How to transfer files from a USB flash drive to a PC on Windows 10

Windows 10 transfer files
Windows 10 transfer files (Image credit: Future)

On Windows 10, you can quickly transfer files and folders from a USB flash drive (thumb drive) to your computer, and you can also export files to removable storage devices to share them with others or create a copy for backup purposes.

This guide will walk you through the easy steps to transfer files to and from a USB flash drive to Windows 10.

How to import files from USB flash drive to Windows 10

To copy files from a USB flash drive to your computer running Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open File Explorer.
  2. Click on This PC from the left pane.
  3. Connect the removable drive to your computer's USB port.

Quick tip: If you get a toast notification, click it and select the "Open folder to view files" option.

  1. Under the "Devices and drives" section, double-click the USB flash drive to see its data.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Select the files and folders.
  2. Click the "Copy to" button from the "Home" tab.
  3. Click the Choose location option.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Select the folder to import files from a flash drive to your computer.
  2. Click the Copy button.

(Image credit: Future)

Once you complete the steps, the files will copy from the removable drive to the computer.

When importing and exporting files, it's usually safer to perform a "copy" instead of a "move" action to prevent losing the files if there's a problem during the transfer. However, once you verify that the files have been copied successfully, you can select and delete all the contents from the USB flash drive.

If you have a microSD card with files and don't have an SD card reader slot on your computer, you can purchase a card reader (opens in new tab) to convert the microSD card into a USB storage.

Import pictures to the Photos app

If you have a flash drive with a bunch of pictures, you can quickly copy them to your computer using the import option available in the Photos app.

To import pictures with the Photos app, use these steps:

  1. Open Photos.
  2. Connect the removable drive to the computer's USB port.
  3. Click the Import button from the top-right.
  4. Select the "From a connected device" option.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Choose the drive to import from.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Check the images to import or use the "Select" setting and choose the "Items since last import" option.
  2. Click the Import items button.

(Image credit: Future)

After you complete the steps, the pictures in the removable media will be imported to the Pictures folders inside the OneDrive folder.

How to export files to USB flash drive from Windows 10

To export files from your computer to a USB flash drive, use these steps:

  1. Open File Explorer.
  2. Click on This PC from the left pane.
  3. Connect the removable drive to your computer's USB port.
  4. Under the "Devices and drives" section, open the drive with the files you want to copy.
  5. Select the files and folders.

Quick tip: You can use the "Ctrl + A" keyboard shortcut to select all the files. Or press and hold the "Ctrl" key and click the files you want to select with the mouse.

  1. Click the Copy to button from the "Home" tab.
  2. Click the Choose location option.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Select the folder to export files from your computer to a flash drive.
  2. Click the Copy button.

(Image credit: Future)

Once you complete the steps, the files you selected from your computer will transfer to a USB thumb drive. (If you no longer need the transferred files, you can always delete them from your computer.)

If you don't have enough space to export your files, you can always purchase another removable drive, such as the SanDisk Extreme Go (CZ800), which comes with 128GB of space to store large files and small backups.

More resources

For more helpful articles, coverage, and answers to common questions about Windows 10 or Windows 11, visit the following resources:

Mauro Huculak is technical writer for WindowsCentral.com. His primary focus is to write comprehensive how-tos to help users get the most out of Windows 10 and its many related technologies. He has an IT background with professional certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTIA, and he's a recognized member of the Microsoft MVP community.