How to transfer files from Android to your PC

by Erika Rawes | Digital Trends

At one time, transferring data — even things like high-res photos — between a PC and a mobile device could be a real pain. But as time rolls on, so do the methods of moving those files between devices. Now we have native solutions, cloud-based services, and tried-and-true physical connections. Those throbbing headaches derived from file transfers are now a thing of the past — or at least, should be.

In this guide, we show you how to transfer files from Android to your PC, whether you want to use software or a more traditional hardware-based solution.

Wi-Fi transfers

If your computer is connected to a wireless network, one of the easiest ways to transfer files to a mobile device is to set up wireless transfer. These services specialize in porting information through your wireless network and onto a mobile device. Once set up, these services are quick, simple, and reliable, so long as your wireless connection is stable.

If you’re running Windows 10, Microsoft’s Your Phone Companion for Android should be your primary go-to service. It links to the native Your Phone app supplied through the Microsoft Store. With the two synchronized via your Microsoft Account, you can move files between the two devices, take calls on your Windows 10 PC, and send texts without touching the phone. You do not need a USB cable for this to work.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a similar native client for MacOS. Instead, Google provides a DMG file you can download and install on your Mac: Android File Transfer. Once it’s installed, you must physically connect your Android phone to browse through its files and folders.

Outside those two solutions, you can fall back on third-party options. For instance, Pushbullet provides a file transfer service called Portal. Once you install the app and scan the website’s QR code, you can push pictures, videos, and other files through the site and onto your mobile phone. It’s especially easy with Google Chrome because you can just drag and drop files to transfer them from one device to another instantly.

If you want something a little less all-service, Send Anywhere and AirDroid are designed explicitly for beaming smartphone files to your PC.

Cloud storage services

Most of the best cloud storage providers offer a reasonable alternative to native and third-party apps.

First, fire up your favorite browser, register for a cloud service such as OneDrive, Google Drive, or Dropbox, and then upload your files. After that, download the compatible app on your Android device and use it to access your cloud-stored data.

If you’re running a Windows 10 PC, OneDrive should be your go-to cloud service given it’s integrated into the operating system. Even if you’re on a Mac-based desktop or MacBook, OneDrive is a great solution once you download and install Microsoft’s desktop software. Have a Microsoft 365 subscription? Even better.

With OneDrive, your information will remain in the cloud but be accessible to any device with access to the account. This accessibility is useful for when you need to transfer data between different platforms, making it easy to share said info with friends and coworkers.

However, both drag-and-drop transfers and cloud services have some security issues. If you’re not using a secure wireless network, then data theft is a possibility. Be smart about your transfers and sensitive information — always enable two-step verification and use a unique password (store it in a password manager) on all your cloud storage accounts.

Pair via Bluetooth

Bluetooth still has a lot of benefits despite our default to Wi-Fi connectivity. Sure, pairing isn’t as quick or easy, but it’s a good alternative if a wireless network isn’t unavailable. Simply turn on Bluetooth on your PC and mobile device and then look on your computer to see if it detects any nearby devices. Here’s where to look:

  • Windows: Settings > Devices > Bluetooth & Other Devices
  • MacOS: System Preferences > Bluetooth

Once paired, PCs typically move into a confirmation mode, requiring you to type in a code or compare numbers. This code allows the computer to exchange a security key with your mobile device. After that, your Android device should then appear in your list of connected devices. It should also appear as an external drive in File Explorer (Windows) or Finder (MacOS).

On many PCs, you can select Send a File from the Bluetooth menu by clicking on the Bluetooth logo in the bottom-right corner of your screen. You can also manage Bluetooth devices more directly from the Bluetooth & Other Devices panel in Windows, or the Bluetooth panel in MacOS.

Bluetooth is a reliable method because mobile devices include this connectivity. Once paired, it’s easy to pair devices again. If you have an ancient computer and a newer mobile device, however, there may be some trouble with matching protocols. There’s also the possibility that your computer may not have Bluetooth, though you could purchase a USB-based Bluetooth adaptor — which doesn’t exactly help you transfer those files in the here and now.

Use Nearby Share (coming soon)

In the early 2000s, Google developed Android Beam, which enabled quick file sharing with nearby devices via NFC. Google depreciated this feature starting with 2019’s Android 10 in favor of the upcoming Nearby Sharing feature.

Nearby Sharing works with a combination of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Direct to sense nearby devices, connect, and rapidly send files. Like Apple’s AirDrop, it will be readily available with innate Android sharing services, as well as Files by Google. Also, like AirDrop, you will get a notification on your other device that allows you to accept a sent file or decline it. The process appears fast and straightforward, so watch out for it when the new version of Android drops.

Use your USB connection

Zorloo Ztella MQA USB DAC
Zorloo Ztella MQA USB DAC

If you don’t mind juggling wired devices, a simple USB cable can help you quickly access Android files from your PC. USB-C makes this particularly easy with its dual-sided design. While Android phones are increasingly likely to have USB-C, not all phones have this latest connector. Even more, your PC may not even have USB-C connectivity, defaulting to the classic, more familiar USB-A port.

Here are the different types of cables you may find packed with modern Android phones:

  • Micro-USB to USB-A
  • Micro-USB to USB-C
  • USB-C to USB-A
  • USB-C to USB-C

As shown on the list, you may need to purchase an adapter for your PC. Just connect the two devices and access your phone as if it were an external storage device. This method is local, speedy, and more secure than other options like cloud transfers. But you do need to have the right cables at hand for it to work!

When all else fails, try a USB drive

While the commonplace USB drive has recently fallen out of favor due to wireless functionality and cloud storage, sometimes the best option is still using a flash drive or an external hard drive to move your files. Not only is setting up a USB connection safer than transferring your data wirelessly, but it’s also ideal when you want to save a lot of content and transfer it all at once to multiple devices without weighing down your wireless network.

The key is picking out the right USB device to use. Many Android devices, for example, use USB On-The-Go, which can pair with compatible USB storage devices and allows for quick transfers between your PC and Android device. However, you may need to purchase an adapter for the smartphone side in order for this method to work.

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