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When you buy a new computer, you’ll want to transfer most of your existing files over to the new computer. A lot of people, who spend their time gathering vacation pictures and family videos, will want to make a big move leaving nearly nothing behind. Others, like myself, only keep the essential stuff; some documents they’re still working on and a few application installations they’ll be needing shortly.

No matter how much you plan on taking along, you want to do it quickly. Spend the minimal amount of time before you can cut that old hardware loose. There are a number of ways to do this, and we’re taking a look at five of the ways to transfer files from one computer to another. Depending on what you’re working with, some might be better than others.

Use an External Storage Media

Obviously, this is the way most people do it. Stick a USB flash drive in one computer, copy the data. Stick the same drive in the other computer, paste the data. Simple. Or you could use an external hard drive if you have more data than can fit on a flash drive.

transfer-files-computer-to-computer-hard-drive

If both computers have USB 3.0 ports, you might want to consider investing in one of the fastest flash drives around 5 Of The Fastest USB 3.0 Flash Drives You Should Buy 5 Of The Fastest USB 3.0 Flash Drives You Should Buy Which are the fastest USB 3.0 flash drives you can buy, without having to spend a small fortune? We've covered five of the fastest, ranging in price from $20 to $200. Read More . When you have a lot of data to move, speed becomes important!

There’s one quicker way. Check if the computer you want to move data to has an eSATA port or available SATA slot What Are The Different Computer Cable Types You Should Know As A User? What Are The Different Computer Cable Types You Should Know As A User? Take a look at any piece of equipment related to computer harder and you’ll soon find yourself in a swirling maelstrom of acronyms and foreign jargon. What does it matter if you use IDE or... Read More . If it does, disconnect the hard drive from the original computer and just connect it to the new computer. Boom, it’ll show up as another drive on the target PC. You can transfer data over SATA, which will be faster than USB.

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Share Over LAN or Wi-Fi

For computers close to each other, there are two main ways to share files and folders. The first is to set up a local area network (LAN) so you can use one PC to browse the other’s hard drives. The second is to use software to transfer files over Wi-Fi.

Share Your Drive

All the major operating systems have a built-in option to set up a home network. This lets devices on the same router (connected via Ethernet or Wi-Fi) recognize each other permanently. So when you need to transfer files between computers, you don’t need to set up a new connection each time; it’s always on, as long as both computers are on.

We have a simple guide for you to set up a home network between Windows and Mac Easily Share Files Between Windows 7, 8 and Mac OS X Easily Share Files Between Windows 7, 8 and Mac OS X Cross platform file sharing sounds complicated, but it doesn't have to be. Here's how to get a PC and and a Mac to share files with each other. Read More . The process also works with Windows-to-Windows and Mac-to-Mac. If you’re on Linux, the menu system depends on your operating system. But once you’re in network settings, you’ll find that it’s similar to how you set up a home network on MacOS.

Share With Software

If both the computers are on the same Wi-Fi network, you can transfer files with some simple software. It’s the easy way to share without setting up a home network, and ideal for temporary networks. There are several apps to share large files instantly 4 Best Apps for Sharing Large Files Instantly 4 Best Apps for Sharing Large Files Instantly With these apps, sharing large files with someone in a split second will be the easiest thing you've ever done. Read More . The best, in our opinion, is Send Anywhere.

Send Anywhere has an app for Windows, Mac, and Linux. It even has a web app and a Chrome extension, so you can use it on Chrome OS. Send Anywhere just works, and it’s fantastic how little setup it needs.

You can also use it to transfer files from one computer to many others, or to phones and tablets. The kicker? It’s completely free.

Download: Send Anywhere for any operating system (Free)

Send Anywhere does not work if your internet connection isn’t active. In such cases, use Snapdrop, a free browser-based app. Plus, that means no-installation file transfers for both parties 5 No-Installation Apps to Copy-Paste or Transfer Files Quickly 5 No-Installation Apps to Copy-Paste or Transfer Files Quickly Installed file transfer tools may be better for sending heavy files from one device to another. But here are five solutions when you need something simpler without installing anything. Read More .

Use a Transfer Cable

For computer-to-computer transfer, there are some basic cables you can rely on. It’s faster than using drives, since the copy and paste is happening simultaneously from computer to computer. When using external drives, you are basically transferring between three drives; cables reduce that to two drives.

