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How to Transfer Files from PC to PC in 4 Simple Ways

June 26, 2020


File sharing is more important now than it’s ever been.

Agile project management has taken the corporate world by storm, as collaborative, flexible production within teams has proven to be the most important business strategy in recent years.

At the same time, the number of connected devices that employees and people encounter on a day-to-day basis has increased drastically as the internet of things (IoT) explodes with increasing connectedness for devices across multiple networks.

Why does file sharing — and particularly, file transfer — matter? Connectedness means that not only can we access more data from a multitude of places, but also that we can work more physically distant from each other without a decrease in productivity.

Technological progress has enabled us to do more, physically farther apart but digitally closer together. We can collaborate efficiently without having to be in the same room (or even in the same city), but it requires us to be able to either access single files using the cloud or transfer files between computers PCs.

4 ways to transfer files from PC to PC

When it comes to file transfer, you’ve got four main options to choose from, all dependent on what you need to transfer, how secure you need the transfer to be, and the priority of the file transfer.

All these options can be done on any operating system—Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, etc.—but at points may require different software assistance.

Let’s work through these transfer methods by relative complexity, beginning with the simplest. With each method, we’ve included some of the highest user-rated software by satisfaction on G2 as examples of tools you can use to send files.

1. Direct file transfer

Direct file transfer is probably the easiest route you can take to send files from one place to the next. As the name states, direct file transfer involves moving a file directly from one device to another with little to no software intermediation.

Some examples of this method are:

  • Flash drive
  • Email
  • Network file transfer
  • Remote desktop and remote support software

Transferring files with flash drives

While flash drives are about as direct as direct can be, they also have the potential to be the most insecure. If the flash drive isn’t properly encrypted or password-protected, and that flash drive falls into the wrong hands, whoever has it now has access to those files. The same can be said for using a transfer cable or any other external drive.

Regardless, this method is relatively simple. Just insert the flash drive into the USB slot of your computer, find the device within file explorer, drag the files onto the folder of the flash drive, remove the drive from your device and insert it into the other PC.

Transferring files through email

Email can be a more secure option to send files from one place to another. It’s also a basic option that everyone has access to every day, making it significantly more convenient.

However, there are some drawbacks to using email. Aside from potential encryption troubles, the main drawback is that email file transfer has some restrictions when it comes to attachment size. Most email services don’t allow attachments above 10 megabytes, and while you may not be transferring 1,000-plus pages of text documents, 10 megabytes is a very small size for most media files.

Transferring files using network file transfer

From here, direct network transfer depends on convenience.

For two computers that are on the same internal network (such as two laptops on the same Wi-Fi network) or proximity (using Bluetooth), network file transfer from one device to another can be very convenient, though somewhat time-consuming.

Both devices would need to be visible to each other either on the network or via Bluetooth. Once the devices are discoverable, you can select to transfer files from your device to another by sharing, copy/pasting, click and dragging, etc. This takes time to complete because you’re copying directly over a network. You can also utilize network drives that all users on a single internet network can store to and retrieve from directly.

Transferring files using SCP/SSH

SCP/SSH (Secure Copy Protocol/Secure Shell) is the most complicated direct transfer option.

Using the shell on your computer (“command prompt” or “cmd” on Windows, “terminal” on Mac OS, “bash” on Linux), connect to the device where the files you need are located. Then, call the file location and file name, and use a copy command to pull the file.

This method is complicated and not recommended unless you are familiar with the shell of a computer. It’s also not useful when at home, but it can be extremely useful for remotely pulling files off of servers.

Transferring files using remote software

It should be noted that most remote desktop software and remote support software come with a built-in file transfer functionality. IT support analysts in particular can find a great use for this function since they’ll be able to move .ini files, .dll files, scripts, and even executables (.exe) from computer to computer to assist in troubleshooting and issue resolution.

When it comes to remote desktop software, below are the top five leading software solutions from G2’s Summer 2020 Grid® Report. 

