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I had high hopes for Miramar Systems' Desktop DNA.

This product promises to migrate files, applications, and desktop, network and printer settings from one desktop client to another, letting you re-create your familiar environment on a newer, presumably faster PC.

The program gets you about 80 percent there. But when you're talking about an administration automation tool, that's not far enough.

One big problem is Desktop DNA's poor support for existing applications. The program requires scripts to move any application it finds on the source computer over to the destination. However, Miramar ships the product with only about 30 scripts. If you're simply running Microsoft Office, WordPerfect Office, Lotus Notes and Netscape Navigator, you're all set. Otherwise, you'll need to use a disk imaging program such as Norton Ghost or PowerQuest Drive Image in conjunction with the product to move all your other applications, and you'll have to customize each client individually.

I tried moving the software and settings I'd installed over the course of two busy years on a 266-MHz lab machine onto a newer 450-MHz Pentium III. Desktop DNA found Word, Excel (but not FrontPage), Eudora Pro and Symantec pcAnywhere.

It missed Adobe Acrobat Reader, Symantec Act! and dozens of other programs.

Miramar says it plans to make a script-writing toolkit available shortly, but none ships with Version 1.0 of the product.

Desktop DNA does a lot of things right. It requires you to enter a password at the source, and every destination PC needs to enter that password for access.

Desktop DNA validates a migration before starting to let you see whether, for example, you already have the application on the target machine to which you're trying to migrate. It creates history and error logs, enabling you to see what occurred and roll back changes from any migration. You can save a set of migrated programs and settings as a profile to be sent to multiple destination machines.

The company is also responsive when it comes to product updates. I discovered a bug with bringing Eudora attachments to the new PC. Miramar developed, tested and distributed a new script that fixed the problem in less than a week.

Miramar is the first to market with this kind of application, but it won't be the last. I've already seen a demo of a competing product. For now, I'd hold off on any such product until the vendors prove they can do it right.

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