How to move all your files and folders to a new PC

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Hello Scott,

My daughter got me addicted to podcasts, and I follow about 15 different ones.  Yours is the one I look forward to the most.  You provide a great service to a  growing audience.  Thank you.

I have a Windows 7 desktop and it’s time for a new one.  I am planning to buy a Windows 10 PC in a month or two.  I am very concerned about how to get all my files (Word/Excel documents, photos, music, videos, etc.) onto my new PC.  When I upgraded to Windows 7, I recall purchasing software that came with a cable.  I connected the two computers together, and my files magically appeared on my new PC.

I don’t see such a device being available today.  What is the best way for a novice like me to get all my files to my new PC?  And how can I confirm they all actually arrived?

Thanks, Scott, and I hope you find my question to be of general interest!  -Richard

data transfer


Thanks Richard! This is a good question, and probably a timely one since lots of people got new computers at Christmas and might be wondering how to get all their “stuff” over to the new one.

Richard mentioned previously using a type of “data transfer cable” and a program that somehow moved everything over. Personally, I don’t recommending doing that. I don’t know if they are even still available. I experimented with something like that many years ago and it didn’t work very well.

The process that I use is pretty simple. The only extra equipment you’ll need is a USB portable drive, such as this one (which is available on Amazon):

USB portable drive


This little drive comes with one short cable, which plugs into any of the USB ports on your computer. When you plug it in, it will show up as another drive (such as drive E or drive F, whatever the next available drive letter is alphabetically).

Here’s the process (and remember, we can only copy files and folders – actual programs such as Microsoft Word, etc. will have to be installed directly on the new computer from a disc or a download):

1. Plug the portable drive in to your old computer. On that portable drive, make a new folder called “Documents”, and open it (it’s empty of course). Drag that window to the right side of your screen.

2. Open a new File Explorer window (Windows key + E) and move this window to the left side of your screen. Open the Documents folder so that you can see all of your files and folders in that window.

3. Select everything in that folder by clicking Ctrl + A. On one of the selected items, do a right click and choose “Copy”.

4. Now click back over to the other window – the one showing the empty “Documents” folder on the portable drive. In the middle of that window, do a right click and choose “Paste”.

At this point, you’ll see the computer go through the process of copying the contents of your old computer’s Documents folder over to the Documents folder on the portable drive

5. Repeat steps 1 through 4 for each folder you want to move over to the new computer. This usually includes Documents, Pictures, Music, Videos, Desktop. Those folders are easily found. Website Favorites/Bookmarks can be moved over but the process is different based on what web browser you use. Outlook emails can also be moved over but the process is more involved than what this blog post is covering today.

6. Connect the portable drive to the new computer and open it in a window which you’ll move over to the left side of the screen. Open the “Documents” folder on that drive so that you can see all of your documents. Hit Ctrl + A to select all of the documents, then do a right click and choose Copy.

7. Open a new File Explorer window and move it to the right side of your screen. In that window, click to open the Documents folder (which of course would be empty at this point). Somewhere in the middle of that window, do a right click and choose “Paste”. Now you’ll see the Documents that are stored on the portable drive being copied to the Documents folder on the computer.

Repeat that process for each folder on the portable drive. When that’s done, your computer will now have your data in the right place and ready to use.

Of course, there are a lot of other things that need to be done when setting up a new PC (particularly a Windows 10 computer) but following the process above will at least get your important files and folders copied to the new computer so you can use them.

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Mike Martin
January 1st, 2018

Great article and probably perfect timing. I’ve been doing something similar for many years for myself or family or friends (I’m not in the same league as you). I haven’t checked but what I use might not be still available. It is just a hard drive case. I remove the hard drive from the old computer and put it in the case. With a USB connection, it simply becomes another drive on Windows Explorer, like with your process. I then just copy/paste or drag the directories or files I want to keep on the new C or whatever drive (I prefer to keep data in a separate partition for easier isolation and back-up).

Scott Johnson
January 1st, 2018

That definitely works Mike. The part that might trip up some people is “remove the hard drive from the old computer”.