5 Ways To Get Data From Your Desktop To Your Android

datatransfer   5 Ways To Get Data From Your Desktop To Your AndroidTransferring data between a computer and a smartphone has not always been quite as fast and easy as it is today. I remember as recently as 2009, when I was writing articles here about how to sync up a Windows Mobile phone to a laptop so you could not only transfer files, but also share mobile Internet.

Things were a little bit more complex then, where you needed to install ActiveSync first, before you could really transfer anything at all. As the years went on and I eventually upgraded to my awesome Droid (which I promptly rooted and installed a new ROM onto), the whole world changed. Now, you can choose from a wide variety of data transfer and file sharing options. You’ve got the cloud, Wi-Fi and of course the USB cable to choose from.

To take a look at just how far we’ve come when it comes to transferring data between your computer and your smartphone, I decided to cover my five favorite, fastest methods to choose from when it comes to syncing up or sharing files. These are equally valuable, but the option that you choose really depends on what sort of files you’re sharing and what you plan to do with them.

Transferring Files To & From Your Android

Honestly, I don’t care what anyone says, it doesn’t get easier to transfer files using a USB cable than with an Android. Seriously – it’s essentially two taps of the screen and your phone is mounted just like a USB memory stick, and you’re free to add or remove anything at all.  How much more simple can it get?

This is the most basic method to transfer data back and forth with a wire. You plug in the USB cable, and you’ll see the “USB debugging connected” status show up.

droid1a   5 Ways To Get Data From Your Desktop To Your Android

When you tap that, you’ll see the USB Mass Storage screen with the option to Turn on USB storage.

droid1b   5 Ways To Get Data From Your Desktop To Your Android

Tap that, and your phone has now transformed into a massive USB stick. Here’s what it looks like after I quickly connect and mount my phone as a removable drive.

droid1   5 Ways To Get Data From Your Desktop To Your Android

I can just open up any directory, pull files off or put files on my phone. That’s it.

Of course, these days no one wants to use a cable. It’s so old-school. Everything is wireless and mobile. People want to be able to access their android with a desktop PC even if it’s sitting forgotten in your desk drawer back at the office.

Well, using any one of the five methods below, you can get data off of or onto your Android as long as your Android is connected to the Internet, or a Wi-Fi network that your computer is connected to.

Pushing Data To Your Android

One of the fastest methods to update information on your Android from your desktop is a simple app called PushBullet.

Picture it this way. You’re sitting at your computer and you’re in the middle of an important project. Then, it hits you. You have to run to the store and pick up some groceries, and you need to call the babysitter on the way. With PushBullet, you can quickly write up a grocery list, jot down the babysitter’s number, push that data to your phone, and you don’t even have to pick up a pad or paper, or even connect your phone to the computer.

Basically, once you install the app, it connects that device to the PushBullet service. So, all you have to do to “push” data to your phone is go to the PushBullet.com website, click “Push to this Device”, and put that data on your phone or tablet.

droid7   5 Ways To Get Data From Your Desktop To Your Android

It can be something as simple as a quick note of something that you don’t want to forget.

droid8   5 Ways To Get Data From Your Desktop To Your Android

It could be a grocery list, or any list, that you can quickly type up on the PushBullet website. PushBullet will load the list as a checklist on your phone, with interactive checkboxes that you can check off as you finish each item.

droid9   5 Ways To Get Data From Your Desktop To Your Android

You can even send your phone files from your desktop PC as well.

droid10   5 Ways To Get Data From Your Desktop To Your Android

Obviously, this is a one-way method to quickly get information to your phone when you’re at your computer, but what if you want 2-way data transfer that’s just as simple. Where there are plenty of options there a swell.

Going Through The Cloud

These days, it would be silly not to mention the cloud as a viable alternative for data transfer between a smartphone and a PC. Nearly everyone has some form of cloud storage app loaded on their phone, be it Dropbox, Google Drive, Evernote, or a very long list of other cloud storage options.

