How to Transfer Data from One Laptop to Another

Updated on March 16, 2023
How To Transfer Data From One Laptop To Another

Getting a better and newer computer is always exciting. However your old computer contains important files and programs that you may need such as memorable photos and important business files. If you’re looking for the ways on how to transfer files from pc to pc, then this article is for you.

Here are a quick comparison for ways that you can transfer data from laptop to laptop:

MethodCostTime / Speed
Cloud storage services Free – $2.99 / monthFast
Transfer cable$20- $50Fastest
External storage device$40 -$60Fastest
Ethernet cable$6 – $30Fastest
Wifi networkFreeFast
Cloning your hard drive~ $69.95Fast
PCmover~ $49.95 Slow
FTP serverFreeSlow

8 Methods to Transfer Files From One Laptop To Another

Note Before Continuing (Disclaimer)

We also won’t be including Windows Easy Transfer(Windows Transfer for short) here as well. Although it’s very popular and effective, it isn’t available in Windows 10 laptops which contradicts the purpose of transferring files from an old pc to a new pc. 

Using Cloud Storage such as Google Drive, OneDrive, and iCloud

One of the easiest ways to transfer data from one laptop to another is via cloud storage All you have to do is transfer the data you want to transfer into your cloud storage account like Google Drive, OneDrive, and iCloud. 

Then simply use the other laptop and access your cloud storage account from there. It’s very simple and you don’t need any external hardware for this. However, you do need a stable internet connection for this especially if you’re planning to transfer large amounts of files.

Additionally, files larger than 100GB might require you to upgrade your cloud storage service because this goes beyond the free storage that these services offer. 

A good example of this would be Microsoft OneDrive which comes free on your Windows 10 operating system. It only offers 5 GB of free storage and you’ll have to pay a $1,99 subscription fee to be able to transfer 200 GB of data.

Sadly because of the security of these file sharing sites, you can’t copy applications of programs. So you might have to use other methods to transfer software from one laptop to another.

Using a Transfer Cable to Directly Transfer Data

If you have a slow internet connection or you simply don’t want to spend money or use cloud storage services, then you might like using a transfer cable. As the name implies, a transfer cable allows you to transfer files and data from laptop to laptop, provided that you can connect to both laptops.

So if you want to do this, we recommend checking the USB ports of both laptops. If both have USB 3.0 ports, then go buy a transfer cable that has USB 3.0 connectors but if you want to play it safe at the cost of file transfer speed, then we recommend buying a transfer cable with a USB 2.0 connector. 

Here’s a quick rundown on how to use a transfer cable:

  1. Connect the transfer cable to both laptops via their USB ports. Make sure that the USB cable is properly connected to prevent complications during the transfer process
  2. An installation wizard should appear. Install the program on both computers(Depending on the transfer cable brand, you might have to install drivers on both laptops beforehand.) 
  3. After installation, a popup should appear giving you multiple options. We recommend clicking on the “Transfer Data to New Computer” 
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  1. You should see two windows that show the files on both laptops. 
  2. Simply drag or copy-paste files from one laptop to another.
  3. Disconnect the cable when the transfer is complete.

Using an External Storage Device

Before we get to the more advanced and complex forms of file transfer, let’s start with the old fashioned way of doing things. All you need for this is a compatible external device that can be used by both laptops.

This device can be a USB flash drive, an external hard drive, and even CD’s if both laptops have disc drives. However, we’ll be using an external hard drive on this example since it simply holds more data which makes it more effective when transferring files from your old computer to your new computer.

  1. Attach your external Hard Drive to your laptop and scan it for viruses.
  2. Highlight the files you want to copy and either drag it to your external Hard Drive or simply right click on the highlighted files and go to “Send to” and choose your external device.
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  1. Wait for the transfer to complete and safely eject your external Hard Drive.
  2. Now connect your external Hard Drive to the second laptop and scan it for viruses as well.
  3. Select the files you want to copy and simply drag them or copy +paste them to the location of your choosing.
  4. Wait for the transfer to finish and safely eject your external Hard Drive.

This is a simple but effective method for easy transfer from one computer to the other. It also doesn’t discriminate between the type of operating system as well. And what’s great about doing this is that you don’t have to rely on an internet connection to do this which also makes it a good alternative to the transfer cable method.

Using an Ethernet Cable

If you don’t have the money to buy a transfer cable or an external Hard Drive, then you can do so with a cheap and simple ethernet cable. The steps might be a little more complicated but it is doable.

  1. The first thing you need to do is to connect both laptops using your ethernet cable.
  2. Go to the control panel, then click on “Network and Internet”, then “Network and Sharing Center”.
  3. On the left side of the window click on “ Change Advanced sharing settings”
  4. Now turn on network discovery, public file sharing, file, and printer sharing.
  5. Additionally, turn off password protected sharing as well.
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  1. Now find the folder or folders you want to share and right-click on it. Go to “Give Access to” and select “Specific People”. Choose the option to share it with everyone.
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  1. Once the folder is shared, you can now access it by going to “Network” and clicking on the computer of your choice.
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  1. The files shared should now be accessible allowing you to copy and paste it into your new laptop.

