How to transfer files from one computer to another using an external hard drive

Written by mindi orth
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How to transfer files from one computer to another using an external hard drive
Knowing the amount of disk space needed is crucial when selecting an external hard drive. (Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Whether you need to copy just a few files or transfer a vast media library from one computer to another, an external hard drive can help you accomplish the task. Copy the files from one computer to the external hard drive, and then connect the external hard drive to the second computer to transfer the files.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Connect the external hard drive to the computer housing the files you wish to transfer.

  2. 2

    Click "Start" and "Computer" (or "My Computer" depending on the version of Windows). An icon and drive letter representing the external hard drive appears along with the other drives installed on your computer.

  3. 3

    Navigate to the files or folders you wish to transfer, and copy them to the icon that represents the external hard drive. Use the copy and paste commands or simply drag the files over. Some people find it easier to open a second window to perform the copy. This allows you to view the files you wish to copy in one window and the external drive contents in the second window. To open a second window, right-click the drive letter associated with your external hard drive. Then click to select the "Open in New Window" option. Close both windows once you complete the file transfer.

  4. 4

    Click the "Safely Remove Hardware" icon located in the system tray next to the clock. Click the external hard drive from the list of connected devices. A message appears informing you when it is safe to remove the device. Disconnect the hard drive from the computer.

  5. 5

    Connect the external hard drive to the second computer and open "Computer" (or "My Computer" depending on the version of Windows).

  6. 6

    Navigate to the files or folders you wish to transfer from the external hard drive and copy them to the desired location on the second computer. Use the copy and paste commands or simply drag the files over. Once again, if you want to open a second window you must right-click the drive letter associated with your external hard drive. Then click to select the "Open in New Window" option. Close both windows once you complete the file transfer.

  7. 7

    Click the "Safely Remove Hardware" icon located in the system tray next to the clock. Click the external hard drive from the list of connected devices. A message appears informing you when it is safe to remove the device. Disconnect the hard drive from the computer.

Tips and warnings

  • Make sure the external hard drive has enough available disk space before attempting to transfer files. Right-click the icon representing the drive, then click "Properties" to check the available disk space of your external hard drive. Both the used and the free disk space appear on the "General" tab of the screen.

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