For Android, the Dropbox app is probably one of the fastest solutions to get your data to an online storage location that you can access from anywhere.  From the Dropbox app, you can upload or download files to your account.

droid12   5 Ways To Get Data From Your Desktop To Your Android

And of course, once you have those uploaded from your phone to your Dropbox account, it’s just a matter of going to your computer, logging into your Dropbox account, and grabbing the file. The process is the same in the other direction from your computer to your phone, just in the other direction.

For those of you that prefer Google Docs, you now have the Google Drive app for Android that you can use to transfer files via your Google Drive account.

droid13   5 Ways To Get Data From Your Desktop To Your Android

The cloud solution is probably one of the most convenient solutions, because you really don’t have to install any software on the computer to get files to or from your phone. You just go to  your cloud account to perform the transfer.

A Wi-Fi File Explorer

Of course, some people actually prefer a more direct approach, short of using a USB cable. That direct approach would be installing an app on your phone called the Wi-Fi File Explorer, which basically shares out your phone’s file system via your local Wi-Fi network.

The app will provide you with the IP address and port of your device.

droid15   5 Ways To Get Data From Your Desktop To Your Android

Then, you just go to any computer on your Wi-Fi network, type in that IP/port combination into the browser, and the web-based file explorer will come up.

droid2   5 Ways To Get Data From Your Desktop To Your Android

As you can see, this is just like having a direct connection to your phone using a file explorer system that will let you explore your phone’s file structure, and transfer files to or from your phone.

Set Up Your Phone As An FTP Server

For those of you that love using FTP for file transfers, you can set up your phone as an FTP server using an app called FTP Server Ultimate, or really any other of the free FTP server apps on the Android market. There are tons of awesome, high-quality FTP Server apps, despite what Android-haters say about the apps market.

FTP Server Ultimate lets you set up an FTP server on your phone and you can provide multiple users with access to that server.

droid161   5 Ways To Get Data From Your Desktop To Your Android

You can set up a unique FTP port for it, and then once you start the service, the app will run the FTP server on your Wi-Fi network, with the device IP and the defined port.

droid17   5 Ways To Get Data From Your Desktop To Your Android

You can see the server IP settings by checking the settings for the running server on the main page of the app.

droid18   5 Ways To Get Data From Your Desktop To Your Android

Just use those settings to connect to the server (a.k.a. your phone) using any FTP client. My preference has always been FileZilla, which works really well when connecting to FTP Server Ultimate.

droid3   5 Ways To Get Data From Your Desktop To Your Android

Just like the File Explorer app, once you FTP in using an application like FileZilla, you can basically browse the phone file structure and upload or download any files or data that you want to transfer between your computer and your phone.

Use AirDroid For Full-Featured Data Transfer

Of course, sometimes transferring data between your Android device and your computer involves more than just files, right? I mean, maybe you want to take screenshots, or check your phone’s SMS messages, or access the contact list you have stored on your phone. How do you get access to things like that?

In my opinion, the best application of all time for truly connecting to your Android device from your computer, without wires, is AirDroid.  I’m not kidding, AirDroid does it all and then some. All you have to do is run the app on your phone or your tablet, and it’ll create open access to your phone via the device IP and port 8888, plus a special code to connect.

droid19   5 Ways To Get Data From Your Desktop To Your Android

You just go to any browser on any computer on that LAN, and you can access the phone by typing the IP:Port into the browser.

The web interface that you have to access everything on your phone is just phenomenal. You can take a screenshot of the device (on rooted phones), access full call logs, add or remove contact information, check installed apps, upload or download files, and check or send SMS messages.

droid4   5 Ways To Get Data From Your Desktop To Your Android

The web-based file explorer is simple and easy to use, and when you find what you want to transfer, you just click the “download” button. Or you can “upload” files from your computer to your phone with just a click.

droid5   5 Ways To Get Data From Your Desktop To Your Android

To the right of the screen, AirDroid gives you stats for your phone’s current memory usage, the ability to remotely launch the phone’s web browser to any website, and the ability to load anything you like into the device clipboard. I’m actually not sure how you would use that in an practical way, but you can do it.

droid6   5 Ways To Get Data From Your Desktop To Your Android

AirDroid gives you full access to and control over your Android device from the comfort of your computer browser. I use this app several times a day and couldn’t live without it.

