Saturday June 6, 2020

If You have access to a WiFi network and would like to exchange files between a mobile device and a computer or a laptop in a quick and easy way, here is how You could do that without a need to hassle with an USB cable.

Quick survey on what’s coming:

  1. Why wireless file transfer may be a better solution?
  2. FTP for Windows: WinSCP.
  3. FTP for Android: FTP Server.
  4. Prepare the Android device.
  5. Prepare the Windows PC/laptop.
  6. How to connect and transfer files between the devices.

First of all, here is

Why wireless file transfer may be a better solution?

  1. Every time You charge Your device, it shortens its battery life (which has its own limited number of charging cycles allowed). Unfortunately, every time You connect a device via USB cable to transfer files - the device has also been charging, which shortens battery life even further. Wireless connection doesn’t do that, because it does not involve charging.
  2. Wireless means faster, due to (i.a.) it does not involve a cable (find, plug in, unplug, etc. ;) ).
  3. The less You use USB cable, the longer it will be fine. Keep in mind that, although USB cables are cheap as such, many of them are not equal or even close to the original one provided with Your device, therefore using any other USB cable may not give You the same results (e.g., how long does it take to transfer files or fully charge the device).

Now, there are many ways to perform wireless connection between a mobile device and a PC or a laptop. It comes down to so-called FTP, which is a method of transferring files. To transfer files via FTP You need to have an FTP app installed on both devices.

There are a great many various FTP apps for any operating system. I’ll share with You my personal pick and why I’ve decided to use those particular apps. Since I use Windows and Android, there are related to those OS’s.

FTP for Windows: WinSCP.

Why this particular app? Because:

  1. It’s intuitive in use.
  2. To connect with Your phone it is possible to simply double-click a desktop shortcut.
  3. You can move files between the devices the way You are used to do with any other cases when You copy anything from one place to the other (e.g., by drag’n’drop).

FTP for Android: FTP Server.

Why this particular app? Because:

  1. To allow the connection with a PC/laptop, just tap on a home screen widget (that simple:) !).
  2. Once You do that, Your PC becomes able to access Your mobile device both internal and external (SD-card) storage (in case You use such one) - other FTP apps usually require to re-establish connection from the mobile device side anytime You wanna access the other storage.

Both apps are 100% free, no strings attached.

Important: many high quality apps are published on the alternative app store called F-Droid, instead of or alongside Google Play store probably installed on Your device by default. Although some of those apps You still may find on Google Play, their Google Play versions might be limited in one way or the other, while F-Droid remains a dedicated place for their full and free/libre form (as it specializes in such apps). Android FTP Server is such an app: its full version You’ll find on F-Droid (You can buy Google Play version if You want to support the app’s development).

So let’s get started.

Prepare the Android device.

If You’d like to use a free full version of the FTP Server app, You need to download it from F-Droid. You can do it manually or via the F-Droid app. The latter way gives You the advantage of automatic updates, alongside with the whole library of other free/libre apps to pick and choose :) (one example is NewPipe - a fantastic YouTube client which enables You to browse and download stuff from YouTube, SoundCloud, and other places).

  1. Since You want to install an app outside of Google Play app store, You need to allow installation from “unknown sources” first. Go to settings and from its search field search for a unknown word to locate and enable it. If You see the whole app list (under “Install unknown apps”) instead of one box to check, choose Your web browser from this list, then › Install unknown apps › Allow from this source.
  2. If You don’t want to have automatic updates and all the rest F-Droid advantages, just go to this website, scroll down to the first “Download APK” link, tap on it to download the installation file, then go to the step 6.
  3. If You do want to use F-Droid, tap on “Download F-Droid”.
  4. Once the file is downloaded, launch it and follow the installation procedure.
  5. Once F-Droid is installed, launch it and use search icon (on the bottom right) to find FTP Server (Free) (it will be enough to type ftp). Tap on “FTP Server (Free)” and then “Install”. Allowing “unknown apps” installation (or installation from “unknown sources”) again may be necessary.
  6. Once the file is downloaded, launch it and follow the installation procedure.
  7. Once the app is installed, launch it. If it asks You on permission “to access photos, media, and files”, allow it.
  8. Go to Manage users... › edit . change the first “ftp” to Your user name, and the second one to Your password. Click “save”. This will allow the access to the device internal storage.
  9. If You’d like to have access to Your SD-card, tap on the “+” sign on the bottom right, then fill another “Username” and “Password” fields (choose a different user name than before), tap on the third line (which probably consists of storage/emulated/0). Tap on two periods till You will see something similar to this:

FTP Server

then choose the item with a string of random letters and digits (which stands for Your SD-card) and confirm by “select”. 10. Go to Advanced settings... › Writing external storage then three-line icon on the top left, then from the sidebar select “SD card” and confirm by “select”. 11. Go back to Your Android home screen and add a FTP Server widget.

You can adjust the app look by choosing Appearance... › Theme....

Prepare the Windows PC/laptop.

This is a standard installation procedure which You can freely click through, leaving almost everything “as is” (if You’d like to read a detailed instruction anyway, here You are).

  1. Download and install WinSCP from here. If You are using Windows 10, You can find the app in Microsoft Store.

    Important: asked on “user interface style” choose “Explorer”.

  2. Open the app.
  3. If You don’t see a window titled “Login”, use Ctrl+N keyboard shortcut to invoke it.
  4. Perform the first two steps of the next instruction to obtain the address.
  5. Fill the “Host name” field with the red-colored part of the address as in that instruction.
  6. Fill the “User name” and “Password” fields accordingly to the ones entered during the previous instruction.
  7. Set “Port number” to “2121”.
  8. Click “Save”, fill the “Site name” with the name for Your connection (e.g., Samsung Galaxy). Check “Create desktop shortcut” and “Save password” to streamline the whole further procedure.

How to connect and transfer files between the devices.

  1. Connect the Android device to the WiFi network - the same one to which Your PC/laptop is connected.
  2. On the Android device tap the FTP Server widget. Its name should change into the address - to see the whole address pull down Android top bar. You should see FTP Server notification with an address, e.g., Remember the red-colored part.

FTP Server

  1. On the PC/laptop double-click the desktop shortcut with the name of Your connection. Soon You should see a window presenting the content of Your mobile device storage.

It is possible that the end part of the red-colored address will change over time, which will make the connection impossible. It’s easy to fix that: just check whether the address has been indeed changed (usually its end part is the one which changes). If so, within WinSCP “Login” window select Your connection and click “Edit”, then correct “Host name” and confirm by “Save”.

From this point You can open another window (any Windows folder) and drag’n’drop files between the two. The first time You perform such operation You’ll see a confirmation window - I recommend to check “Do not show this dialog box again” to streamline the process.

If moving files happen not to respond, right click files You wanna copy and choose “Copy”. Then You should be able to paste the files via simple Ctrl+V (once You click within the target window).

A good idea is to make the app remember what exact location You’ve used the last time - to do so, ensure that “Login” window isn’t there (if it is, just use the Esc key to cancel it). Go to Preferences (or Ctrl+Alt+P) › Panels › and check Remember panels’ state when switching sessions.

  1. Once You’ve done, disconnect the devices:
    1. In WinSCP use Shift+Ctrl+D.
    2. On Android tap the FTP Server widget again (then it should become titled with its name instead of the address).
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