5 Ways to Transfer Data From PC or Laptop to Android Phone
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While phones have become the main computing device for many, most of us still use laptops regularly, too. This means we often need to move files from a PC to an Android phone.

But what’s the best way to do it? And does the best method differ if you’re moving lots of small files or a handful of massive ones? Let’s take a look at the best ways to get data from your laptop or PC to your Android phone.

1. Using a USB Cable

The old standard for moving data from your laptop to your phone is via USB. It’s still quick and easy, as long as you’ve got a compatible cable on hand. Unfortunately, the move to USB-C on most modern phones has left a lot of our old cables redundant. They often don’t come with the USB-C to USB-A cable you need for most laptops.

But assuming you have got one, then it’s simple to do. On Windows or a Chromebook:

  1. Connect your phone.
  2. Tap on the notification Android shows labeled Charging this device via USB.
  3. Under Use USB For, select File Transfer.

That’s it. A file transfer window will open on your computer, showing your phone (and SD card if you’ve got one). Then you can start copying your files across.

copy files to android over usb

The instructions are almost the same on a Mac, but you will need to install the Android File Transfer software first.

This method is good for copying large amounts of data. Try it when you want to transfer some movies or your entire music collection. It makes it easy to move files to your phone’s SD card as well.

2. Through Your Cloud Accounts

The Google account you’ve got set up on your phone gives you access to 15GB of cloud storage space through Google Drive. This gives you a convenient way to move files between your laptop and phone.

You need to install the Google Drive app on your laptop. If you’d rather, you can use Dropbox or Microsoft’s OneDrive, as they all work pretty much the same way.

When you set up Google Drive, you need to sign in first. Then select Back up all file types and click Next.

back up all file types google drive

On the next screen, choose Advanced Settings at the bottom. Select Sync My Drive to this computer, then click OK.

sync google drive folder

This creates a Google Drive folder on your computer. Everything in this folder will sync to and from your Drive account. So to upload files to your phone, just move them into the Drive folder. Open the app on your phone and they’ll be there after syncing.

The main caveat to remember here is that the files shown in your Drive app are not stored on your phone. If you try to open one, it needs to download first—and a gigantic file can take a big bite out of your monthly data allowance.

To get around this, you have two options for downloading the files you need to your phone. Select a file, and from the menu choose either:

  • Make available offline. This downloads the file for you to view offline within Drive. Any changes you make to it will sync next time you go online.
  • Download. This saves a new copy of the file to your Downloads folder, and you can open it in any compatible app. However, any edits you make won’t sync—you need to re-upload the file to your Drive account.

download google drive files

A lack of free space is the main limitation for this solution. You can always set up an extra account though, and it is possible to transfer files from one Google Drive account to another How to Transfer Files From One Google Drive Account to Another How to Transfer Files From One Google Drive Account to Another Want to move files from one Google Drive account to another without downloading and re-uploading them? We show you how. Read More .

3. By Email and Messaging Apps

Emailing files to ourselves is hardly the most efficient way of moving data from a laptop to a phone, but we’ve all done it at one time or another. It works for quick sharing of files when you can’t use any of the other methods.

You’re limited to 25MB attachments in Gmail. If you need something larger, check out WeTransfer. That allows you to send files up to 2GB for free, with no registration.

send large email attachments

Head to wetransfer.com, enter your email address, then drag your files into the browser window and send. You’ll then receive an email on your phone containing a link where you can download the files.

Files are encrypted for security, and they get deleted after seven days. If you want to delete your files sooner, or leave them up for a longer time, you need a Pro account.

If for some reason you don’t like WeTransfer, don’t worry. There are many other ways to send large files as email attachments How to Send Large Files as Email Attachments: 8 Solutions How to Send Large Files as Email Attachments: 8 Solutions Want to send large files via email but running into file size limits? We show you how to send large files via email attachments. Read More .

4. Using Bluetooth

When you’ve got a few smaller files you need to move to your phone, Bluetooth is a good way to go. It’s pretty easy, too, once you’ve got it set up.

To send a file over Bluetooth from your Windows 10 laptop to your phone, you first need to pair the two devices. Go to Settings > Devices and hit the toggle to turn on Bluetooth. Make sure it’s also enabled on your phone.

set up bluetooth

Now go to Add Bluetooth or other device > Bluetooth to start scanning. After a short delay, your phone will show up. Select it, then click Connect on your PC and Pair on your phone to complete the process.

To share a file over Bluetooth, go to Settings > Devices > Send or receive files via Bluetooth > Send files. Then choose the file you want to share.

send files over bluetooth

For other platforms, the names of the menu options will be different, but the process is the same. First you need to pair, then you can share.

Bluetooth is slower than some of the other methods we’ve listed (especially Wi-Fi, next). It’s best for smaller files and casual use.

