Have you ever tried to transfer your old files from your old computer to CDs or DVDs after you’ve purchased a new computer? Even though that process does work, there are more efficient ways to transfer your files. One of the best ways to transfer your files is using an external hard drive. Hard drives come in various sizes, from 100 GB to 2 terabytes (TB). Purchase a hard drive with the largest capacity so that all of your files, pictures, music, and videos can fit nicely onto one hard drive. Most often than not, your hard drive will interface with your computer using SATA, eSATA, USB 2.0, or FireWire*. USB is the most common and easiest connection method. USB ports are also generally on most laptops and computers. Ensure that your old and new computers are able to connect to your external hard drive.

USB flash drives are also great devices for transferring files. They are small, inexpensive drives that you can take anywhere. They range in storage size from 1 GB to 64 GB. Most USB flash drives work best with a high-speed USB 2.0 port. If you are transferring a large amount of files, USB flash drives can be significantly slower than an external Hard Drive.

Double check all of your document folders when you transfer your files and keep your old computer for a few days just in case you missed an important file or folder.

After you’ve completed transferring your files, you may no longer need your old computer. Be careful not to simply throw out your computer. There are some parts of your computer that need to be taken to a hazardous waste facility, recycling depot, or given to charity.

Ensure that all of your personal data is completely removed before you throw it out. Your numbers, passwords, and user names will still be stored on your hard drive. It’s important that you destroy this data to prevent identity theft from occurring. Use software that will erase your hard drive or take it to a professional who will destroy it while you watch. Read my prior blog post “Copy Machines Are a Serious Security Risk” for suggestions on software to use. Another option is to take it out and store it in a safe somewhere (or destroy it with a sledge hammer or drill)

Decide if your computer can be donated. If not, simply contact your local electronics recycler or waste facility. Most will recycle your computer for free and some will charge you a small fee. Above all, recycling your computer is the best option.

19 Comments
  1. This is a great suggestion on how we should transfer files from our old computer to a new one. I have done this in the past with much success.

    I have found though, an even more easier way is to simply sign up with drop box. You can store all your files online, then when you get on your new computer, download them from there.

    This also is great not just for transferring, but keeping your files stored there for safekeeping, in case your computer crashes.

    • I am reluctant to store anything important on outside servers questioning what if they were hacked… Or more reasonable, if I need something and I don’t have internet. Besides, uploading everything onto Dropbox seems a bit of a fuss; you’ll have to navigate through the whole thing to find your file and to download it again.

  2. Thanks for the suggestion! I agree, optical discs are very obsolete technology and it is way too easy to make them unreadable. I prefer external hard drive/flash drives as well. They’re reusable, durable, and the data is reasonably well protected from data destruction.

  3. Thank you for the idea! 😉

    There is also software that can help. Personally, after buying a new computer, I immediately installed Dropbox or Google Drive that work wonderfully!

    Then it’s free, and I love everything that’s free!

    • Those online storage services are very helpful for transferring files. But given the limited storage, I only tend to use it on my most important files. For everything else, I use an external hard drive. It can be used to transfer larger and more files and tends to be faster for me too. Another option I can recommend is to transfer files through your network but the external hard drive method really is faster.

  4. When I have a new computer I use an external drive to transfer files from the old computer but I don’t transfer everything. I only transfer the essential files. I leave majority of the old files in my external drive when I retire the old computer completely. If ever, I transfer files as needed. I am just afraid that I might transfer viruses into the new computer. Though I have the necessary protection, there have been times when a virus has gone completely undetected.

  5. These are excellent suggestions. Although I have remote backup of all my files — via Carbonite — I was already thinking it would be wise to also have a backup on a flash drive. This further encourages me to do so.

    It seems like the best of both worlds. I will have two options when it comes time to transfer the files to my next computer. I wanted the remote backup in the case of theft, fires or other disasters. And I still do for that reason.

