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There is a photo on your Android phone or tablet, and you need to get it onto your PC. What method do you use? You might use a USB cable, rely on Bluetooth, or use cloud syncing. Alternatively, you might use an app like AirDroid or PushBullet. Perhaps you’ll resort to emailing it.

Put simply, transferring files from Android to a Windows PC isn’t difficult (in fact, it’s just as simple as transferring data from Android to Mac OS X 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 ); there is a wealth of alternatives, each of which we’re going to outline for you below.

Transfer Files With A USB Cable

Equipped with just a phone and a PC? Got the original USB cable that shipped with your phone handy? (It’s always preferable to use the original to avoid any possible issues.)

This is transferring files from your Android device to your PC in its most basic form. Connecting your phone to your PC with a cable may not have the slickness of using an app over WiFi, but it’s certainly effective.

muo-androidtethering-usb-cable

With the devices connected, select the USB tethering option in Settings > Tethering & portable hotspot (a notification should appear that will give you quick access to this setting). From here, turn your attention to your Windows computer, open Windows Explorer, and search for your Android device, which should be labelled by model name.

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Note that if you’re connecting these devices for the first time, Windows will attempt to install the relevant drivers. This might include some dedicated data-syncing software, which can prove useful, although it might also be considered bloatware How To Remove Bloatware & Avoid It On New Laptops How To Remove Bloatware & Avoid It On New Laptops Tired of software you never wanted consuming your laptop's resources? Your computer isn't free ad space. Here's how to get rid of bloatware. Read More , so don’t install it if you don’t think you’ll use it.

PC To Android Via Bluetooth

Is your PC Bluetooth enabled? Perhaps you have a Bluetooth USB dongle, or your device has Bluetooth built in. Either way, sending data via Bluetooth from Android to Windows is an option. (Albeit a particularly slow one!)

muo-android-pc-data-sharing-bluetooth

Begin by enabling Bluetooth on both devices, and then pairing with the Windows computer you aim to send your file to How to Set up Bluetooth in Windows 7, Make PC Discoverable & Add Devices How to Set up Bluetooth in Windows 7, Make PC Discoverable & Add Devices Bluetooth is an alternative to wires – with Bluetooth, you can connect Bluetooth-enabled phones, mice, headsets, printers, keyboards, tablets, and many other devices with a Bluetooth-supporting computer. You can transfer files back and forth, use... Read More . With a connection established, use your chosen file browser in Android — or your Gallery app — to select the file you wish to transfer. Use the Android Share button to use Bluetooth to share the data, selecting your PC in the subsequent list. Meanwhile in Windows, find the Bluetooth icon in the System Tray, right-click and select Receive a file, and click Next to commence transfer.

Once the data has transferred, you should receive notice that the file transfer has completed successfully. The data will appear on your Windows computers in the Public folder, although it’s worth mentioning that there seems to be some stability issues with this method across Android devices, so we wouldn’t advise relying on it.

You Can Even Use WiFi Direct!

For the past couple of years, Android device manufacturers have been adding WiFi Direct support to their devices. A similar concept to sending data by Bluetooth, WiFi Direct is far quicker.

muo-android-pc-data-sharing-wifidirect

Should WiFi Direct not work natively, you might employ an app to take over. SuperBeam | WiFi Direct Share is a free option but you’ll need the PRO version to send the data to your PC as required.

With the app installed on Android, you’ll need the Windows companion app (Linux and Mac OS X are also supported) downloaded and installed which requires Java Runtime Environment to run. With the app installed, run it, select Receive and use your PC camera to read the QR code, or enter the key. The data will be transferred relatively quickly, depending on the size and speed of the destination drive.

Although primarily used as a WiFi Direct app, SuperBeam also supports NFC, sharing via QR code scanning, and also using existing WiFi networks to share.

If WiFi Direct isn’t an option however, there are some apps you can employ instead.

