Computer 101 Q- transfer files between computers

Whenever one computer has perished & I’ve bought a new one, I’ve just had the folks at the shop do the file transfer, so I never had any experience myself at this.
However, my friend got a new laptop & wants to transfer her old desktop’s files to it. I tell her it should be simple matter of hooking up connections between them, BUT I don’t know what connections. So I one more rely on the kindness of Dopers for a Computer 101 lesson- thanks!

Depends on how dead the computer is.

If it is in reasonable operating condition and can be networked, you can connect the 2 computers with a “crossover” ethernet cable and do it that way. Older methods exist (involving serial cables, etc.), but that is the modern way to set up an ad hoc ethernet network with minimal expense. I think there is a way to do it via USB and/or Firewire, but I like ethernet.

If the computer won’t boot or won’t network or whatever, but the hard drive is in reasonably working order, you can install it as a secondary drive on the new computer and access it that way. There are complications, but that’s the basics.

If the hard drive is fried, none of it matters, because short of calling in a data restoration specialist, you won’t get the files anyway.

Sorry for the confusing, HER computer isn’t dead. She’s giving it to her Mom since
she got her laptop. I don’t know if her old computer has an ethernet set-up so if
I could have the USB & Firewall explanations, I’d appreciate it.

Btw, I do intend to do some research on this (howstuffworks) but I have to leave for the day, so I’m grateful for the help.

Can’t get much more detailed without some basic info, mainly what operating systems are on the two computers. Unless the desktop is very old (like pre-1998), chances are that it does have a built-in ethernet port. Laptop may or may not.

If it’s XP on both, I can tell you that Microsoft made it very easy by putting a “Documents and Settings Transfer” wizard in. Whether it works or not, dunno, haven’t used it.

Firewire networking is pretty straight forward, just plug a firewaire cable into each computer. Both computers need to support it though.

As I recall winxp is the lowest version that supports it but windows 2000 might if I recall correctly.

usb is a little more complicated and needs special software, and a special cable.

Eithernet networking is alot easier though. unless her computer was made before the late 90s it should have an eithernet port.
A cross over eithernet cable will cost $6 if you look around, Firewire prolly $15, and the cheapest i’ve seen usb networking kits is $30.

On the off chance it don’t have an eithernet port, eithernet cards are muy cheap. Like $5 online and $15 in the store.

Eithernet is alot less configuration usually, so way cheaper and less trouble.

If it hasn’t an ethernet port it certainly won’t have a firewire port, unless it is a Mac.
Ethernet is decidedly the simplest way to do it.

One other option, not cheaper and not simpler either:

I had a dead laptop with critical data on the drive. Removed the drive, bought an external USB enclosure (£12 - about $20), installed the drive, plugged it into the desktop and transferred the files to the desktop, although they could just as easily have stayed on the laptop drive.
Wiped the laptop drive and it is now an external drive for anything that needs it.

The USB file transfer cable may be the cheapest route, if you have to buy something. You can get them for less than $30, especially the old 1.1 versions which you can get for about $12. However, it’s slow by modern standards (6 mbps), and requires installation of something like “pclink” on each computer. That software should come with the transfer cable. That said, it’s not that difficult, and a USB file transfer cable was a useful thing to have lying around at one time. These days, much less so.

I’d also suggest an external USB drive of some type. If you don’t have that much data, you might be able to shuffle it with multiple transfers using a thumb drive, come to that. If you have a spare disk around somewhere, USB enclosures are also cheap.

yabob beat me to it, but…

If the amount of data isn’t too great, the simplest solution would be to buy a USB flash drive (aka “thumb drive”, “memory key” and other names.) They are recognized by Windows XP and 2000 without any drivers and operate like a portable hard drive. Just stick it in the USB port and it shows up as a drive letter. Copy or move the files to it, pop it out and plug it in the new machine.

They are common everywhere these days. I’ve seen a 1GB unit for as low as FREE (with rebate) but commonly see them for $9.95 at places like Staples, OfficeMax, etc.

There also are parallel and serial port options, using the old version of a cross-over cable, known as a null-modem cable. This is to be avoided if possible as it is painfully slow. At work we go through this hundreds of times a year when we cycle old computers out of service and replace them with new ones. We just shoot the critical files to the network, (The big hard drive in the sky) and download them to the new computer. Assuming you do not have a dedicated file server, the option KneadToknow suggested (ethernet cross-over cable direct link) is a less elegant, but most efficient solution. The network file server just means we do not have to have the two machines in the same room. In those cases where the old machine is no longer bootable due to any reason other than catastrophic hard drive failure, we use a USB converter cable which allows us to plug any IDE or SATA Drive into a USB port and use it as an external drive. Sorry, but no SCSI drives are supported. Like wise, no MFM or RLL drives. If you have one of those, (80’s vintage stuff) I got a message for you, the eighties called and they want thier copy of DOS 4.0 back!

You may be able to find this device cheaper elsewhere, Cyberguys tends to be a little pricey on some items. But they have the coolest toys. Thier catalog is awesome, and their companion company Extreme Geeks is even better! I don’t have a link to extreme geeks handy, but I warn you, be careful going to there website. I once mistyped the URL and ended up in a rather offensive porno site.

Good luck!

Got a digital camera with USB?

Plug it in and it acts just like an external drive. Worked for me.

The easiest for you set set up will be this USB Data Transfer Link, and it’s cheap. This will be the most compatible with the most computers you have to use this for in the near future.