    But now it is so easy to be doubly protected to make sure there will be files to transfer. It is amazing how far the technology has come in just a few short years.

  6. Well, I transfer old files to my new computer using external hard drive and usb flash drive. But, I really don’t transfer much, only the important files like pictures and softwares. Online storage is also a good option but I really can’t store confidential files online. And I find online storage not to be cost effective, since I’d have to pay for using most good services and also pay data fee to my ISP.

  7. Not so long ago my sister got a new laptop and there was a great transfer of photos and various documentation. We got her a 500 GB external hard drive and with it she gathered all the imortant files from all the family members and friends. The good thing is not only that the transfer was fast and easy, but now she has one more back up copy of all the files.
    Righ now I am transfering some files to fill my tablet. But here we talk about 32 GB, and I am just using a card

  8. Great post! As you mentioned, external hard drives are one of the best ways to transfer all your files from one computer to another.

    Mac’s Time Capsule feature is really helpful in this and can really make the process a lot simpler and faster.

  9. Thank you for the tips on transferring files. I remember last time I switched from an old desktop computer to my new laptop I used a USB and selected all the files I wanted. However, I had to be careful because my old computer was full of a variety of viruses and didn’t want them on my new computer or infecting all the files on my USB but I used some security programs to counter that.

  10. I remember when I had to back up some data on my Laptop before doing a default factory settings because of some horrible virus eating up the processing speed. I was unfortunate to not have an external hard drive at the time. I had a ton of data that had to be sacrificed that look months just to compile safely for personal use.

    So I had to save the essentials and hopefully start up some projects again to compensate for the lost data. And it’s very helpful that you mentioned how one is at a high security risk if they don’t take the precautions to delete important data in the device after file transfer. If I had my 750GB external hard drive back then before the last factory setting reset I did, I would be a happier person.

    Thanks for the helpful tips, especially the suggestion to recycle any old and useless computers and accessories.

  11. This is actually a very good and informative article that promotes the recycling and re usage of a computer and it’s parts. And I like the idea of using hard drives, i use them all the time, sometimes not jus to transfer files but to also store files and easily access them whenever i want to, thus not overloading my computer and letting it function efficiently. Hard drives are easy to maintain, and if someday your hard disk were to crash, the files in the external hard drive would remain intact, somI even recommend you take a back up of your important files and store it in the hard drive. But remember to take care of the hard drive, if you lose it or if it gets stolen you might get in serious trouble because it holds most of your personal and important stuff. You can guard hard drives by putting a password on them. And then again, let’s not waste the resources by simply throwing our old computers in the trash, there are many people who are not as fortunate as you are and could really use your help. So please donate your computer whenever you can, do a good deed. 🙂

  12. Windows has a pretty good option for when it comes to transferring your whole PC setup to another computer, including documents and settings. It’s called Windows Easy Transfer, and what’s also really good about it is that you can just use an Ethernet cable to do that, which is not only faster than using an intermediary like a USB stick or External hard drive, but it’s also more reliable because a multitude of things can happen to either one. It’s pretty reliable, and I’ve used it before with ease. I strongly recommend using Easy Transfer if you’re moving from a machine that’s Windows Vista or above to a machine that’s Windows Vista or above.

    • Thank you for mentioning Windows Easy Transfer. I had not known that it was available. I think I will have a look.

  13. I upgraded from cd to usb a few years ago. And I can say with certainty, it made transferring a lot easier, faster, and much less bulky. I’m always amazed at how many files I can transfer into this tiny device. As a matter of fact, my biggest worry with my usb is that it is so small, I may one day misplace it.

  14. Yes, that is basically what I do every time I get a PC. I knew that it was a bit uncomfortable, but with external hard drives it was easier to transfer large amounts of data. The hardest thing about the transfer is dealing with encrypted files saved using the old Microsoft XP operating system, which is no longer compatible or supported by Microsoft. I am unsure how to handle changes in operating system, but I remember encrypting files with file transfers in mind.

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