Transfer Files from a Desktop to a Laptop—Computer Files

Get Tips to Help You Transfer Files Between Computers

More and more people must rely on using a laptop in their ever-busy lives to keep up with their workload, and then find they have different copies of the same file on both the laptop and their desktop. The easiest solution is having all machines networked and storing all working files on the network's file server(s). However, if you need to work at home and other locations using multiple computers, this may not be possible.

While this article will cover transferring files, you'll find that you get a lot more out of your time at the keyboard if you check out the excellent PC Secrets. This helpful guide covers lots of computer basics - and not-so basic tips - and is perfect for people who work at desktops (and laptops!) all day.  

Here's how to transfer files between computers.

  1. Any portable storage media can be used to hold a copy of a file and move it between two compatible machines. Options include:
    • USB Flash drive/computer flash storage card/reader
    • Portable hard disk
    • Floppy disk (Not that you'll keep too many files on a 1.44 MB 3.5inch floppy!)
    • Zip drives (Iomega – 250&750MB)
    • CD or DVD disks can be used, replicating old 'sneaker net' style file transfers (walking from one machine to the next with a floppy disk) before Local Area Networks were commonplace
  2. Copy the file(s) you want to transfer from their location on one machine to the portable drive. Use whichever option for copying files you find easiest: Drag and drop using the mouse, cut and paste, or copy, using the menu options. Take the portable drive to the second PC, hook them up together, and copy the files to the new machine.
  3. Networked computersIf all machines used have Internet access, you may decide to store files on a "webmail" server using the Internet, by sending the files attached to an email message to your own email address. This may be possible using a commercial file repository contract, spare space on an existing web server using a "web disc," or even simply mailing the file to yourself on a webmail account. Google presently provides users with space in excess of 6GB (approximately equal to 6,000 MB), a storage size you are unlikely to fill with text and numbers from word processing or spreadsheet files. You can then download a copy of this file any time you log on to whichever machine you're using.
  4. Whichever method you choose, there is a risk of overwriting your latest work (version) with an earlier file. This means losing any work added after the date of the earlier file. Windows tries to safeguard against this by asking if you want to replace one file with another and informing you of the relative ages of the two files. Similar precaution messages appear on most windowed operating systems (e.g. Mac OS and Linux). You may want to consider changing file names when you move files from one computer to another.
  5. A tool to help you move files between different machines is included in Windows OS from Microsoft, since Windows 95 at least – the Briefcase application. This works like a standard
    Windows folder and assists transfers by automatically identifying the most recent version of files with the same name.
  6. Any file has a date and time somewhere in the Information menu, and the OS can use this data to identify the latest version provided the date and time are correctly set on each system/machine.

Good luck transferring files from your laptop to your desktop and vice versa. Knowing how this works can help you start organizing computer files as well.


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my short answer to Mary is about all can post on this subject. I can explain in more detail but this will not provide a simple answer.
I don't think I can provide a suitable article on this subject since it would be "how you can't easily transfer programs between computers".
with apologies

By Rik Whittaker

Hi Mary
Your post is superb - the answer is rather tricky. for program seller / makers / writers don't necessarily want you to be able to do this too readily. I'll have a think about any simple solutions I can offer. If the program is a short smple one which runs from an executable file - ".exe" then copy the file to the computer and it can run. But most software / programs now need an install routine.


By Rik Whittaker

Hi Rik. Thanks for this. What about transferring programs from one computer to another?

By Mary Norton