Windows to Windows: If you’re primarily a Windows user, and you usually work with other Windows computers, get an EasyTransfer USB cable, like Belkin’s F5U279.

transfer-files-computer-to-computer-belkin-easy-transfer-usb-to-usb-windows

It lets you connect two Windows PCs with a USB-to-USB connection. It’ll work faster if you use USB 3.0 USB 3.0: Everything You Need to Know USB 3.0: Everything You Need to Know USB 3.0 beats USB 2.0 in so many ways. Here's everything you need to know about why you should always pick USB 3.x when possible. Read More ports on both PCs.

Mac to Mac: Apple has its own proprietary port, Thunderbolt, that lets you create a daisy chain and transfer files between Macs Use a Thunderbolt Daisychain to Connect Your Mac Accessories Like a Boss Use a Thunderbolt Daisychain to Connect Your Mac Accessories Like a Boss Not many people know what daisy chaining is, why it's useful, or why Thunderbolt is so important for it. Read More . So get a Thunderbolt-to-Thunderbolt cable and it’s as simple as transferring files from a USB flash drive to the hard drive.

transfer-files-computer-to-computer-thunderbolt

Windows/Mac/Linux to Windows/Mac/Linux: Use an Ethernet cable to build a local area network without a router. Make sure it’s a crossover Ethernet cable, i.e. the color patterns on one end don’t match the other. Set up network sharing on both computers, and you’re good to go.

transfer-files-computer-to-computer-ethernet

Connect the HDD or SSD Manually

If you’re transferring from an old computer to a new one, your old PC might not be functional any more. Or you might want to install a new hard drive to replace an old one. How do you get your old data then?

transfer-files-computer-to-computer-hard-disk-drive

Hard disk drives (HDD) and Solid State Drives (SSD) use standard SATA cables to connect to the motherboard. If you have a spare SATA or eSATA (external SATA) port, connect your old hard drive there. The operating system will recognize it as a new drive. Then start transferring. It’s the fastest of all solutions.

Unlike a PC, finding a spare SATA port on a laptop is hard. It’ll be much easier to use a simple SATA to USB converter, like Anker’s USB 3.0 to SATA adapter.

Anker USB 3.0 to SATA 3ft Converter Adapter Cable for 2.5 inch/3.5 inch Hard Drive Disk HDD and SSD, Power Adapter included Anker USB 3.0 to SATA 3ft Converter Adapter Cable for 2.5 inch/3.5 inch Hard Drive Disk HDD and SSD, Power Adapter included Plug and play, highspeed USB 3.0 specification and backward compatible with USB 2.0. Buy Now At Amazon $21.99

You might want to turn the old hard drive into external storage 3 Ways To Breathe New Life Into An Old Hard Drive 3 Ways To Breathe New Life Into An Old Hard Drive It's in the human nature to collect stuff and in the digital age we mostly collect data. For a long time, the storage capacities of hard drives seemed to increase too slow to match user... Read More . Investing in an external case for the old drive will let you copy all the data from it, and after that, you get to use the old drive as portable external storage.

Try Cloud Storage or Web Transfers

The final option is to use the internet. It’ll mean uploading and downloading files, but hey, now you don’t need the computers to be nearby.

transfer-files-computer-to-computer-cloud-drives

Email is always the easiest of these, or you can use one of the several cloud storage providers like Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or others.

Cloud drives are an excellent option since the size of the files is virtually unlimited, as long as you have enough storage space. Plus, if both the computers are syncing folders locally, then as one uploads files, the other will download simultaneously.

If you don’t want a cloud drive but want to upload large files, try PlusTransfer. You can upload up to 5GB in one transfer, and you don’t even need to register for an account.

transfer-files-computer-to-computer-plustransfer

If speed is what you want though, then try FilePizza. It’s one of the easiest tools to share files with friends 5 Super Easy Tools to Share Files with Friends or Your Devices 5 Super Easy Tools to Share Files with Friends or Your Devices File sharing is more than just a shared folder in the cloud. When you need the right apps to make it happen, try these online instant file-sharing options you may not have heard of. Read More . What makes it special is that it’s a peer-to-peer app. So as one computer uploads the file, the other downloads it immediately. There is no waiting between the two. And you don’t need to be subscribed to the same cloud drive. It’s all in the browser.

What’s Your Preferred Method to Transfer?

