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A Simple Guide on How to Use a USB Data Transfer Cable

USB Data Transfer Cable Method

For new users, this simple guide will walk you through the steps on how to use a USB data transfer cable to successfully transfer your data.


USB Data Transfer CableTransferring data has come a long way since the early days of computing. Imagine trying to convert a photo album on punch cards. No? Well, let's just leave that in the past then.

In the modern day, we use data transfer cable that makes moving and copying files a snap. The leading type of cable is the USB (Universal Serial Bus) cable. Other cables exist in a variety of formats and have their own history.

Transferring data is about speed and reliability. This explains why USB has won out over other transfer technology.

It provides the best speeds with the most accuracy and error-free transfers. To learn more about how to use these cables, read on.

Data Transfer Cable Basics

We'll be talking specifically about USB data transfer cables. Let's start with a breakdown of the cable and what each part does.

A USB transfer cable will have male connectors on both ends. The connectors will most commonly be type A. Check the USB types for a quick rundown on the types of connectors.

A data transfer cable will also have a small block containing a chip. This chip is vital to the data transfer as it tells the connected computers what is happening. This differentiates from cables that simply connect peripheral devices,

A standard USB cable will confuse a pair of machines and can even cause damage to the ports. This is because a computer relies on a hierarchy of functions to understand what has just been plugged in.

If drivers for a specific device are not found, the computer defaults to a generic USB connection. These generic connections provide power as well as data. Unregulated, this can create voltage irregularities for the systems.

USB Types

You may have noticed that, despite the name containing 'universal' that there are many types of USB cables. They have different connect shapes and sometimes different colors. Universal, as it were, doesn't mean timeless.

Most of the differences in cable types come down to changes in the speed and transfer rates on the technology. After the initial USB 1.0 came 2.0 and then 3.0 which even has some 3.1 variations.

To make these easy to identify, computer manufacturers have color-coded the ports to the version number. Colorless from 1.0 (which have mostly been phased out) black or white for the 2.0, and blue for the 3.0.

The connectors come in A, B, and C types as well as in mini and micro forms of those. Type A cover the majority of devices and have a familiar rectangular shape.

Type B cables have a small and square shape. These can be found on printers, scanners and fax machines and devices that need some amount of external power.

Type C cables are the most recent introduction. These have a smaller, rounded corner connector. They provide higher speeds for charging devices and mostly are mean to confer power more than data.

Mini and micro connectors may be on one or both sides of a cable. These are designed for smaller inputs and prioritize power transfers but also move data. You will find these connectors featured on many phones and small rechargeable devices.

To get the best cable for your need, always check options for data transfer cables.

How to Use a Data Transfer Cable

Depending on how much data you want to move, and if you want the data to stay on the original device or be copied changes some steps. We'll cover a few scenarios in a step by step fashion.

Full Transfer

This is for completely mirroring a system onto a new one. This is done if you have multiple machines you intend to use for the same purpose. This is also done for a new system that needs to do everything the old one could.

  1. Boot both computers to the OS. Both systems should be on and running in good condition with no errors when you connect the cable.
  2. Connect the USB cable from the appropriate port. Remember that cables are backward compatible but not forward. Using a 2.0 cable in a 1.0 slot will diminish speed. Using a 2.0 in a 3.0 slot will have no change.
  3. Connect the cable to the other machine. Watch that both machines indicate the driver exists and the USB is recognized.
  4. Use either Windows Easy Transfer or Mac Migration Assistant.
  5. Follow the onscreen prompts to copy all data to the destination machine from the source machine.
  6. Pay attention to calls for leaving the data in place or removing it. Words such as 'copy' may not appear.
  7. Wait for the status bars to complete. An alert will tell you when it is done or if there is an error.
  8. For errors or problems, check the troubleshooting section.

Piece by Piece Transfer

For transferring only some portions of the files or programs, the following steps work better. Steps 1-3 will be the same so start at 4.

4. Select the folder with the files you wish to move.

5. Drag and drop the files into the folder or drive on the destination machine.

6. Wait for the process to complete on one folder before moving to another.

Note: It is possible to use Ctrl to select multiple folders but it can cause problems to move more than one folder at a time if there are errors.


The most common issue during a data transfer comes from the cable not being recognized. This may be caused by a poor connection or a dead connector on the computer. Try a differ port to start with. If this doesn't fix the issue, take the cable out and wait for a few seconds before reconnecting.

Errors in files transferring can come from copy protected files. Programs such as the Windows Easy Transfer and Mac Migration Assistant can account for these issues, but not always. Check a flagged file and change the permissions if needed.

Creating an OSI (optical system image) creates an exact copy of all the files and their placement on a machine. This is used in creating backups for the same machine. These files cause data transfer errors because all architecture is different.

Get Geared Up

This article covers the basics on how to use a data transfer cable and some troubleshooting tips. There is more to know about this technology and sometimes specific questions come up. Support articles give you even more places to find answers and get the most out of a USB data transfer cable.