Tablets

Three methods for transferring files to and from your Android tablet

If your Android tablet doesn't have a USB port, you can still easily transfer your files to and from a PC. Jack Wallen explains three ways this can be done.

Transferring files to and from your tablet can sometimes be difficult, especially if it doesn't include a standard USB port. Sure, emailing files back and forth works, but many users need to have a more consistent, reliable, and easier means to transfer files to and from their Android tablet.

Let's dive in and examine a few methods for transferring files without a USB port. None of these methods are especially challenging, but they can require the installation of software and, in one case, necessitate that you share out folders on your PC (so you'll need the ability to do that).

1. The microSD method

If you're particular tablet has a microSD card, you're in luck. You can simply insert a microSD card into the slot, save the file to the card, remove the card, and then transfer the card to a PC. Use caution with this method, because some tablets require you to mount and unmount the cards. If that's the case, you simply need to go to Settings | Storage and then tap Mount SD Card to mount the card (so it can be used by the device). When you're finished, go back to Storage and tap Unmount SD Card. If you don't manually unmount the SD card, you could lose your data.

If your tablet doesn't have a microSD card slot, you may still be able to purchase a USB and card connection kit, such as this USB and SD(HC)/MS/MMC/M2/TF card reader. Just make sure that the kit supports USB storage and that it's known to work with your device before you buy it. Some of the cheaper tools do not work well in storage mode. A bonus feature to some of these devices includes the ability to use a USB keyboard.

2. The cloud method

This method is probably the most reliable and easiest. Android devices can connect to nearly every known storage solution (Dropbox, UbuntuOne, Box, SkyDrive, Google Docs, SpiderOak, etc) and do a great job of syncing your tablet with your PC. Obviously, you'll need to have the cloud software installed on the PC and the tablet. To install the software on the tablet, follow these simple steps:

  1. Open the Google Play Store
  2. Search for the cloud software in question
  3. Tap Install
  4. Tap Accept & download

My cloud of choice is UbuntuOne. This comes pre-installed on Ubuntu desktops, but it's also available for Windows and Mac.

Most cloud solutions don't automatically sync files and folders to tablets. This is done to save space. Instead, you have to selectively download the file to the device, work on the file, save the file, and then allow the cloud service to re-sync the newly edited file.

Do beware of any tablet cloud app that automatically syncs all files to the device. That could quickly eat up all of your device storage and leave you with nothing.

3. The file manager method

This method isn't nearly as simple, but for those who only want to transfer between a single tablet and a PC, using a file manager is pretty straightforward. Here's the caveat: the file manager must be SMB-aware. One of the best file managers for this is AndSMB. With this tool, you can define multiple SMB shares, from either a Windows or Linux desktop/server (Figure A), and mount those shares to your SD card. Figure A

You can define where the share is mounted here as well.

Once you have the share mounted, you can use it as if it were a folder on the local system. It is possible to create folders, upload from the device file manager, rename files, open files, search, and more. Although transferring via SMB is one of the best methods of file transfer, you must know how to set up the shares on the desktop/server. Thankfully, that's not terribly hard. Here are the steps for both the Windows and Linux desktop (I choose Ubuntu 13.04, running Unity):

  1. Right-click the folder to share (from within the file manager)
  2. Select Properties
  3. Select from the Share (or Sharing)
  4. Set up the share

NOTE: If you're using Linux and sharing for the first time, you'll be prompted to install the Samba servers (and automatically walked through the installation). You'll also have to run the smbpasswd command on the user, like so:

  • sudo smbpasswd -a USERNAME
  • sudo smbpasswod -e USERNAME

In the examples above, USERNAME is the actual username. The first command will prompt you to enter (and confirm) the user Samba password.

Finally, in order to make the SMB file transfer work, you must be on the same network as the computers with the shared folders. This means that you have to be on a wireless network.

Even if your tablet doesn't have a USB port (or a microSD card), you can still easily transfer files to and from a PC. With the Android platform, just about anything is possible. Give one of these methods a try. If there are other ways that you transfer files to and from your tablet, please share them in the discussion thread below.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

22 comments
foreverraining
foreverraining

Is it possible (and if so, how do I do it) to transfer an epub book from my samsung galaxy note 10.1 to a kobo touch? I am travelling without access to a PC.

hilltorn
hilltorn

To transfer Android tablet files to your computer, you can also use the Coolmuster Android Assistant to help you.

Gwen  Wilson
Gwen Wilson

Trying to transfer files from Android tablet to laptop. Will also like to transfer photos from camera directly to tablet.

Any help would be appreciated.

razorex
razorex

Requires wifi, but works beautifully and it has a cloud component, as well.

wendygoerl
wendygoerl

i tried to copy a file from my Android to my WinXP laptop. I had a flash drive (completely empty) on a USB adaptor in the SD slot. I moved ONE JPG from the tablet to the "U-disk" (as my tablet's manual likes to call it). When I plugged the drive into my laptop, there were three folders on the drive, none of which contained the jpg in question. I ended up having to email it to myself.

jch777
jch777

I've used this app to transfer files both from my phone and tablet. Fairly simple to setup and use.

Lionfan1991
Lionfan1991

An FTP app on the Android device. That's what I use with my phone.

pfyearwood
pfyearwood

I have used Kies Air to access my Samsung Tab 2 and Player 4 with my computer. Though, both have USB ports. Even my Mach Speed Trio Stealth 7 has a USB port. I don't know of any Android or Windows tablet that does not have USB. That is how most are charged. I know of only one brand that does not. have USB. Most brands of tablets have Bluetooth. I'm sure that is possible. Paul

george
george

One of the easiest file transfer programs is Air Droid. Yes you need to be on teh same wifi network but that ain't hard. Brilliant little app. Cheers g.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Seems to work great to connect to my Windows 98, my Win7, and my Mint ??. But it refuses to connect to my XP machine. No idea why...

markp
markp

There are many ftp server apps available for free, I use these as the are quick and simple and I can control what goes where

albert.sandor
albert.sandor

Get Wifi File Explorer and manage your files in a web browser on your local network without the exposure to the internet. By far the safest one! The downside is that it's not free, but hey, you get what you pay for.

driden87
driden87

You could just download airdroid and transfer via wifi. Requires no configuration. By far the easiest one.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Why avoid the obvious solution? These solutions really expose a lot of over complicated ways of doing things.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Also, the USB cable method is very easy, even for beginners.

wendygoerl
wendygoerl

We're operating under the assumption that the tablet in question doesn't DO USB.

aroc
aroc

As Jack wrote near the beginning: "Lets dive in and examine a few methods for transferring files without a USB port." Might as well be considered a given with the Android 4+ "wonderful" new MTP (Mobility Transfer Protocol) replacing the simpler USB mount method of Android 2.x (not sure which method HC/3.x used), and older Linux versions like my Mint 9 with its busted implementation of MTP. Yet another wonderful example of Linux making older PC's useful ... NOT. Just a pet peeve of mine - a perfectly useful system being obsoleted by so-called advances in technology. FWIW, Fortunately, I can still use adb push/pull, but that is more tedious than a GUI method, and requires some extra setup effort with finding a new device's lsusb signature to update /etc/udev/rules.d/51-android.rules with the right info.

Slayer_
Slayer_

iPad? I haven't seen any Android tablets yet that don't have a USB port.

Slayer_
Slayer_

I just plugged it in and it showed as a drive on my computer.

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