I recently wrote about an experience with painfully slow file transfers when using a USB cable to synchronize data between my PC and my Samsung Galaxy S3. I resolved the issue by wiping the cache partition on my phone, but that accomplishment seemed like fixing the wheel on a horse-drawn carriage in the boom of the automobile era. Nice to know how it works, but outdated in terms of more modern, powerful alternatives.
Computers are there to make our lives easier (as a system administrator this is something I keep telling myself when critical systems or services are down with no apparent reason), so rather than manually synchronizing the files I need between my smartphone and PC, I decided to look into automated wireless options instead. I hit the Google Play store and found a couple of free apps called "My Phone Explorer" and "WiFi File Transfer." I decided to start with MyPhoneExplorer since it rated 4.5 stars, half a star higher than Wi-Fi File Transfer, and it has a corresponding desktop application to facilitate the two-way sharing of files (some other apps required turning on Windows sharing, using FTP and other steps I felt added needless complexity).
MyPhoneExplorer can synchronize more than files; it works for calendars, contacts, and notes (not so necessary if you're a Gmail user on an Android phone since this is handled automatically) and includes handy features like using your desktop PC to take phone calls, input data to the phone, and administer phone apps. For this purpose of this article let's look at the file synchronization component which I explored.
I installed the Android app via Google Play using the "Install" link, then downloaded and installed the corresponding desktop PC program which allows you to set up synchronization options.
Running setup was simple. There is a portable installation version which can be handy to run from multiple computers such as from a Dropbox folder or USB drive:
I did have to decline the offer to install a program called "Block-n-Surf," which is standard for many free programs that bundle trialware or sponsored applications:
The program then completed installation and I could run it by clicking Finish:
This is the default screen upon startup:
I was then prompted to choose my phone type:
Since I have a Samsung Galaxy S3, I chose "Phone with Google Android-OS." I was then given the option to choose my connection method:
Once I set "WiFi" and clicked OK, I received this message:
I started the MyPhoneExplorer app on my Android, which showed me the following screen:
I was prompted to set up a PIN to secure the wi-fi access:
I chose a PIN code then tapped OK. The app then showed me it was waiting for a connection.
The MyPhoneExplorer application on my PC detected my Android and showed me a prompt for the PIN code:
I entered the code and was then prompted to select a name for the phone which the program would use:
I chose the inventive name "Scott's Samsung" and clicked OK.
I clicked "Files" in the main MyPhoneExplorer screen on my PC and beheld the available storage locations on my phone:
I confirmed I could access the phone's external storage card and view the folders contained on it:
In order to set up wi-fi sync with MyPhoneExplorer you have to configure which folders or files you want to synchronize. This is done by clicking the down arrow to the right of the "Sync Files" button in the toolbar:
Select "Customize" to bring up the configuration screen:
As you can see, I created a job called "My Files," set it to sync in both directions between the PC and the phone, and left the option to "Show confirmation window before MyPhoneExplorer makes any changes." The source folder on the PC is "D:\Documents" and the target folder on the phone is "\External storage\documents." I chose the option to include subfolders.
A word about the setup: I created the d:\documents folder and put a single file in it called "test.txt." The "\External storage\docs" folder on my Android already contained many PDF files. I wanted to make sure the 2-way sync brought all files in both directions to both the phone and the PC.
Once I clicked OK, the job was saved. I went back into the configuration setup and confirmed it was visible under the "File-Sync jobs" section:
Then I kicked off the synchronization process using the "Sync files" button at the main MyPhoneExplorer screen. I was shown the following progress box.
I then saw the following confirmation window:
These made sense to me since I was adding a new file to the phone and making sure my existing files were copied to the PC. I clicked OK and everything worked flawlessly; the desired files appeared in both places. Then I exited the app on my phone since I didn't want to keep it running if it wasn't needed at the moment.
Other program options
MyPhoneExplorer has some good flexibility behind it. The "Settings" button on the phone app reveals the following options
You can launch the client automatically when a certain Wi-Fi network is within range, set silent or standby modes, configure calendars and contact accounts, and select name or address formats.
The PC application provides the following Settings:
You can sync files by USB cable or enter the IP address of the phone to connect to it directly in case the PC program is having trouble finding it on the network.
Other settings involve whether the program starts with the computer, how it appears, what type of notifications or sounds it uses, what contacts, events/tasks and notes will synchronize, data encryption and more.
It's great to eliminate the headache of having to hook up a USB cable to sync files between my computer and my phone; right now I'm still using the manual sync process but will take a look at the automatic sync options to make life even easier.
Scott Matteson is a senior systems administrator and freelance technical writer who also performs consulting work for small organizations. He resides in the Greater Boston area with his wife and three children.