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How To Transfer Files To An External Hard Drive

Updated on July 2, 2010
Western Digital Passport
Western Digital Passport

Pictures, music, videos and other such files bogging down your PC or Laptop? What's worse is what if your computer crashes? All those great memories and tunes or that novel you have been working on for two years now, just may be gone with it.

So you run out and buy an external hardrive? Excellent idea! I have two of them.

You bring home your shiny new external hardrive with oodles of memory and plug that baby in to your PC or Laptop with a USB cord. Most come with an automatic backup utility which begins as soon as you plug it in. The "pocket" drives don't need external power and they are portable and small enough to put in your laptop case.

There are a number of models, makers, and sizes of external drives to choose from.

So now you look at your new toy and wonder "How do I transfer my files to this external hardrive?"

Computer Drives
Computer Drives
Sub Folder Screen
Sub Folder Screen

Preparing Your External Hardrive

Make sure your external hardrive is plugged in to your pc or notebook (laptop). Click on the Windows start button (I use Windows Vista ), click on Computer. The window showing your drives and devices will appear. You will see your external hardrive listed as in this picture it tells you WD Passport (E:).

Double click to open your external hardrive. It's important to create separate and new files to keep yourself organized and to go back find that particular picture by the beach from February of 2009. Picture files by year, Music files, Document files, Movie/Video files.

So let's create some new files...

Right click inside a blank area of your external hardrive window, click on New under the pop up menu and select Folder. A file folder will appear with the name New Folder highlighted. For practice lets make this the picture files for 2009. So rename or type in 2009 and hit enter. (You can always right click on that folder and select rename if you need to rename or fix).

Now you have an empty file folder entitled 2009. Lets double click on that file folder and repeat the above process to create sub folders. I keep my pictures listed by year then month of that year. (ex. Jan 09, Feb 09, Mar 09, etc .)

Similar with Music files, I create sub folders by genre. This entirely up to you, however, the more organized you are in the beginning the easier it will be to find what you want down the road. (ex. Jailhouse Rock by Elvis under Oldies, Mustang Sally under R&B folder, etc .)

You can follow the same process for Music, documents, videos, or whatever other files you want to create. I create separate File Folders for my children so they can keep their files in their own place.

Drag and Drop Folders

Let's Get Moving

Now that you have your folders and sub folders set up, let's start moving some of those precious memory-draining files.

Keeping the Computer window open, on the Left side of the screen is the list of everything on your computer including your External Hard Drive. The right side will show you folders. Let's start with Pictures. Click on your user or where your pictures are stored on your PC or Laptop. Double Click and open the Pictures File.

If your like me you'll have sub folders, if not, that's okay too. Slide the scroll bar on the left side down to your External Hard Drive, if it doesn't show the sub files, click on the triangle next to the drive and the sub folders will appear.

The next step is very simple, we're going to drag and drop.

Click on the folder of pictures you want to move and drag to the appropriate sub folder on your External Hard Drive listed on the left side of your screen. For example if you have a file of pictures from April of 2009, drag and drop that folder to your 2009 Folder or Apr 09 sub folder on the External Hard Drive.

Follow the same procedure for Music, Videos, Documents, etc. Once your files are moved on the left side of your computer menu, click on your External Hard Drive, DOUBLE CHECK your folders and sub folders to verify that what you wanted moved was moved.

If the files were copied only, verify as above, that the files have been copied and you can delete them from your PC or notebook (Laptop). Right click on folder or file on your PC or Notebook (laptop) and select Delete, you will be prompted to verify that you are sure you want to delete these files... MAKE SURE THAT YOU DO! Triple check you External Hard Drive if you need to before you delete any files on your hardrive.

Importing New and Accessing Old

Importing new picture files, music files, video files, etc. is simple. When you load a Sim card in the computer or use a USB cord from camera to computer, you will be prompted where to import your pictures to. Simply plug in your external hardrive and select that drive and the particular folder and sub folder where your want your files imported to. They go directly to your external hardrive and not on your PC or notebook (laptop).

To access files that have already been placed on the external hardrive, simply browse when prompted and select the external hardrive.

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    • profile image


      3 years ago


    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thank you ,thank you, thank you Missi.I will now print out your instructions and follow them to the letter.You are definitely making home computing more understandable and enjoyable not to mention a pleasant learning experience.Keep up the good work!

    • hotheadtech profile image


      7 years ago from New Jersey

      Great post! Very informative... keep up the great job :)

    • save my system profile image

      save my system 

      7 years ago from United Kingdom - London

      Portable hard drives are an important tool for people to store and protect their computer data. However, make sure speed of your system memory is greater than the speed of external hard drive.

    • Missi Darnell profile imageAUTHOR

      Missi Darnell 

      8 years ago from Southern California

      Your very welcome. Thank you for being an avid reader of my hubs.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thank you Missi there you go again amking things easy and step buy step!! Keep it coming you are making having a computer so easy!! Oh I was wondering do you know how to clean and make my ahrd drive faster? They say its easy but I was hopeing you could better explain so I don't lose important docs!! Thank you again!!


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