Move Files From Phone To PC With AirDroid

An increasingly vital app for Android users, AirDroid is free (root required) and can be signed in with Google+, Facebook, or Twitter if you don’t have time to setup a new account. As well as the various notification and tethering management tools, AirDroid can be used for a quick and easy file transfer to a Windows computer on the same WiFi network.

muo-android-pc-data-sharing-airdroid

Begin by opening the app. Next, head to the URL displayed, http://web.airdroid.com and download the desktop client from the link that is displayed. Unfortunately, you cannot share files from your phone to your PC via the web app. If you’re not prompted to sign in, select one of the icons or menus to prompt for your details, choosing the same credentials you used to sign in with the mobile app.

On your phone, browse to the file you’re sharing, select it and use the sharing menu to find AirDroid. Choose the file and send it.

AirDroid has been a great desktop console for sharing data between a PC and an Android device since it was first launched AirDroid - Send SMS, Share Links, Transfer Files & More [Android 2.1+] AirDroid - Send SMS, Share Links, Transfer Files & More [Android 2.1+] In the past, we have reviewed many apps that could make your Android phone even more spectacular. We do, in fact, have a great list of the best 100 Android apps we have encountered up... Read More so if you haven’t tried it already, now is the time.

PushBullet Pushes Data From Phone To PC

Another service that thankfully lets you sign-in with Google, PushBullet is designed to send Android notifications to your PC desktop, so you don’t miss anything sent to your phone (such as phone calls, app updates, messages, etc.). This permission must be assigned manually, however.

muo-android-pc-data-sharing-pushbullet

Once you’re setup and have opened the PushBullet.com website in your desktop browser (and signed in with the same Google account), it becomes a sharing option.

Select the file or image you wish to send, tap the sharing button and find A New Push. Select the browser you are signed into the PushBullet website with, set a subject and message if necessary, then tap the send icon.

Almost instantaneously, if you’re on the same network, you’ll see the file appear in your browser window. We’ve featured PushBullet several times on MakeUseOf, but Ben Stegner’s guide is probably the definitive tutorial to this great app and service Pushbullet Puts Your Android And PC On The Same Wavelength Pushbullet Puts Your Android And PC On The Same Wavelength Find out how you can keep your Android perfectly synced with your PC -- push your phone's notifications to your desktop, share files, and much more! Read More .

Send Data To Windows From ES File Manager

If you’re using ES File Manager and have your Windows library folders shared on your local network Connected: Your Complete Guide To Home Networking Connected: Your Complete Guide To Home Networking Just five years ago home networking was rare. Most people had only one or two network capable devices and wireless connectivity was gaining widespread adoption of the fast and reliable 802.11g standard. Read More then you should be able to easily copy the data you want to transfer from Android to Windows within this file manager.

muo-android-pc-data-sharing-esfile

After opening the app, tap the menu button in the top left corner (three horizontal lines) and expand Network. Tap LAN then Scan, which will be across the bottom of the display. A few moments later, your Windows computer should be displayed, labelled with its IP address on your network.

Tap to explore the folders, and use the contextual menu in ES File Explorer to paste the data into your preferred directory.

Copy To SD Card And Read From Your PC

A way of keeping it simple and not bothering with apps or wireless networking protocols is to copy the data to your phone’s microSD card. This is a particularly useful option if you don’t have a USB cable and the other options aren’t available, but you will need a microSD to SD card adapter.

muo-oldsdcard-adaptor

This is essentially the modern interpretation of the old “save to floppy disk and copy to another computer” only with physically smaller devices and media.

Naturally this will only work if you have a suitable card reader for your SD card, but in the absence of other options it can be effective. Just make sure you put your microSD card back in your phone when you’re done! If your phone doesn’t have a microSD card slot, most modern Android devices support USB OTG, so you can use a USB storage device Get Extra Storage On Android With A USB Flash Drive Get Extra Storage On Android With A USB Flash Drive Want to add more storage to your Android device using a USB flash drive? We can show you how to do that, step by step. Read More as long as you have an OTG cable or adaptor.

