How to transfer files from Android to your PC

At one time, transferring files — even high-res photos — between a PC and a mobile device could be a real pain. That’s no longer the case, as PCs and Android devices now have built-in tools to help make transferring those files between the two even easier than ever.

In this guide, we divide the transfer methods between the three major operating systems:

We also used a pure build of Android 10 installed on Google’s Pixel 3. That said, the Android aspect may be a little different on your phone or tablet.

Windows 10

Microsoft Surface Pro 6
Jeremy Kaplan/Digital Trends

Use the Your Phone app (photos only)

If you want to download photos from your Android device, this is the way to go. Plus, you have the added benefits of texting, making calls, and receiving Android-related notifications on your Windows 10 PC.

Step 1: Download and install Microsoft’s Your Phone Companion app from Google Play on your Android device.

Step 2: Sign in to your Microsoft Account. If you’re already signed in via another Microsoft app, tap the blue Continue button instead.

Step 3: Tap the blue Continue button to allow permissions.

Step 4: Tap Allow on the following pop-ups to grant access to your contacts, make and manage phone calls, access photos and other media, and send and view SMS messages.

Step 5: Tap the blue Continue button followed by Allow to give permission for the app to refresh in the background.

Step 6: On Windows 10, open the Your Phone app. You should already be signed in.

Step 7: Allow the pairing.

Step 8: Back on the Android phone, tap My PC is Ready.

Step 9: Tap the blue Allow button.

Step 10: Tap Done to finish the setup process.

Step 11: On the Windows 10 PC, allow the Your Phone app to pin itself to the taskbar. This is optional but makes accessing the app more convenient versus scrolling down the Start Menu to find the app.

Microsoft Your Phone

The Your Phone app divides into four categories: Notifications, Messages, Photos, and Calling. Unfortunately, you can’t transfer just any file back and forth between PC and phone, but you can retrieve all photos stored on the Android device.

Note: To receive notifications, the Your Phone app will require permissions via the Android phone’s settings.

Use a USB connection (all files)

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In days past, an Android tether consisted of a Micro-USB to USB-A cable. But now with USB-C becoming the more common connector on both mobile devices and PCs, you’ll need the appropriate cable and/or adapter to get this to work. Here are the typical cables:

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

For instance, if your Android phone has a USB-C connector but your PC only has the typical rectangular USB-A port, then you’ll need the USB-C to USB-A cable. If your phone shipped with a USB-C to USB-C cable, then you’ll need a different cable or a USB-C to USB-A adapter.

Step 1: With the Android phone unlocked, connect it to the PC using a USB cable.

Step 2: Tap the Charging this device via USB notification on the phone’s shade.

Step 3: Tap File Transfer listed under Use USB For.

Step 4: The phone should now appear in File Explorer as a USB drive. Move files between the phone and PC like you would any USB flash drive.

Step 5: Eject the phone when done and unplug it from the PC.

Send a file using Bluetooth on a PC

Be sure both devices have Bluetooth enabled before moving forward.

Note: You won’t need to follow Steps 1 to 4 if you already paired the phone using the Your Phone Companion app.

Windows 10 Add Bluetooth Device

Step 1: Open the Settings app on Windows 10 and select Devices.

Step 2: Select Bluetooth & Other Devices.

Step 3: Click Add Bluetooth or Other Device shown on the right.

Step 4: Select Bluetooth in the pop-up window.

Step 5: Click on your Android phone and follow the directions on each device to pair the two.

Windows 10 Send to Bluetooth Device.jpg

Step 6: Open File Explorer and find the file to want to send to the Android device.

Step 7: Right-click on the file and select Send To on the pop-up menu.

Step 8: Select Bluetooth Device on the roll-out menu.

Step 9: Select the Bluetooth device and then click the Next button.

Step 10: On the Android phone, tap Allow.

Step 11: On the Windows 10 PC, click Finish.

Send a file using Bluetooth on an Android phone

Windows 10 Receive Bluetooth File

Step 1: On Windows 10, right-click on the Bluetooth icon located next to the system clock and select Receive a File on the pop-up menu. You must do this first else the transfer will fail.

Step 2: On the Android device, long-press on the file you want to send via Bluetooth.

Step3: Tap the Share button located at the top.

Step 4: Tap the Bluetooth button on the bottom toolbar.

Step 5: Select your Windows 10 PC on the list.

Step 6: On the Windows 10 PC, you’ll see the received file listed in the Bluetooth File Transfer window. Click Finish to complete.

Use OneDrive (all files)

Your default go-to cloud service should be OneDrive. Just install the Microsoft OneDrive app on your Android device and upload your files to Microsoft’s cloud. A good rule of thumb is to create an Android folder on OneDrive, so you know where to send and retrieve files.

