Today, when it comes to file sharing, it’s not just about sharing between computers anymore. Now, your Android phone friend might want some of the videos you took from your iPhone, or you might want to copy a bunch of photos from your Windows PC to your iPad.
In this article, I hope to provide you with the most complete cross-device sharing guide possible. It will be long, so please skip to the section that applies to you. Portions will be divided into sharing between computers, sharing between computers and mobile devices, and sharing between mobile devices only.
Note: This article will link to a lot of my previous posts on Online Tech Tips and Geek Help as those explain certain tasks step by step.
Share files between computers
When it comes to sharing files between computers, you can divide it into two categories: local shares or remote shares. If you need to copy some files to another computer on your local network, this will be much faster because you will be using Ethernet or Wi-Fi to do the transfer.
This is the best way to transfer large amounts of data to another computer quickly. When copying files outside of your LAN (local area network), you will be limited by your Internet speed. If you have Verizon FIOS with a 75 Mbps upload/download connection (which I currently have), transferring large amounts of data to a remote computer should also be quick.
However, if you’re stuck with AT&T and have 1.5 Mbps upload speeds (which I had before), it will take a long time to upload a few gigabytes of data. Let’s talk about local data transfer first.
Local data transfer
If you’re trying to share data only between Windows computers, Microsoft has finally made things easier with the introduction of homegroups in Windows 7. Hopefully you’re not running Windows XP or Windows Vista because of homegroups. does not work with those operating systems. If that’s the case, I’ll still explain the methods you can use to share between all versions of Windows.
To get started, first read my post on set up Homegroup in Windows 7. Note that the procedure is exactly the same in Windows 8 and Windows 10.
If you are running Windows 8, read my post on how join a Windows 8 computer to a Windows 7 homegroup. If you have any other problems connecting your Windows computer to your homegroup, read on fix homegroup problems in Windows parcel.
Mac and PC file sharing
So that’s about it for Windows PCs. It’s the simplest way and it works very well. Now, suppose you need to share files between your PC and Mac, what do you do?
Well, it’s still pretty easy since both Apple and Microsoft have been supporting each other’s operating systems for the past few years. This means that it is now very simple for the Mac to access the Windows shared folder and vice versa.
First, you can read my detailed instructions on how to access Mac shared folders from Windows PC. It’s pretty simple and something almost anyone can do.
If you want to do it the other way around, read my post on how to access a Windows shared folder from a Mac running OS X.
Using this method of creating shared folders also allows you to share data between older versions of Windows like XP and Vista with newer versions, and also between Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems.
Direct connection to the computer
Another way to share files between two computers is to connect them directly. You can do this if both computers have a wireless card or an Ethernet jack.
If you have two computers that both have wireless cards, you can connect them wirelessly by creating a special network. This is quite a lengthy procedure and there are some limitations to this method, so I only recommend it if you can’t use a homegroup or don’t have access to a Wi-Fi or LAN network. .
Using this method, you can be sitting on the beach and still connect two computers and share data. If both computers have Ethernet jacks, you can buy crossover cables and connect them directly via cable.
You can read my post on connect two computers via crossover cablebut you might run into some problems as it’s a bit more technical.
There are still more options to move files locally efficiently. One option is to use Dropbox and enable an option called LAN Sync. This feature will automatically find another computer that has Dropbox installed on the same network, and instead of uploading it to Dropbox first and then re-syncing, it will just transfer the data over the LAN to the other computer.
Last, but not least, is to use a traditional USB flash drive to transfer data between computers. I didn’t mention it first because I assume most people already know this and want to do the transfer in some other way.
However, it should be noted that a physical connection to your computer is probably the fastest way to transfer large amounts of data. If your computer has a USB 3.0 or eSATA port, the transfer speed will be very fast. So don’t forget this simple way first.
Remote data transmission
All of the above is for local data transfer. Now let’s move on to remote data transmission. Let’s say you have a friend or family member you want to transfer data to who lives in another part of the world, what is the best way to transfer the data?
Cloud Computing Service
The answer is it depends. If you have a fast connection, especially fast upload speeds, then the best option is to use a cloud storage service. Simply install Dropbox, Box, OneDrive, Amazon CloudDrive, Google Drive, iCloud Drive, etc., upload your data and then download it to the remote computer.
