5 ways to copy files between two computers

Likely, you have ever found yourself needing to copy files between two PCs. For example, when you buy a new computer and want to use the data from the old one, be it documents, photos, videos, music, or any file.

Depending on what you need to do and the means you have, there are several methods to carry out the transfers, both directly between PCs and through an intermediate medium, external devices, and even the cloud.

1. Copy files using cables

The most straightforward, most comfortable, and fastest way to transfer files from one PC to another PC is through a direct cable that connects both. There are two basic ways to do it:

A USB bridge cable. The industry offers cabling to connect Windows PCs over USB, from Mac to Mac, using USB/Thunderbolt ports or each other. Windows computers will recognize the connection, and it will be a matter of installing a small included program to synchronize them and transfer files as if it were a file explorer. On Mac, using Thunderbolt ports, you can connect two computers and quickly move files by dragging them between systems.

A crossover network cable. A lesser-known alternative among the general public is to use a crossed Ethernet cable that will allow us to create a local area network without the need for a router or modem and share files between computers regardless of their operating system. Everyone works here and with everyone, Windows, Mac, or Linux.

2. Using the local area network

This method takes advantage of the fact that all the computers included in a local network can see each other once configured. Operating systems have built-in options to set up home networks between devices, and with this, you can transfer folders and files very quickly from the exact file explorer. It works over wired LAN networks and wireless WLANs connected via Wi-Fi.

In addition to the operating system’s tools, there are applications specialized in file transfers (FTP) ideal for moving data on networks, both Internet and local.

If you do not control this type of network management, third-party software can copy files of any size between two PCs. In this group, we have to highlight Send Anywhere. A great free app that needs both computers to be connected to the same Wi-Fi network. It has a version for Windows, Mac, and Linux and even has an extension for Chrome OS.

3. External storage

Using an external storage medium is undoubtedly the most used way to copy files from one PC to another, especially when dealing with large files. Compared to the previous ones, the disadvantage is that files cannot be copied between two PCs directly, and we have to use an added device between them.

The advantage is that they are widespread, cheap, and used to transfer data between PCs and safeguard data and backup copies. If optical media is used less and less due to its failures and limited capacity, the rest is what you want. You can use a high-capacity external drive (hard drive or SSD) connected to a port as compatible as USB, up to a microSD (or SD) card, through a flash drive that you can carry in your pocket.

In either case, the task is simple. You connect the external media to the first PC, copy the data to be transferred to it, remove the drive and place it in the second PC to copy the data.

In addition to the above media, you can also use wireless storage drives to transfer files without the need for cables. Another great possibility is NAS, devices that add storage and connectivity and transfer files of any size between PCs, from anywhere in the world, and regardless of platform.

4. Connection from HDD or SSD

This method is especially recommended when looking to replace the storage unit, but we can also use it to move data from one PC to another PC. Here we have several possibilities. One possibility is to unmount the storage solution (hard drive or SSD) from the old computer and mount it on the new one. It is not always possible due to its format or a more complicated installation.

That is why in these cases, we recommend connecting the units externally. It is natural to take advantage of the old hard drives that we are replacing with solid-state drives. We can do it using three effective methods:

  • Cable. A simple eSATA cable (external SATA) or an adapter from the SATA to USB interface. They are very cheap and effective and are used for hard drives or SSDs.

  • Dock. A connection base is more expensive than the cable but more versatile and aesthetic to place on a desk. Its use is as simple as ‘clicking’ the hard drives into their housings and connecting the base to a PC, desktop, or laptop. They offer several bays and support different interfaces.
  • Shells. The most elegant thing is to use a chassis-casing where we will place the hard drive or SSD. It is simply a matter of removing a few screws because the circuitry is already included inside. We would use it to copy files between two PCs, and it would serve us later to save data and backup copies.

5. Cloud

The ‘cloud’ is here to stay, and this includes the servers installed in large data centers that provide us with computing, video, music, software, or games on demand. They also offer data storage and are another convenient solution to use as a medium that any PC can access.

It’s as simple as uploading the files to the cloud from your old computer and downloading it to the new one. If you have a good Internet connection and the two computers have the folders synchronized locally, the upload/download will be done simultaneously, gaining speed.

The problem with this method is when the amount of data to be moved massive, tens/hundreds of gigabytes, and we are not subscribed to a paid service that offers us so much because the free ones are usually not very generous in capacity for these tasks with large files.

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