How to transfer files from a smartphone to a computer

Updated: 08/16/2021 by Computer Hope
Illustration: smartphone transfer to the computer

If you have a smartphone, and you've taken a lot of photos and videos, you may want to save, transfer, or upload those files to your computer.

Below are steps to help you transfer files to your computer from your smartphone.

Note

In some of these instructions, your smartphone must connect to your computer with its included data cable. Use only an official cable (manufactured by the company that makes the phone). Second-hand cables might work for charging the phone, but are unlikely to work for data transfers.

Android to Windows

If your computer is running Microsoft Windows, and your smartphone runs Android, check with your smartphone manufacturer for custom instructions. For instance, if you have a Samsung Galaxy phone, check Samsung's website for up-to-date, model-specific instructions, software, and steps to take.

With many Android phones, you can also connect your device as USB storage.

If you're using Windows 10 version 1803 (April 2018 update) or newer, and your computer has Bluetooth, you can use Nearby Sharing to wirelessly transfer files to or from your phone.

iPhone to Mac or Windows

If your smartphone is an iPhone, you can use iTunes to transfer files. If iTunes is not installed on your computer, you can get it from the App Store, or the iTunes download page for Windows computers.

Additionally, if you're using an iPhone and a Mac computer, you can use the AirDrop function to wirelessly transfer files between them. For more information, refer to the official AirDrop instructions from Apple.

Connecting as external USB storage

If you're using Microsoft Windows or Linux, you can access your smartphone's storage like any other USB drive. When your smartphone is connected to your computer, the phone appears in Windows File Explorer or macOS Finder, like any other external removable storage devices.

In most cases, you need to grant permission on the phone before your computer can see the files. For instance, on an iPhone, you may see the following message.

iOS Trust This Computer dialog.

If you tap Trust, the phone allows the computer to view its files. Using Windows File Explorer, you can access your files by choosing Apple iPhone under This PC. In macOS Finder, you see your smartphone listed in the left navigation panel, with your other mounted volumes, and also a shortcut on your desktop.

Viewing iPhone files in Windows File Explorer

You can now copy your files to the desired location on your computer.

Note

Your phone only shares files you've created, like your photos and videos. Your phone does not share its protected operating system files.

Alternative methods

There are other ways to transfer files from your smartphone to your computer, including the following options.

Cloud storage: You can use a cloud file storage system to transfer files, such as Dropbox, OneDrive, or Google Drive. On iPhones, iCloud is the default cloud storage service included with iOS.

Apps: You may also try using a third-party wireless file transfer app, such as Portal.