Usually, I like to use Send Anywhere to transfer files between computers these days. If it’s not installed, then I’ll use Snapdrop. A Wi-Fi connection can be found almost anywhere these days, after all.

What’s your preferred method to transfer files between two computers?

Originally written by Simon Slangen on December 6, 2009

  1. James Brown
    December 2, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    If you don't want to install or setup anything, just visit takeafile.com for unlimited size file transfers.

  2. Samantha
    October 25, 2016 at 5:54 pm

    Just the help we needed. Send anywhere worked perfectly for us, between kindle & Windows phone. Brilliant

  3. g.m.nelson
    October 25, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    if your backups for the old computer are up-to-date (as they should always be) all you should have to do is install your backup program on the new machine then use the "file" recovery option (as opposed to a "drive" recovery) to copy all the files to the new machine.
    also always remember "programs" cannot be copied to a new machine (at least in windows) they must be installed (except for portable ones).

  4. IronHand
    October 8, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    These are excellent suggestions of transferring large files. I do however have another option which was not mentioned. Several of my IT friends recommended trying out GS CopyRich 360 in transferring large volumes of files. I've tried other softwares and they are fine, but CopyRich is the one that stands out at least based on my own experience. Give it a try and see if it works better and faster. Thanks, I hope this helped.

  5. Christine
    April 5, 2016 at 12:52 am

    How can I copy files from an old PC that wont even turn on to a new PC? I have an ethernet cable....

    • ComputerWizard
      May 2, 2016 at 12:24 pm

      take out the HDD and connect it to the new one.

      // If you find any of the following steps beyond your capabilities you can take both computers into a computer repair and ask them to put the old HDD into the new computer or to transfer the old files to the new HDD. You could also ask a tech savy friend or relative to do this for you. //

      1. make sure the old computer is unplugged, open the case on both sides.

      2 .There should be a large rectangular item near the front of the case (where your power button or disc drive should be).

      3. plugged into it should be 2 cables, one small flat cable and one large with a flat plug
      (note: your disk drive looks very similar so make sure you know which is the HDD. If there are no flat cables then your HDD is too old for modern connections, however a computer repair shop can do this transfer for you).

      4. Unplug the large cable, you won't be needing it.

      5. Follow the small cable to the motherboard and unplug it.

      6. Now take your HDD with small cable over to your new PC, note that you may need to press a button or lever to release the HDD from your case but this is not always the case, if it doesn't come out with moderate force then look for a button or lever.

      7. make sure the new computer is unplugged, open the case on both sides.

      8. there should be a similar looking HDD in there.

      9. Do not unplug anything, follow the large cable from the new HDD to the powerbox (this will be at the back of your case).

      10. If there are other flat plugs along the cable position one below or above the new HDD, you will be plugging this into your old HDD.

      11. If there are no other plugs on the cable, follow different cables from the powerbox untill you find one with that flat plug and position it below or above the new HDD.

      12. note the orientation of the new HDD and place in the old HDD in the same way.

      13. Plug the large flat plug you positioned earlier into the old HDD.

      14. follow the small flat cable in your new HDD to the motherboard.

      15. Plug the old HDDs' flat plug into a plug next to the one already plugged in.

      16. Close up the case and plug the computer back in.

      17. You should be able to open the old HDD from your new computer now, you don't even need to move the files to the new one.

  6. I'm sooo stupid guys XD
    March 20, 2016 at 10:34 pm

    Haha I just emailed myself my files and ended up downloading them all and wasting so much data.
    It was worth it, though.

  7. ravinder sing
    January 20, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    hey guys u can also use the shareit software ,firstly u need to install the shareit in both of computer then try to conect computer 1 with other comuter by using wi-fi/hotspot ,and after you will be able to send all data from one computer to another with in 15-20 min
    because i am transfer the 250 GB data through this process with rapid fast speed

  8. michael fim
    August 14, 2015 at 1:28 pm

    There was a newer post on MakeUseOf recently with tools that do this transfer automatically.

    Here's one of the tutorial there - "How to transfer programs to new PC":
    http://www.zinstall.com/how-to/how-to-transfer-programs-and-files-to-new-computer

  9. fares dotto
    May 5, 2015 at 10:05 am

    mmmmmmmmh i find them difficult 4me ,dont you have any addition method ?

    • bork
      October 25, 2016 at 2:06 pm

      Get a friend who knows how to work them compuer thingies to do it for you.

