Can You Use a USB Cable to Transfer Data from One Computer to Another?

Last Updated on March 10, 2021

File transfer has gotten more efficient over the years, owing to better tech as well as software particularly in the Wireless space. With many options to choose from, you may be wondering, can you use a USB cable to transfer data from one computer to another?

The simple answer is that Yes! you can, but the process is more complicated than it sounds. For starters, you need a very special kind of USB cable. Just a regular USB cable with the same connector on each end won’t do. Instead, you need a data link cable with special circuits that facilitate the transfer.

And while having the correct cable is indeed a step in the right direction, you will still need to install the correct software and drivers before you can start using the datalink cable.

Can You Use a USB Cable to Transfer Data from One Computer to Another?

If you are switching from one computer to another and moving your files, or just transferring a few documents over then yes, you can conveniently use a special USB cable to transfer the data.

More specifically, the cable used is known as a Data Link USB cable, or a bridging cable, although many other names are used.

Now, let’s see how can you use a USB cable to transfer data from one computer to another.

1. Get the Right Cable – DATA Link Cable

USB transfer cable pc to pc
Plugable USB 3.0 Transfer Cable. Source: Plugable USB 3.0 (Amazon Affiliate Link)

The first step to take before anything is to ensure you have the right USB cable for the job. You can purchase a datalink cable from various online stores.

Unlike regular USB cables, this one has an electrical circuit that facilitates the USB-to-USB connection between the laptops. For that reason, it may have a bulge somewhere along its length where the circuitry is located.  

2. Power On and Connect the Computers

Can You Use a USB Cable to Transfer Data from One Computer to Another
Source: Plugable

Once you have the correct USB cable, the next logical step will be to have both commuters nearby. They will also need to be powered on and unlocked.

When ready, connect both ends of the USB cable to the two computers. If you receive a notification indicating that the USB cable has been detected, you can proceed to the next step. If not, try connecting to different USB ports and give the computers a minute to detect the new hardware.

3. Install the Drivers

Drivers help the USB ports negotiate an appropriate connection strategy and also takes care of determining how the USB will transfer the data, of course considering that the USB ports can transmit both data and power.

The drivers can come in a disc packaged with the USB cable. This of course depends on the manufacturer. But, if you didn’t get a disc with the USB cable you bought, you can download the software.

Head over to the manufacturer’s website and if find the downloadable software related to the USB cable you just bought. Then, install the program as you’d normally do.

4. Software Configuration

You will also need special software that handles the data transfer for you. It’s handy as it will let you set up how the connection will be handled.

Software configuration will vary depending on the USB cable you have. Furthermore, the software you use, just as with the drivers, should come from the product manufacturer.

The Plugable USB 3.0 cable shown above, for instance, includes the Bravura Easy Computer Sync software to facilitate data transfer.

5. Move the files

With everything correctly set up, the next thing you’ll need to do is to move the files. Under configuration, you should choose the directory you want to copy your files to, and ensure it’s large enough to accommodate the files you are sending.

Initiating the transfer will depend on the program you’re using, and some very intuitive ones allow you to perform a simple drag and drop. 

Wait for the transfer to complete. The software you use will have a progress indicator; or notify you as soon as the transfer is done and it’s safe to remove the cable. Once you get this notification, you can disconnect the computers, and voila! You have just moved files between two computers using a USB cable.

Some Precautions to Take Note Off

Ensuring a stable connection and safe transfer is necessary. Make sure the cable is secure and that you do not move around much.

To avoid having to restart the transfer, make sure all the files you needed to move have been safely transferred between the two computers before you unplug the USB cable.

The transfer takes several steps to accomplish and involves having to buy a new cable if you don’t have it at hand. If all you need is a simple file transfer between both computers, you can use a network connection either via WIFI or Ethernet.

Why You Need a Special Cable?

The bulge on the cable indicates that there’s more going on than just wires. For starters, it has two male USB connectors on each end. A standard USB cable can not be used for this because its wiring can cause issues for both computers and may even lead to damages.

Computers tend to negotiate in the USB connection as master devices, yet the USB connection tends to work in a master/slave architecture.

The two computers using a regular USB cable won’t know how to behave in this scenario. The circuitry in a data link USB cable makes this process easier for both computers, thus facilitating data transfer between them.

What Other Options Do You Have To Transfer Data?

ethernet transfer
Ethernet (LAN) and WiFi are the most widespread and easiest method for transfer huge amounts of Data.

While the answer to the question “Can You Use a USB Cable to Transfer Data from One Computer to Another?” is Affirmative, this begs the question, why would you want to go this route?

Unless you have special needs, there are plenty of other ways you can transfer data. The easiest and the most wide spread large data transfer method between two PC is through Ethernet and WiFi, with Ethernet being the reigning champion in ease of use, stability and transfer speed.

As far as the data transfer speed goes, that would be limited by the speed of your hard drive on both systems. If both have HDDs, the transfer speeds would be slower. If one has SSD and other has an HDD, the speed will governed by the slower PC with the HDD.

If both have SSDs, then the transfer speed can be high.

However, a 10G Ethernet connection can sustain much faster speeds than a USB 3.0 Data Link cable. This is particularly important in the case of SSDs on both systems as the speed bottleneck here would be the transfer link and not the drive.

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Conclusion

After reading this, you have the answer for can you use a USB cable to transfer data from one computer to another. The process involves a unique kind of USB cable with male connectors on both ends.

Somewhere between the two male connectors is a bulge containing electrical circuits that facilitate the successful connection between the two computers. This also ensures that the USBs don’t end up damaging each other by supplying power via the connection.

For a working link, you’ll need to install the recommended software from the manufacturer of the USB cable and also have required drivers.

Atif Qazi

Atif Qazi is the founder of PCGearLab. He is a PC enthusiast as well as engineer with a keen interest in PC hardware and all stuff related to tech and games.

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