Moving files and folders from one PC to another is easy if they're both on the same network, but if one is older and lacks the ability to connect to fast Ethernet or Wi-Fi networks, USB transfer cables can help avoid extensive back and forths with external drives. In fact, USB transfer cables can be one of the fastest ways to transfer masses of files between two PCs altogether, especially if you use a high-quality cable to do it.
What Are USB Transfer Cables
USB transfer cables aren't just USB cables with two male headers. Connecting two PCs with a traditional USB cable won't give you the same effect as using a USB transfer cable, because the cable lacks the ability to tell either system what it is connecting to. USB transfer cables, on the other hand, have a chip in the middle which lets them both know what they're connecting to, enabling high-speed transfers between the two systems.
Typically, USB transfer cables have USB-A headers on each end, but some, like Cable Matter's USB-C to USB-A data transfer cable, gives the option of a USB-C transfer cable connection on one or both ends of the connection.
Most USB transfer cables can offer transfer speeds of up to 5Gbps, which is far faster than most cloud backup solutions, and many local networks too. They support a wide range of operating systems, including older platforms like Windows XP, and Vista, as well as MacOS. That can make an easy transfer cable for large quantities of data between older and newer machines, as well as between Windows and Mac OS systems.
Another important consideration of these USB bridge cables is that they keep you off of the network. That not only means greater data transfer speeds for computers with less than 10Gbps Ethernet or Wi-Fi 6 support, but greater privacy too. If you want to move data from one PC to another without risking it crossing a network where data snooping or capture could occur, USB transfer cables offer the best way to do it.
How to Use a USB Transfer Cable
As capable as USB transfer cables are, they don't work alone. To make the most of the USB connection to transfer all the data from one system to another, you need to use bespoke data transfer software.
Each of Cable Matters' USB transfer cables comes with free versions of PClinq5 and Bravura Easy Computer Sync. The former is compatible with both Windows and MacOS, while the latter is Windows only, but both allow you to leverage a USB bridge cable to transfer data between two PCs. The Bravura program will also let you remotely control the "other" computer from whichever one you run the software on, making it slightly more versatile for some uses.
If you don't want to use one of those included programs, you could also opt for the alternative Laplink PCMover Professional, which both Cable Matters USB transfer cables are fully compatible with. You will have to pay extra for it, however.
To begin the data transfer, boot up both systems and install the most applicable software for you, then connect the USB transfer cable to each of them. Make sure to select the fastest USB port you have available – at least USB 3.0. A USB 2.0 port will work with these sorts of computer transfer cables, but that will reduce your data transfer rate significantly.
Once you have everything ready, run the software on the PC you want to transfer the data to and follow the on-screen wizard. You can choose to either synchronize files and folders between the two systems, effectively transferring data both ways between the two PCs, or simply move data from one to the other.
You will also have the option of deciding what to do in the case of a data conflict, such as a file or folder already existing on the other PC. If in doubt, ask to be prompted. That way, you'll be able to handle each conflict as it comes up, rather than guessing what they might be ahead of time.
Once you begin the data transfer over the USB bridge cable you'll be able to watch a progress bar to note how long may be left – it's not 100% accurate so don't take it for gospel. When it's finished you'll be given a report of how many files were sent and received, and what that data total was.