Need to copy files from netbook to PC.
November 28, 2014 6:21 PM   Subscribe

Just got a new internal hard drive for my PC and would like to copy files from my netbook to my PC's new hard drive.

I know that the usual way of doing this is to use a flash drive, an external hard drive or blank DVDs. But I don't wish to spend money on a flash drive, my sole external hard drive is full (and I don't wish to remove anything from it) and my netbook hasn't a DVD drive (and I don't wish to buy an external DVD drive for it as it would never get any use and would end up being a waste of money).

Is there software that allows one to copy files between two computers via a USB cable? Because this, I think, would be ideal as it would be fast and wouldn't require me to spend a cent. If there isn't any software that allows this, are there any other methods of copying files from one computer to another that I should look into?

By the way, if it matters, I need to copy about 40 GB of files. And I don't wish to copy any programs / program settings—all I wish to copy are media files (videos, audio files, etc.).
posted by GlassHeart to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
I think the usual way to do this would be over a network. Connect both devices to the same network, share a folder on the PC, connect to the shared folder on the netbook.

The precise details would depend on the OSes of the two devices.
posted by pompomtom at 6:28 PM on November 28, 2014

Here's an idea:
1. Buy a USB transfer cable, which has 2 larger USB ends, for example: this one. An "Easy Transfer" cable seems to have some additional electronic stuff in the middle to regulate current flow between the two computers.

2. Or, if you don't want to do that, cobble a transfer cable together using this tutorial which assumes you have access to two "regular" USB cables and a "female-to-female" adapter to connect them in the middle.

3. Then, here is information on using Windows Easy Transfer: Google search. I include this because you didn't say which operating system(s) you are dealing with. This search brings up various options including Windows XP, 7, 8, and more. It should already be resident on your computers. General information on the program at Wikipedia.

Other ideas (some of which you have said above are not an option for you) at: The Easiest Way to Transfer Files from an Old Computer to a New Computer.
posted by gillyflower at 7:05 PM on November 28, 2014

Dropbox, or some other sharing service? http file server is a program that will let you share files through a web page. It's simple and downloaded pretty fast for me.
posted by irisclara at 7:14 PM on November 28, 2014

Do you have a spare ethernet cable you don't mind modifying? If so, you could hack it into a crossover cable and use it to copy files between the two computers. Note that if both your computers are fairly new then you may not even need to do the ethernet cable hack thing. It might be worth a try doing it without first to see if it works.
posted by Poldo at 7:28 PM on November 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Over the network with FTP (file transfer protocol). You run FTP server software on one computer (lots of free options, be sure to password protect it) and an FTP client (ditto lots of free options) on the other, and you use the one with the client to choose which files to move (from either computer), usually using a graphical interface which is similar to a normal file explorer.
posted by anaelith at 7:56 PM on November 28, 2014

Unless your new PC disk is really tiny, you already have everything you need to do this. I know you said "my sole external hard drive is full and I don't wish to remove anything from it" but really the easiest (and to my mind simplest) way to accomplish moving 40GB of files within the other constraints you describe, without spending any money is to use your external drive. Think of it as a data bucket.

Right now your bucket is full, but you can just pour some of the data in the bucket into the new drive to make room in the bucket for your netbook's data, then when you're done you can pour your external data back into your bucket and it'll be full like when you started.

What you need to do is "cut" 40GB from you external drive and "paste" it to your new drive. Just remember where you pasted it to. Use the now-free 40GB on your external to copy files from the netbook. Once the netbook data is on the new PC drive, cut the first 40GB you originally moved, and paste it back to the external drive where it started and you're done. Netbook data is on your PC, external drive is back like it was when you started. And you spend no money and spliced zero cables.
posted by distressingly thick sheets at 9:15 PM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Or, if you don't want to do that, cobble a transfer cable together using this tutorial which assumes you have access to two "regular" USB cables and a "female-to-female" adapter to connect them in the middle.

No, that won't work. You can't connect two computer USB ports directly to each other because they are both masters. USB operates as master/slave. Two masters can't talk to each other. That is why they both have type A connectors, to indicate that they are masters. (There is a different spec called USB-on-the-go, but standard PC ports don't handle that.)

The Easy Transfer cable works by putting two slaves in the middle of the cable, one for each PC to talk to. The two slaves then complete the transfer by passing data between them. It is like there are two small thumb drives back to back in the middle. One PC writes to one and the other PC reads from the other. The two slaves pass the data between them. It is just as if you wrote the files to a thumb drive and then carried it to the other PC, but done on-the-fly, kilobyte by kilobyte.
posted by JackFlash at 8:43 AM on November 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

If they're both Windows 7 or later, just link their gigabit ethernet ports together with an Ethernet patch cable to form a tiny two-PC network, and use the Network and Sharing Center on each one to put them in the same homegroup.
posted by flabdablet at 9:00 AM on November 29, 2014

By the way, the gigabit ethernet ports on modern computers automatically set up crossover connections as necessary, so you don't need a specialized Ethernet cable to do a simple PC to PC link. Any Ethernet patch cable will work regardless of whether it's wired crossover or straight-through.
posted by flabdablet at 9:08 AM on November 29, 2014

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