Android TV is poised to become the leading smart TV operating system over the next few years.
If you’re an early adopter and you’ve bought a device such as a Nvidia Shield (which is great for cordcutters), a dedicated Kodi box, or even a smart TV that’s natively powered by Android, you’re probably looking for some great apps to install.
Obviously, there are lots to choose from. But before you get too excited, you should probably download a file manager. Sure, it might not be “fun,” but it’s important for two reasons.
First, Android TV doesn’t ship with a native file explorer. Second, because lots of app developers still haven’t made their apps compatible with Android TV, you need a file explorer to sideload APK files for apps that aren’t available in the Play Store.
Here are five of the best file managers for Android TV.
1. X-plore File Manager
“A powerful all-in-one package”
As we progress through this article, you will notice some reoccurring themes. Most importantly, all the apps are easy to navigate using your Android TV remote. Sideloaded file explorers often require an external mouse or a gaming controller to operate. We’re going to avoid those.
The first app we recommend is X-plore File Manager. It takes a dual-pane approach to file management. In the context of sideloading, this is great. The two panes make it easy to move an APK from a USB stick to your Android TV hard drive.
On the downside, it’s not particularly user-friendly. It’s not complicated, but it’ll take you a while to become accustomed to how the app works.
Importantly for an Android TV file manager, it can also connect to your cloud drives. Given lots of people use Android TV to watch personal media (such as DVDs you’ve ripped or home videos you’ve converted to digital format), having a way to quickly access and play your cloud-based videos means you can watch your content easily from anywhere in the world.
To add a cloud drive, go to Web Storage > Add Storage in the left-hand panel. It works with Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, Amazon Cloud Drive, OneDrive, Flickr, and many more.
The final useful feature from an Android TV perspective is Wi-Fi file transfers. If you have a file on your laptop that you want to watch on your TV, it’s easy to send over — no cables or USB sticks required!
Download: X-plore File Manager (Free)
2. Total Commander
“A wide range of plug-ins boost functionality”
Total Commander will be familiar to Android smartphone users. It’s one of the best file managers for the mobile version of the operating system.
However, it also works wonderfully well with Android TV: it’s packed with features that are especially useful for the big screen.
First, the app offers native support for Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and Dropbox. We’ve already discussed the value of having access to such services.
Second, it offers a built-in media player. While long-term Android users might initially balk at the idea of using a media player that’s part of a file manager, Total Commander’s media player has an important feature: it can stream directly from LAN, WebDAV, and cloud plugins, thus killing two birds with one stone. (If you want an alternative media player, the ever-popular MX Player is also available on Android TV.)
Finally, Total Commander offers a range of plug-ins. They offer everything from WebDAV functionality to FTP and SFTP clients. Sure, they sound technical, but if you’ve bought an Android TV device so you could become a dedicated cordcutter, you’ll quickly understand their value.
Download: Total Commander (Free)
“The best Android TV visuals”
Unlike X-plore File Manager and Total Commander, TvExplorer is not available on the mobile version of Android. You’ll only be able to find it via the Play Store on your Android TV device.
Because it’s exclusively available on Android TV, the app adheres to Android TV design guidelines. As such, TvExplorer has arguably the most aesthetically-pleasing interface out of all the apps on this list. And when you’re looking at an app on a 60-inch screen, that’s a critical feature.
Unfortunately, it cannot rival the other two apps in terms of features. It can do the basics (like renaming files and extracting ZIPs) but not much else. There is no way to connect with apps like Google Drive and Dropbox. However, encouragingly, the developer has promised a Wi-Fi file transfer feature is coming soon.
Ultimately, you need to ask yourself whether you need all the extra bells and whistles. If you just need a file manager to run APK files, this fulfills your needs and looks incredible. If you want something more powerful, look elsewhere.
It’s also worth noting that TvExplorer only works with Android 5.0 and later. All the other apps on this list work with Android 4.2 later. Given that many smart TVs that run on Android only have version 4.2, this app is not suitable for everyone.
Download: TvExplorer (Free)
4. AnExplorer File Manager
“Lightweight app for people short on space”
Not all Android TV devices are bestowed with a vast amount of storage. Sure, the top-of-the-range Nvidia Shield comes with 500 GB, but some cheap entry-level gadgets might not have more than 4 GB.
If you play a lot of games on your Android TV device, or if you frequently send files over Wi-Fi to watch on your TV, space can quickly become an issue. Of course, you can expand the capacity by using adoptable storage, but that’s not always practical.
If you’re constantly bumping up against your device’s capacity, try AnExplorer File Manager. It’s a super lightweight app that’s been adapted for the Android TV interface. It takes up just 3MB on your device.
AnExplorer File Manager doesn’t support cloud storage, but it does have one other important feature that warrants its inclusion in this list: accessibility tools. These include customizable high-contrast themes, adjustable text size, and in-app sounds.
Download: AnExplorer File Manager (Free)
5. Network Access
“For remote access from a PC or Mac”
Rather than just listing another app, we’re going to leave you with something a bit different. Why not avoid installing a file explorer on your Android TV device and just use File Explorer (Windows) or Finder (Mac) instead?
Note: Even if you don’t like File Explorer in Windows, there are lots of alternatives out there.
To use your computer as an Android TV file explorer, you need to enable the feature on your device. Go to Settings > Storage and Reset > Storage Access and slide the toggle next to Over local network into the On position. The device will give you a username and password. Make note of them.
Next, on your Windows computer, type \\SHIELD in File Explorer. On Mac, head to Go > Connect to Server and type smb://SHIELD/. Enter your username and password when prompted, and you will have access to all your device’s files and folders.
A Note About Installation
All of these apps are compatible with Android TV. However, you might not find them in the Play Store on your device.
If you can’t find them, don’t worry. Just open the Google Play Store in a web browser on your computer, sign in with your Google Account, and click install. The store will ask you which device you want to install the app on. Choose your Android TV device from the dropdown list.
Your Favorite File Managers for Android TV?
We’ve introduced you to five ways to manage files on your Android TV device. Each of the apps/methods serves a different type of user and usage scenario.
Which file explorers do you use on Android TV? Do they work well with the remote? Do they offer cloud access? And please remember to share this article with other Android TV users on social media.