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

Moving to a new Windows 10 PC is an exciting time — shiny new hardware and a snappy system are sitting there waiting to be used. The problem is that your familiar files are sitting on the old PC, and you don't want to start over entirely anew. To ease your transition between PCs, here are five ways you can transfer your data.

Use OneDrive to transfer your data

Use OneDrive

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.

This isn't a lot of space for a backup, especially if your old PC has been around for a long time, but there are affordable options with much more storage. 50GB of space will cost you about $2 per month, while 1TB of space will cost you about $7 per month and will also get you a Personal subscription to Office 365.

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.

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Use an external hard drive to transfer your data

Use an external hard drive

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 laying 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

Use a transfer cable

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 is about $30 and uses two USB 3.0 male connectors to plug into each PC. Once the PCs are connected, the included software will move you through the process of transferring your files, settings, user accounts, and folders. If both PCs don't have USB 3.0 ports, there is also a USB 2.0 option available from UGREEN.

If you're looking to move entire applications, however, you'll have to go with something like PCmover Professional. Also, note that using a transfer cable does not create a backup of your files when they are transferred.

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Use PCmover to transfer your data

Use PCmover

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's partnered up with Laplink PCmover to duplicate that functionality, except now it's no longer free.

PCmover Express

Microsoft offers Windows 10 users a half-price deal on PCmover Express — it will cost you about $15 for a single-move license. The Express version lets you select folders, user profiles, files, and settings you want 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 of 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.

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PCmover Professional

PCmover Professional will cost you more — about $50 for a single-move license — but if you want to also 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 transfer as well as 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.

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Use Macrium Reflect to clone your hard drive

Use Macrium Reflect to clone your hard drive

Cloning a hard drive allows you to create an exact replica of your old drive on a new drive, whether external or internal. As soon as a clone is created, it's ready to boot just as if nothing had happened.

There are several cloning tools you can choose from, but we found success with Macrium Reflect. There is a free version that works well for casual users, and there's also a business version with varying prices.

If you're interested in creating a direct clone of your old drive to use in a new PC, check out these guides that will walk you through the entire process.

Updated December 5, 2017: We've refreshed this guide to ensure you're still getting an accurate look at what it takes to transfer your data.