Remember when files had to be split between multiple floppy disks to move them between computers? Or the inconvenience of burning data to rewritable CDs? Thank goodness we’ve moved on from those primitive methods.
The truth is, file transfers have never been faster than they are today. Yet, to many of us, transfer speeds still seem like they inch along and take forever to complete. It’s funny how inconvenient it can be finding a quick and easy way to move data between devices.
Fortunately, we have you covered. Never again will you have trouble with cross-device file transfers.
Between Windows and Windows
The best method for Windows-to-Windows data transferal depends on how often you will make those transfers. If it’s a one-off file transfer, then you’re better off using something like Bluetooth or Wi-Fi Direct.
For Bluetooth to work, both the sending and receiving Windows computer must be Bluetooth-compatible. Wi-Fi Direct is a similar concept, except files are sent and received straight over Wi-Fi instead. While Wi-Fi Direct is much faster, the downside is that it isn’t as universally available as Bluetooth.
On the other hand, if you will send a lot of files over a long stretch of time, e.g. if it’s part of your regular routine or workflow, it’ll be more convenient to set up a shared folder or shared external drive on the network, one that other computers can access at any time to pull files on demand.
Consult our home networking guide for more details on that.
Between Windows and Non-Windows PCs
These days, it isn’t uncommon to have some mixture of Windows, Mac, and/or Linux machines under one roof. While these systems tend to remain isolated most of the time, there are times when you might need to move a file from one to another.
The main obstacle is that each system has its own unique way of storing file data, called file systems. For example, the most common are NTFS on Windows, HFS Plus on Mac, and EXT* on Linux. Conversion between file systems is not always easy.
But in the case of Windows-to-Mac, it is. Starting with OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard), Macs have been capable of reading and writing in NTFS format, as long as the user makes a necessary system setting change.
This means you can share a folder between Mac and Windows and transfer files through it. Check out our tutorial on sharing files between Mac and Windows for detailed instructions.
The same holds true for Windows-to-Linux, but the process is a little more involved. Each system can set up a folder for the other system to access, but you’ll need to install cifs-utils (to access Windows folders from Linux) and samba (to make a Linux folder visible to Windows).
HTG has a wonderful sharing guide that explains how to do all of this in fine detail.
Between Windows and iOS
For the most part, file transfers between Windows and iOS involve little more than music, in which case you could just go ahead and use iTunes for synchronizing–but iTunes tends to be a frustrating mess when used on Windows.
The good news is, there’s a better way.
FileApp is an app, available on both iPhones and iPads, that acts as a mobile device file manager. With it, you can browse and open any file that resides on the device you’re using, including formats like PDF, DOC, XLS, and PPT. (You get to decide which app the file opens in.)
But what we’re really interested in is FileApp’s ability to share files over Wi-Fi. It essentially turns your mobile device into an FTP server, allowing any computer to connect (using an FTP client) and download files directly.
Head over to our guide on sharing files with FileApp for step-by-step directions on how to get it set up. Do note that anyone who connects through FTP will be able to view all files on the device.
Between Windows and Android
Like FileApp, which was mentioned above, Android has several apps available on the Play Store that can turn any Android device into an FTP server. When the server is on, any computer can connect, browse the entire Android file system, and download files at will.
At this moment, my preferred app is My FTP Server. It doesn’t look too great, but it’s incredibly simple and straightforward, and that’s all you really need when it comes to file transfers.
If you’d prefer to send individual files rather than opening up your device as a full-blown file server, consider using PushBullet (recommended) or AirDroid. Both can send files over the network to any connected computer at the tap of a button.
And, of course, you could always plug your Android device straight into your computer with a USB cable, as detailed in our guide to transferring files between PC and Android. By far the most straightforward option.
Cross-Platform Transfer Methods
In addition to all of the above methods, there are a few other techniques and services you can use that will likely work regardless of which devices you’re trying to bridge. As such, these are often the most convenient options, though they do come with their own downsides.
Dropbox is the obvious choice. We’ve written about transferring between Android and PCs with Dropbox before, but Dropbox is also available on iPhone, iPad, Windows Phone, Windows Tablets, Blackberry, Kindle Fire, and the Web. Use the provided Public folder for easy sharing of files.
The drawback of using Dropbox–or any other cloud-based storage–is that your files must travel through a middleman, which is inherently less secure and less private. Plus, you have to upload and download separately rather than transferring straight to the target device.
Another option is to transfer through email using a file transfer service like FileMail, which is free, requires no registration, and allows files up to 30 GB in size. If FileMail doesn’t work for you for some reason, you can try these other methods for sending large email attachments.
But the best alternative is to use a cross-platform direct transfer app called Feem. This awesome tool is available for download on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Windows Tablets, and soon enough, Blackberry.
With Feem, you can make a direct transfer from any device to any other device, as long as Feem is installed on both. The transfer is made wirelessly over Wi-Fi, which means it’s fast, unrestricted, and doesn’t rely on a middleman service.
There are a few other features too, which you can learn more about in our overview of Feem for file transfers. The one big downside is that it’s ad-supported, and if you want to remove ads, you’ll have to buy a license for each Feem app ($5 for Windows, $2 for Android, etc).
Any Other Ways to Transfer Files?
If you’re frequently shuffling files around, I’d go with Feem. If you’re working with the same files across multiple workstations, I’d stay in sync using Dropbox. But if you just need a one-off transfer, I’d go with one of the more device-specific solutions.
In any case, you should now be equipped to make any kind of file transfer between any two devices.
Are there any useful tools or methods that I missed? How do you transfer files between your devices? Enlighten us in the comments below!