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Moving files between a Mac and an Android device has always been a real pain. Android uses MTP (media transfer protocol) to connect and share files with a desktop, and while this is supported natively in Windows, it isn’t on OS X (or the forthcoming macOS).

As a result, Mac users need the Android File Transfer program Android File Transfer: How To Transfer Files Between Android And Mac Android File Transfer: How To Transfer Files Between Android And Mac Need to transfer files between your Android device and your Mac? You're in luck. Read More installed, a mediocre piece of software that gives you the absolute basics of copy and paste, and not much else. And it doesn’t even work all the time, either.

smartfinder videos

Fortunately, there are ways to move files from Mac to Android without using Android File Transfer. If you still want to connect your phone via USB — and let’s be honest, it’s still the easiest way to transfer 15GB of music files to your device — then you can try an alternative app called HandShaker. Or, if you prefer a wireless approach, Portal by Pushbullet is a good place to start.

Let’s take a closer look at both options.

HandShaker, the Android File Transfer Alternative

HandShaker is a free app available to download from the Mac App Store. It has an interface that is more akin to a normal Finder window on a Mac 8 Finder Tips for Mac Newbies 8 Finder Tips for Mac Newbies Navigating files and folders using the native Mac file browser Finder is easy enough, but there are many more features hidden behind menus and keyboard shortcuts. Read More , rather than the rudimentary file window you get on Android File Transfer. This makes it both easier and more pleasant to use, but does require just a couple of extra steps to set it up.

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Set Up HandShaker

First, it’s a good idea to uninstall Android File Transfer. They don’t conflict, but if it’s left installed, AFT will continue to open every time you connect your phone, meaning you will keep having to close it down and manually open HandShaker.

usb debugging

Next, on your Android phone, you have to enable USB Debugging What Is USB Debugging Mode On Android? [MakeUseOf Explains] What Is USB Debugging Mode On Android? [MakeUseOf Explains] If you use an Android phone and you’ve searched forums for solutions to problems, you’ve probably heard the term “USB Debugging” every once in a while. You may even have seen it while looking through... Read More . You do this in the Developer options, which are hidden by default. So, if you haven’t already, you need to show the Developer options by going to Settings > About phone and then tapping Build number seven times. Hit the back button and enter the newly accessible Developer options.

Here, scroll down and activate USB debugging, and click through the dialog box that asks for confirmation.

smartfinder authorize

You can now launch HandShaker on your Mac, and connect your phone via a USB cable How to Test If Your Micro-USB Cable Is Charging Properly How to Test If Your Micro-USB Cable Is Charging Properly Find out exactly how fast your charger is charging your smartphone or tablet, and discover how to make it even faster. Read More . You’ll be prompted to authorize your Mac to access your phone. Check your phone’s screen to see another dialog asking you to allow USB debugging with this computer. Tap the Always allow box and then OK to confirm.

If necessary, click the I have authorized this Mac button in HandShaker too. You’re now ready to go.

Moving Files With HandShaker

After allowing HandShaker a few seconds to initialize, you will see a Finder-style window, with access to all your content: Gallery, Music, Video, the Download folder, and general files and folders.

smartfinder months view

This is where you can immediately see the improvement over Android File Transfer. Click Gallery, for instance, and you can see thumbnails of all your images. You can split them by folder, or view them all together; and also sort them by the week or month they were created, just as you can in Google’s Photos app How to Make Google Photos Work for You with These Tips How to Make Google Photos Work for You with These Tips Google Photos could be the much-awaited solution to manage all your photos. But is it the best among all online photo sharing sites? Read More .

open files

It’s also possible to open some files stored on your phone within the desktop app. Try double clicking the file, or right-clicking and choosing which app you want to open it with.

To copy files to your computer, you can either select the file (or files) and click the Export button at the top right, or just drag them to your desktop. The Import button goes the other way, copying files onto the device, or you can drag and drop for that too.

smartfinder files

HandShaker also enables you to carry out basic file and folder management tasks. You can create new folders and move files into them, rename files, and delete them. It makes cleaning up your internal storage so much easier.

We experienced a few issues using HandShaker with a Nexus 5X running the Android N Beta Everything You Need to Know About Android N Everything You Need to Know About Android N Want to install Android N or just learn about the next Android version? We've got your back. Read More , but had no problems at all with other devices. On the whole, HandShaker is a big upgrade over Android File Transfer. If you move files to and from your Mac often, it’s worth looking into.

Move Files From Mac to Android Wirelessly

If you don’t want to have to bother with USB cables, but don’t want to use the cloud, then Portal is a good place to start with wireless file transfers.

portal qr

Portal is a free download from the Play Store, and it shares files over your Wi-Fi network via a web browser — all you need to do is ensure both your phone and Mac are connected to the same network. You don’t even need to sign up for anything.

Sharing Files With Portal

To get started with Portal, point your desktop browser — Safari works, if that’s your browser of choice — to portal.pushbullet.com.

You’ll see a QR code 11 Fantastic Browser Tools for Making and Reading QR Codes 11 Fantastic Browser Tools for Making and Reading QR Codes QR codes are handy tools, providing a convenient way to share websites with friends or our own mobile devices. QR code makers are available for most browsers and for some, there are readers as well. Read More on screen. Launch Portal on your phone and scan the code when prompted. And that’s it: the connection between your phone and Mac is made.

portal upload

Move files to your phone by dragging and dropping them into the browser window. They will begin uploading instantly. It’s quick too, because the files aren’t going via the Internet.

Once received, music files are sorted into the Music folder, and images in the Gallery. All other files are saved into a new folder in your internal storage called Portal. You can also share or open your uploaded files from directly within the Portal app by tapping the Share button How to Edit and Clean Up Android's Share Menu: No Root Required How to Edit and Clean Up Android's Share Menu: No Root Required If you're like most Android users, your Share menu is cluttered with options you never use. It doesn't have to be that way. Read More and choosing a relevant app.

portal uploading

Sadly, Portal only allows for one way transfers, from any computer to your Android device (a version for iPhone is also available). But it’s so fast and reliable — even when working with very large files — that even if you rarely use it, it’s one of those select apps that are worth keeping installed just in case.

How Do You Do It?

Android File Transfer might be the only first-party solution for moving files between Mac and Android, but you aren’t stuck with it. Whether you want to go wired or wireless, there are better choices out there, with more features, and more reliable performance.

Now tell us about your setup. How do you copy files between your Mac and Android devices? Are you a fan of Android File Transfer, or are you totally committed to the cloud? Let us know in the comments.

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  1. Simon
    February 25, 2017 at 3:10 am

    Does not work for accessing external storage card on the phone so have to still use Android File transfer... :(

  2. Don
    August 22, 2016 at 3:39 pm

    The Xender app from the Google Play Store works in a similar way as the Portal app but is two way.

  3. Moris
    July 26, 2016 at 3:18 pm

    Can't seem to access my Micro-SD card though :(

  4. James
    July 12, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    Send Anywhere: Mac- PC - Android - Chrome - Windows Phone - iOS