XDA Basics: How to Transfer Files between Android and Windows PC
Android provides a lot of ways to transfer files to and from a Windows PC. While some methods involve using a USB cable, others are wireless. If you’re struggling to transfer a file from Android to Windows, or vice versa, the methods mentioned below will be useful. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explain all the common methods you can use to transfer files.
Navigate this guide:
- Transfer files using a USB cable
- Transfer files using ADB
- Using USB-OTG to transfer files
- Using cloud storage services to move files
- Transfer files using Bluetooth
- Transfer files using chat apps
- Move files via email
- Using Android apps to transfer files between Android and Windows
Let’s start with the methods of file transfer that use a USB cable or require a physical connection to your Android device or the Windows PC.
Move files with a USB cable
It’s pretty straightforward to transfer files from an Android phone to a Windows PC and vice versa using a USB cable. Typically, you’ll get a USB cable in the box while buying a new phone.
- Unlock your Android phone and connect it to your PC using a USB cable.
- Your phone will detect the connection and show a notification.
- If you’ve connected the phone for the first time to a computer, you’ll see something like ‘Charging this device via USB’.
- Tap on it and it’ll open a longer list of options under ‘Use USB connection for’. Select the option called File Transfer or MTP (Media Transfer Protocol). You can select to choose this option for just one time or always.
- Your phone will now start showing up in the computer’s File Explorer, and you’ll able to able transfer files between the phone and the PC as you would do with a USB drive.
- Once you’re done, remove the cable. Just make sure all transfer tasks have been completed.
Using ADB to move files
The Android Debug Bridge (ADB) is also an option to transfer files between an Android device and a Windows computer. It isn’t the easiest way, and will be preferable by those who are comfortable with the command prompt. To use ADB to transfer files, you’ll need the ADB setup on your computer. If you don’t already have it, use our guide on how to install ADB on Windows.
To use ADB commands, you can either connect your phone to your PC using a USB cable or run the commands wirelessly. While wireless ADB is pretty easy with Android 11 or newer versions, it takes slightly more work with Android 10 or older versions. Google has explained all the steps required to make ADB work wirelessly on the Android developer website.
To send or receive files using ADB on your phone, you’ll be using the following commands.
- Get a file from your phone to your PC.
adb pull /sdcard/filename \path\on\PC
- Send a file from your PC to your phone.
adb push \path\on\PC /sdcard/path
Make sure to use /sdcard/ in the path. It doesn’t matter if your phone has a SD card or not. The ADB pull and push commands can work with both files and folders.
Using USB OTG to transfer files
Android has supported USB OTG (on-the-go) since the early versions of the platform. This USB specification allows devices like smartphones to act as a host to USB devices like a flash drive, mouse, and keyboard. USB OTG support depends on the hardware present in your smartphone but if it does support OTG, you can use a thumb drive to transfer files from or to your computer. Depending on your phone’s USB port and the port on your USB drive, you may also need an adapter.
Once you have successfully connected your USB flash drive to your phone, you can use any file manager to open it and transfer files between the drive and your phone. Then you can plug the same drive into your computer and transfer the files copied from your phone. This can be done the other way round as well. You can even connect external hard drives to your phone, given your phone is able to power them, and transfer files and folders.
This is actually quite a handy way to transfer a large amount of content to and from your phone. Also, most people have experience with thumb drives, so they’ll find this way pretty simple.
Using cloud storage services to transfer files
If you have internet access on both your Android phone and Windows computer, using a cloud storage service like Google Drive, OneDrive, or Dropbox, can be quite easy to transfer files between both devices. Using cloud storage will be useful for small to medium size files but if you have large files or a limited data connection, it’s better to use one of the other methods.
- To transfer files using a cloud storage service, open the cloud storage service provider’s app. For this guide, let’s say that app is Google Drive. Upload the file or files you want on your computer to Google Drive.
- Open Google Drive on the computer. If you have the Google Drive client installed, use that. Otherwise, open its web version.
- Download the files you just uploaded, and you’re done. You can delete them from Google Drive to clear some space if you need to, or keep them as a backup.
Using Bluetooth to transfer files
Bluetooth is another wireless connectivity option you can use to transfer files between your phone and your PC. But Bluetooth is quite slow and is only useful for small transfers. Otherwise, you’ll end up waiting a really long time for the transfer to complete. We’re still documenting the process in case you want to still go ahead, although we strongly recommend trying out other methods first.
- To transfer files using Bluetooth, you’ll first need to pair your phone with your PC.
