Digital photo collections save shelf space compared to photo albums, but you can’t just hand a friend a digital file. Whether you need to share a single snapshot or transfer your entire collection to a new PC, you have a range of options. For sharing a few images, you could send the pictures online or trade a USB drive. For larger moves, copy photos to an external hard drive, cloud storage or directly between computers over a local network.
All of the popular social networks provide methods for sharing pictures, so if you and your friends belong to the same networks, you don’t need any extra software to send your photos. On Facebook, click “Add Photos” and choose the pictures on your computer. Send pictures with Twitter by clicking “Add Photo” while composing a tweet. On Google Plus, open the menu in the upper left corner, choose “Photos” and press “Upload Photos.” Anyone connected with you on these networks can then click on any of the images you post and save them to a computer. You can use the same method yourself to gain access to the pictures with any computer or mobile device.
Small and portable external storage is now abundant and relatively inexpensive. USB drives can hold a huge number of photos -- assuming a 1MB image size, even a modest 8GB thumb drive, which can now be found at almost any drug store checkout, could hold around 8,000 pictures. For even larger collections or collections of high-resolution images, an external hard drive provides hundreds of gigabytes of space. With either type of drive, connect the device to your computer, open the Computer window by pressing “Windows-E” and drag the image files onto the attached drive. After the transfer finishes, right-click the thumb drive icon and choose “Eject” to remove it safely. Connect the drive to your second computer, open the drive and drag the files out to any folder on the computer.
Cloud services such as Google Drive, Dropbox, SugarSync and OneDrive store files online, providing access from any computer. These services use a program, or an app, that you install on each of your computers. The program creates a special folder that synchronizes between all computers; just drag your photos into the folder and they’ll appear on every linked computer. If you don’t want to install anything, you can upload and download files manually through the cloud storage service’s website. As an extra, some services include features specifically designed to upload pictures as they're taken, such as Camera Upload on Dropbox, which imports pictures from your digital camera, or more commonly, your smart phone.
If you have two computers set up at the same time and connected to the same router -- through Ethernet or Wi-Fi -- send pictures over the local network to move large libraries quickly. The easiest way to transfer pictures locally is with HomeGroup, a tool built into Windows 7 and 8. Search for and open “HomeGroup” in the Start menu or Start screen of the first computer to create a group, make a note of the password and choose to share the “Pictures” library. Open "HomeGroup" on the second computer and enter the password to join the group and access your images over the network. Drag the images into any folder on the second computer to transfer them.