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How to Transfer Files between Hard Drives

by Paul Sanders

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Open computer case showing hard drives

Some older computers have smaller hard drives that fill up quickly with software, music, videos and games. When your hard disk fills up, it may be time to upgrade to a larger, faster internal hard drive. But how do you get all of your files and software to new hard drives? We walk you through the steps below.

Transferring Hard Drive Files:

  1. Select an appropriate hard drive. Depending on the computer hardware you have to work with, existing internal hard drives will connect to the motherboard via an IDE cable or ATA cable. Check your existing hard drive to see which it uses and buy hard drives that use the same cable. New hard drives can be a spinning hard disk or a solid-state hard drive with enough memory to suit your needs. You can even find 1 TB hard drives, which are large enough to store over one thousand gigabytes of data.

  2. Open the computer case. You'll need to get inside your computer to access the motherboard. With the computer off and all wires disconnected, open the case. All desktop computer cases are different, but most of them have a removable panel that exposes the hard drives and other computer hardware inside.

  3. Adjust the jumper settings on each hard drive. Both your existing and new internal hard drives have three sets of pins on the back, labeled as "Master," "Slave" and "Cable Select." A small post, known as a jumper, will be plugged into one set of these pins. You'll need to adjust the jumpers on both hard drives as follows:

    Jumper Settings

    • Master: Set your original hard drive to "Master" by plugging the jumper into that position.

    • Slave: Set your new internal hard drive to the "Slave" setting.

  4. Attach the IDE or ATA cable. Your connector cable will have two connections on it: one for both the master and slave hard drives. The master hard drive connection is closer to the end that connects to your motherboard. Insert the connectors on the cable into their corresponding hard drives. Then make sure the other end of the cable is connected to the appropriate port on your motherboard.

  5. Connect the new hard drive to power. Find a free power cable on the motherboard and connect it to the power port on the back of your new hard drive. It should be identical to the cable powering your current hard drive.

  6. Turn on the computer. Reconnect your keyboard, mouse and monitor to the computer and turn it on. Leave the computer case open.

  7. Copy files to the new hard drive. Once your computer is booted, navigate to the folder containing your hard drive icons. You should see a new icon for your new hard disk. You can now open those hard drives and copy files from one to the other.

Hard Drive Tip:

  1. A simpler, but slower, method for transferring files between hard drives is to connect an external hard drive to your computer and transfer or copy files to it. Most external drives are USB external hard drives, which connect through one of your computer's USB ports.

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