5. Using Wi-Fi

When you need to move large amounts of data to your phone on regular basis, you cannot beat Wi-Fi. As long as you connect your phone and laptop to the same network, you can move files quickly and securely.

To copy files over Wi-Fi you need a special app on your phone, but nothing extra on your laptop. We recommend Portal by Pushbullet, which is free and requires no signup. It works with any platform: Windows, Mac, Linux, or Chrome OS. Download and install on your Android device to begin.

Next, open a web browser on your laptop or desktop and go to portal.pushbullet.com, where you’ll see a unique QR code.

set up portal

Now open Portal on your phone and tap Scan. When the camera launches, point it at the QR code to scan it. This establishes a direct wireless connection between your phone and desktop or laptop. It’s only temporary, so next time you run the app you’ll need to do the scan again to re-pair.

Finally, drag your files into the browser window and they will instantly begin uploading to your phone.

share files over wifi

By default, Portal places images and music into your phone’s Photos and Music folders. Everything else goes into the Portal folder. You can leave them there and access them through the Portal app, or you can download one of the best Android file managers and move the files to any other folder (and even to your SD card).

Portal is convenient because you don’t need to install it on your laptop. If you want more features, check out AirDroid, which among other uses lets you send text messages from your PC. There’s also Feem, which makes it easy to share files across all different types of devices.

More Ways to Move Your Data

There are more methods to move files between devices. You can use your SD card or a USB flash drive with an On-The-Go cable if your phone supports them. Or for ultra-techie solutions, try using FTP with the Wi-Fi FTP Server app, or even utilizing Network Attached Storage (NAS). With this option, you share a single hard drive with all the devices connected to your network.

But for most people, the five methods outlined above are the best ways to move data from your laptop to your Android phone. Some are better for quickly sharing small files, and some excel at moving huge amounts of data.

Of course, the more devices we have, the more we need to share files between them. Our guide to the fastest file transfer methods between PCs and mobile devices The Fastest File Transfer Methods Between PCs and Mobile Devices The Fastest File Transfer Methods Between PCs and Mobile Devices PC-to-mobile files transfers are easy to do. This article covers five fast transfer methods between PCs and mobile devices. Read More shows you how to get all your gear working in sync.

Explore more about: Android Apps, Bluetooth, Cloud Storage, File Management, File Sharing.

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  1. Shadow
    May 4, 2019 at 9:11 pm

    WHy not mention the 3 best options that are much easier?
    - Pushbullet
    - Join
    - Airdroid

    No messing around, just send articles, files, photos and everything else. You also get notification mirroring AND mirroring your phone. At least in Airdroid.

  2. Micki
    April 20, 2019 at 11:22 am

    I use Sendanywhere sometimes and it works good.

  3. Thamizh
    June 28, 2013 at 1:40 am

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

  4. Grr
    March 10, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    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

  5. Tomas
    February 27, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    I use softwaredatacable, a great product.

  6. Kelly Buchanan
    February 15, 2013 at 1:10 am

    My Sync Center works quite well.
    [Broken Link Removed]

  7. David Omon
    February 13, 2013 at 11:29 am

    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

  8. David E
    February 13, 2013 at 12:50 am

    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.

  9. Vipul Jain
    February 12, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    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!

  10. Anonymous
    February 12, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    I use a cable to transfer data.

    • Daniel Escasa
      February 13, 2013 at 11:07 am

      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.

  11. Shardul Seth
    February 9, 2013 at 6:14 pm

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

    • CGA
      February 10, 2013 at 10:03 am

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

    • Daniel Escasa
      February 13, 2013 at 11:03 am

      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.

  12. android underground
    February 9, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    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.

  13. samol
    February 9, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    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
      February 9, 2013 at 10:07 pm

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

  14. arkhadius
    February 9, 2013 at 11:14 am

    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 :)

  15. Slashee the Cow
    February 9, 2013 at 1:30 am

    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
      February 9, 2013 at 1:35 am

      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.

  16. Stephen Mitchell
    February 8, 2013 at 10:23 pm

    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
      February 8, 2013 at 10:45 pm

      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
        February 9, 2013 at 9:29 pm

        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
          February 9, 2013 at 10:08 pm

          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
      February 12, 2013 at 7:27 pm

      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
        February 13, 2013 at 12:54 am

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

    • Greg
      February 12, 2013 at 10:29 pm

      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.

  17. Max
    February 8, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    Airdroid looks awesome

    • Ryan Dube
      February 8, 2013 at 10:43 pm

      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.

  18. Mike
    February 8, 2013 at 6:04 pm

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

    • Ryan Dube
      February 8, 2013 at 10:42 pm

      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
      February 9, 2013 at 12:33 am

      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)