At one time, transferring data – including high-resolution photos – between a PC and a mobile device could be a real problem. The methods for moving these files between devices also change over time. We now have native solutions, cloud-based services and proven physical connections. The throbbing headache that comes with file transfers is a thing of the past – or at least it should be.
In this guide, we'll show you how to transfer files from Android to your PC regardless of whether you want to use software or a more traditional hardware-based solution.
When 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 transmission. These services specialize in porting information over your wireless network to a mobile device. Once set up, these services are quick, easy and reliable as long as your wireless connection is stable.
If you're running Windows 10, Microsoft Your Phone Companion for Android should be your primary contact. It is linked to the native Your Phone app, which is available through the Microsoft Store. When the two are synced through your Microsoft account, you can move files between the two devices, answer calls on your Windows 10 PC, and send text without touching the phone. You don't need a USB cable for this to work.
Unfortunately, there is no similar native client for MacOS. Instead, Google provides a DMG file that you can download and install on your Mac: Android File Transfer. After installation, you need to physically connect your Android phone to browse the files and folders.
Outside of these two solutions, you can use third-party options. For example, Pushbullet offers a file transfer service called Portal. Once you have installed the app and scanned the website's QR code, you can transfer pictures, videos and other files to your mobile phone via the website. This is particularly easy with Google Chrome, as you can simply drag and drop files to move them from one device to another instantly.
If you want a little less all-service, Send Anywhere and AirDroid are explicitly designed to transfer smartphone files to your PC.
Cloud storage services
Most of the best cloud storage providers offer a meaningful alternative to native apps and third-party apps.
Start your preferred browser first, register for a cloud service like OneDrive, Google Drive or Dropbox and then upload your files. Then download the compatible app to your Android device and use it to access your data stored in the cloud.
If you are using a Windows 10 PC, OneDrive should be your cloud service as it is built into the operating system. Even if you're on a Mac-based desktop or MacBook, OneDrive is a great solution once you've downloaded and installed Microsoft's desktop software. Do you have a Microsoft 365 subscription? Even better.
With OneDrive, your information stays in the cloud, but is accessible to any device with access to the account. This accessibility is useful when you need to transfer data between different platforms to easily share that information with friends and colleagues.
However, both drag-and-drop transfers and cloud services have some security issues. If you are not using a secure wireless network, data theft is possible. Be smart about your transfers and confidential information – always enable two-step verification and use a unique password (save it in a password manager) for all of your cloud storage accounts.
Despite our standard Wi-Fi connectivity, Bluetooth still has many advantages. Sure, pairing isn't that quick or easy, but it's a good alternative if a wireless network isn't available. Simply turn on Bluetooth on your PC and mobile device and check on your computer whether nearby devices are detected. Here's where to look:
- Windows: Settings> Devices> Bluetooth and other devices
- Mac OS: System settings> Bluetooth
After pairing, PCs usually go into a confirmation mode where you have to enter 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 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 choose Send File from the Bluetooth menu by clicking the Bluetooth logo in the lower right corner of your screen. You can also manage Bluetooth devices more directly using the Bluetooth and Other Devices panel in Windows or the Bluetooth panel in MacOS.
Bluetooth is a reliable method because mobile devices include this connectivity. After pairing, it is easy to pair devices again. However, if you have an old computer and a newer mobile device, there may be problems with log reconciliation. There is also a possibility that your computer does not have Bluetooth. However, you can purchase a USB-based Bluetooth adapter that doesn't exactly help you transfer these files here and now.
Use Nearby Share (coming soon)
In the early 2000s, Google developed Android Beam, which enabled fast file sharing with nearby devices via NFC. Google has depreciated this function with Android 10 in 2019 in favor of the upcoming function "Approval nearby".
Nearby sharing works with a combination of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Direct to discover nearby devices, connect, and send files quickly. Like Apple's AirDrop, it will be available with innate Android sharing services and files from Google. Just like with AirDrop, you will receive a notification on your other device with which you can accept or reject a sent file. The process appears quick and straightforward. So be careful when the new version of Android is released.
Use your USB connection
If you don't mind juggling wired devices, you can quickly access Android files from your PC with a simple USB cable. USB-C makes this particularly easy with its double-sided design. While Android phones increasingly have USB-C, not all phones have this latest connection. In addition, your PC may not even have USB-C connectivity, since the classic, more popular USB-A port is used by default.
Here are the different types of cables you can find 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 in the list, you may need to purchase an adapter for your PC. Simply connect the two devices and access your phone as if it were an external storage device. This method is local, fast, and more secure than other options like cloud transfers. But you need to have the right cables on hand for it to work!
If everything else fails, try a USB drive
While the everyday USB drive has recently fallen out of favor due to wireless functionality and cloud storage, sometimes the best option is still to use a flash drive or external hard drive to move your files. Setting up a USB connection is not only safer than wirelessly transferring your data, but also ideal if you want to store a lot of content and transfer everything to multiple devices at the same time without straining your wireless network.
The key selects the correct USB device. For example, many Android devices use USB On-The-Go, which can be paired with compatible USB storage devices and enables fast transfer between your PC and Android device. However, you may need to purchase an adapter for the smartphone side for this method to work.