    • James Brown
      December 2, 2016 at 2:30 pm

      Just use this webpage: takeafile.com

  10. h4ndym4n
    April 6, 2015 at 8:11 pm

    ...you could also establish an RDC connection to the computer in question. All you need is a second computer on the same LAN/WAN and the user name / password of an account on the machine with a bad HDD.

    As an example... I had a laptop display go out; onboard graphics card went bad and wouldn't even display to an external monitor. I was able to see hard drive activity (HDD light flashing) and knew the data on the hard drive was intact.

    I was able to login with a local administrator account and copy the data off to a different location.

  11. Terry
    January 6, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    1) The "share over LAN" method can be accomplished with a CAT5 crossover cable, for those that don't have a home network with router.
    2) If you have extra unused IDE/SATA and power cords in the PC you want the files to end up on, just use those to plug the other hard drive in, and you've got yourself a second drive on that PC. You can then copy the files from one drive letter to another. I've even done this while the second drive is still anchored to the original tower - just take off the sides of both towers, set them next to each other and make the connection. The cords should be more than long enough. Much simpler all around since you don't need to configure a network connection or buy additional components.

  12. Aibek
    December 9, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    It was a typo in the title

  13. crimson
    December 7, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    Well i use a crossover cable for backup-ing 10s of GB and the speed is really good. Plus it doesn't need the Internet to work.

  14. jasray
    December 6, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    Didn't even think about it--Gbridge, a decent all purpose tool for everyone.

  15. Jeremy
    December 6, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    If you have very much data to copy, just add the old hard drive in the new computer as a second hard drive.

    If you don't have too much, just burn a CD/DVD.

    But if you do have this much data to copy, you should ask yourself what you would do if your hard drive crashed. (your files should be backed up!). I keep a copy of most of my files stored online with free online storage (Skydrive). When I need something I just copy it to my hard drive.

  16. Manny
    December 6, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    I use SugarSync, and yes, for GBs of data. I have a Mac and a PC and can map all my folders exactly on each computer. Plus I get the Android app.

  17. mario.91
    December 6, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    Opera Unite!!

  18. paf
    December 6, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    I use Dropbox for mac, pc and linux; dropcopy for macs in a lan-wlan (when it's only a few documents). Otherwise if you have a new mac, the apple app Migration assistant and a firewire cable, or a firewire cable and the second mac started in Target Mode (T key when starting): the second hd is mounted on the desktop.

  19. C.T. McGinnis
    December 6, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    5 Ways To Transfer Files From One Computer to Another:

    1.Use An External Storage Media
    2.Share Over LAN
    3.Use an EasyTransfer Cable
    4.Connect the HDD Manually
    5.?????????????

    What is number 5?

    • mr. chopper
      December 6, 2009 at 2:52 pm

      Profit. The last step is always profit.

    • Ibrahim
      December 6, 2009 at 8:56 pm

      The funny thing is the title "Use an EasyTransfer Cable" can be lumped together with "Share over Lan" coming right after the paragraph about crossover ethernet cable. So it's actually three ways.

      • Jackson Chung
        December 6, 2009 at 10:06 pm

        Sorry, that's fixed.

    • SADDAM HUSSAIN
      January 26, 2015 at 7:41 am

      tell me about the second method you mention here. isn't it risky? i mean if 1 share the data it can be accessible to the rest of the people as well. how can we securely share our data to an appropriate person on LAN?

  20. jasray
    December 6, 2009 at 11:22 am

    FTP--Filezilla makes sharing a breeze--all good ideas, though.

  21. Andrew
    December 6, 2009 at 10:39 am

    Use FTP! One computer creates an FTP server (can be done quickly with http://www.ezyftpserver.com, the browser based ftp server) and the other accesses it with a browser. Browser-to-Browser transfer!

  22. Manoj
    December 6, 2009 at 10:04 am

    Anyone heard of Opera Unite?

  23. Chris Ronk
    December 6, 2009 at 10:02 am

    sadly, this is a task I've had to do many times. I just use a network folder.

  24. John j
    December 6, 2009 at 9:22 am

    You forgot the easiest and best way of them all. Using dropbox.

    • jollyrogue
      December 6, 2009 at 2:35 pm

      ok.. but what about GBs of data? how does the almighty dropbox remain the best there?

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