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You plug your Android phone into your Mac, and nothing happens. Sound familiar?

Don’t worry: here’s how to transfer files between Android and OS X — Earth’s best mobile and desktop operating system, respectively.

On Windows, you can plug in an Android phone and explore your files, just like any other hard drive. Macs are different, and it’s annoying, but there is an official fix. There are also third-party solutions that (while flawed in some ways) might be even better for you.

Android File Transfer: The Easy Way

Android File Transfer is a free Mac app from the Android team. With it installed, you’ll see a window like this every time you plug in your device:

android-file-transfer

From here you can transfer files to and from a separate Finder window. Simple.

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You might notice that my Android’s file system is a bit of a mess. Guilty. I should probably get around to cleaning that up. Happily it’s easy to do with this tool: I can CMD- or right-click any file and click “Delete”.

android-file-transfer-right-click

I point this out only because there doesn’t seem to be many other features. Seriously: copy-paste doesn’t work, there’s no search, and you can’t use quick look to preview your files. Pretty much all you can do is transfer and delete files.

This is your best option for the quick transfer of files. If you want full integration with your Mac’s Finder (or one of its alternatives Give Finder The Upgrade It Sorely Needs With XtraFinder [Mac] Give Finder The Upgrade It Sorely Needs With XtraFinder [Mac] People are always going on about the Mac user experience; how it just works. For the most part, I agree with them. The operating system is like a smooth breeze, and most of the default... Read More ), you’re going to need to try a third-party tool.

The WiFi Alternative: DroidNAS

If you want to browse Android files using the Finder, you won’t find a USB option. You can, however, acquire your files over the network — and a program called DroidNAS is the simplest way to set that up. It’s one of many ways you can access your Android device wirelessly 5 Useful Things You Can Do With Your Phone Even When It's Miles Away 5 Useful Things You Can Do With Your Phone Even When It's Miles Away You can play with it all you want, just don't touch it. Your phone that is. Read More .

droidnas-on-screen

In just a few taps, you can make your Android’s various folders, including the entire SD card, shared on the network. This gives you full access to your files from Finder, assuming both devices are on the same network.

droidnas-working

In my tests, browsing folders was a little slow, but everything worked. I transferred a half-gig file to my Android device without any hiccups.

In theory DroidNAS is supposed to make your Android device visible from Finder, so you need only click an icon to start browsing your files. If you’re using Mavericks or later, however, that won’t work.

droidnas-fail

DroidNAS hasn’t fixed this problem, instead offering this workaround:

Press Cmd+K in Finder and enter IP address AND share:

smb://IP_ADDRESS:Port/Share

for example:

smb://192.168.1.101:7777/SD Card

Here’s what that looks like:

droidnas-connect

It’s a bit of extra work, sure, but after setting it up once, you’ll get the hang of it.

It’s not a perfect solution, and it’s a lot slower than Android File Transfer’s wired connection. But if you’d rather not fuss around with wires, it’s a good approach.

More Solutions

Do neither of these options quite work for you? There are other options out there. A quick rundown:

These are all great options, but in terms of simplicity, I think a USB cable and Android File Transfer is your best bet.

Disagree? Let me know in the comments below, and also feel free to point out which tools you think are best for the job. I look forward to learning.

  1. H. Lee
    December 1, 2016 at 11:29 pm

    Help!
    I was transferring files from my phone's /Download folder. After the the transfer, I tried deleting them from the phone and accidentally deleted the ENTIRE /Downloads FOLDER!
    I cant find an 'UNDO' option. Please, somebody, HELP! I had a VERY important file in there!

  2. Brianna
    October 25, 2016 at 10:45 pm

    I'm afraid I've lost all my pics...please tell me there's something I can do. I had the Android File Transfer app open on my Mac, and was deleting files, however, I accidentally deleted a file that contained ALL of my photos when I thought it only contained a few old ones I didn't want any longer. Once I unplugged my phone (Moto X 2nd gen), I realized all of my photos and vids were gone. Is there anything I can do to recover my photos??? I've tried different photo recovery tools from the google play store, but nothing from what I deleted has returned.

  3. Harvey Smith
    May 7, 2016 at 3:49 am

    Android File Transfer stopped working for me quite recently. I need help!!

    Keep in mind - I do NOT have WiFi availability where I live, so my MacBook Pro does not get any internet access.

    I live so far out in the country that I can't get cable, etc. But I can find some spots in my house where I can get a 4G network on my phone (I can't add HotSpot to my plan because my dad works for Verizon and well, long story, but we'll lose our awesome plan we currently have that we're grandfathered into).

    In order to not lose my mind completely while way out in the middle of nowhere, I download TV shows or movies onto my phone, then I transfer them via USB and Android File Transfer onto my computer. This has been no problem for years, but just last week, it completely stopped working.

    What Happens:

    I plug the phone in, the word Verizon + CD symbol appears in the device list in Finder. After a few seconds, it disappears, then Android File Transfer appears to open, but is immediately thwarted by an error message, rendering it inaccessible. The message claims that I need to unlock my screen, but my screen is unlocked!

