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.
If your computer is connected to a wireless network, one of the easiest ways to transfer files to a mobile device is through a wireless transfer service. It specializes in porting information between a PC and an Android device. Once set up, it’s quick, simple, and reliable, so long as your wireless connection is stable.
On 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 photos 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.
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, OneDrive is a great solution once you download and install Microsoft’s app from the Mac App Store. 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.
Google Drive is the native cloud storage for Android — no additional app installs needed. Google offers desktop clients for both Windows 10 and MacOS for automatically syncing files between mobile and PC. Google’s subscription is rather cheap too if you need more than 15GB.
Unfortunately, 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 available. Simply enable 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 Windows 10, you can click on the Bluetooth icon located on the taskbar and select Send a File. For Mac, click the Bluetooth icon on the menu bar, select a target device, and then click Send File to Device. 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
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 Nearby Sharing.
This feature works with a combination of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Direct to sense, connect, and rapidly send files to Android devices. Simply select the file you want to share, tap the Share icon, and then select Nearby Sharing. Your device will then scan for other Android devices — the recipient can either accept or deny the transmitted file.
Currently, Nearby Sharing only works between Android devices with Marshmallow (v6) and newer. Google says that Chromebooks will support this feature in the coming months, enabling quick mobile-to-PC file transfers.
Use your USB connection
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 a new cable or 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
With wireless transfers and cloud storage, USB drives have become somewhat obsolete—but there’s nothing wrong with going back to the basics. Along with being safer for your data, saving or transferring content with USB drives tends to be easier on your wireless network too.
The trick, however, is finding a USB device that works with your phone. Many Android devices, for example, use USB On-The-Go, which supports external storage and peripherals. This allows you to physically connect a USB drive and make quick file transfers between your PC and Android device.
On older Android phones, you’ll need a Micro-USB to USB-A adapter, as USB drives typically ship with USB-A connectors. Newer phones will need a USB-C to USB-A adapter.
Meanwhile, if you’re using an external hard drive or SSD, you can get away with purchasing a new cable with the connectors you need — if a compatible cable didn’t ship with the drive.