Make sure all files are synced to your Windows 10 PC so you’re swapping files via File Explorer versus using a browser. Here’s how:

Windows 10 Access OneDrive Settings

Step 1: Right-click on the cloud icon next to the system clock and select Settings on the pop-up menu.

OneDrive Choose Folders Windows 10

Step 2: A pop-up window appears. Click the Account tab.

Step 3: Click the Choose Folders button.

Step 4: Click the box next to the folder you want synchronizing with your Windows 10 PC.

Step 5: When you’re done, click the OK button.

Step 6: Open File Explorer and click on the Folder listed under OneDrive on the left. Files uploaded from Android should now be accessible.

Step 7: In the OneDrive app for Android, you can access the same folder and download files uploaded from your PC.

If you don’t want to use OneDrive, alternatives include Dropbox and Google Drive.

MacOS

Use a USB connection

The same rule applies to Macs and MacBooks. You’ll need one of the following cables or an adapter:

  • Micro-USB to USB-A
  • Micro-USB to USB-C
  • USB-C to USB-A
  • USB-C to USB-C
Android File Transfer Pixel 3

Step 1: Download and install the Android File Transfer program from Google.

Step 2: Open Android File Transfer on the Mac. You’ll find it on the Launchpad.

Step 3: Unlock the Android phone and connect it to the Mac using a USB cable.

Step 4: Tap the Charging this device via USB notification on the phone.

Step 5: Tap File Transfer listed under Use USB For.

Step 6: The phone should now appear in Android File Transfer on Mac. Drag files between Finder and Android File Transfer.

Step 7: Eject the phone when done and unplug it from the Mac.

Send a file using Bluetooth on a Mac

Be sure both devices have Bluetooth enabled before moving forward.

MacOS Enable bluetooth Sharing

Step 1: On the Mac, open System Preferences and then select Bluetooth.

Step 2: Click the Connect button next to your listed Android device and follow the directions to pair the two.

Step 3: Go back to the main System Preferences screen and select Sharing.

Step 4: Click the box next to Bluetooth Sharing to enable file sharing via Bluetooth.

MacOS Bluetooth Send File to Device

Step 5: Go back to Bluetooth in System Preferences and right-click on the paired Android device.

Step 6: Select Send File to Device on the pop-up menu.

Step 7: The Bluetooth File Exchange window opens. Select the file you want to transfer and then click the Send button.

Step 8: On the Android device, tap Accept to receive the file.

Send a file using Bluetooth on an Android phone

Step 1: On the Android device, long-press on the file you want to send via Bluetooth.

Step 2: Tap the Share button that appears at the top.

Step 3: Tap the Bluetooth button on the toolbar at the bottom.

Step 4: Select your Mac on the list.

Use a cloud service

Unfortunately, you can’t use iCloud to push files between an Android device and a Mac. In this case, you’ll need Microsoft OneDrive (which is ideal if you also use a Windows 10 PC), Dropbox, or Google Drive.

Chrome OS

Use a USB connection

Step 1: Unlock the Android phone and connect it to the PC using a USB cable.

Step 2: Tap the Charging this device via USB notification on the phone.

Step 3: Tap File Transfer under Use USB For.

Step 4: The Files app opens in Chrome OS. Use it to drag files back and forth between the devices.

Step 5: Disconnect the Android phone when you’re done.

Use Nearby Share

Currently, this is only available on the Canary channel — it does not work in the other three channels.

Chromebook enable Nearby Share

Step 1: Enable the Sharesheet and Nearby Sharing flags via chrome://flags in the Chrome Omnibox.

Step 2: Verify that Nearby Share is enabled by opening Settings and clicking Connected Devices listed on the left. The Nearby Share feature should be toggled on.

Android Nearby Sharing Toggle

Step 3: Verify that Nearby Share is enabled on your Android device. Open Settings > Google > Device Connections > Nearby Share and make sure the feature is toggled on.

Step 4: In Files on the Chromebook, select the file you want to share and then click the Share button.

Step 5: Select Nearby Share on the drop-down menu.

Step 6: On the Android phone, tap Accept to receive the file.

Use Google Drive

Google Drive should be your go-to cloud service for Chrome OS devices. It’s built into the Files app and listed on the menu to the left. In turn, use Google’s Files app on your Android device to move files between it and a Chromebook.

If you’re not fond of Google Drive, you can use Dropbox or Microsoft OneDrive to transfer files using a browser or the Android app.

Other solutions

Use a USB drive

With the right adapter, you can connect a USB drive to your Android phone to move files to and from the device. However, the phone needs to support USB On-The-Go, which is a protocol for enabling data transfers through the phone’s USB-based charging port. This protocol supports file transfers, external peripherals, and so on.

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.

Use a third-party solution

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.

Send Anywhere and AirDroid make great options too, and are designed explicitly for beaming smartphone files to your PC.

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