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What is the Best Way to Transfer Information from One Computer to Another?

Dana Hinders
By
Updated Jan 24, 2024
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When you purchase a new computer, there are many types of files you may want to move from your old machine. Most users will want to transfer digital photos and music from one computer to another. You may also wish to transfer information such as email settings, contacts, Internet favorites, user accounts, and software program configurations. It's relatively easy to transfer small amounts of information through email or by putting it on a CD or a portable flash drive. For large amounts of data, you can often use an Ethernet cable to link the computers together.

If you are moving a small amount of data and have access to a high-speed Internet connection, email is a very convenient way to transfer it from one computer to another. Free email providers often offer an impressive amount of storage space. You can email yourself files from your old computer, then download them to your new computer.

Using a CD or DVD burner is a good way to transfer multiple digital photos or music files. When you use this method, you also create a backup copy of your important files. While both forms of media can hold quite a bit of data, they are still limited.

If you have access to a portable hard drive or flash drive, these devices can make it easy to transfer information from one computer to another. Using these drives is often as easy as plugging them into the correct port — often FireWire® or USB, depending on the computer and type of drive — and accessing the device. Files can then be moved into the drive's directory. The drive is then unplugged from one machine and plugged into the new one, and files moved to the new computer.

When both computers are in the same location, you can use an Ethernet cable to transfer information between machines. If you don’t have a hub, router, or switch, look for a crossover cable to complete the process.

If you have purchased a new computer that is running a Windows® operating system, you may be able to use the Windows Easy Transfer program. Both computers will need to be running a Windows® OS and have the software installed. The program features a step-by-step tutorial to guide users through the process.

If you are trying to transfer information from an old PC to a new Macintosh® computer, representatives from an Apple® retail store or an authorized service provider may be able to provide transfer assistance. You can also use a third-party hardware and software package to complete the process.

No matter which method you use, it is important to scan for viruses, adware, and spyware before moving your data in order to avoid accidentally transferring malicious content to your new machine. After you complete the transfer to your new computer, it’s a good idea to run a second scan as an added precaution.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Dana Hinders
By Dana Hinders
With a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Iowa, Dana Hinders brings a strong foundation to her work as a freelance writer. After discovering her passion for freelance writing following the birth of her son, Dana has been a vital part of the WiseGeek team. She also showcases her versatility by creating sales copy and content for e-courses and blogs.
Discussion Comments
By yunda — On Jul 22, 2014

Thanks so much! Currently I am using Folder Transfer which helps easily transfer information from one computer to another. It is working fine.

By smooth9505 — On May 22, 2014

I have a 2004 Dell computer and I want to transfer information from it to my Hp laptop, How do I go about this?

By anon325998 — On Mar 19, 2013

My question isn't whether or not I can download from my computer. The question is that I don't want to have to download the website in order to get the music off the website and how do I go about doing just that?

By anon169729 — On Apr 22, 2011

I just got an Acer laptop and want to get my music files on it from my old Toshiba laptop. I have a Toshiba external hard drive but I can't figure out how to transfer from the external hard drive to the new laptop.

By anon164846 — On Apr 02, 2011

Can anyone give me some advice? I've just bought a new laptop which is running windows7. My previous laptop was running Ubuntu. I'm having problems transferring my files over to my new laptop. I can't get them to talk through ethernet. 've also tried removing the hard drive from old machine and connecting via USB to my new machine. The device is visible on my new one but only in the "device manager" I'm unable to assign a drive letter or path, it doesn't allow me to. Stuck!

By anon123798 — On Nov 03, 2010

lol, not all computers are windows machines! File transfers in windows are a pain after you've been in linux land.

On linux I rsync between machines; 10 mins and you can clone a user account in full, from files, ssh-keys, browser history, app settings, even the position of icons on desktop.

But I want more. I want to be able to map the running processes of one machine onto another, so I can be working on one, with several windows open and then transfers both files and active applications to another machine in a rsync like way. Is this possible or is this a fevered dream?

To help those who posted about problems getting files off a broken windows machine: if it's just windows that is broken, and not the actual hardware then get a copy of the ubuntu live CD, boot of that and then you can use ubuntu to access the disk. It will just walk thou windows ntfs based security too!

To help those wanting a nice windows backup solution (and like me don't trust pretty little apps with my hard work) then get Cygwin and use it to facilitate rsync over ssh for secure backups to remote machines.

By anon120723 — On Oct 21, 2010

Help! I have a computer from 2000 and has Windows Me. I want to transfer my mp3 files from the old computer to my new laptop from 2008. I tried to use a jump drive usb device but my old computer did not recognize it. I cannot connect to the internet on my old computer. Can anyone please help?

By anon115819 — On Oct 04, 2010

I would like to add an external hard drive to my PC, currently hardwired to the router and printer. Two other PCs in the office connect to a wireless router in the office. What do I need to do to allow those computers to save information to the external drive and only the external drive? (I am only a mildly experienced tech user.)

By anon104862 — On Aug 18, 2010

i have a toshiba laptop and the screen is not working so i want to transfer my songs to my mac. how can i do that. Can anyone please help?

