords somewhere in its innards, and you need to get them out.

You need to transfer the lot so that the new computer will spring into life, allowing you to open up the internet and navigate at your leisure, without fear of trying to remember the obscure username and password combo you set for the Micro Mart forum. If you still haven’t faced up to that finishing touch, or want to know in case you’re luckier on your birthday, here’s how to do it!

Export everything for Firefox

The first step is to export the bookmarks, which is - you’ll be glad to hear - extremely easy. Start by opening Firefox and either pressing Crtl+Shift+B, or by clicking on the Bookmarks icon in the top right corner and selecting ‘Show all bookmarks’.

When the bookmark library window pops up, click on the ‘Import and Backup’ button and select ‘Backup’ from the drop down menu. Next, locate an area on your old computer hard drive and click on the ‘Save’ button. As you’ll see, Firefox has already named the file with the current date, preceded by the word ‘bookmarks’. So, the end file will look something like ‘bookmarks-2013-01-02’ or whatever date you do this on.

When that’s done, exit the bookmark backup windows and navigate, still on your old computer, to goo.gl/vuKDt. This the page for a Firefox add-on called Password Exporter, a rather clever add-on by developer Justin Scott. Click on the big green ‘Add to Firefox’ button and after a few seconds you’ll have ability to click the ‘Install’ button in the pop-up window that’s appeared. When the install has completed, restart Firefox (sometimes it asks you do this, others it doesn’t, but it’s for the best to restart with the new add-on).
With the newly restarted Firefox, click on the ‘Firefox’ button in the very top left of the screen and navigate through the menus to Options > Options and click on the ‘Security’ padlock icon.

Next, in this section, click on the ‘Import/Export Passwords’ button and you’ll get yet another pop-up window, this time one containing several options. There’s really not much to it, in the most basic instances all you need to do is click on the ‘Export Passwords’ button, followed by the ‘I Accept’ button to the disclaimer. When doing it this way, like the bookmark backup, the Password Exporter add-on will automatically name the exported passwords and usernames file with the current date, all you need to do is store it in the same location as the bookmarks backup, that way you can easily find it again. When you’re ready, click on the ‘Save’ button.

Additionally, if you require a slight improvement in security you can tick the ‘Obfuscate Usernames/Password’ box prior to clicking the ‘Export Passwords’ button. While this is a handy way to prevent the casual user from viewing your usernames and passwords, someone intent on seeing them will no doubt be able to find a way to get to them. In the interests of convenience, and because we’re dealing with a set of computers in your own home, we think you’ll be okay in this instance.

Now that you have both the bookmarks backup file and the username/passwords file, transfer them to your new computer via whatever means you have at hand, usually through a USB stick, for instance, and store them in a location you’ll be able to remember on the hard drive of the new computer.

Assuming you have already installed Firefox on the new machine, open up the bookmarks library again, Ctrl+Shift+B, and this time click on the ‘Restore’ button, followed by ‘Choose File’ from the sub menu. Point Explorer to the location of the recently stored bookmarks backup file, and finish by clicking ‘Open’. This has now imported the bookmarks from the old computer into the new computer.

Now, on the new computer, in Firefox, navigate back to the Password Exporter add-on site (goo.gl/vuKDt), and go through the install process again, remembering to restart Firefox if you’re not asked to. Open up the Password Export add-on through the same method as before (Firefox button > Options > Options > Security > Import/Export Passwords) and click on the ‘Import Passwords’ button, located below the export one you used earlier. Point the Explorer window to the location of the transferred file and Password Exporter will start to import all the usernames and passwords held within your old Firefox setup on your old computer.

When it’s all done, exit the various windows and browse to a site that requires a username and password from you. You’ll hopefully see that the site retains your information by adding the info the login/password boxes. Occasionally, you may need to manually add a username or password, but this is mostly in the case of an ultra-secure banking site.

In Internet Explorer

Bookmarks in Internet Explorer can easily be exported by opening File > Import and Export, then checking the box of the Favourites, Cookies or Feeds and transferring them to a file, much in the same way as above. There’s little point in going over it again, as the process is very similar, albeit through a set of different looking windows. The passwords are a bit trickier due to the way that Internet Explorer stores password information. The best method is the following:

1. Start the Registry Editor by clicking Start / Run then type “regedit” and press Enter.
2. Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Microsoft \ Internet Explorer \ IntelliForms \ SPW .
3. Select the SPW folder and choose File > Export.
4. Give it a name and export it to a location you’ll remmeber.
5. Transfer the file to the new computer.

To import the data on to the new computer, just double click (or right click and select merge) the file you created. It’s not ideal, but it works, at least until Microsoft decide to alter the way IE interacts with the registry! The moral of the story here is, use a browser other than IE.

In Chrome

Chrome, almost everyone’s favourite browser these days, has a nice ‘Sync’ feature that keeps all your bookmarks, passwords and so on synced across numerous devices. However, if you’re using Chrome for the first time, then your best bet to import the bookmarks, usernames and passwords is follow the steps above for Firefox or IE, then in Chrome open up the Settings page by clicking on the icon on the top right, followed by ‘Settings’ from the menu.

Once in there, look for the ‘Users’ section and click on the ‘Import bookmarks and settings…’ button. In this new window you can then use the pull-down menu to choose the previous browser to import into Chrome from.

Finally

If everything is all okay, don’t forget to delete the password files, to keep secure. Enjoy your new computer.