- Enable Bluetooth on both devices, and make it discoverable. Now use your phone or your PC to initiate the pairing process.
- Select the other device and confirm the pairing request.
- Once both devices are paired, you can start the file transfer.
- Go to your Windows PC and open the Bluetooth and other devices settings page. If you can’t locate it, type the name in the search box next to the Windows icon.
- On the Bluetooth and other devices settings page, select Send or receive files via Bluetooth from the options given on the right.
- Choose Send files if you want to send files from your PC to your phone.
- Then select your phone from the paired devices list.
- Pick the file or files that you want to send from the browser window, and hit send.
- Your phone will get a notification about the file being received. Approve it and it will get transferred to your phone.
- If you want to send a file from your phone to your PC, select Receive files from the Bluetooth File Transfer wizard.
- Then use a file manager to locate the file or files you want to transfer to your phone.
- Now tap on the share button, and use Bluetooth as the transfer mode from the share menu.
- The other device will get a notification and you may need to approve the transfer.
- Once approved, the transfer will be completed. You can now choose to pick the default or a different location to save the received file.
Move files by sharing them on chat
You can use a chat app that’s also accessible on your computer to transfer an occasional file. Apps like Slack, Telegram, and Signal can be accessed on both desktop and mobile, and they allow users to send messages/files to themselves. You can use this feature to send a file to yourself on one platform, and then download it on the other.
Move files by sharing them on email
As with chat apps, you can also transfer files using your email. But email services only allow small attachments, up to 25MB on Gmail. So this method will only be useful for smaller transfers.
Using apps to transfer files over-the-air
There are a number of Android applications that allow you to transfer content from one device to another. So you can use these apps to transfer files from Android to a Windows PC. Here are some of the most popular apps and how you can use them.
AirDroid is one of the popular Android file transfer apps that comes with a lot of other features as well. It supports the transfer of all kinds of files across platforms on the same wireless network as well as remotely.
- Install the app on your phone. Once installed, open it and give the necessary permissions. You don’t need to create an account if you’re sending files on the same network.
- When you are in the app, tap on AirDroid Web.
- AirDroid will show a new page with an IP address.
- Type the IP address on any browser in your Windows computer.
- When you open the IP address, AirDroid will ask for permission on your phone. Give the permission.
- AirDroid will now open a detailed interface with a number of options. Just click on Files to transfer files to or from your PC.
- The app will open a file manager showing the files on your phone. You’ll also see two buttons — Upload file and Upload Folder.
- You can use Upload file and Upload folder to transfer any files from your PC to the phone.
- To get files from your phone, navigate to the file in the file manager on AirDroid.
- Right-click on a file or folder, and select download. Folders will show a Download as Zip option.
- Once you are done transferring, just click on the power button at the top to sign out.
The Pushbullet app can also be used to transfer files from your phone to your computer and vice versa. Unlike Airdroid, Pushbullet uploads the files on its own servers and then transfers them to the other devices. So it won’t be ideal for big transfers.
Using Pushbullet is also pretty straightforward.
- Install the app on your phone and computer. Instead of the app, you can also use the Pushbullet extension on your PC.
- Once the apps have been installed, open and complete the setup formalities. You’ll need to sign in using your Google account.
- When the app is set up, its interface is quite similar to a chat app. Press the Attach button to send files from your PC or phone to the other device. Just select the file and tap on send.
Portal by Pushbullet is another good app for Wi-Fi file transfers. But it only supports transfers from your computer to your phone, and not the other way round.
WiFi FTP server
The WiFi FTP Server app converts your Android phone into a FTP server. You can use this server to transfer files between your phone and your PC.
- Install the WiFi FTP Server app on your phone.
- Open the app and give the necessary permission.
- The app will then show the WiFi status and other details.
- Tap on Start to make the FTP server live.
- After the server is live, the app will show a server IP address.
- Open File Explorer on your PC and type the complete server URL in the address bar, including the ftp:// prefix. Make sure you remove everything from the File Explorer address bar before putting in the URL.
- Press Enter and the FTP server will open in File Explorer. It will look like browsing any other drive on your PC.
- Transfer the files you want from or to your phone, and simply tap Stop in the app to stop the server.
These are some of the most common ways to transfer files from Android to a Windows PC, and vice versa. If you’re in the market for a new phone, make sure to check our guides on the best phones, as well as the best Android phones you can buy right now. Alternatively, if you are looking for a computer, here are our recommendations on the best laptops.