Using an ethernet cable to transfer data is a tried and old school way of doing things. And since they are connected via a LAN network, expect it to transfer files quickly and effectively. It’s also a good choice if you don’t have an internet connection or Wifi to connect to. 

Use Your Wifi

Another simple and cost-effective solution of transferring data between laptops is by using your Wifi Connection. Yes, by simply connecting to the same Wifi, you can connect and transfer data to two laptops effectively.

This method might be free but it’s slower than using an ethernet cable. It’s also less reliable since the connection can easily be broken so it’s not that effective and secure compared to other methods, which is why we recommend that you do this only if you have more time on your hands.

Here are the steps to doing this:

  1. Connect both your old and new laptops to the same Wifi network.
  2. Make sure to disable sleep mode into your laptops since it might interfere with the transferring process. 
  3. This will take a long time so make sure to connect both your old and new computer to a power source.
  4. Share the folder from your old laptop by right-clicking on it and click properties.
  5. A new tab will appear and click on “Sharing”, and then “Advanced Sharing”.
  6. Under “Advanced Sharing” check on “Share this folder” and click on OK.
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  1. The shared folder should now be viewable and accessible on your new PC. Simply copy and paste the folder and wait for it to finish.

Note: Since this is an unreliable and unstable process we highly recommend doing this step as close to your Wifi router as possible to prevent sudden interruptions. We also recommend that you use this in conjunction with file-sharing utilities to help speed up the process. 

Lastly, we recommend that you avoid transferring large amounts of data with these because of its instability. Try grouping your data in batches to help minimize the damages of sudden network interruptions.

Clone Your Hard Drive

Why settle for copying selected files when you can copy your entire hard drive? As the name implies, cloning your hard drive about creating an exact copy of your hard drive down to the files it contains as well as the settings that you’ve saved

You can simply boot this cloned hard drive and it would feel as if you’re using the same computer as before but with newer and better specs. There are multiple ways of cloning your hard drive and you’re going to need a reliable cloning software for this.

We highly recommend using Macrium Reflect,  Paragon Drive Copy, and SuperDuper! for this.

But before you start cloning your hard drive you need to prepare first. You’re going to need a newly reformatted hard drive to serve as the clone of your old hard drive. Make sure that this new hard drive has a larger storage space than the older one.

Use PCmover

Since Windows Easy Transfer isn’t available on Windows 10 anymore PCmover is a good alternative. Its the replacement for Windows Easy Transfer on Windows 10 operating systems. 

What’s nice about PCmover is that it’s very intuitive and it isn’t very complicated to use like some processes on this list. It’s also very similar to cloning your PC but less expensive as well since you won’t be buying a second hard drive nor buying pricey cloning software.

Here are the steps for using PCmover:

  1. Download and install the PCmover software.
  2. Run the software and click on “PC to PC Transfer”
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  1. Follow the steps and choose the method of transfer.
  2. That’s it. Just follow the instructions asked by the software and you’ll be good to go. 

PCmover is extremely easy to use and we highly recommend getting the professional version as well. It saves you the hassle of studying up on methods to transfer files and its 24/7 customer support is simply amazing.

Use an FTP Server

Using an FTP server might be the best option for you if you want to keep it simple. FTP or  File Transfer Protocol is a safe and secure way to transfer a file between a server and a client. Although it isn’t as secure as modern-day file transfers it is still being used up to this day because of its reliability. You can use a reliable FTP server like FileZilla to quickly transfer files from your old pc to your new pc. 

Sadly its very slow compared to the other methods on this list but it won’t get interrupted andyou can do it for long periods of time, so its a good option if you want to slowly transfer files from your old to new computer.

Can I Transfer Software from One Laptop to Another?

You simply can’t just copy-paste programs like you would do files because you might be missing important files during the copy-paste process causing complications when running the program.

You’ll have to reinstall the programs from scratch on your new computer which can be very tedious and time-consuming.  This is the recommended way of doing things since it causes fewer errors and problems in the long run.

Thankfully, there are some options on this list that bypass this. A good example of this would be PCmover’s professional version that fully transfers software as well. Cloning the hard drive is also an effective way to transfer programs as well. Cloning programs create an exact copy of your old hard drive so it’s natural to expect that it will copy your old hard drive’s files, settings, and even applications as well.

So yes, you can transfer software from one laptop to another but it will require special programs and methods like PCmover and hard drive cloning software. 

Article by:
Kenny Trinh
While he’s not editing articles on the latest tech trends, he likes to discuss business and entrepreneur. His writing has been featured in national publications such as Forbes, RD, Yahoo Finance, HackerNoon among others.

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