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) as opposed to quick-and-easy solutions (like transferring over Wi-Fi or using a USB drive).
1. 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.
If both computers have USB 3.0 ports, you might want to consider investing in one of the fastest flash drives around. 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. 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. 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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
4. 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?
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.
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
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, 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.
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. 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. And if you only need to copy files on your own machine, find out how to copy files faster in Windows 10.