Cloud Sharing & Email

As a last resort, you can take advantage of two applications that are synonymous with computing these days, cloud storage and email.

muo-android-pc-data-sharing-dropbox

With cloud services such as Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive — as well as Microsoft OneDrive — it is remarkably easy to have data transferred from your Android device to your computer without you even knowing about it. A case in point is Dropbox’s automatic Camera Upload tool 5 Tools To Sync & Auto-Upload Photos From Android To Cloud Storage 5 Tools To Sync & Auto-Upload Photos From Android To Cloud Storage Nothing is more convenient than taking a photo on your phone and automatically having it be backed up to the cloud. Read More ; as long as you have Dropbox on your computer, photos snapped on your device will be synced to your Dropbox account, and mirrored on your PC.

Similar features are available with the other cloud services, and even if it isn’t a photo you want to sync, you can copy data to the cloud folder on your Android device and see it synced to the corresponding directory in Windows.

Email was probably the first method of non-disk data transfer between devices and remains a useful option in some cases. All you need to do is attach the data you want to view on your desktop computer to an email on your phone and send it to yourself (any of your personal email addresses will do). Once received and downloaded to your computer, you’ll be able to open the data.

Need To Transfer Files From Android To PC? It’s Easy!

With so many different methods of transferring data of any size from your phone or tablet to your Windows PC, you’re really spoiled for choice. The only problem you might have now is deciding which method you prefer.

Of course, there is a chance that we’ve overlooked something. Can you think of a different method? Do you use an app that we haven’t included? Perhaps you’ve run into problems — whatever your question or observation, use our comments box to start the conversation.

Image Credit: Scott Akerman via Flickr, Micro USB cable via Shutterstock

  1. mike sampson
    November 29, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    Seriously - this is all nonsense. i've been mapping drives between OSes for decades. Why can't i map an Android drive on my PC or vice versa? When I can do that, and attach external storage to the Android, THEN I'll consider Android an OS. Until then it's a c-level lab experiment. Going Windows for my next tablet - at least it's reached the 21st century.

  2. Jacob conner
    June 15, 2016 at 7:29 pm

    Is there a way to direct download from my phone to my laptop? The file I'm trying to download is to big for my phone so ideally I want to download from phone to laptop without having to transfer files. Just curious

  3. Eric humanbenig
    June 3, 2016 at 12:21 am

    im using xperia z2 with a smashed screen and i have to open the phone in order to get access to my storage in my pc but i cant open the phone!!!1 what should i do?

  4. Ty O
    June 19, 2015 at 1:57 am

    I used a USB to connect my galaxy s4 to my laptop with windows 8.1

    I just copied from phone and pasted it to a folder on my desktop, all from my laptop, I really didn't do anything with the phone.

    My phone was stolen from me.
    Now when I try to access that info on my laptop, they are all file types my cpu cannot read. From what I have read, it looks like I need to convert the files from my phone into a type of file that my laptop can read. So far, Im have not been successful, Anyone that van help with that?

    • Ty O
      June 19, 2015 at 1:58 am

      Anyone that *can* help with that?

      • Christian Cawley
        June 20, 2015 at 4:39 pm

        What are the media file types?

  5. Annie 1980
    April 14, 2015 at 6:22 pm

    I need help,first off, I'm not very computer illiterate
    my partner had a storage device that had the word LANA in it, it was protected with a password and when I asked him about it he said he didn't know and then it disappeared in the same day. it had been on there for a long time does anybody know what it could be, and why the need to get rid of it so abruptly

    • Zoe Green
      May 26, 2015 at 8:38 am

      Really that easy, thanks a ton, even without usb cable, we can realize the transfer process between android and PC. Just thumbs up for Airdroid. But i stumble upon this web application, which does exactly the same as Airdroid, i use it to connect. Not bad as u see. Very cute name https://www.airdroid.com/

    • Zoe Green
      May 26, 2015 at 8:39 am

      I want to know whether Airmore or Airdroid are developed from the same company

    • thongchaiaideee
      May 27, 2015 at 7:06 am

      I would suggest you use icloud to export your contacts in iPhone as a cvs format file. It can be import to any where. For android, I would suggest you use google account to export contacts as a vcard file format. Of course, if you found this is complicate, you transfer a third party tool. Follow the below guide to do that. How to transfer contacts between phones.

