How to Transfer Files from Windows 8.1/7 to Windows 10 When You Switch the Computers

When you switch your old Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 computer with new Windows 10 computer, then transferring your personal data (files, folders) and programs is always an additional and important task. If you do in-place upgrade, then you do not worry about the data transfer, but on the new hardware this will be challenging. Recently I switch to new Windows 10 computer from Windows 8.1 and let me share in this post about the possible and working methods to transfer files from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10.

Let us understand something initially, you can’t transfer the installed programs from one computer to another easily. You need to install each software and activate them individually on the new computer. To activate the license of these programs, either you need to revoke the existing license from Windows 8.1 (which might require internet connection) or contact the software provider to activate on the new computer hardware.

This guide shows you how to transfer your personal files, such as images, my documents, desktop files, downloads files and Outlook PST file to new Windows 10 computer on different hardware.

Steps to Transfer Files from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10

It depends on which way you are going to select, either by a paid software or built-in utilities or free and manual method.

Built-in Tool – Windows Easy Transfer

‘Windows Easy Transfer’ is a built-in tool of Windows Operating Systems to transfer files and personal settings from one computer to another. To be honest, it’s not very effective on Windows 8.1 as it used to work on earlier Operating Systems. According this post, Windows 8.1 easy transfer is not ‘Easy’ as they claim since Microsoft has removed data transfer over the network on Windows 8.1.

You must have a specific ‘Windows Easy Transfer Cable’ to connect both computers together and do the data transfer. Otherwise, you should transfer the data with Windows Easy transfer from Windows 8.1 to an external storage (like USB hard disk or USB disk) then use Windows 10 easy transfer to import your data. Since it works in it’s own way, the data copying and transferring to another computer will be a time consuming job. You can find out more information here at Microsoft site.

Windows easy transfer to move files from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10

I’m not going to share these steps here because really it didn’t work for me.

Basically most of the paid backup utilities will do the job neatly. These personal home backup utilities can backup your user profile data from old computer and restore to Windows 10 computer in appropriate locations. So, once the restore has completed, you will see the same files/folders at same location as on your old computer. For example, EaseUS having a utility called ‘PC Transfer’ which can even transfer the programs from one PC to another. You can check the product here.

transfer files from Windows 8.1 to 10

You can find similar paid or free third-party utilities to transfer your files, folders and even programs from one PC to another.

Free and Manual Method – Solid Way

I manually copied the user profile data from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10.  You need to find a way to connect your old computer’s hard disk to new Windows 10 computer. Either fix it internally (by SATA cable) or use a hard disk enclosure to connect through USB port. If this method looks difficult for you, then use a USB external hard disk or USB flash disk that depends on the size of your files on the old computer.

Basically we will be copying the files and transfer to the correct locations on Windows 10 user profile. If you have more than one user on these computers, then you also need to transfer them individually.

By default, Windows OS user profile resides at C:\Users folder. You will find desktop, my documents, downloads, Favorites and other personal data at this location.

user files on Windows 8.1

The partition ‘E’ is from Windows 8.1 and ‘C’ drive is the main partition of new Windows 10 OS. I had to copy and paste the content of each folder from old partition to new partition.

copy files from Windows 8.1 to 10

Important Note:  You must open these folders and copy the content. Do not copy the main folder (such as Desktop) and overwrite the Windows 10 Desktop folder, because it will overwrite your other files and folders (if its there) on desktop, this is applicable for other folders too, such as My Documents and Downloads. That’s the reason, you must open these folders and copy the content of it.

By following this manual and free method you can easily transfer files from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10. You must copy other files and folders if you keep them outside the user profile folder on Windows 8.1. For example, you might have some other folders and files on C or D drive, do not forget them too.

To copy the PST files of the Outlook client email application, you can find it under below location. It’s inside a hidden folder called ‘AppData’, so you must enable viewing mode to see the hidden folders and files in Windows 10 as shown below.

enable hidden folders

PST or OST file from Microsoft Outlook email client will be located at following location on old Windows 8.1 hard disk. You must copy that to the new computer. You can find more information about the path of PST file here.


pst file location on Windows 10

I hope this guide would give some ideas of possible ways to transfer your personal files and data (sometimes programs too) to a new Windows 10 while making switch to new computer. The manual and free way is preferable because you can make sure your all files are transferred front of you, and of course it’s a free method.