On you old PC, load up Windows Easy Transfer, tell it you want to use a cable to transfer your files and then plug the cable into both PCs - wait a couple of seconds and the connection should be recognised.
All that now remains is telling the program what you want to transfer and then sitting back while it dutifully copies over all your files and settings. The default option is all user accounts, files and settings, which will pretty much get you up and running on your new PC as you were on your old one.
Gigabit ethernet needs stuffing with to be useful
Gigabit ethernet won't actually help much, although GbE does have the nice property of allowing a standard patch cable to be used to interlink the two interfaces (in fact a typical 10Base-T/100Base-TX crossover cable won't work for 1000Base-T).
The reason GbE isn't as useful as you'd hope is that the TCP buffers in Windows Xp are pitifully small at 12KB, which is adequate for dialup or a 10Base-T LAN but nothing faster or further away. When Xp came out they wanted to make it use as little kernel memory as possible, and they certainly wouldn't have been happy about the 4MB or more needed to keep a then-exotic GbE network interface card supplied with TCP data.
Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center have a good guide to tuning operating systems for network throughput. See http://www.psc.edu/networking/projects/tcptune/
Naturally the change on Microsoft operating systems varies by service pack and requires registry devilry and a reboot.
Why not just use firewire?
like Mac users have been doing for years. Standard cable and supererior transfer rate to USBs "480 Mb/s" which is actually unachievable.
100Mb/s or 480Mb/s.. I'm thinking ethernet isn't faster unless you're on gigabit. And a bridged USB cable ought to be native to XP or Vista.. don't see how MS could 'license' or 'drm' this. Sounds FUD to me.
ethernet seems much faster
great idea, but in practice an ethernet seems much faster and for simplicity, a cross-over cable works well. granted that required more of an knowledge of an inner workings. however, I'd still use a cross-over cable. it's just simpler, and I've got one at home
Personally, I'm with the BOFH
How splendid! Does it also painlessly transfer all your old spamming & DDOSing viruses and trojans from your shagged-out old PC to your soon-to-be not-so-shiny new Vista box?
Personally, I'm with the BOFH when it comes to Vista: "Nah, I just turned on all the flashy crap in XP, changed the background image, took some memory out of my box and clocked down the CPU. Then broke Media player. Works like a charm."