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How to transfer files to your new PC or Mac

Computerworld | Dec 22, 2020

There are several ways to transfer your files from your old computer to your new one. You can back up your files to the cloud or a hard drive, or you can use a few different applications. You can even transfer files from a PC to a new Mac. Learn how to move files from one computer to another and what to do with your old computer once you're finished.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

Congratulations! You have a new Windows PC or Mac. But all your files are on your old computer. This tutorial explains how to fix that.

There are several ways to transfer your files.
You could copy all your files onto an intermediate drive and then onto your new computer.
You could back up your old PC and restore the files to a new PC using Windows 10’s File History feature, which is in Settings. Go to the Update & Security section, then to Backup.
To do so from an old Mac to a new Mac, you could use the Migration Assistant tool in the Utilities folder to restore your old Mac’s Time Machine backup to your new Mac.

Another option is to use a migration tool. Laplink’s $60 PCmover Professional for Windows can transfer files and some settings from one Windows PC to another. PCmover is for Windows PCs only; there is no migration tool to go from a Mac to a Windows PC.

If you have a new Mac, its built-in Migration Assistant can transfer files and some settings from your old computer. Migration Assistant can migrate from one Mac to another as well as from a Windows PC to a Mac.

But the easiest way to transfer files is to use the cloud. You can use the cloud to move files across Windows PCs, across Macs, or across a combination of the two.

Be sure that both computers have the same cloud storage service installed — you can use Microsoft OneDrive, Apple iCloud Drive, Google Drive, Dropbox, or Box, for example. And make sure that you have enough storage available for all your files. Then sign into the cloud service on both computers.
Now, move your files to the cloud on the old computer. You should have a virtual drive on the computer for your cloud service. Just move your folders and files to it. Your data will begin to upload to the cloud over your internet connection.

Here’s a tip if you use Windows: You can set OneDrive to automatically sync everything on your desktop and in the Documents folder — where most people keep their files — to the cloud. To do so, go to Settings in OneDrive, open the Backup pane, click the Manage Backup button, select whatever you want synced, and the click Start Backup.

And here’s a tip if you use macOS: You can set iCloud Drive to automatically sync everything on your desktop and in the Documents folder — again, where most people keep their files — to the cloud. Open iCloud preferences, click the Options button next to iCloud Drive, and check the Desktop & Documents Folders option in the Documents tab.

Once you’ve moved your files to the cloud storage, they’ll start to sync to your new computer. Just be patient!
Use the synchronization time to install your apps on the new computer from the Microsoft store or the Apple Mac App store, from the vendor websites, or from your installation discs. Be sure to sign out of your apps on the old computer first.

If you use iCloud, Office 365 or Microsoft 365, or G Suite or Google Workspace, your contacts and emails should already be stored in the cloud. That means they’ll sync to your new computer after you sign in.
Likewise, if you’ve enabled syncing in your favorite browser, your bookmarks will sync to the new computer as well.

If you plan on using both computers moving forward, you’re done. But if you want to retire or sell the old one, you’re not quite finished. You must sign out of the cloud storage service on that old computer, so files from your new one aren’t synced to it. This also prevents any files that you delete on the old computer from being deleted on the new computer, which is what the cloud service will do if still enabled on the old computer.

Once you’ve broken the cloud connection between the old and new computer, you can the sign out of all other accounts you may have, from iTunes to Amazon, so no one can access them if they get ahold of your old computer. Then, if it’s a work computer, hand it over to IT. If it’s your own, finish the security job: Wipe out the old computer’s drive before recycling it, giving it away, or selling it.
Enjoy that new computer!
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