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How to Share Data and Files Between Your Android Phone and PC

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Android doesn’t have an iTunes-like desktop program, so the process of syncing your data may not be as obvious as it is with an iPhone.  However, you don’t need a desktop syncing app — even iPhone users are leaving iTunes behind.

While you can move files back and forth with a USB cable or wireless network connection, the ideal way to keep data in sync between your devices is by relying on online services that do the work for you.

Transfer Files Manually to Your Phone

If you do want to transfer files the old-fashioned way, you can copy files directly to your Android device. This is ideal if you want to copy music, videos, or other media files to your Android phone or tablet. After copying the files over, they should be automatically appear in your Android media player app. You can also use a file manager app to view them.

  • USB Cables: Connect your Android phone directly to your computer using the USB cable you use to charge it. It will appear as a new drive in the Computer window, where you can copy files back and forth like you would from a USB flash drive. Older Android devices may require you to pull down the notification bar on your phone and tap the Turn on USB storage option to make the Android’s storage accessible on the PC after plugging it in.

  • Wireless File Transfers: If you want to transfer files wirelessly, you have a wide variety of options. AirDroid is one of the most convenient. Install the AirDroid app and you’ll be able to access your phone from a web browser, giving you the ability to copy files back and forth. You can also set up Windows networking or create an FTP server to allow your phone to access your PC’s storage.

  • Cloud Storage: Copying files the old-fashioned way is best if they are very large — for example, if you want to copy a video file to your Android phone. However, transferring small files and keeping files in sync is easier if you use cloud storage. Whether you use Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive, or another cloud storage service, you can drop the file into the cloud storage folder on your computer and open the associated app on your phone. This will give you access to the file without having to transfer it to your phone manually or take up any of your phone’s internal storage.

There are third-party syncing apps that try to replicate that iTunes experience with an Android phone, but you don’t need them.

Sync Your Browser Data

Want all your browser bookmarks, open tabs, history settings, and other data to follow you between your phone and computer? Just enable the sync option in your web browser, install the appropriate browser on your Android phone, and activate the sync option there, too.

Users of Internet Explorer or Safari don’t have an official syncing solution. There are unofficial sync apps available, but we haven’t tested them.

Get Music On Your Phone

You could connect a USB cable and copy all your music files to your phone, but that won’t be ideal if you have too much music to fit on your phone. Instead, try using Google Music Manager, which will upload a copy of your music files to Google’s servers for free. You can then use Google’s Play Music app on your phone to listen to your entire music collection if you have an Internet connection, or to cache music on your device to make it accessible offline.

You may also want to try using a third-party music apps, instead. Read more about ways to get music on your Android without iTunes here.

Use Online Services

In the old days, people synchronized their palm pilots and old smartphones with their computers to keep their contacts, calendar events, and other data in sync between their PC and their handheld device. This isn’t the way things are done anymore — in fact, you would have trouble finding a software solution that let you sync your data in this way.

Instead, data is synced by relying on online (“cloud”) services, and Android does this by default. Your Android’s contacts and calendar events are automatically synchronized with Gmail’s Contacts and Google Calendar, where you can access them from a web browser by logging in with the same Google account. Any changes you make to the Contacts or Calendar from your browser will replicate themselves on your phone.

Instead of worrying about synchronizing data back and forth, look for services that have solid Android apps and useful websites or desktop apps and use them to keep your data in sync across your devices. For example, it’s much easier to use the popular Evernote (or another note-taking app, such as Google’s own Google Keep) to keep your notes in sync across your devices than it is to take text notes on your Android and copy them back and forth using a USB connection.

Assuming you use the same services on your PC and your phone, keeping their data in sync should be a snap. This part should happen automatically.


Have any other tips for moving your data back and forth and keeping it in sync? Leave a reply and share them!

Image Credit: Johan Larsson on Flickr

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 06/10/13

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