Technology Explained

5 Ways to Transfer Files From One Computer to Another

Mihir Patkar Updated 26-11-2019

When you buy a new computer, you’ll want to transfer most of your existing files over to the new computer. Whether you want to take all your data with you or only the essentials, there are quick and simple ways to transfer files from PC to PC.


Depending on what you’re working with, some methods are better than others. As a thumb rule, it’s faster to use any method that uses a strong physical connection (like swapping hard drives or transferring over LAN) Which File Transfer Method Is Best for Your Home Network? What's the best way to transfer files on your home network? Here are several methods and the pros and cons of each. Read More as opposed to quick-and-easy solutions (like transferring over Wi-Fi or using a USB drive).

1. Use an External Storage Media

5 Ways to Transfer Files From One Computer to Another transfer files between pcs hard drive

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.

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 and Best USB 3.0 Flash Drives Which are the fastest USB 3.0 flash drives you can buy? Here are five of the best, ranging 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 Need to Know? Not sure what that cord is for? Here are the most common computer cable types explained, from monitor cables to network cables. 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.


2. 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.

Sharing a Network 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 showing how to share files between Windows and Mac How to Easily Share Files Between Mac and Windows If you use both Windows and macOS, here's an easy way to transfer files from Mac to Windows and vice versa. 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.

Sharing 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 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 Windows | macOS | Linux | Android | iOS (Free)

3. 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.


transfer files between two windows PC via USB with belkin transfer cable

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. It lets you connect two Windows PCs with a USB-to-USB connection. It’ll work faster if you use USB 3.0 ports on both PCs.

Belkin Easy Transfer (F5U279) Belkin Easy Transfer (F5U279) Buy Now On Amazon $39.95

Mac to Mac: Apple has its own proprietary port, Thunderbolt, that lets you create a daisy chain and transfer files between Macs. So get a Thunderbolt-to-Thunderbolt cable and it’s as simple as transferring files from a USB flash drive to the hard drive.


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.

USB-C to USB-C: If both computers have a USB-C port, things just got easier than ever. A simple USB-C to USB-C cable will ensure you can connect both devices and transfer data between them without any hassle. But just make sure you buy a USB-C cable that won’t break gadgets How to Buy a USB-C Cable That Won't Destroy Your Devices A few months ago, Amazon banned USB-C cables that did not meet the standards set forth by the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF), and for good reason: such cables are prone to failure, can damage connected... Read More .

4. Connect the HDD or SSD Manually

Transfer files between PCs by swapping hard drives

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?

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 Portable Adapter, Supports UASP SATA I II III for 2.5 inch HDD and SSD Anker USB 3.0 to SATA Portable Adapter, Supports UASP SATA I II III for 2.5 inch HDD and SSD Buy Now On Amazon $10.99

You also might want to turn the old hard drive into external storage. 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.

5. Use Cloud Storage or Web Transfers

transfer files computer-to-computer with cloud drives

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. It’s probably too slow for sending large videos How to Send Large Videos Need to send a large video file but it keeps being stopped or sent back? Here's how to send large videos from your phone or PC. Read More , though.

You can use one of the several cloud storage providers like Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive. They all work as well as each other to get the job done.

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.

transfer files computer-to-computer with plustransfer

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.

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 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 File Transfer Method?

Through any one of these methods, you should be able to quickly transfer files from PC to PC. Remember, to transfer a lot of data, you’re better off with a wired connection between computers. If it’s just a few gigabytes of data, then feel free to use one of the wireless options instead.

For something similar, see how to collect Dropbox files without uploading them manually How to Collect Dropbox Files Without Uploading Them Manually You don't have to always manually upload files to Dropbox. You can send them straight to your Dropbox in other ways too. Read More . And if you only need to copy files on your own machine, find out how to copy files faster in Windows 10 6 Ways to Copy Files Faster in Windows 10 Wondering how to copy files faster? Here are the best ways to speed up file transfers in Windows. Read More .

Related topics: Data Backup, File Management.

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  1. GeekMaster
    July 7, 2020 at 5:52 am

    Perhaps Bluetooth is best for transferring anything aside from videos.

  2. Jason Brown
    October 12, 2019 at 7:23 am

    Nitroshare worked a treat for me - install on both computers, right click the file or folder you want to transfer and away it goes.
    Took about 24 hours for 140 gigabytes via local wifi (netbook had no ethernet plug and was far from any tech shop).
    Roughly 24 hours faster than trying to get Win 10 home and Win 10 pro to talk to each other.

  3. Ben
    April 21, 2019 at 8:59 am

    I always use Flip Transfer. Its great!

  4. kris
    September 26, 2018 at 7:04 pm

    How about good old ftp?

  5. salkis
    September 26, 2018 at 11:36 am

    Tight VNC - then use the transfer file functionality at the top menu.

  6. Pedro Miranda
    September 23, 2018 at 2:24 pm

    I'm surprised no one mentioned Syncthing

  7. Xantes
    September 22, 2018 at 7:36 pm

    My preferred method with two computers in the same network is using Dukto on both computers so that each computer see - through the same network - the other one computer. It's fast and effortless!

    • Fritz Pinguin
      September 23, 2018 at 1:48 am

      And Dukto works even on Symbian! For others I prefer Send Anywhere.

    • Mike Walsh
      October 1, 2018 at 8:20 pm

      Took the words right out of my mouth.....and it's totally cross-platform, too. Recommended.