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Issue #838: August 13-19, 2023

Q: My backup laptop is essentially identical to my current laptop except it’s 1 year older. I presently XCOPY my daily use laptop’s documents, pictures, & iTunes libraries’ folders via USB C to an external SSD, and then XCOPY them to the other laptop monthly. It’s a personal preference to NOT pay for any type of off-site data storage service to perform these data functions. Back when my devices were equipped with Ethernet ports I had a special cable that enabled device-to-device data transfers. These new laptops come w/only USB C ports. WiFi data transfers are much too slow. Is there a way to connect these two laptops via USB C for mass data transfers?

 – William R.
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

A: I don’t know how to put this, William, other than to say that you are trying to solve a problem that you seem to have created yourself.  In a way, I can understand your reluctance to use a cloud backup service, as that’s probably one more monthly expense you don’t want.  But there are free backup applications that will backup to storage on your local LAN.  That’s going to be my ultimate suggestion for you, and I’ll tell you why, but first, let’s discuss some of the other parts of your question.

Whether you’re crunching numbers, tweaking your great digital photo masterpiece, composing the latest candidate for the pop music charts, or in your case, William, dealing with your “daily use” files, in order to make use of these things, one must be able to get copies of various data onto or off of your computer.  These processes are conveniently lumped into the single term Input-Output or I/O for short.  Pretty much all of your computer’s abilities are built around I/O in one form of another, and your computer is bristling with various ports, each one purpose-designed for a specific type of I/O. 

It’s important to know that no matter how fast or slow a given computer’s hardware is for raw calculating, about the slowest thing it can do is transfer data into or out of itself.  This is a bottleneck that all computers deal with, and the geniuses that design computer hardware are always coming up with faster and faster ways to perform I/O.  You touched on one super-fast option, William: Universal Serial Bus, or USB, Type-C, or simply USB-C for short.  This is the latest perturbation of USB, and it’s got it all going on.  In addition to transferring data at ridiculously fast speeds, it can also can transfer electrical power.  The physical plug has been streamlined, and it’s symmetrical, meaning there’s no longer a specific top of bottom, so it can be plugged-in either way.  All-in-all, it’s a great choice for I/O.

Which brings me around to your issue, William.  I don’t want to question how you do your personal business, but it sounds like you’re unnecessarily trying to XCOPY the world on a daily basis.  And the only reason I can see why things need to be so super-speedy is that you need to sit there and wait for this unnecessary copy to complete.  The connection between your two computers aside, the proper way to accomplish this task is to use backup software.  It can be programmed to run when you’re not using your computer, and rather than back-up everything, it can perform what’s called an incremental backup, where it only deals with files that have been changed since the last time a backup was performed.  Once time is no longer a factor, you can use each laptop’s Wi-Fi connection to backup the files, or if you want that super-duper speed, you could do what you used to do with hard-line Ethernet.  USB-C to Ethernet adapters are common, and relatively inexpensive.

If you’re just bound and determined to slave these to PCs together as you described, the answer is yes, it is entirely possible to use USB-C ports to connect two computers together.  But doing so will likely not accomplish what you want, because in order to use XCOPY, or even a backup utility, should you choose to take that advice, your destination needs to be a disk location, and not just a USB port.  In the interest of answering your question, I offer this link to a question on Quora about how to connect two computers via USB-C: and this article on WikiHow on a similar topic:

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