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How to transfer data from an old PC to a new PC

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Surface Go Vs Surface Go 2 (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Transferring your data from an old PC to a new PC is a fairly common practice. Upgrading to a faster, thinner, shinier device is always tempting, but you don't want to leave behind all that information you've accumulated. No problem. There are actually a number of ways you can transfer your data from an old PC to a new PC, which we've outlined right here.

Use OneDrive to transfer your data

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One of the easiest ways to back up and transfer your data is to use the cloud storage service OneDrive. If you have a Microsoft account, you automatically get 5GB of storage for free. OneDrive is built right into Windows, making it super easy to incorporate into your routine.

However, 5GB isn't a lot of space for a backup, especially if your old PC has been around for a long time. Microsoft does offer other affordable options with much more storage. 100GB of space will cost you about $2 per month, while 1TB of space will cost you about $7 per month (or $70 per year) and get you a Personal subscription to Microsoft 365. Microsoft 365 Family is also offered for $10 a month (or $100 per year) and has 1TB of storage for six people as well as full access to Microsoft 365. See how Microsoft 365 compares to Office 2021 for more information.

Transferring your files and folders between PCs is easy as long as you have an internet connection, and you can enjoy knowing that your data is protected from hard drive failure. The only downside here is that your applications and settings won't make the trip over to your new PC.

Use an external hard drive to transfer your data

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Using an external hard drive to transfer your data from an old PC to a new PC also gives you a backup of your data in case things go wrong. This mostly manual process might take a bit longer, but if you already have an external drive lying around, you can transfer your files without spending more money.

All you have to do is plug your hard drive into your old PC, move your files and folders from your old PC onto the drive, then plug it into your new PC and reverse the transfer process. Note that using an external hard drive does not let you transfer your Windows settings or applications — this is a method for moving your files and folders only.

If you're interested in using an external drive to back up and transfer your data, check out our roundup of the best external hard drives available now.

Use a transfer cable to transfer your data

(Image credit: Source: Plugable)

If you don't want to subscribe to cloud storage services or spend the money on an external hard drive, there is a relatively cheap option that lets you transfer your data between Windows XP all the way up to Windows 10.

This Windows transfer cable from Plugable costs about $60 and uses two USB-A 3.0 male connectors to plug into each PC. Once the PCs are connected, the included software will move you through transferring your files, settings, user accounts, and folders.

If neither PC has USB 3.0 ports, a USB 2.0 option is available from Plugable. Note that using a transfer cable does not create a backup of your files when they are transferred.

Use PCmover to transfer your data

(Image credit: Source: Laplink)

Back in the days of Windows 7 and Windows 8, Microsoft had a service called Easy Transfer that allowed users to move their files and settings between PCs using either a physical USB transfer cable, a set of DVDs, an external hard drive, or a network.

Unfortunately, Easy Transfer was scrapped in Windows 10, but you've not been abandoned completely — Microsoft partnered up with Laplink PCmover to duplicate that functionality, except now it's no longer free.

The Express version lets you select folders, user profiles, files, and settings you want to be transferred over to your new PC. All you have to do then is connect the two PCs to the internet and let everything transfer. PCmover will do its best to make your new PC seem like your old PC, but, depending on how old an OS you're moving from, you will likely see some changes. In the case of anything going wrong, there is 24/7 assistance to get you through the problem.

This version of PCmover does not allow for full application transfer between PCs. It is compatible with Windows operating systems between (and including) Windows XP and Windows 10. Keep in mind that PCmover does not create a backup of your files when they are transferred.

PCmover Professional

PCmover Professional will cost you more for a single-move license, but if you also want to transfer your applications, you'll want to go with this option. It works essentially the same as PCmover Express, except you can choose which applications to move and your folders, user profiles, files, and settings. It also has 24/7 assistance in case anything goes wrong.

This works on Windows operating systems between and including Windows XP and Windows 10. Keep in mind that PCmover does not create a backup of your files when they are transferred.

Use Macrium Reflect to clone your hard drive

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PC cloning is a bit of magic that effectively creates an exact replica of your old hard drive on a new drive, whether external or internal. Once you close a drive, it should be able to be connected and booted on your new PC.

There are several cloning tools from which to choose, but we found success with Macrium Reflect. There is a free version that works well for casual users, a home version with four use licenses, and there's also a free business version, as well as paid options with varying prices.

If you're interested in creating a direct clone of your old drive to use in a new PC, check out our guide on how to clone your PC hard drive using Macrium Reflect that will walk you through the entire process.

Use Nearby Sharing instead of HomeGroup

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With the Windows 10 April 2018 Update, HomeGroup was retired. Replacing it in Windows 10 and Windows 11 is a new feature called Nearby Sharing that uses Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Ethernet to transfer files between PCs nearby. It should be enabled by default on your PC, and you can tweak settings to have everything set up exactly how you'd like.

Nearby sharing is great for transferring files to a new PC, but it will not work the same way as, say, cloning, where you essentially duplicate everything, including Windows 10 and your data. If you'd like to try out this feature, be sure to look at our guide on how to use Nearby Sharing to transfer files between PCs on Windows 10 with everything you need to know. And if you're working with Microsoft's newest OS, our guide on how to use Nearby Sharing on Windows 11 is what you want.

Use Flip Transfer for quick, free sharing

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If you're looking to transfer up to 50 files quickly and easily (each less than 250MB in size) at a time, Flip Transfer can get the job done for free. Just visit the Flip Transfer website in your preferred browser, drag and drop some files, then access and download them on a different PC using a unique FLIP-ID.

Flip Transfer isn't going to deliver the same experience as, say, cloning, where all apps and settings are carried over to a new PC, but it is incredibly convenient and will work on plenty of devices. After 24 hours, the files are removed from Flip Transfer's servers, so be sure to download them onto your new device as soon as possible.

Wrapping up

Moving to a new Windows 10 PC is an exciting time, especially if you were lucky enough to snag an option from our best Windows laptop roundup. But your familiar files and settings can't be lost! To ease your transition between PCs, any of these seven methods will help you transfer your data from an old PC to a new PC, whether it's a laptop, desktop, or All-in-One.