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Transferring data between your Android device and your computer in 2021

Moving files and folders from your android phone to your Windows, Mac, or Linux computer with ease and without any additional costs of cloud services.

Published: September 3, 2021 By Rakesh Naik

Title image for Transferring data between your Android device and your computer in 2021 showing a man using a computer along with an android phone

Image source – freepik.com

Ever since its major release in the smartphone market in September 2008, Android phones have continued to grow in popularity. Currently, Android has a market share of 75%, with over 2.8 billion active users worldwide.

Since the beginning, one of the most important features of an android phone is its ability to connect with other devices, including computers or peripheral devices or even other smartphones, and exchange or transfer data with them.

In this article, we shall be exploring the first topic of the list – connecting your android device to your computer and transferring data from it. We will look at computers running the three most common operating systems, namely Windows, macOS, & Linux.

The market share for various android versions in the recent years

 Image source – statista.com

Windows computers for android file transfer

The classic USB cable

Using a USB cable to connect an Android phone to a Windows PC

Every android phone comes with a USB cable, be it a micro-USB or a type-C cable. It is always a default accessory with a new android phone.  A USB cable is especially useful for data transfer as it does not require any additional software or an internet connection.

Note: The lack of additional software is for the newer versions of Android and Windows. For older versions of Windows or Android, you might require the installation of additional drivers for USB data transfer.

  1. After connecting your phone to your Windows PC, you will receive a pop up ‘Use USB for’ on which you should select ‘File Transfer/Android Auto

    Picking the File Transfer/Android Auto option on the Android phone Use USB for options

  2. On older phones, instead of the use USB for, there will be a notification for ‘Allow access’ where you should select the ‘Allow’ option after ensuring preferences is set to ‘File Transfer
  3. You will now receive a new dialog box on your computer – ‘What do you want to do with the new device
  4. Select the option ‘View device and open files
  5. If you didn’t see the dialog box in step 3, simply open ‘This PC’ on your computer and select the drive corresponding to your android device

    Opening the Android device from the This PC window

  6. Now you can backup data from your phone to your PC or add new data from your PC to your android phone

SD card transfer

A micro-SD card in the SIM tray of an Android phone along with a SIM removal tool

 Image source – androidauthority.com

Yet another basic method for data transfer that does not require any additional software installation or even an internet connection. However, there are 3 main requirements for this method:

  • A micro-SD card in your android phone that stores all data
  • A micro-SD to SD card adapter
  • An SD card slot on your computer or an SD card to USB adapter

Now, simply go to storage settings on your android phone, and select the SD card option. Look for an option at the bottom of the menu named ‘Eject card’ and select it which is required for the safe removal of the micro-SD card.

The option in Android phone settings to unmount/eject the micro-SD card

  1. Remove the micro-SD card from your android phone
  2. Insert the micro-SD card into a micro-SD to SD card adapter

    A picture of a micro-SD card along with a micro-SD to SD card adapter

    Image source – amazon.com

  3. Insert this SD card into your PC if it has a dedicated slot for the SD card. If not, go to step 4
  4. Alternatively, use an SD card to USB adapter to plug in the SD card to your PC

    A picture of a micro-SD & SD card to USB adapter

    Image source – uniaccessories.com

  5. You will now be able to access all data stored by your phone on the micro-SD card, back it up, or even add to it using your Windows PC

The only downside to this method is that not a lot of people use micro-SD cards with the newer android phones since the phones already support quite a large internal storage.

Mac and Android

While data transfer between an android and a Mac computer is not as easy as with a Windows computer, it isn’t impossible. Apple has done this mostly to encourage its Mac users to use an iPhone rather than an android, but I digress.