So there you have it, five distinct but equally useful ways to transfer data to and from your Android device with your PC. These days, there are probably more that I’ve missed. If so, please let me know, or share your favorite from the list above in the comments section below!

Image Credit: Exchange of Data Between Mobile Devices via Shutterstock

The comments were closed because the article is more than 180 days old.

If you have any questions related to what's mentioned in the article or need help with any computer issue, ask it on MakeUseOf Answers—We and our community will be more than happy to help.

30 Comments -

Mike

I use a lot Samba Filesharing over wifi.. it is an excellent tool too.

Ryan Dube

I’ve used Samba only once at work for another device on the network. It seemed a bit awkward to me, but I think it’s just because I’m not used to the different filesharing setup. I’ve always wanted to try it in this scenario though.

TorchingIgloosdotcom

I agree, I use this almost daily. If you’re rooted and using Wi-FI it’s simple to setup, and a MUST HAVE! No cords FTW! If you have problems accessing the device using it’s network name, try using \\ip in windows explorer instead, works like a charm every time (example: \\192.168.0.105)

Max

Airdroid looks awesome

Ryan Dube

Thanks – it really is. One of the editors here told me my cyanogenmod interface looks “outdated”. I think it looks cool. :-)

Thanks for your comment.

Stephen Mitchell

Any idea how to get a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 to appear as USB Mass Storage? I have USB debugging enabled, but the phone still only gives the options of connecting via MTP or PTP.

Ryan Dube

Have you tried toggling USB debugging while it’s connected to the PC to see what it does? At some point the computer should pick up on the device as a connected USB storage device. If you still have issues, you might try asking about in the Answers section of this site to see if anyone else with a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 has done this.

Stephen Mitchell

I’ve tried toggling USB debugging with the phone connected. I see a dialogue asking me whether to turn on debugging, but nothing else happens.

As per Slashee the Cow’s comment below, I think that my phone simply doesn’t support USB Mass Storage mode. It will connect as an MTP device, but as I’m using Debian which doesn’t support MTP very well this isn’t especially useful.

On a more positive note, I’ve set up an FTP server by following your instructions. This isn’t ideal since I don’t know of any media players that sync over FTP, but at least it gives me a reliable way to move files to and from my phone by hand which I haven’t been able to do since I switched from Windows to Debian several weeks ago.

Ryan Dube

Awesome – glad to hear the FTP server solution worked. I actually use the FTP solution often mostly because I’ve always liked using FTP commands, not so much out of convenience. Glad you found a solution that worked for you.

Anonymous

Supposedly, USB Mass Storage goes away with Jelly Bean, if not already with ICS. This is a major bummer as I used robocopy to mass transfer and verify stuff from the phone to the PC.

David E

Mass Storage is still there in Jellybean, at least in CyanogenMod, it’s just off by default.

Greg

I had some issues until I used the stock cable that came with my phone, rather than a Motorola cable I had laying around by my computer.

I thought I had USB debugging turned on, but it’s off now and I just transferred files recently (sorry, not near a computer to test this).

But I can definitely confirm that my stock cable with stock note 2 came up as a mas storage device.

Try AirDroid if you haven’t though, extremely easy and feature rich.

Slashee the Cow

In the first screenshot, you say to tap on the “USB debugging connected” notification – that’s wrong, tapping that will just take you to the debugging options, which most people who aren’t developers won’t be interested in – and won’t have on in the first place, so that notification won’t appear for most people. It is possible to transfer files over a debugging connection, but only by pushing them through adb, which requires the Android SDK.
You just want to tap on the notification that says “USB connected” (which might be different depending on the ROM).

