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How To Transfer Files Between Two Macs With A Cable

How To Transfer Files Between Two Macs With A Cable

Learn how to transfer files between two Macs using a cable. Discover the benefits of Thunderbolt networking and Target Disk Mode for efficient data transfer.

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Transferring files between two Macs can be accomplished in several ways, but using a cable often proves to be the fastest and most reliable method, especially for large files or numerous items. Here’s a detailed guide on how to transfer files between Macs using a cable, including the benefits of this method, steps to use Target Disk Mode, and when to consider using alternatives like Bluetooth or AirDrop.

Why Transfer Files Using A Cable?

Even with the convenience of AirDrop for Mac users, transferring large files or navigating software incompatibilities often requires a more robust solution. Using a cable to transfer files between Macs is generally faster and more reliable than wireless alternatives, making it ideal for large volumes of data or situations where speed is crucial.

Thunderbolt 4 (USB‑C) Pro Cable (1.8m)
Thunderbolt 4 (USB‑C) Pro Cable (1.8m)

Mac File Sharing Via Thunderbolt

For the fastest data transfer, consider using Thunderbolt networking. Thunderbolt networking allows high-speed data transmission between two Macs equipped with USB-C Thunderbolt ports. This method turns the ports into a high-speed bridge, enabling file transfers that surpass traditional Wi-Fi or Ethernet speeds.

Steps To Use Thunderbolt

  1. Check Compatibility: Ensure both Macs have Thunderbolt ports (Thunderbolt 3 or 4, USB-C).
  2. Connect the Macs: Use a Thunderbolt cable to connect the two Macs.
  3. Enable File Sharing:
    • On both Macs, go to System Preferences > Sharing.
    • Check the File Sharing box.
    • Click the Options button and ensure Share files and folders using SMB is checked.
  4. Access Shared Files:
    • On the source Mac, open Finder and click on Network in the sidebar.
    • Find the destination Mac and connect as a guest or registered user.
    • Transfer files as needed.

Thunderbolt networking is versatile, supporting data transfer, video output, and charging through the same cable, simplifying connections between devices. This method is ideal for transferring large files quickly and efficiently.

Mac mini M2 Set Up As Desktop
Mac mini M2 Set Up As Desktop

File Sharing With Target Disk Mode

Target Disk Mode is another efficient method for transferring files between two Macs. This feature allows one Mac to function as an external hard drive for another Mac, providing direct access to the file system.

Steps To Use Target Disk Mode

  1. Check Compatibility: Ensure both Macs have compatible ports (USB, USB-C, or Thunderbolt).
  2. Connect the Macs: Use an appropriate cable (USB-C or Thunderbolt).
  3. Enter Target Disk Mode:
    • On the source Mac, restart and hold down the T key during startup.
    • Connect the source Mac to the destination Mac using the cable.
  4. Access Files:
    • On the destination Mac, the source Mac will appear as an external drive in Finder.
    • Transfer files as needed.

If any Macs are running macOS 11 or newer, the connection must be established using a Thunderbolt cable. The process differs slightly if one Mac has an Apple Silicon chip and the other has an Intel chip.

Mac File Sharing via Ethernet

Although Ethernet ports are no longer standard on modern MacBooks, using an Ethernet cable is still a viable method for transferring files between Macs, particularly for older models or with the use of adapters.

Use Ethernet To Transfer Data

  1. Check Compatibility: Ensure both Macs have Ethernet ports or use Ethernet adapters.
  2. Connect the Macs: Use an Ethernet cable to connect the two Macs.
  3. Configure Sharing Settings:
    • On both Macs, go to System Preferences > Sharing.
    • Check the File Sharing box.
    • Click the Options button and ensure Share files and folders using SMB is checked.
  4. Access Shared Files:
    • On the source Mac, open Finder and click on Network in the sidebar.
    • Find the destination Mac and connect as a guest or registered user.
    • Transfer files as needed.

While Ethernet is less commonly used due to the lack of built-in ports on newer MacBooks, it remains a stable and straightforward option for direct file transfers.

AirDrop On Mac Using Finder
AirDrop On Mac Using Finder

Use Bluetooth Or AirDrop

While using a cable is advantageous for transferring large files or numerous items quickly and reliably, Bluetooth and AirDrop offer convenient wireless alternatives for smaller transfers.

Using Bluetooth

Bluetooth is suitable for transferring smaller files between Macs without the need for cables. However, it is significantly slower than wired connections, making it less ideal for large transfers.

Using Bluetooth To Share:

  1. Enable Bluetooth: On both Macs, go to System Preferences > Bluetooth and ensure it is turned on.
  2. Pair the Macs: Pair the two Macs via Bluetooth.
  3. Transfer Files: Use the Send File option in the Bluetooth menu to transfer files between the Macs.

AirDrop

AirDrop is an excellent option for quickly transferring files wirelessly between Macs, especially for moderate-sized files. It uses both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to establish a connection and transfer data. Learn more about AirDrop here.

Transfer With AirDrop:

  1. Enable AirDrop: On both Macs, open Finder and click on AirDrop in the sidebar.
  2. Set Discoverability: Ensure both Macs are discoverable to each other.
  3. Transfer Files: Drag and drop files onto the target Mac’s icon in the AirDrop window.

Conclusion

Transferring files between two Macs has evolved to accommodate various user preferences and technological setups. Whether through the high-speed Thunderbolt networking, Target Disk Mode, or a reliable Ethernet connection, using a cable provides a robust solution for efficient data transfer. For smaller or less critical transfers, Bluetooth and AirDrop offer convenient wireless alternatives. Choose the method that best suits your needs and enjoy seamless file sharing between your Macs.