To transfer data and files from an android phone to a Mac computer, you need an application called 'Android File Transfer’ installed on your computer as well as the USB charging cable that came with your phone. The steps are as follows:

  1. Download and install the Android File Transfer application on your Mac computer

    The Android File Transfer application home page with a download button for the application

  2. Drag and drop the android file transfer app into the Applications folder in the Mac finder pop up
  3. Now, connect your android device to your computer using the USB cable
  4. On your phone, a pop up ‘Use USB for’ will appear & choose ‘File Transfer/Android Auto’ from the list

    Picking the File Transfer/Android Auto option on the Android phone Use USB for options

  5. Open the android file transfer application on your Mac computer
  6. You can now browse the various folders, files, and data that you require from your android phone
  7. Drag and drop these required files or folders to your desktop to copy them onto your computer or vice-versa

Accessing the android phone files and data using Android File Transfer on a Mac computer

Image source – imobie.com

Even though this method sounds quite easy, from personal experience, I can tell you that it is quite tedious and does not work properly every now and again.


Transfer files from Android to Linux

To transfer files from your android phone to your computer running on Linux, we need a few additional software configurations to be made. Of all the 3 operating systems we looked at, data transfer with Linux is the most complicated to set up.

The basic requirements are:

  • The GNOME Linux desktop environment running on your computer
  • An app called KDE Connect on your android phone
  • Your phone’s USB cable

With this information sorted out, let's begin with the android-Linux data transfer setup.

Step 1: The GNOME extension

  1. Open a terminal in your Linux and enter the following command
    sudo apt install chrome-gnome-shell
  2. Next, we need to install the GSConnect extension for GNOME, and for this, visit the GSConnect GNOME Shell Extension page

    Option for installing the browser extension of the GSConnect extension

  3. Click on the option ‘Click here to install browser extension’ and complete the browser plugin installation
  4. If the extension is turned off by default, meaning that the slider on the extension page is at the 'Off’ position, change it to the ‘On’ position
  5. Next, towards the bottom of the page, select the right version of the application and the extension and when prompted, select ‘Install', which completes the installation.

Downloading the GSConnect application for the Linux desktop

Step 2: Connect the Android to Linux

  1. Connect the android phone to your computer using the USB cable
  2. In your system tray, select the drop-down entry labelled 'Mobile Devices

    Opening the mobile settings from the system tray in GNOME Linux computer

  3. In the expanded options, select 'Mobile Settings
  4. Finally, your mobile device will appear in the GSConnect window

Step 3: KDE Connect

  1. On your android phone, open the Google Playstore
  2. Search for the app called ‘KDE Connect
  3. Once you find the app click on ‘Install

Step 4: Connecting the devices

  1. Now, once both the GSConnect and KDE Connect have been installed, open the latter and tap the GSConnect
  2. Next, tap on the ‘Request Pairing’ option

    Pairing the Android device with the Linux computer through KDE Connect

  3. A pop-up will appear on your Linux computer, and press 'Accept’ to pair the devices. This step is quite similar to how you would pair two Bluetooth devices
  4. Finally, in the KDE Connect, tap the option ‘Filesystem Expose’ and then ‘OK’, and finally select ‘Share and Receive’ followed by ‘OK’ to finish the setup

Step 5: Data Transfer

  1. To send files to the computer, you simply need to select the ‘Send Files’ option in the KDE Connect application and select whatever files you want to send in the android file manager.
  2. To receive files from the computer to the android device, right-click whatever file you need to send and select the 'Send to Mobile Device' option, followed by selecting your device name

    Sending a file from Linux computer to an Android device through GSConnect

    Image source - omgubuntu.co.uk

  3. All files transferred between the devices will be available in the ‘Downloads’ folder of the respective device

Wireless data transfer

  • Android FTP
  • Pushbullet
  • AirDroid

The methods of data transfer mentioned in this section are mainly all wireless, meaning they don’t require any additional cables or other hardware to function. Being wireless, they can also work in all three of the operating systems mentioned in the previous sections.

Android FTP

File Transfer Protocol or FTP is a communication protocol that allows a user to set up a server and share files with clients connecting to it.

