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When you buy a new computer – like I did recently – 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 how 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

The standard way of backing up data. These days, everyone has a USB stick, or a at least a computer that can burn CDs and DVDs. An even better alternative are external hard drives which you can connect over USB – these often combine crazy speed with incredible storage.

how to transfer files from one computer to another

There are three back-up patterns you can follow. Often the easiest way is to create categorical folders to put your files in – movies, pictures, documents, applications, and so on. Back on your new computer, you can easily put these wherever you want to have them.

A duplicate copy requires even less effort, but you’ll be passing up on an excuse to (finally?) categorize your data. Just copy the folders your files are in – Desktop, My Documents, etc. – and you’ll be able to merge them with your new system’s counterparts.

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Too lazy to do it manually? You can always use back-up software suites The Best Free Backup Software for your PC The Best Free Backup Software for your PC Read More to do the work for you. These are often able to return your file to right location on your new disk, but are especially useful if you plan on doing periodical back-ups (e.g. every two weeks).

Share Over LAN

You can also use your existing home network to transfer your files, given that both of your systems are connected. The speed can vary from ‘incredibly fast’ on a wired network to ‘pretty damn slow’ on a wireless one.

First and foremost, you’ll need to enable the sharing of your hard drive. In Mac OS X How To Easily Share Files Between Mac & Windows Computers How To Easily Share Files Between Mac & Windows Computers Read More , just go to System Preferences -> Sharing, and the rest is pretty obvious. In Windows, the process is quite easy as well. Browse to My Computer -> (right-click) Properties on your hard drive. In the Sharing tab, you’ll need to enable file sharing for the folder. Below is a screenshot of how it looks like on a Windows 7 PC.

how to transfer files from one computer to another

Vista and 7 — If your disk isn’t Shared, go to the Network and Sharing Screen and open the ‘Advanced Sharing’ settings. Here you’ll be able to turn on File and Printer Sharing.

how to transfer files from one computer to another

Got everything set up? On your new system, you should be able to find the drive shared in ‘Network’. When opening the hard drive, you’ll probably be asked for a password. From there on, you’re free to go. Copy the files and folders as if the network drive is just another folder.

transfer files to new computer

If you don’t have a home network, or don’t feel like using your wireless one, you can directly connect two computers with a crossover ethernet cable. This one looks exactly the same as your everyday internet cable, but has a slightly different wiring. You can buy these for a few bucks in most hardware and computer stores.

Use an EasyTransfer Cable

Windows Easy Transfer is a new application that comes installed in most newer Microsoft Windows operation system. One way to use the program is with an EasyTransfer cable, a special double “male” USB cable.

transfer files to new computer

The cable, that can be bought online and in computer stores, facilitates file transfers between two Windows systems and works great for our purpose. If you don’t mind spending the extra money, this is an option you might want to consider.

Connect the HDD Manually

This is the way I ended up doing it – the geeky way. If you don’t have an external HDD casing, why not make one? By taking out your old hard drive and using the right connections, you’ll quickly have it hooked via USB to your new system. This has a number of advantages – the speed is well enjoyable, you don’t need (much) extra hardware, and you can copy the files straight from point A to B.

transfer files to another computer

All you need are (depending on your hard drive model) a SATA to USB or an IDE to USB adapter. These can be bought separate or together with an external hard drive casing – which is often even cheaper. If you’ve got an external drive of the right type lying around, you can even use the casing from that one, and spare yourself the extra costs.

Do you have any other data transfer tips? Share them with us in the comments.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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":

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

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

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

  7. 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.

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

    It was a typo in the title

  9. 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.

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

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

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

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

    Opera Unite!!

  14. 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.

  15. 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

    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.

      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?

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

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

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

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

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

    Anyone heard of Opera Unite?

  19. 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.

  20. 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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