For many people, their phone is their computer, but from time to time you may still want to move files onto a PC for storage (such as backing up photos) or to use them in projects. You might want to copy files to your phone, such as music albums.
There are a variety of ways to achieve this, including using cloud storage or attaching the content to an email and sending it to yourself, but here we're focusing on the direct method of using an old-fashioned wire.
How to connect an Android phone to a PC using a USB cable
The fastest and most reliable way to move larger files is by connecting your phone directly to your laptop or PC via a USB cable. Depending on the make and model of your equipment, this will either require a USB-A to Micro-USB, USB-A to USB-C or USB-C to USB-C cable. When did life get so complicated?
Actually, it's not really that complicated as virtually all phones come with the necessary cable in the box, and is almost always the same cable you use to charge the phone.
USB-A is the biggest type, with a rectangular connector
Micro-USB was the most common connector on Android phones until recently, with its trapezium shape.
But USB-C is the new kid on the block, sporting a rectangular connector that can be inserted either way up, thus removing the USB-hand-dance that has been the tradition in tech for decades.
When you have the correct wire, plug one end into your phone and the other into the PC. Both devices should already be turned on at the time. On your Android device you should see a menu appear with various options for how the USB connection is to be used. If not, unlock your phone, swipe down from the top of the screen to see the notification window and you should see an entry saying that your phone is charging and that you can tap for more options. Should nothing appear at all, try a different cable, as we’ve had issues like this in the past that were solved by a different cable.
The default is simply for charging, so you can use your PC to top up a phone that’s running low on battery power. On the list you’ll also see other options, including File Transfer, USB Tethering, PTP and others. Select the one you want by tapping on it (and it will almost always be File Transfer).
When you make the selection, you should see a dialog box appear on your Windows PC asking what you want to do with the attached device. As you’ve already set the terms on the phone, you don’t need to worry about this, although you can set what the PC defaults to (for example File Transfer) whenever you connect the devices from now on.
To see what’s on your phone, open File Explorer, select This PC and you should see your phone appear just like any other hard drive under This PC.
You can click on it, then double-click on Internal shared storage to see the folders and files on it.
There are pre-defined folders for Music, Movies, Podcasts, Download and other types of media, so it makes sense to copy relevant files to those folders to make it easier to find those things in the video player and music player apps on your phone.
If you're trying to copy your photos to your computer for a backup, look for the DCIM folder - not Pictures. Within the DCIM folder you will likely find a few sub-folders, and you'll have to look in them to see where your photos are stored. There might be multiple folders with photos and videos.
When disconnecting, remember to change the status on the phone from File Transfer back to No data transfer so that you can remove it correctly. (However, you'll rarely have any problems if you just unplug the cable so long as any files have finished copying.)
How to connect an Android phone to a PC via Bluetooth
If you don’t have a USB cable to hand, you can always use Bluetooth to share files between a PC and Android phone. On your PC go to Settings > Devices and ensure that the Bluetooth & other devices option is selected. Turn on Bluetooth if it isn’t already, then click the Add Bluetooth or other device button.
Choose Bluetooth from the next menu, then on your Android phone go to Settings > Connected devices and tap the Pair new device option. You’ll see the PC name appear followed by a pop-up window asking if you want to Pair with that device?
A corresponding window should be visible on your PC, with the matching number ensuring that you know the right devices are trying to connect. Tap Pair on the phone and Connect on the PC and the two will create the connection.
Now, when you select a file on your phone you’ll be able to share it by selecting Bluetooth from the share options then tapping on the name of your PC.
How to connect Android phones to Windows 10 with Your Phone
Another wireless way to use your phone and PC together is via the Your Phone feature in Windows 10. This allows you to begin emails on your phone and continue them on your PC, plus it syncs web-browsing and various other features. You find a step-by-step guide to the connection process in our guide on how to connect your phone to Windows 10.
Of course, if you want to share files between all of your devices without the need for cables or other local wireless methods, we always recommend using a cloud storage service as they can make life easier and far more convenient.
With these, you keep your documents, photos, music and other files online in Google Drive, Dropbox or another service and you can then access them from any device.