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How To Transfer Embroidery Designs to Your Machine

by Cathy Ellsaesser, posted on

I “grew up” with computers. My Dad was a tech geek, and I married a tech geek, and frankly, I’m a tech geek. We’ve always been early and eager adopters of technology. So copying files, managing directories and other computer skills are second nature to me. I know, however, that is not the case for everyone. I have several friends and family members who struggle trying to get their embroidery designs from the source — whether it’s an email, a download, a USB stick or a CD — to their embroidery machine. So I thought I’d use this blog to give some directions on how to transfer embroidery designs to your machine.


Compact Disc (CD)

The most common way that you get designs is on a CD. If you are a member of Anita Goodesign’s All Access, then you get a CD every month chocked full of designs. If you buy design collections from OESD, KimberBell, Dakota Collectibles, Amazing Designs, etc., the designs are likely on a CD. (Of course, more and more designs are available online, and I’ll cover that later in this blog.)

Anita Goodesign All Access CD

In order to view the designs on a CD, open File Explorer (formally known as File Manager).

To do this, right click on the file folder icon (circled in red) in the Windows Taskbar. Once you right click, select File Explorer from the drop down menu.

picture of desktop icons with file explorer circled and demonstrating right click to bring launch file explorer window

This will open a File Explorer window.

Find the DVD drive with your source CD in it.

Screen shot of File Explorer showing DVD directory source for transfer embroidery designs

Click on the DVD drive and you’ll see the contents of the DVD.

Screen shot of directory structure for Anita Goodesign All Access for transfer embroidery designs

Each collection is in a separate folder. In the collection folder (i.e. Double Exposure Animals) is a the sew out tutorial and a “Designs” folder with sub folders for different machine formats. Click on any of the machine format folders to see a list of the individual designs.

Screen shot of Anita Goodesign All Access CD Directory structure for each design collection


Screen shot of Anita Goodesign All Access CD Design sub-pdirectory structure for one of the design collections


Single Collection CDs

Of course, you can buy a CD of any of the Anita Goodesign collections without being an All Access member. We stock many of the collections in our stores, and can order one for you if we don’t have it in stock. The file structure on the individual collections is the same as it is for those collections on the All Access CD.

Screen shot of Anita Goodesign individual collection CD organization

Other Collections

Other suppliers of embroidery designs will have different folder structures, but all of them will specify the machine type the designs go with. Some older design collections have an executable file when the CD was loaded that prompts you to pick a machine format and destination for the embroidery files.

Screen shot of directory structure for Kimberbell CDs for transfer embroidery designs Screen shot of directory structure forOESD for transfer embroidery designs

Other Sources

USB Stick

We’re seeing more and more vendors provide embroidery designs on USB sticks these days. This is great because you could use the stick directly in your machine. You simply need to find the directory specific for your machine, open it and select your design.

screen shot of USB stick file structure for embroidery design transfer to embroidery machine

The drawback to using the USB stick directly is that all formats are on the stick and may slow loading the designs down. Also, the USB stick is your only copy of the designs, so be sure to make a backup or copy the designs to your PC.

Online Download

You can purchase and download designs from online retailers. While many offer individual designs for purchase, others want you to download an entire collection. If you purchase more than one design, odds are the designs will be “zipped” into a single file for download. They will have to be extracted from the zip file before use. Individual designs may or may not be zipped, it depends on the vendor.


If you purchase designs online, some vendors will send you the designs by email. As with the Online Download, often these designs are compressed into a “zip” file and will need to be extracted before you can use them.

The Destination

USB Stick

Most newer embroidery machines use a USB stick or perhaps an SD card to read the embroidery designs. If you have a really old machine, your machine may take a small card or even a floppy disk. (If that’s the case, think about upgrading!) At any rate, unless you are using designs built into the machine, you have to get designs loaded onto the media that your machine uses. For the sake of this blog, I am going to use the USB stick as the destination for the designs to use in your machine.

I recommend using a USB stick that is 4gb or less in size. Some machines won’t even read sticks with greater than 8gb capacity. However, even if they do, larger sticks with tons of designs take longer to load into the embroidery machine. The stitch files for the embroidery machine are relatively small (usually less than 500kb), so you can put a lot of designs on a 2gb USB stick. We sell cute sewing – themed USB sticks in 2 and 4 gb sizes. We also have a 2gb stick with our 10 year logo at a great price in our stores.

Sewing-themed USB sticks for transferring embroidery designs

Note: I highly recommend that you copy the directories and needed embroidery files to your computer hard drive to make it easier to load to your machine as you are ready to embroider them. Check out my previous blog, How to Organize and Manage Embroidery Collections, to see some suggestions on how to manage your embroidery collections.  For this blog, I’m just going to illustrate what it takes to get your designs on a USB stick to use in your machine.

Transfer Files From Source to USB Stick

From a CD

Since I have Brother embroidery machines, and it’s time to make Christmas gifts, I’ll copy the designs that are in the Christmas Towel Scarves collection to a USB stick for my machine.