  6. shaheen
    April 2, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    is there any way to transfer files between Android and PC without USB cable and Wifi/HOtspot ??

    • Christian Cawley
      April 3, 2015 at 8:02 am

      yes, Bluetooth, as explained in the post.

  7. Allicia
    March 31, 2015 at 7:48 am

    SmartIO App is another good option if you are looking for direct Wifi Transfer

  8. MHB
    January 18, 2015 at 9:44 am

    Take a look at TotalCommander for Android of Ghisler. Has a bunch of Options to Transfer data.

    • Christian Cawley
      January 22, 2015 at 11:23 am

      TotalCommander is a good app. I was using it back in the Windows Mobile days.

  9. creeem
    December 23, 2014 at 11:49 pm

    You forgot 1 very nifty Option that I use a lot. A USB Pendrive. Yes the new ones that are called "hybrid" Or "dual mode" They have a microUSB and a USB connectors.
    Yeah they won't work with your iphone Sure works for any phone with a microUSB connector and has OTG.

  10. Vicntc
    December 23, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    MyPhoneExplorer [http://www.fjsoft.at/en/] by F.J. Wechselberger. I've been using it for years and it's excellent.

  11. Stela
    December 23, 2014 at 10:12 pm

    Can someone tell me how to transfer files (photos and messages) from Android to iPhone 5s?

  12. Thomas
    December 23, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    Hi
    I prefer to use Dropbox to send files from my Phone. On that way I have the files on all my computers as soon they have synced and of cause in the Cloud as well.

  13. Fo'real
    December 21, 2014 at 10:56 pm

    This is where Samsung wins big in the Android space. It has Kies as a wired/wireless backup utility. Okay, it's notoriously flakey, but I'm not aware of a more complete Android device manager. Transfering files to, and from a pc is trivial.

  14. Berkay
    December 21, 2014 at 10:35 am

    I prefer "software data cable" app which allows me to explore my phone trough FTP.

  15. Deen
    December 21, 2014 at 6:28 am

    I occasionally use AirDroid to stay "current" but nothing beats the good old USB cable. It is simply very much faster. It's just copy and paste for God's sake!

  16. epiquestions
    December 21, 2014 at 2:34 am

    RE: Using USB cable. You don't need to use usb tethering to make it appear in windows explorer. Tethering is for sharing the mobile internet connection from your android device with your PC.

    Your device either connects via MTP (shows both the internal and external storage of the android device) or the usual Mass storage device (shows external sd card storage of the device) once you connect the USB cable to the PC with windows.

    RE: AirDroid requiring root. No it does not need root to transfer files, and does not need desktop client.

    Maybe you should do some more research regarding this topic cause you missed some points.

  17. Lana
    December 20, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    Does PC mean Windows only?

  18. Cody Morgan
    December 20, 2014 at 12:44 am

    I use ES File Explorer to transfer them via FTP

  19. Dany Bouffard
    December 19, 2014 at 11:31 pm

    Solid File Explorer can do this too.

  20. morgantown Prosthetist
    December 19, 2014 at 11:18 pm

    I use skype's file transfer feature. I have skype on multiple devices with different accounts...

  21. Caroline W
    December 19, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    I use PushBullet a lot which is so easy to set up and use, but with its maximum 25mb file size, sometimes it's not enough. So, I found another service called 'ShareIt' which is a Lenovo app that can be installed on Android (don't know about iPhone, sorry) and on PC. It is also easy to set up and you can send any size file you like.

    • Ben
      December 23, 2014 at 11:15 pm

      ...and it's wireless.

  22. ed
    December 19, 2014 at 9:47 pm

    I mostly use Airdroid, but have always found FTPServer by Andreas Liebig to be perfect with Filezilla for transferring files.