    Troubleshooting Steps I've Already Taken (sometimes multiple times):

    - Restarted both phone and computer.
    - Tried different USB cables.
    - Tried different USB ports.
    - Made sure my android software was up-to-date.
    - MTP is selected.
    - PTP functions through Image Capture, but only pictures may be transferred.
    - Made sure that USB debugging is selected in Developer settings.
    - Put both computer and android device in Safe Mode.
    - Uninstalled and reinstalled Android File Transfer (I am visiting my parents an hour away from my home today in an attempt to resolve this, they have WiFi).

    None of these attempts have fixed the issue.

    First, the computer sees that I've connected the phone (it's listed in devices in the finder window), then it suddenly disappears from that list and the AFT app opens but is immediately frozen by an error message claiming my screen is locked.

    Device: Samsung Galaxy S5, completely up-to-date
    Computer: Mac OSX Version 10.9.5 Maverick (can't go much higher, I have a 2011 computer).

    And again, this was working find until last week when no new changes took place on either device. Also, please keep in mind that if you're able to help with more suggestions, I may not be around any WiFi (therefore my computer won't be able to be online at all) if your response is not within 24 hours of my post.

    I hope this was sufficient information. Thank you so, so much in advance. I am hoping for only helpful responses, no judgement on the fact that I have an S5 or a 2011 machine or that I don't have HotSpot. Just simple help with this specific issue would be so wonderful.

    Thanks, again!!

  4. Dmitry Tatarenko
    November 3, 2015 at 11:55 am

    In the case you need just quickly push your photos from phone to PC/Mac/Tablet/whatever having internet best solution in my opinion is http://drop2pc.com - it's free and handy.

  5. Sadie Johnsen
    July 18, 2015 at 10:52 pm

    I still do not get how to actually get my pictures from my phone on to my MacBook Air. I have the Android file transfer and I get the screen you show above when I plug it in, however how do I make the pictures magically move over to be saved on my Mac? I have tried and failed multiple times. Please please please give me a dummies version!!

  6. Jenny Wer
    July 15, 2015 at 7:06 am

    I use MobiKin Assistant for Android to help me manage and transfer data from Android to pc.

  7. Jen
    May 19, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    Android File Transfer is pretty nifty! However, the moment your folder gets too large, the file transfer app won't access it! Under DCIM on my android, I have over 2000 plus pictures. So whenever I tried to access that file, an error message pops up! However, it was great when I want to send files to the device. Very quick and can transfer as many GB as possible as long as your device has space. :))

    • Justin Pot
      May 19, 2015 at 7:45 pm

      Yeah there's certainly room for improvement here I feel.

    • Rebecca
      April 25, 2016 at 2:17 pm

      I encountered the same problem with DCIM folder. How did you solve it?

  8. Karen
    May 4, 2015 at 5:03 am

    I got AFT to work fairly easily between my iMac and Note4, and I am quite the novice. However, it only transferred 300 photos and I have 618 total. (I realize there is a 4gb limit so I guess I went over) There doesn't seem to be any order to the ones transferred so I am wondering, shall I open up the camera and highlight the first 300 photos and transfer and then do it again for the last 300? Or do you have another suggestion? I tried Image Capture, iPhoto and Preview to try a direct transfer but they didn't see my phone. Thanks

    • Justin Pot
      May 4, 2015 at 2:31 pm

      I'm afraid I can't help you, I don't know why that would happen. If you can browse your device and find your photos, that should be all of your photos. Sorry.

    • Justin Pot
      May 4, 2015 at 2:31 pm

      Might I recommend trying out Dropbox or BitTorrent Sync for your photos?

  9. Manuel
    April 16, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    Sorry, when I said "Explorer" I meant "Finder". My years of Windows user cannot be left behind still evidently...

  10. Manuel
    April 16, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    Very interesting article. The DroidNas workoaround gets the SD in the Explorer allright, but I had many problems copying and moving files inside the card from my Mac.
    The ES Explorer works perfect in this sense, but I still wish I could organize my SD Card from my Mac. One question: Finder asks for user name and password when trying to reach the "server". The only way I can move on is with the "guest" option. I tried inside DroidNas with "Limit access to device" setting up a name and pass with no luck. Any ideas?
    Thanks for your article

    • Justin Pot
      April 16, 2015 at 3:47 pm

      I'm honestly not sure about getting the password functionality to work, or if it's still even supported at this point. Sorry.

  11. Christoph Bosch
    April 13, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    works fine, thanks !

  12. Christoph Bosch
    April 12, 2015 at 12:08 pm

    Every time I connect my Samsung S4 mini to the IMac (OsX 10.10) I get the message " no connection possible" when using Android File Transfer. Deconnection and restart: same result.

  13. RH
    April 10, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    I haven't been able to use AFT since the update to 5.1 recently!! I've tried every USB cable I have too, no deal. AirDroid is my next goto on the Mac but is slow though a nice graphical interface.

