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.


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

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