Open File Explorer Windows

  1. Place source CD into the DVD/CD drive on your PC.
  2. Open a File Explorer window by clicking on the File Explorer icon on your desktop. File explorer icon
  3. Right click on the File Explorer icon again and select File Explorer from the drop down menu. This will open a second File Explorer window and make transferring files from one location to another much simpler.
    Screen shot of opening a second File Explorer window
  4. Place two open File Explorer windows side by side on your screen.  The easiest way to do this is to place your mouse pointer at top of the window and then while holding down the left mouse button, drag the window to either side of the computer screen. Drag it until part of the window is completely off the screen and then release the mouse button.
    Screen shot of how to drag window to side of screen for transfer embroidery files
  5. The window will fill half the computer screen and on the other half you might see smaller windows of other applications that are open. You should also see the second File Explorer that you opened. Click on it, and it will fill the other half of the screen.


    Screen shot of two windows side by side

  6. If a second File Explorer window is not there, right click on the File Explorer icon, select File Explorer from the pop-up, and a new window will open. Place your mouse pointer at the top of that window, hold down the left mouse button and drag to the opposite side of where you placed the first window. Let go of the mouse button once part of the window is off screen.
    Screen shot of how to drag window to side of screen for transfer embroidery files
    You should now have two File Explorer windows side by side as shown above in #5.

Copy Designs To USB Stick

Create Folder

  1. Place USB stick into one of the USB slots on your computer.
  2. In one of the windows on your screen, click on the DVD/CD drive to open the CD and navigate to the source directory.
    Screen shot of source files on CD
  3. In the other window navigate to your USB stick and create a directory with the name of the design collection.
    Note: I highly recommend creating a folder for each different collection that you put on your USB stick for your machine. This will make it much easier to locate the correct design when you are ready to embroider.
  4. Name the new folder so you can later find the designs. I just name mine the same as the source directory.
    Screen shot of renaming folder on USB stick to transfer embroidery designs to
  5. If a new folder was created with the name New Folder before you got to type in a name, simply right click on the folder and select Rename from the pop-up menu. Type in the correct name.

Copy Files

  1. Select the files you want to copy from the source disc. You can select them all by selecting the check box by the word Name at the top of the file list or you can click on the first file name in the list and while holding down the Shift key select the last file name on the list. Everything in between will be selected.
    If you want only some of the files, hold the Ctrl key down while you select the files you want.
    Screen shot of CD with selected embroidery designs
  2. Copy the selected files to your USB stick. Again, there are several ways to copy.
    You can drag them from one screen to the other while holding down the left mouse button. When you get to the destination window, make sure the files are getting copied to where you want. You’ll see a pop-up that indicates the destination based on where your mouse pointer is. Don’t  let go of the left mouse button until you’re sure they’ll be copied to the right location.


    You can also copy by right clicking on the selected source files and selecting Copy from the pop-up menu. Then, navigate to the destination folder, right click and select Paste. Be sure to right click on the correct destination folder selected before pasting.
    Screen shot of copying source files by right clicking


    Screen shot of pasting files by right clicking

  3. Now your files are on the USB stick ready to place into your embroidery machine.

Other Sources

USB Stick

If your source files are on another USB stick, the procedure for copying is basically the same.

  1. Set up two windows on your screen, one for the source files and one for the USB stick destination.
  2. Create a directory on the destination USB stick for the files.
  3. Navigate to the source files you want and copy them to the appropriate directory on the destination USB stick.

Downloaded Files

Unless you have changed it, files downloaded from the internet generally go into a “download” directory on the C: drive or your computer. If you downloaded embroidery files simply navigate to the location of the download and copy them to the destination USB stick.

Zipped Files

If the files you downloaded from the internet are compressed into a zip file, you must “unzip”them before you can use them on your embroidery machine. There are many different applications that will manage zipped files, WinZip most notably. However, Windows has a built in zip extractor, so you really don’t need a separate program to unzip a file.

  1. Purchase and download embroidery files from an online supplier. Different suppliers will have different ways to give you a download link after purchasing designs. Here’s an example from OESD.
    screen shot of OESD download page
    Note: Go to Products/Embroidery Designs on our website to purchase designs available from one of our suppliers, OESD.
  2. When downloading a file be sure to note where it is saved on your computer. You might be asked for a location or it might automatically go to the downloads directory. It varies with the supplier.
  3. You can unzip your files directly to the destination USB after downloading the zip files. Open a File Explorer window and navigate to the location of the downloaded file.  You must unzip files to use the designs on your embroidery machine. If the download(s) are already in the correct format for your machine, just copy them directly to your USB stick.
  4. To unzip a file, right click on the zipped file and select Extract All.
    Screen shot of zipped file selected for extraction
  5. From the Select a Destination window pop-up, navigate to the destination USB stick, and create a New Folder for the unzipped designs.
    Screen shot of creating new folder on USB stick for transfer embroidery designs
  6.  Select the new folder
    Screen shot of new folder selected for transfer embroidery designs
  7. Confirm destination and select Extract.
    Screen shot of extract window for transfer embroidery files
  8. Extracted files will be in the folder you chose.
    Screen shot of tranfer embroidery files on USB stick after unzipping

Go Wireless

Of course, some of the newer machines all make this blog obsolete! More and more new machines are being introduced that allow you to send your designs to your machine wirelessly over your wifi network. No need for USB media. We know, though, that there’s still a lot of machines out there that must read designs loaded into the machine via a USB stick or other media. So, I hope this helps those of you who struggle with that process. I appreciate any feedback or questions you have. Feel free to comment below.

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