  • TeamViewer
  • ConnectWise Control
  • AnyDesk
  • Splashtop Business Access
  • Zoho Assist

2. Cloud storage and transfer

The advent of cloud computing and cloud storage has made it significantly easier to both store and access files wherever you need them. Because of this, it’s also significantly easier to transfer files from one place to another using a cloud intermediary.

This has become so prevalent that you’re probably already well familiar with cloud content collaboration software. Below are the top five leading cloud content collaboration software solutions from G2’s Summer 2020 Grid® Report. 

  • Dropbox
  • Microsoft OneDrive
  • Dropbox Business
  • Google Drive
  • Box

Cloud storage is prevalent and has now been adopted by numerous businesses to make file access and sharing simpler. Once a file is saved to cloud file storage and sharing software, there’s usually a way to either transfer the file directly to another user or to send that user a URL that they can use to download the file.

This is a quick, easy way to transfer files from one place to another, but it comes with a slight bottleneck. Most cloud storage and transfer solutions have storage limits unless you upgrade your subscription.

If you’re looking to store and move huge volumes of data, it’s in your best interest to make sure the solution you choose is both within your budget and fits within your file sharing needs.

3. SFTP/MFT tools

Depending on the type of files being sent, it can be critical that the file transfer is both secure and encrypted.

When sharing sensitive information — such as PHI (protected health information), PII (personally identifiable information like an SSN), or financial information — as a part of a file, it comes highly recommended to use some sort of secure file transfer protocol, or SFTP. This is a kind of highly secure file transfer method called managed file transfer or MFT.

MFT is built off of FTP (file transfer protocol), a kind of direct file transfer method, but it’s more involved and significantly more protected than standard direct file transfer. SFTP and MFT are go-to picks for any heavily regulated industry, like healthcare or finance. If you’re in the European Union, MFT is great for helping your company maintain GDPR compliance.

SFTP and other MFT tools are particularly useful for pulling information from data servers and archives, but they’re also useful for transferring files securely from one site to another, or one business network to another.

This kind of transfer is significantly more secure through SFTP and/or MFT. These tools can also be applied to financial industry data, legal industry data, and other confidentiality-based industries’ data.

When choosing managed file transfer software, the following are the top five leading file transfer software solutions from G2’s Summer 2020 Grid® Report.

  • FileZilla
  • ShareFile
  • WinSCP
  • Cerberus FTP Server
  • Fetch

4. File migration

Unlike other file transfer methods, file migration software tends to be used for a more specific purpose. File migrations are generally large-scale, enterprise-level file relocations. That is, you’re transferring more than just a few files from one computer to another — you’re relocating the entirety of your company’s files from one storage location to another.

To accomplish this large and cumbersome task, file transfer has to not only be secure but also be able to handle massive amounts of data. File migration is usually measured not in megabytes or gigabytes, but in terabytes or petabytes of data, since the data managed is company-wide and not at an individual level.

Important to consider that file migration tools tend to care about the kind of file formats they migrate. While some file migration tools (namely in the cloud migration software realm) don’t necessarily aim for a specific software class, some may specialize in a certain type of data like email, or even data on a specific software tool.

Keep in mind the extent of your needs before investing in a cloud migration tool. Below are the top five leading cloud migration software solutions from G2’s Summer 2020 Grid® Report.

  • Salesforce Connect
  • Carbonite
  • PieSync
  • Help Desk Migration Services
  • Prodly AppOps

It’s okay to overshare

Whether you’re sharing files with coworkers, sending pictures to a friend, or transferring files from your old computer to a new one, you have options when it comes to the process.

Whether you choose the old fashion way of a flash drive, or decide to go with innovative software, your files will be easily accessible from any device, anywhere.

File transfer can serve a variety of purposes, but might not always be the right tool for the job. If your needs are more towards major device replication, consider hard drive cloning as a potentially more suitable solution.

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