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How to Get Your Android Device to Show up in File Explorer (If It Isn’t)

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We love using our Android phones and tablets to listen to tunes and watch videos, but in order to get those files on your device, sometimes you have to transfer them over from your laptop or desktop PC. When things work right, it’s great, but it can be frustrating if your device stops appearing in File Explorer.

Normally, when you plug in your Android device, Windows will recognize it as an MTP (Media Transfer Protocol) device and quietly mount it.

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From there you can browse the device’s storage and easily add or delete files. Of course, you can do this from your phone or tablet, the Play Store is chock full of file system applications. But, using a traditional desktop computer can turn a potentially long, tedious operation, into a short, blissful one. Plus, you need to be able to copy files over, which means your PC needs to see and treat your device as traditional attached storage.

However, if you’ve ever attempted to unlock your device such as to install a new ROM or root it, then you may have at one time or another installed the Android Debug Bridge (ADB) driver on your computer. This driver works great for being able to use the computer to send commands to your device, but it may mess up your easy-peasy file manipulation.

Solving the Problem: First Check the Obvious

If your Android device isn’t appearing in File Explorer as it should, you should first check the most common problem, which is its USB computer connection in the settings. First open the “Settings,” then navigate to “Storage” and touch the upper-right corner for the “USB computer connection” options.

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On this screen, you simply want to make sure “Media device (MTP)” is selected.

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Often, simply selecting that will do the trick. If it does not, then you likely have a driver problem.

Go ahead now and select the “Safely remove hardware and eject media” button from the system tray and see you can eject your device. If it is there, then you can probably safely assume you need to update your device’s driver.

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You can confirm that your computer is indeed “seeing” an MTP device but not recognizing it by opening the “Printers and Devices” control panel. If you see you device under “Unspecified” then your computer needs some user intervention.

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Luckily, if you’re a longtime Windows user, fixing the problem should be a simple trip to the Device Manager.

Update Your Driver to Add Your Tunes and Videos

What we need to do is change or update the driver that Windows is currently using whenever your plug your Android device into the computer via USB. To do this, open the Device Manager by opening the Control Panel and selecting “Device Manager.”

Look for a device that has the “ADB” designation. In the following screenshot, we see it’s under “ACER Device.” Expand the group by clicking the little arrow on the left, then right-click on the device and select “Update Driver Software…” from the context menu.

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The “Update Driver Software” window will ask you if you search or browse for driver software. You want to choose the browse option, which will advance you to the next step.

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On the next screen, select “Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer” to advance to the next step.

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Finally, on the last screen you want to select the “MTP USB Device” and then “Next.”

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The device driver will then install over the old one, and your Android device will be recognized as a multimedia device as seen now in the Devices and Printers control panel.

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Now whenever you open File Explorer you should see your Android device and be able to open it, browse the file system, and add or remove content as you like.

Born and brainwashed an Ohio State Buckeye, Matt now lives a warm, snow-free life just north of the Texas/Mexico border. He fancies himself a modern-day jack-of-all-trades; favorite conversation starters include operating systems, Android, BBQ, quantum physics, and roller skating.

  • Published 09/3/14