If you’ve got a Windows PC and an Android phone or tablet, using a cable to sync data between the two platforms is clumsy at best — and sometimes disastrous.
But with the right software, you can use a local network or the Internet to copy, move, and sync files across the great OS divide.
The USB connection: An imperfect solution
Nearly every Android tablet or phone comes with a Micro USB cable, primarily used for charging and backing up your Android device. The cable also lets you share files between Windows and Android. In theory, as soon as the phone is connected to the PC, it becomes a flash drive, making file sharing a simple task of drag-and-drop.
But the cable technique isn’t always simple, and even at its best it’s mildly irritating. For instance, because you use the cable primarily for charging, it’s probably not in the same room as the PC. And once you’ve found the cable and made the PC/mobile device connection, your phone now has to stay tethered to the computer for a while. You can’t simply pick up the tablet or put the phone into your pocket and walk away — especially if you’re transferring several gigabytes of data.
And that’s if things are working properly. There are many forms of Android on many varieties of mobile devices connecting to many configurations of PCs. So there can be compatibility issues. Plus, some combinations of Android phones and PCs might require the installation of additional drivers or other special software before any file transfers can take place.
Sometimes, attempting the PC-to-Android connection goes terribly wrong. While researching this article, I plugged my Droid RAZR MAXX HD phone into a Windows 8.1 computer. The Android driver, which had worked fine in Windows 7, messed up Win8’s File Explorer beyond all use. I rebooted the PC, hoping that would fix the problem, but then Windows could no longer access the Internet. Without System Restore, my editor would still be waiting for this article.
Fortunately, a cable isn’t the only way for Android users to share photos, videos, or other files between desktop and mobile machines. Some phone makers provide their own branded, bundled software that offers additional file-transfer options such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. But you don’t have to rely on what the vendor provides. Here are some solutions that can work on a variety of Android phones.