Also, not all phones (or to be more specific, ROMs) will mount as a USB mass storage device, some (from memory I think it’s at least Samsung devices running TouchWiz) will only mount as an MTP device – you should still be able to transfer files using Windows Explorer though.

Ryan Dube

That’s a really good point – on my phone (my ROM) it allows a toggle between debugging and mass storage, but you make an excellent point that making the mount as USB can be different by ROM (or nonexistent for some), so that is important to keep in mind. Thank you for the clarification.

arkhadius

I used to use dropbox but it was laggy. Then I started using TeamVIewer for transfering files between devices, you forgot about this one :)
But that Wi-Fi explorer seems nice, I’ll check it.
Thanks :)

samol

One more way is to use ES File Explorer in Android to download files from a “Windows Shared Folder’. Check out Chris Hoffman’s article about ES File Explorer dated Jan 9, 2013. For some reason I can’t paste the link.

Here’s how I just did a transfer.
-open ES.
-in top left hand corner select Local then Lan
-select the NEW+ button then Scan
(you can click the screen to stop it once your network data appears)
-select your network/windows shared folder
-find the file you want t transfer and select copy
-in top left corner again select lan/local select the folder you want to copy to, then select paste.

You should see the a copy icon at the bottom of the page. Click on the icon to see the file being copied. You can see the download progress in the Android taskbar.

This also works with my wdtv box to download a movie or whatever. Of course you can just stream the movie to watch it anyway.

Ryan Dube

Awesome – thanks for the great tip Samol. ES File Explorer is a great solution as well, I agree.

android underground

Pingponging files through the cloud is nice and easy, but all cloud services want you to install their own app that connects to one cloud account on one cloud service only.

If you don’t want a homescreen full of apps for all your cloud services just use a file manager to fit ‘em all in one app. My current favourite is ES FileExplorer, which talks with all my dropbox/skydrive/box.net/sugarsync/gdrive accounts. It has an ftp client and server too, and it dances samba.

Shardul Seth

Check out MyPhoneExplorer.. It can connect via USB and Wifi, and tons if features.

CGA

Couldn’t agree more, gets way too little attention. Also gives you the ability to remote control your phone (think remote desktop).

Daniel Escasa

Unfortunately, it requires a desktop client, which — judging from the file to be downloaded — is Windows-only. Does look more feature-rich than the other software mentioned here though.

Anonymous

I use a cable to transfer data.

Daniel Escasa

I’d also use a cable, except that I lose all access to my SD card from the phone when I’m connected. Android then has to re-scan my SD card once I’ve disconnected.

Vipul Jain

1. Why are you still on Froyo/Froyo themed CM :/
It’s like using a Nokia 1100 in a society where everyone has moved onto the Nokia N series :P

2. Loved Airdroid.
but just one addition, In case someone owns a Samsung Device (I got a SGS2), an app called Kies Air does the same as Airdroid but, better!
Airdroid still is developing and does stuff a bit slower when i compared to Kies Air!

David E

I tried Airdroid but I got bored with scanning the QR code.

I tried Cheetahsync and it’s good. (surprised it was not mentioned).The free version supports one-way sync and one sync relationship.

Now I am using ftp, but the opposite way from what you describe. I am using FolderSync as a client and my PC as a server (using FileZilla server). That way I can just tap the FolderSync widget and pull down all the new files. FolderSync is mainly touted for sync with Dropbox et al (its icon is a cloud). The free version supports two-way sync and is pretty full featured, You have to get the paid version to get multiple account support, file filters and a few other features.

David Omon

My Favorite is AirDroid, Love it… especially version 2 ( http://v2.airdroid.com) which has the capability of tracking the phone, and supports 3G / 4G

Tomas

I use softwaredatacable, a great product.

Grr

I have been using AirDroid, and it works just good. However, when the permanent pin is set, it still doesn’t accepts it.

Going to try PushBullet as well. Looks useful

Thamizh

How to send a sensed data to a PC from android mobile..?