This works well for most people, but has some problems. Firstly, you often have to buy space on these cloud storage services, which means they don’t make sense to someone trying to transfer 500GB of data at once. Second, you must trust your data with a third-party company like Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, etc. The data you are transferring may be sensitive and you may not want to risk putting it on a third-party server. Tuesday.
In the same level
For these types of cases, there are some good options. One of my favorites is Sync BitTorrent. With BitTorrent Sync, there is no cloud component and so your data is transferred faster and more securely. The free version has no folder size limit or file size limit. It only has a limit on the number of folders that can be synced.
Obviously, if you want to sync a bunch of data between computers, you’ll need to buy Pro, but if you just need to transfer some really big files often, the free version is perfect.
Personal file server
The reason I like BitTorrent Sync is because it does all the work for you and is really easy to use, and very secure and fast. If you want to do it all yourself, you can read my post on how to set up your own home file server.
It’s certainly time consuming and technically difficult, but it’s also very rewarding once you’re all set up. However, you need to be extra careful about possible security issues like open ports on your router or a misconfigured firewall.
Share files between computers and mobile devices
In the second part, we will talk about sharing data between computers and mobile devices. As before, the type of solution that’s right for you depends on your hardware and operating system. Let’s start with the easy stuff first.
If you have a relatively new Mac running OS X 10.7 or later and a relatively new iPhone or iPad running iOS 7 or later, you can use a feature called AirDrop to transfer files between your computer and mobile device. AirDrop doesn’t work with Android devices or other operating systems like Windows or Linux, so it’s pretty limited.
If you use an Apple device, but need your data on a Windows machine, I recommend you just install iCloud Drive on Windows. You can copy any type of data you want to iCloud Drive from your Mac or Windows machine. Oddly, on iOS, you can only view iCloud files for certain apps because Apple hasn’t created an iCloud Drive app for iOS yet.
If you’re using Android, you also have some options that work like AirDrop and maybe even better. A few apps that come to my mind immediately are Drop files, AirDroidand Share it. Using these apps, you can share files between your Android device, Windows, Mac, and even iPhone, iPad, or Windows Phone.
Access shared folders
Another option if you already have some local shared folders on your home computer is to use apps like ES File Explorer File Manager on Android or Free FileExplorer on iOS.
These applications allow you to connect to a Windows, Mac, or Linux machine and access any shared folder. You can transfer files both ways easily. There are also many other apps that do the same thing, so feel free to search around. I only mention these because I have used them before. They may not be the best.
At this point, there’s a lot of overlap in terms of which apps or services can be used to accomplish a given task. For example, you can also easily use a cloud storage service to transfer files between your computer and mobile device. You can also use BitTorrent Sync to do that and get over the cloud.
Share files between mobile devices only
If you just want to share files between mobile devices, then you can use one of the solutions mentioned above. Thankfully, there really isn’t anything extra to mention here.
If you have an Apple device, use iCloud Drive, AirDrop, or iCloud Shared Albums. If you’re on Android and running 4.1 or higher with an NFC chip, then you can use something called Android Beam. This allows you to wirelessly transfer data between two nearby Android devices.
For non-Apple devices, you can also simply swap out the microSD card if both phones have one. Android phones also support bluetooth file transfer. Windows Phone also supports file sharing via bluetooth, so you could theoretically pair Android and Windows Phone together and share files, although I’ve never done this myself.
If you want to share data between your iPhone and Android devices, it’s best to use a third-party cloud storage service and then simply send the other person a sharing link. Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, etc all allow you to share files or folders, then the other party can download these files or folders.
Also, as mentioned above, there are some apps like SHAREit that you can download for iOS, Android or Windows Phone, so you can easily share files between any mobile operating system. .
Hopefully, this article gave you some better ideas on how to transfer your data and didn’t confuse you further! There are many options and ways to do something.
My best advice is to try out several different services, programs, apps and see which works best for what you’re trying to do. As for me, I use cloud storage services for certain transfers, but I also regularly use AirDrop, USB flash drives, homegroups, and shared folders to move data.
If you have a better idea, app, service that could get the job done for you, post a comment and let us know. Interesting!