For your android device, you can use an Android File Manager to work as an FTP server and use your computer as a client accessing it. For this, we have a few pre-requisites required:

Once you have these installed and available to use, follow the below steps to set up an FTP server and transfer data:

  1. Connect your android phone to the same Wi-Fi or network as your computer
  2. Next, open the android file manager on your phone
  3. In the file manager menu, select the option for FTP and click on the start
  4. Once the FTP server starts running, it will give you a URL or an IP address

    Opening the android file manager, and starting the FTP server which in turn provides a URL/IP address for client access

  5. Now, open your Filezilla client, use the IP address on your phone as Host address, and enter the required details and click on Quickconnect
  6. Alternatively, if you are using Windows with FTP installed, you simply need to enter this IP address into the file explorer or web browser for the same
  7. This gives you access to the files and data on your phone, which you can use on your computer

Accessing the Android device storage using the Android FTP method through the Windows File explorer

Depending on the file manager, it will allow you to tweak various settings for the FTP server, including the port number used and various other protocols used.

This method is quite efficient and is only limited by the speed/bandwidth of the network that your devices are connected to.

Pushbullet

Pushbullet is a Google-run data transfer application/service that runs on Android, Chrome, Firefox, and Windows. The app allows easy and fast cross-platform data transfer using your Gmail account.

Data transfer using the Pushbullet platform is quite simple and does not require any additional configuration. The steps to set up Pushbullet in your devices is as follows:

  1. Go to Google Playstore on your android phone
  2. Search for Pushbullet and install it

    Install the Pushbullet app from Google Playstore

  3. Next, install the secondary Pushbullet app either on your Windows PC or if using Linux or Mac, install it as a plugin for your Chrome/Firefox browser
  4. Login to all the Pushbullet applications with a single Google account to finish the Pushbullet setup

    The Pushbullet plugin installed in the Chrome browser

  5. To send data from Android to your computer, simply select the files to send and click on the share
  6. Select the Pushbullet option from the share options and then pick the device you would like to send the files to
  7. On the other hand, if you need to send a file from your computer to your android phone, simply open the application or plugin and select your android device from the list

    Sending files from Android phone to the Chrome web browser using the Pushbullet Android app

  8. Next, attach the required files and simply press Send

AirDroid

AirDroid is a quite different application compared to the others on this list and allows you to remotely use your android phone. The application allows you to connect directly to the phone via a common Wi-Fi connection and transfer data.

To begin using AirDroid, follow the following steps:

  1. First, ensure that your android device and your computer are using the same Wi-Fi connection or network
  2. Next, open the Google Playstore on your android device and install the AirDroid app
  3. Open the app and allow the permissions that it requests

    Opening AirDroid app on an Android device and selecting the AirDroid web option which gives a URL to use

  4. The AirDroid app gives you an option to log in by scanning a QR code or by simply using a given IP address
  5. Now, on your computer, open your web browser and enter the IP address in the AirDroid app on your phone
  6. Press enter, and the browser will load a new interface connecting to your android phone

    The AirDroid user interface allowing transfer of data through a web browser

  7. Here, you can simply select what files you require and click the download button to save them on your computer

Infographic

The following infographics can help you to understand the process of transferring files between different operating systems and Android devices. You can use it as a quick reminder or a facts collection.

Infographics for Android operating system and Android phones with statistics about various versions

Feel free to share the code of infographics

<iframe width="574" height="2597" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="overflow-y:hidden;" src="/sites/default/files/pictures/technology/transferring-data/transferring-data-24.jpg"></iframe>

Conclusion

Transferring data from an android device to a computer can be quite challenging without the right tools.

In this article, we looked at data transfer between an android device and 3 main operating systems, namely – Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Is it secure or not? Sound like a great idea for the next article. Let me know what do you think about it.

Tags: 
Technology
Author
Rakesh Naik
Freelance Cyber Security Analyst and Writer practicing in Infosec Assessment.

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