Direct connection

How to connect two computers directly with Ethernet cable on Windows 10

Yes, you can connect two devices running Windows 10 using an Ethernet cable to transfer files without a switch or wireless connectivity, and in this guide, you'll learn the steps to complete the task.

Ethernet connection for two WIndows 10 PCs

Although most homes and businesses have some sort of network switching and wireless equipment to connect multiple Windows 10 computers together, there are still scenarios when you may need to connect two devices directly using an Ethernet cable.

For example, when you have to transfer files from an old to a new computer, or you want to connect to a file server (such as TrueNAS or unRAID) using a 10 Gigabit Ethernet connection directly, when you do not have a 10 Gigabit switch in the network. 

Whatever the reason it might be, you can configure Windows 10 to communicate with another computer without the need of a switch or Wi-Fi connection.

In this guide, you will learn two methods to connect two devices and share data using one Ethernet cable on Windows 10.

How to connect two devices using Ethernet cable with network configuration

If you need to transfer files between computers without the use of a switch, you will need to connect both devices using a straight through or crossover cable. 

The straight through cable is the conventional Ethernet cable that has the same wire color alignment on each end. On the other hand, the crossover cable has different wire alignment of colors on each end. 

On most modern computers using a Gigabit Ethernet network adapter, the system will sense and switch orientation automatically to allow communication without a switch in the middle, but some computers (especially those with an older card) will still need a crossover cable. 

After connecting both devices with an Ethernet cable, you need to configure the network settings to connect both devices running Windows 10.

On the first computer, use these steps:

  1. Open Control Panel.

  2. Click on Network and Internet.

  3. Click on Network and Share Center.

  4. Click the Change adapter settings from the left navigation pane.

    Change adapter settings
    Change adapter settings
  5. Right-click the network adapter and select the Properties option.

    Network adapter properties
    Network adapter properties
  6. Select the Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) option.

  7. Click the Properties button.

    Ethernet properties
    Ethernet properties
  8. Select the Use this following IP address option.

    Connect two computers static IP address
    Connect two computers static IP address
  9. In the IP address field specify an address for the device. For example, 192.168.7.25.

    Quick tip: If you are trying to connect to another computer with a direct cable connection using a second network adapter, make sure the IP address is on a different network. For example, if the network uses the 192.168.1.x network, then to make the connection work, use a different network, for example, 192.168.2.x.
  10. In the Subnet mask field specify the subnet address for the network. For example, 255.255.255.0.

  11. Click the OK button.

Once you complete the steps, you will need to configure the second device with a similar configuration to allow the communication.

In the second computer, use these steps:

  1. Open Control Panel.

  2. Click on Network and Internet.

  3. Click on Network and Share Center.

  4. Click the Change adapter settings from the left navigation pane.

    Change adapter settings
    Change adapter settings
  5. Right-click the network adapter and select the Properties option.

    Network adapter properties
    Network adapter properties
  6. Select the Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) option.

  7. Click the Properties button.

    Ethernet properties
    Ethernet properties
  8. Select the Use this following IP address option.

    Second computer static IP address
    Second computer static IP address
  9. In the IP address field specify a unique IP address for the device that is in the same network as the first computer. For example, 192.168.7.24.

  10. In the Subnet mask field specify the subnet address for the network. For example, 255.255.255.0.

  11. Click the OK button.

After you complete the steps, you can share a folder or service that will be accessible from the other device. You can refer to steps belows to complete the task or you can use these instructions to share folder with another computer.

How to connect two devices using Ethernet cable without network configuration

While the proper method is to use a network configuration to connect two computers directly, Windows 10 can also automatically assign an IP address using the 169.254.x.x network range, which is known as the Automatic Private Internet Protocol Addressing (APIPA).

If you do not want to go through the process of configuring the network, you can connect both devices and let them configure themself automatically, then you only need to share the data or service you are intending to access from another computer. 

In the case that you are trying to transfer some files, you will need to share a folder to then access it from the other device.

On the first computer, use these steps: 

  1. Open File Explorer.

  2. Browse to the folder with the data you want to share.

  3. Right-click the folder, select the Give access to submenu, and choose the Specific people option.

    Give access to specific people
    Give access to specific people
  4. Use the drop-down menu and select the user or group with access to share folder.

  5. Click the Add button.

    Share folder between two computers
    Share folder between two computers
  6. Under the “Permission Level” section, select the Read/Write option.

  7. Click the Share button.

After you complete the steps, the files will be accessible from the second computer.

On the second computer, use these steps:

  1. Open File Explorer.

  2. Click on Network from the left navigation pane.

  3. Double-click the computer you are trying to access the files.

    Quick tip: If you cannot see the device, you may need to enable network discovery on Windows 10.

    File Explorer Network section
    File Explorer Network section
  4. Sign-in using the user information you shared the folder on the first computer.

After you complete the steps, you can transfer the files to the new destination.