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:
From here you can transfer files to and from a separate Finder window. Simple.
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”.
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), 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.
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.
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 hasn’t fixed this problem, instead offering this workaround:
Press Cmd+K in Finder and enter IP address AND share:
Here’s what that looks like:
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.
Do neither of these options quite work for you? There are other options out there. A quick rundown:
- Cloud and syncing services, such as Dropbox, can make transfers quick. Just drop the file into a synced folder, then download it using the Android client.
- Dukto, which lets you transfer files between any two operating systems, works for quickly sharing any individual file. You can’t browse the file system, but you can quickly send a file or text snippet from one device to another.
- ES File Manager, an excellent file manager for Android, has the ability to browse network shares. Set up your Mac for file sharing, and you can browse those files from your Android device.
- AirDroid offers file sharing between Android and Macs, and is actually just one piece of the 7 tools that can make your Android and Mac play nice.
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.