If you’ve ever replaced a computer or upgraded to a new one, one of the first things you probably thought about was how to transfer all of your data from the old system. These days, this can mean copying many large files and that can take some time.
One way to transfer the data is to copy it to an external device such as a flash drive
or an external hard drive and then copy it to the new machine. That can have the added bonus of creating a backup but might not always be possible or appropriate, especially if you have more data than you can fit on whatever external devices are available or if, like me, you work on other people’s machines and don’t wan’t to keep a copy of the data. It also takes time to copy that data down and then copy it back up.
This past week, I was shopping around for USB networking cables, also called bridged USB cables. The name comes from the little component in the middle of the cable which acts as a bridge and enables the two computers to connect and communicate. Actually, this is not new technology; I had a previous cable years ago that worked with Windows 98. This time, after comparing the newest models, I selected the Plugable Windows Transfer Cable for Windows which is designed to work with Windows XP through Windows 8.1.
Installation is pretty simple; you just plug either end of the cable into a USB port on the old machine and the other end into a USB port on the new machine. Then you’ll need to install the drivers and software on each machine. Both machines should be turned on and they need to have working monitors.
The cable is designed to be used with Windows Easy Transfer software. This software is no longer available with Windows 8.1, however, so there is also a license for the Easy Computer Sync software by Bravura which you can download from the Plugable site. I ordered the cable from Amazon.com and received the Bravura software product key by e-mail. When you install Easy Computer Sync on a machine for the first time, it will ask you for this key, so be sure to save it.
To test the cable, I transferred data from an old Windows XP laptop to my Windows 7 computer. I plugged the cable into both machines, downloaded the software and started the installation. The software does take a little longer to install on Windows XP since it has to add extra drivers but it’s still an easy installation. You’ll be asked to agree to the license and presented with other options which are pretty standard.
When you first start the software, it will prompt you to setup the other machine with the driver and cable connection and then go into wait mode until it sees a connection. Switching back to the Windows 7 machine, I started the software and it quickly saw the connection with the XP laptop and went to the main menu.
I really like that the Bravura software has multiple options for working with the other computer. Although you can use it for a one-time transfer of data, it’s actually capable of much more. The most flexible option and the one I preferred is the Drag and Drop Files option.
When you select this option, the program opens up an environment very similar to the Windows File Explorer with a set of controls at the top much like you would see in Office 2007 or later. This window shows the file systems from both machines and enables you to simply drag the files from the old computer to the new. You’ll probably want to check the box at the top to show the system folders since these include all the folders that make up the Windows user profiles including the My Documents and Desktop folders.
For the test, I selected a folder called Documents on the Windows XP desktop for transfer and dragged it over to a Data directory on the new machine and the transfer started automatically. The Documents folder was about 1.5 gigabytes in size and took less than four minutes to completely transfer.
One thing to be aware of is that if the software encounters a file that cannot be copied, for example if it’s being used by another program, then it will likely stop the entire operation and you’ll have to start again; so it’s best to close your e-mail programs, browsers and other programs before doing this.
The program offers full control of the file systems on both computers so, if I wanted to, I could delete the folder from the old computer. There are many other options available through the top menu. For more information on the software, check out the Bravura site which includes documentation and screenshots.
The software also offers an impressive option to control the other computer. It actually opens a re-sizable window showing the connected computer’s display. Since it’s working over a USB 2.0 connection, there is a little bit of a lag but it’s very usable and could be very handy for changing settings as needed on the other machine or looking through the menus to check for programs that might contain data that needs to be transferred. You can also go to full screen mode to get rid of the scroll bars. A hovering button control is available to close the full screen mode and go back.
Two other options are the file sync option which will synchronize the files between folders on the machines and the file and settings transfer wizard. Both start with the standard Windows system folders and have options to add your own custom folders as needed.
Once you’re done with the program, you can just X out of it, the connection will be broken and the program will shut down on both machines. Then just disconnect the cable from both machines and you’re done.
Overall, having tested the cable, I found it very easy to work with and consider it a great solution for transferring files, definitely preferable over juggling flash drives and external hard drives.