Looking For External Hard Drive

Dear Computer Lady,

Your articles are extremely helpful, and I love your newsletters, can’t live without them, you are totally awesome.

My question is: I have two computers, the older one I want to take most of the info on it and transfer to the newer one

I was told to get an external hard drive, transfer all my “stuff” to the hard drive then attach it to my computer, then I access all my files.

Any help you can give this “computer dummy” would be greatly appreciated. My old computer is an XP, the newer one is an XPS. Any recommendations on what external hard drive to buy?

Virginia ;..;

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Dear Virginia,

An external hard drive is an excellent way to move your files from an old computer to a new computer.

I have found that most brands of External Hard Driveswork pretty much the same, but I can give you some guidelines on what to look for based on the computers that you want to use it on.

First, your external drive will run on USB. Make sure your old computer has USB ports that you can use the hard drive with. Many XP computers came with the older USB1 standard instead of the new USB2 that modern computers have. If this is the case with your old computer, make sure the hard drive says that it supports both USB1 and USB2.

Some External Hard Drives get their power only from the USB ports on the computer, while others come with their own power adapter. I prefer the power adapter, but many USB powered drives work fine. Be sure that if your drive is getting power only from the USB connection that you have plugged it directly into the back of your computer. Many USB connections don’t provide full power if they are on the keyboard, monitor, or other device.

The size of your external hard drive is important as well. To get the best use of your new device, I would suggest that you get a drive that is as big, or bigger than the hard drive on your new computer. This way, you can use it to back up the new computer without needing to replace the drive as you add new files.

To find out the size of your hard drive, click on “Start” and then click on “Computer” (or “My Computer in XP). Right click on the C drive and click on properties. This will show you a nice pie chart with the total amount of space on your drive as well as how much is full, and how much is free space.

Once you have purchased your drive, you can copy your files. Here is my favorite way to copy files:

1. Connect your external hard drive, and open a window for the drive. 2. Move the window to one side of your screen so that it takes up about 1/2 of your desktop. 3. Now, open a second window for your files, and move it so that it is on the other side of your screen. 4. Drag the folders from one window to the other to copy.

Since you are using XP, most of your files will be located on the C: drive in the “Documents and Settings” folder.

Click here for some External Hard Drives from Amazon.com


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    • ailurophile
    • September 18, 2010

    Recently Virginia asked about transferring files between two computers. She mentioned an external hard drive. An external HDD is certainly a very good option, and the drive can be used for years after its initial mission.
    But not everybody can afford one. A cheaper option is an Ethernet crossover cable. Just connect the cable to the two computers, and you’re ready to go. A lot less expensive. Just make sure it’s a CROSSOVER cable, or it won’t work.
    Cliff Sees

    • alexnetherton
    • September 19, 2010

    Elizabeth, I am confused; I know of Windows XP, as I had a computer that came with ME, and I replaced it with XP. I now have a computer with Vista (and I like it fine, thanks), but what is XPS? I have never heard of that. Who makes it? What is it?


  1. Hi Alex,

    Dell has a line of computers that have the brand XPS. That is probably what Virginia was referring to.


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