  23. ed
    December 19, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    I'm currently on Airdroid 2.1.0 and:

    1. Do NOT require root to transfer files. Never have on the original Sprint Galaxy S, HTC EVO 4G LTE, or current Nexus 5.
    2. Do NOT need to sign in or create an account to use Airdroid.
    3. Do NOT need a desktop client as file transfers happen all the time via the web interface.

    That being said, the current Airdroid version is 3.0.2, I believe, and seems to suggest on Google Play that an account and desktop client may be needed for full functionality and that rooting may be required for something called airmirroring.

    Google Play comments also suggest that rooting is probably needed now and that the app is now full of bugs where before, it was always pretty stable for me.

    Can others on Airdroid 3 or higher comment that rooting, an account, and a desktop client are now needed for functionality?

    Airdroid used to be fantastic, but if the above is true, then I'm not updating and possibly uninstalling.

    • Christian Cawley
      December 19, 2014 at 10:37 pm

      Versions losing features hadn't occurred to me; I covered Airdroid in an article I wrote for Android Magazine in the UK last year but sadly I can't quite recall what features were focused on.

      I wonder if there is a list or some forum/blog post online that covers this?

  24. Ale
    December 19, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    Sorry, I meant Dukto

  25. Ale
    December 19, 2014 at 9:19 pm

    Dueño, great Multi plataform app, and blazing fast.

  26. Phids
    December 19, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    The information in this article regarding Airdroid is not entirely accurate. First, no root is required (I use it on two phones and haven't had to root them). Second, sharing files between phone and PC IS possible via the web app. Third, you don't need to download a desktop client to share files using your PC. I also don't think you need to register/sign in to the service in order to use it.

    At least on my phone, I simply load the app and it gives me two different URLs that I can point to on my PC browser. This opens a page containing the files on my phone, and from there it's easy to download files from my phone. Couldn't be much easier.

    • Christian Cawley
      December 19, 2014 at 8:15 pm

      To address your points:

      1. In my experience, root *is* required to use the file transfer. However, this may well differ across devices.
      2. Again, not my findings.
      3. In the absense of a functional web app, then the desktop app is needed.

      Thanks for raising these points. However with a HTC One and a Sony Xperia E (as you'll appreciate, two quite different devices) to test this on, I can't really offer any better information. Perhaps Airdroid was having an off day?

    • David White
      December 19, 2014 at 9:25 pm

      This is my experience also, no root required for file transfers, on LG Enact smartphones.

    • epiquestions
      December 21, 2014 at 2:42 am

      It really doesn't matter what device it is as long as it is an android device. I'm assuming you are on Kitkat. An app requires/is granted the same permissions on Android when installed. So unless the Android versions on both your smart phones are old, Airdroid on HTC One is the same on your Xperia E, as is on my Xperia Z1, Samsung S4, Asus tablet and other Android device out there.

    • Christian Cawley
      December 21, 2014 at 7:48 am

      There is some considerable contradiction taking place here which refuses to accept a basic truth: that I have checked the web interface and am unable to share via it, hence my statements to this effect in the article.

      Please see https://twitter.com/thegadgetmonkey/status/546571667909390336 for visual evidence. While I am wholeheartedly delighted that sharing via the web interface works for you (I'm sure you've confirmed this) the fact remains that with my devices (perhaps there is something up with my account) this is not the case.

      Curious.

  27. ReadandShare
    December 19, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    I use Folder Sync to sync my devices to the cloud. You select the folder(s) to sync -- and also whether to include or exclude specific files within those folders. Fast and versatile.

    I really like ES Explorer -- but for some reason, syncing files takes a lot longer than Folder Sync.

    • Goose
      May 21, 2015 at 9:45 am

      My choice is AirMore. It allows me to manage my phone on any computer browser, Windows, or Mac. Its connection process is easier and faster than Airdroid. The best part is it's totally free.

  28. Tommy
    December 19, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    Thanks! My favorite solution: Sync
    http://www.getsync.com

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