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Transferring Files Between Your Smartphone and PC – the Easy Way

t’s an age-old story. File meets computer, computer wants to introduce file to its smartphone, computer can’t find the right feature for that. File transfer between PC and mobile plagues us at work, home and at school — but there are answers. Here are the most effective ways to get that content from your desktop computer to a mobile device of your choice.

Wi-Fi transfer apps

If your computer is connected to a nearby wireless network, one of the easiest ways to transfer files to a mobile device is to set up wireless transfer. These services specialize in quickly porting information through your wireless network and onto a mobile device. Once set up, these services are quickly, easy to use, and quite reliable as long as your wireless Internet connection is stable.

In fact, there are so many Wi-Fi transfer services available, one of the hardest parts may be finding the right one for your PC. If you use Android devices, you will want to take a look at Portal, an app from Pushbullet. Download the app onto your phone, scan the website’s QR Code, and you can push pictures, videos and other files through the site and onto your phone (ideal size, up to 1GB). It’s especially easy with Chrome, because you can just drag and drop files for instant transfers.

apple iphone 5c airdrop
apple iphone 5c airdrop

Another common solution is Filedrop, which is free for all systems except iOS, where it costs a couple bucks. Like Portal, Filedrop pairs up PCs and mobile devices, then let’s you quickly shuffle files over with a very simple drag-and-drop method.

Apple’s Wi-Fi transfer solution is called Airdrop, and it works between all Macs and iOS devices without downloading any additional software. You can find the Airdrop option in the sharing menu of various apps.

Cloud storage

Major cloud storage providers offer a reasonable alternative to Wi-Fi transfer apps. You don’t actually need Wi-Fi for every step when you use a cloud sharing service. Hop on your PC and access a cloud like Google Drive, iCloud or Dropbox, then upload your files. You can then download the app for your phone and – as long as you have a Wi-Fi or data connection – access the same information, while it stays floating in the cloud, accessible from either destination. This is useful for transferring between different platforms, and also makes it easy to share with friends or coworkers.

Related: Your friends can now share files to your dropbox, even if they don’t have an account

However, both drag-and-drop transfers and cloud sharing have some security issues. If you are not using a secure wireless network, then data theft is a possibility. Be smart about your transfers and sensitive information!

Pairing with Bluetooth

Bluetooth pairing is like an older and more common version of NFC that uses the Bluetooth protocol. As with NFC, here you do not need a wireless network to transfer files, just two devices with Bluetooth capabilities. Turn on your Bluetooth for both your mobile device and your PC, then look on your computer to see if it senses the nearby device. You can check the “Devices and Printers” panel if there’s no automatic connection.

How Bluetooth works Headers
How Bluetooth works Headers

Most PCs will then move onto a confirmation task, where you have to type in a code or compare numbers. This will allow the computer to pair with your mobile device. The device should appear in your list of connected drives when you look at your menu or file browser. For many PCs, you can select “Send a File” from the Bluetooth menu by clicking on the Bluetooth logo on the bottom right side of your screen to get started. You can also manage Bluetooth devices more directly from the Devices and Printers panel if necessary

Bluetooth is a reliable method because most devices offer Bluetooth connections, and once paired it is easy to automatically pair again. If you have a very old computer and a newer mobile device there may be some trouble with matching protocols – or you may not have PC Bluetooth at all – but these day that’s a pretty rare problem.

Using NFC connections

NFC stands for near field communication, a data transfer capability that many phones and some computers now possess. Whether you are dealing with Android Beam, Windows Phone NFC, or other services, look into NFC transfers. This protocol requires devices be physically close, hence the frequent “bump” and “tap” apps, but it is safer compared to wireless transfers, if a bit more time consuming (sorry iPhone users, but Apple is still using NFC for payments only, not file transfers).

Even if you cannot establish an NFC connection directly with your PC, take a look at external hard drives and similar devices that can use NFC. This may be an easy way to quickly transfer data to and from your PC using an intermediary device – plus you get an external hard drive to use in other situations

Using email

Ahh, email. Solid, dependable, sensible, and not at all exciting — but often handy when you need to swap files from your desktop computer to a nearby tablet or smartphone. You see, not everyone will have the same fancy apps, services and connections listed above. What happens if you want to share a file with a coworker but can’t find a way to send it directly to their mobile device?

email button
email button

The easiest answer is to just hook your file onto an email and send it spinning into cyberspace. It’s easier than a lot of other options, and most mobile devices are smart enough to open attachments in a readable form these days, especially if you use a PDF. Thanks to OneDrive and Office 365, you may also be able to open and edit Word docs straight from emails.

Your beloved USB drive

While the USB drive has fallen out of favor now that cloud tech services and wireless features have crowded the market, sometimes the best option is still using a flash drive or external hard drive to move your files. Not only is using a USB drive or connection safer compared to wireless transfers (especially with built-in authentication), but it’s also an ideal way to save a lot of content and transfer it all at once to multiple devices without weighing down your wireless network.

sandisk-usb-type-c-drive
sandisk-usb-type-c-drive

SanDisk

The key is picking out the right USB drive device to use. Many Android devices, for example, us USB On-The-Go, which can pair with compatible USB storage devices for quick transfers between PC and Androids.

Read: Solid state drives vs. hard drives: which is right for you?

Otherwise, consider a wireless media reader. These are extra hard drives that use SD cards or USB drives that can create their own hotspot, giving you a plethora of connection options for both mobile devices and PCs – without the need for a wireless network nearby. Think of them as a jack-of-all-trades for moving content around.