By anon69099 — On Mar 06, 2010

Help! My new computer completely fried and I want pictures, music, and files off of it. How do I do this without having to send it in and have to pay $100 or if I had to hand it in I'll get mad if they don't get all in stuff I wanted. --Rudy

By anon60031 — On Jan 11, 2010

If you can't find your music after attempting to transfer them, that's all you did was lose them. Search both drives from the Start menu. Don't look for a specific file but set it to search for an extension (.mp3,.wav). This should be able to locate them. If not, recovery software will usually do the trick. I've wiped drives DOD and still was able to recover most of the data.

By anon54843 — On Dec 02, 2009

I have a dell computer that is only 3 years old and it won't boot up. it gives me a blue power light but then nothing else happens but a high pitched noise and the monitor only says entering power saver mode and then goes black.

I cannot boot it with the boot disc or in any way. I bought a new computer and need to transfer files but how do I do this if i can't install the software on the computer that won't boot up? Any help please!

By anon53979 — On Nov 25, 2009

I used SoftRescue Pro to transfer and move all my software, data and other files to my new PC. They claim to be better than cloning software because they don't transfer malware, virus or other harmful software that may reside on your old computer.

I was happy with the way it moved all my software and files from xp to windows 7. I think it's worth checking out. Hope this helps.

By anon51664 — On Nov 08, 2009

Please help! I have an Acer Aspire One. I keep getting the same message Checking file C, the type of file system is FAT32 and the volume serial# is 1A2A-D8FF. I installed a new McAfee Internet security last week and don't know if this is the problem. Every time I start the computer it goes to the message above then to boot in safe mode or windows and it won't go anywhere, just shuts down. As you all know the Acers this small do not have a cd slot. How do I get into the Acer to repair what has to be done? It came with a system CD and a Micro Soft Windows XP home Edition SP 3. If anyone can help it would be much appreciated. Thank you in advance.

By anon46910 — On Sep 29, 2009

I tried using the Windows Easy Transfer Wizard to transfer my stuff to my new PC, but found it didn't transfer my software applications. So I decided to buy SoftRescue Pro which ended up working out well. I was a bit leery at first since I hadn't heard of it, but I was happily surprised by what it did. Made my transfer a lot easier.

By anon44125 — On Sep 04, 2009

To buddz re: your transfer question - - Wisegeek answered it in article above. They advise:

"If you have purchased a new computer that is running Windows Vista, you can use the Windows Easy Transfer process to transfer information from your old PC computer running Windows 2000 or Windows XP. Simply start the computer running Windows Vista and follow the step-by-step tutorial that appears on the screen." -kenmac-

By EQoverIQ — On Oct 23, 2008

this may be an oversimplification, but when you lose data like that, have you tried using CTRL Z, or "undo?"

By anon19917 — On Oct 22, 2008

Posted by: SandyP

My daughter was transferring all her music from the computer to an external hard drive. She said that the lost all 3000 songs??? Do you know where they may have gone?

The same thing happened to my laptop only

while I was transferring files I had lifted the laptop up off my lap and the usb connection came loose. By breaking the connection, all the files were lost. The same thing may have happened in your case.

By essjay — On Sep 13, 2008

how do i transfer files from my broken p.c running xp to my new pc running vista. any help would be gratefully received thanks

By SandyP — On Jun 23, 2008

My daughter was transferring all her music from the computer to an external hard drive. She said that the lost all 3000 songs??? Do you know where they may have gone?

By anon14569 — On Jun 19, 2008

my computer had to be sent in for repairs and so i backed up everything, files and settings, onto an external hard drive. now i have my computer back but i can't seem to transfer anything from my external hard drive onto my new internal hard drive. can anyone help me?

By anon9732 — On Mar 12, 2008

Posted by: dschreck40

I have the same problem with an older HP desktop. It won't fire up and I would like to recover everything on its hard drive.

take the harddrive out and plug it into your new computer as long as none of the user profiles were set to private you can recover all of the files

By dschreck40 — On Mar 06, 2008

I have the same problem with an older HP desktop. It won't fire up and I would like to recover everything on its hard drive.

By anon6316 — On Dec 24, 2007

I need to move data from a computer that won't turn on to an external hard drive. I have all the wires and ports necessary. Any advice on how to do this? Thanks

By anon5843 — On Dec 07, 2007

Which Windows services and protocols have to be enabled and working for sharing printers and folders between computers around a switched network? Does it meet some other requirements if it has an Internet connection? Thank you in advance, hope I'm not asking too much.

By anon4788 — On Nov 01, 2007

My pc is working slow although it has 256mb ram,p4 2ghz. I had scanned for viruses with updated symantec but didn't get anything. I even had deleted temporary files, done disk defragmenter and still it works slow. I had even checked smps and cpu fan both are running properly.

By anon2865 — On Jul 29, 2007

How about a comparison chart of data transfer rates

of different external interfaces, IE:

USB

Firewire

NIC 10base T

NIC 100base T

NIC 1000base T

Serial

RS 232

By bugzz — On Jul 22, 2007

Ugh! Please help me! I'm trying to transfer my hard drive from my old system to my new system and CANNOT seem to find a complete answer. My new system is WindowsVista and it seems I've correctly hooked the old hard drive up to the new hard drive. Now what? I thought when I booted up, the system would notify me of this? Please help! Anyone?

Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders
With a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Iowa, Dana Hinders brings a strong foundation to...
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