  14. Christopher Heckman
    April 5, 2015 at 5:45 am

    AFT works great for me; however, my cell phone battery needs to be replaced after 9 months. I'm wondering whether the battery automatically gets charged when I hook my MacBook up to my SmartPhone.

    Is there any way to keep Android File Transfer from recharging the battery on my SmartPhone?

    • Justin Pot
      April 6, 2015 at 5:31 pm

      This isn't a function of Android File Transfer, which is a piece of software – it's a hardware function of USB. When you plug a USB device into a USB port, it charges. I'm not sure how to avoid this, sorry.

    • Christopher Heckman
      April 7, 2015 at 5:24 am

      @ Justin Pot: That's okay. Your response narrows down where I need to look to fix the problem.

    • Justin Pot
      April 7, 2015 at 4:40 pm

      Here's hoping you solve it!

  15. Manda
    March 4, 2015 at 5:30 pm

    And eeek, if I use DroidNas on a public network (like at my office), that means my coworkers can have access to my phone? Yikes!

    • Justin Pot
      March 4, 2015 at 10:02 pm

      Yeah, there's no security options either. This is a solution best used at home.

  16. Manda
    March 4, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    I have Android File Transfer... I used to be able to move files around, but now I can't seem to... I can't drag the files into a folder on my desktop. Not sure exactly why it's called "File transfer" if I can't transfer any files. :(

    • Justin Pot
      March 4, 2015 at 10:01 pm

      That's weird that it stopped working, can't explain why sorry. :(

  17. Chris m
    February 17, 2015 at 4:23 am

    Thanks for your response. On the tablet itself I believe 8gb. But an SD card of 32 GB is added to it with only 3 movies on it of about 800 mb each.

    • Justin Pot
      February 17, 2015 at 4:06 pm

      If you have an SD card, it might be best to transfer larger files directly to that. Sorry I can't be more help!

  18. chris m
    February 16, 2015 at 6:39 pm

    Hi i downloaded android file transfer on a friends mac to transfer movies over. i was able to transfer 3 movies 1.0gb and under but when i tried to tranfer larger files a pop up comes up says cannot copy file over. so i assumed it was the files size to be the issue. i tried a smaller 700mb file and it worked so i tried another movie file same size and it failed. can you guys help me out?

    • Justin Pot
      February 16, 2015 at 7:48 pm

      There is a built-in limit for files: nothing over 4GB can transfer, apparently. It doesn't sound like you've hit that limit though, do you know how much room there is on the phone itself?

  19. Nitin K.
    February 11, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    If you're using a Sony Phone, you can also install Sony Bridge and just access your device from there.
    Also on other phones you can mount them as a Mass Storage and then the phone when connected will auto mount the memory card as a drive in Finder. Pretty basic stuff.

  20. Scott
    February 4, 2015 at 6:55 pm

    Android File Transfer "can't connect" to my Galaxy S5 phone. I'm running Mavericks, a fresh d/l of AFT, and using the USB 2/3 cable that came with my phone. Any ideas why this isn't working?

  21. Andy
    October 23, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    For photos I use the camera upload funktion in dropbox. Works really well. I havet set a rsync script to sync the photofiles from dropbox to an other folder and then remove the files from dropbox. That way dropbox wont get flooded.

  22. Nikhil
    October 15, 2014 at 6:49 pm

    Shareit from lenevo is pretty good app too.
    Supports contacts, apps, media and any type of file with wifi (direct connection) speeds.

    • Justin Pot
      October 18, 2014 at 6:36 pm

      I've never seen this one, looks like there's no Mac version though. Great for everyone else!

  23. Den Eng
    October 15, 2014 at 9:14 am

    Dropbox is my go-to for quick file transfers, since it doesn't require a cable, and allows for more flexibility - since you can also access your files from dropbox anywhere as long as you have an internet connection.

    Nice to see that I'm not the only one who uses this little workaround for file transfers between my android and mac!

    I also use bluetooth if I am feeling courageous, but it's so slow.. and the connection sometimes fails. dropbox is more reliable for what I need.

    • Justin Pot
      October 18, 2014 at 6:37 pm

      Dropbox is really simple for this if you already have it set up, that's for sure. For longer transfers, I get out a cable.

  24. Shivank Gandhi
    October 15, 2014 at 5:24 am

    Another great and simple to use tool is FileDrop Just need to be on the same WiFi network and you're done.

    URL: http://www.filedropme.com

  25. ptrix
    October 14, 2014 at 5:56 am

    every time i try to use Android File Transfer to connect my Android phone to my mac (10.9.5), it never seems to work. would anyone happen to have any solutions about that?

    • Justin Pot
      October 14, 2014 at 4:21 pm

      Hey, do you get any error messages? Or does it simply not show up? What version of Android are you using? Let me know and I'll see what I can figure out.

  26. Mario G
    October 13, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    I like the article and will be sure to use some of them just to get a hang of them. Yet I believe you've missed Send-Anywhere as a simple option to Transfer files across OS's, be it Mac, Windows, Linux or Mobile OS.

    • Justin Pot
      October 14, 2014 at 4:40 pm

      Send Anywhere looks like another solid option, thanks for bringing it up!

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