USB drives keep frequently used files handy for use with any computer with USB ports. These surprisingly small devices can store up to 1TB of data in a size of no more than 2 inches although they are more popular (and more affordable) in smaller capacities. It's especially easy to copy files to a USB drive, even if it's your first time using it.
Method 1 of 2: Use Windows
Step 1. Open the folder that contains the files to copy
Open Windows Explorer (also called File Explorer) by pressing ⊞ Win + E. Scroll through the list of hard drives and folders on the left until you find the one that contains the files you want to copy to the USB drive.
- Personal files are often saved in the folder Documents (sometimes called My Documents Where Joe's Documents if your name is Joe).
- If you are looking for music or photos that you have saved on your computer, look in the folders Pictures Where Music.
Step 2. Plug in the USB drive
Plug the USB drive into a USB port on the computer. USB ports are located in different places from machine to machine. On desktops, they are on the front side although there are sometimes some on the back. On laptops, the USB ports are on both sides of the device.
Step 3. Select your USB drive
Find a place to copy the files to your USB drive. You can copy them to any folder on your key.
- A dialog box will open a few seconds after connecting the USB key. Among the options you will find Open folder and view files. Click on it to display the root directory (the main folder) of your USB drive. Files can be copied directly to this folder or to any folder visible here.
- If no window is displayed, press ⊞ Win + E to open a new explorer window and double click on the USB drive in the left pane of the screen. You will find it under the name USB key, Removable key or the name of its manufacturer (eg Sandisk).
- Create a new folder with a name you won't forget to stay organized. To create a new folder in your USB drive, press Ctrl + ⇧ Shift + N then type a folder name (eg Personal, Photos, etc.). Hit enter. Double-click on the new folder to open it.
Step 4. Drag and drop the files to copy
With 2 exploration windows open (one on the computer and the other on the USB key), drag and drop a file from the computer to the USB key. A new copy of this file will be created in the key without deleting the original on your machine.
- To copy multiple files at the same time, hold down the Ctrl key while clicking on each file. Once all the files are highlighted, drag and drop to the USB drive.
- You can also copy entire files by dragging and dropping them in the same way.
Step 5. Save an open file to the USB drive
If you have a file open in a program like Microsoft Word or Photoshop, you can save it directly to the USB drive without having to drag and drop it between explorer windows. Click on File then Save as and select a destination on the key.
Step 6. Safely eject the key
In order not to corrupt the data on the USB drive, you must eject it safely.
- In the lower right corner of the screen, near the clock, select the USB drive icon. Depending on your version of Windows, you will see a green check mark on it. Right click on the icon before selecting Eject safely.
- When the bubble You can safely remove your USB storage device appears, remove your USB key.
Method 2 of 2: Use a Mac
Step 1. Plug in the USB drive
If you are using a laptop, the USB ports are on the sides of the machine. On a desktop Mac, they are on the back of the monitor. The key will automatically launch on the machine and you will have a new icon resembling a small white hard drive on the desktop.
Step 2. View the files on your USB drive
Double-click on the new icon on your desktop. The contents of the USB key will be displayed in a new window. You can copy the files directly to the root (the main folder) or to any folder visible in the panel on the right.
- The amount of storage space available on the USB key also appears at the bottom of this window.
- You can also open Finder and select the USB drive from the devices section on the left of the screen.
Step 3. Create a new folder
It may be useful (but not necessary) to create a new folder on the USB drive to store your files. Rename your folders to match the files they contain to help keep you organized.
- With the USB flash drive window open, press ⇧ Shift + Command + N to create a new folder.
- Type the name of the folder then press Return.
Step 4. Find the files to copy
Open Finder and navigate to the folder that contains the files you want to copy to your USB drive.
Step 5. Drag and drop the files to the USB drive
To copy a file without deleting it from the computer, drag and drop to the open USB flash drive window.
- If you've created a new folder to copy your files to, drag and drop to that folder.
- To select multiple files at once, hold down the Control key while clicking the name of the files to copy, then drag and drop to the destination folder.
Step 6. Eject the USB drive
Remember to eject the key before removing it from the computer's USB port to avoid data loss. Go to the desktop and drag the icon of the USB stick to the trash (the trash can icon at this point becomes an eject icon). You can then safely eject the USB drive.
- If after plugging it in you cannot find the USB flash drive in your computer's file explorer, remove it and plug it in again.
- Make sure there is enough free space in your USB stick. A 2 GB key should be sufficient if you are only using it for homework at school or for transferring documents. If you plan to use it to store music or photos, choose a 64 or 128 GB model.
- According to experts, half of USB drives are hacked when plugged into a computer, often by unscrupulous individuals. Consider encrypting your USB drive to protect your data and your identity.