One of the many great things about Android is that you can easily copy and paste files to and from a desktop PC or laptop just by connecting your phone via USB. Unfortunately, things aren’t quite as simple if you have an Android phone and a Mac.
The official solution is Android File Transfer — a Google-made app for macOS that lets you browse and transfer files between your Android device and a MacBook or iMac. The problem? It’s buggy, inconsistent, and generally a bit awful.
Below we’ll walk you through how to use Android File Transfer, but stick around and we’ll also show you a couple of options that will make moving and copying stuff from Android to Mac much easier!
How to transfer files from Android to Mac using Android File Transfer
Want to stick with the official method? That’s not a problem! Here’s how to download and use Android File Transfer:
- Download Android File Transfer for Mac from the Android website here. Note that you’ll need to be running macOS 10.7 or higher to use the app.
- Open AndroidFileTransfer.dmg.
- Drag and drop the Android File Transfer app into the Applications folder in the Finder pop up.
- Double click Android File Transfer. You’ll likely be prompted that the app was downloaded from the internet as a quick security check. Click Open to continue.
- Connect your phone to your Mac via a USB cable and Android File Transfer should open automatically. If it doesn’t, check your notifications bar and change the USB settings to File transfer/MTP mode.
- In Android File Transfer, find the folder and/or file(s) you want to transfer and drag and drop it to your desktop. That’s it!
How to transfer files from Android to Mac: The smarter way
Those six steps listed above make Android File Transfer sound nice and easy to use, but anyone who has attempted this ostensibly simple process will know that it usually takes several attempts and many error messages to just get the app to recognize your phone. It’s been well overdue a complete overhaul for years, but as it stands there are legacy bugs that keep popping back up.
It’s also awkward to have to browse through your phone’s files in the app’s custom explorer with no previews and no quick access to your desktop folders. This is much easier on a Windows machine where you can use the native file explorer complete with shortcuts and the like.
You can circumvent Android File Transfer if you’re willing to use cloud storage like Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, and similar, but then you’re relying on a strong and stable internet connection for decent upload speeds. There’s also the excellent Pushbullet which lets you “push” files remotely, but it’s still nowhere near as fast or reliable as a physical connection. Thankfully, there are better system-local alternatives to Android File Transfer out there from third-party developers.
If you’re only a casual user then Handshaker is a great option with a simple, user-friendly interface and it’s completely free. However, if you’re planning to transfer files to and from your phone on a regular basis you’ll want something a little more comprehensive. If that’s the case, your best bet is Commander One by Eltima, which has an Android mounting feature inside the $29.99 Pro pack.
We recently got to try out Commander One for review and it’s without a doubt the simplest and most intuitive tool for shifting files between your Android devices and a Mac computer. Here are a few reasons why!
Dual pane mode
Commander One’s signature feature is its default dual pane layout which gives you immediate access to two folders or drives. With the Pro version, one of those panes can be used for mounting your Android devices. That means you can drag and drop files between your phone and Mac all in a single window.
You can actually add further tabs in each pane too, so if you want to fling various files into different folders or another storage device that’s quick and easy too.
In addition, there are myriad minor bonuses you get within the two panes that blow Android File Transfer out of the water. For starters, you can actually preview your files in Commander One so you know which precious photos you want to save to your desktop without checking file names. While you unfortunately don’t get mini previews, you can see a quick preview by double clicking and using Quick Look.
Commander One also shows you more info about each file, including the size, extension, permissions, date created, and more. You can also turn on/off viewing hidden folders to avoid clutter or delve deeper into your phone or Mac’s innards.
iOS mounting too
If you’ve got a Mac already you’re probably not averse to the idea of owning iOS devices (I’ve got an iPad and an iMac, but just try prying my Pixel away from me!). Usefully, Commander One supports mounting iOS devices too, though it should be noted that the function only works with the version from Eltima’s official website, not the Mac App Store version.
Cloud services and remote servers all in one place
Commander One’s remit doesn’t stop at your phone or Mac’s drives. With the Pro version, you can fill a pane or tab with cloud services like Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, and/or OneDrive. Not only that but it also supports connections with remote servers via FTP, SFTP, or FTPS, Amazon S3 storage, WebDAV clients, OpenStack, and more.
Comprehensive search tools
Android File Transfer doesn’t have a search bar. That means you’ll be arduously locating files manually. Meanwhile, Commander One has a search function that puts the Finder search tool to shame with support for Regular Expressions, Spotlight, and the ability to search for keywords that are inside documents and compressed archives.
Finder, but better
All of these things make Commander One a superior alternative to Android File Transfer, but in all honesty if you just want to transfer a few files over every now and again, the $29.99 Pro upgrade required for Android mount support is perhaps a little steep.
What Commander One really shines at, though, is being a full replacement for Apple’s Finder file manager. Finder has improved a lot over the years with macOS upgrades, but it’s still not great for power users.
Android File Transfer sounds easy to use, but there are better alternatives out there.
On top of dual pane mode, there’s a litany of other upgrades that give Commander One the edge over Finder if you’re willing to pay the asking price. These include hotkeys, root access, in-app access to Terminal commands and process management, a built-in archiving tool, and much more that you can find listed here.