Help! My PC no longer recognizes my Android as a USB drive

It’s a very frustrating problem: you want to transfer files to your Android so you plug your Android device to your PC via USB, only to discover that it it not being recognized as a hard drive. So you plug and replug and check the wire and that both devices are attached properly, to no avail. What to do? Read on!

This has happened with every Android device I have owned (which is to say, both my Galaxy Note and my new Nexus 7), and discovered that it is a potentially multi faceted problem, and solving it can involve a number of different actions. This post aims to present a comprehensive set of suggestions that can hopefully help you fix the issue.

Note that this article is about connecting your Android device to a Windows PC. Also, go these sequentially; the interventions that I believe are more likely to work are listed on top.

Intervention #1: Use a different USB cable

Sounds silly, but you should eliminate the possibility that this is the problem first thing. It actually is not a silly issue at all: if you happen to be using the cable that, say, originally served the function of connecting your laptop to a cooling fan to power it, or came with an old device of some sort that you no longer use, it may work for charging but not for transferring data, because it may have been designed for charging only or in any case not designed for transferring the kind of data that a smartphone requires.

Therefore try connecting with the original cable that came with your device or a high quality cable that you trust, and see if that solves the issue.

Intervention #2: Uninstall and re-install Android drivers

This is actually what worked for me. Here’s how to do it (on Windows 7, but the process should be similar on other versions):

  • Make sure your Android device is connected to the PC first (even if not recognized as a drive).
  • Go the the ‘Device Manager’:  either right click on ‘My Computer’ and select ‘properties’ then ‘Device Manager’  in the left sidebar, or go to ‘Control Panel’ then ‘system’ then ‘Device Manager’ from the left sidebar.
  • Next, find the Android device driver then right click uninstall. The driver may be listed under ‘Portable Devices’ or ‘Other devices’ or it may be listed under it’s own name (see the screenshot below for examples). Uninstall all entries you find. If not found at all then this intervention is not for you. Check some of the other options mentioned in this article.

Uninstall Android driver in Device Manager

  • Once the drivers are uninstalled, unplug your device from the PC. Make sure your computer is connected to the Internet and automatic updating is turned on, then replug your device and allow Windows to find and install the drivers all over again.
  • Finally, go to ‘My Computer’ and check if your device appears as a drive. If so, then your problem is solved.  If not, see if some of the other interventions mentioned here might work for you.

Intervention #3: Make sure that your Android is set to connect as a ‘Media Device’ (MTP)

Go to settings / storage. Next, go to more options (typically upper left dotted area, depending on your device) and click ‘USB Computer connection’. Next click on the ‘Media Device’ (MTP) checkbox. If already checked, try unchecking it, exiting out of settings, then coming back again and rechecking it.

If you do not find this option in ‘Settings/Storage’, move on to the next intervention.

Set to connect as a Media Device (MTP)

Now check if your device appears as a drive in ‘My Computer’ . If not, keep reading below.

Intervention #4: try to connect as a ‘USB Mass Storage’ device

This is an option that Android supports whereby your device storage and your external SD Card (if any) will be mounted as USB mass storage volumes in Windows.

Go to settings / more settings. Next, click ‘USB utilities’, then ‘Connect Storage to PC’ and ‘Turn on USB storage’. It may prompt you to turn off USB debugging if you have it enabled, and it may prompt you to unplug and re-plug your device. It will also install any needed drivers.

USB Storage step1USB Storage step2USB Storage step3

When done, click into ‘My Computer’ and see if the new volume(s) are there. It may not quite be the same as identifying your Android device (since in fact it is doing something different, mounting your Android storage as volumes in Windows), but you will be able to move files back and forth just as you would any normal USB drive.

Intervention #5: Enable USB debugging

This may be the issue in cases where you may have installed certain backup apps on your Android that require USB debugging or other cases where you may have installed Android desktop clients that communicate with and/or backup your device.

To enable USB debugging go to your Android’s settings, then find and click ‘Developer Options’. Click ‘ok’ at the warning screen, then enable ‘Developer Options’  (top right) and check the box next to ‘USB debugging’. Click ‘ok’ at the final warning screen.

Toggle USB debugging step1Toggle USB debugging step2Toggle USB debugging step3Toggle USB debugging step4

Cannot find USB Debugging in setting? In the latest versions of Android (4.2+) this option may be hidden. To unhide it, go to ‘settings’ then ‘About phone’, then scroll down to ‘Build Number’ and tap it seven times. (Note that it will take three taps for the your device to acknowledge that you are trying to unhide ‘developer’s options’. Persist and it will happen.

Once USB debugging is enabled, unplug and replug your device into your PC, and see if that solves the problem.

Intervention #6: check if your device has a faulty base

At this point, if nothing works, you might consider that you have a problem with your hardware. If you have had trouble getting the device to charge, or if you need to manipulate the position of the wire to get it to charge, these are all clues that the problem may be your charging base. (This can happen if you frequently lift your device using the charging wire, that the connection is physically damaged).

One last thing you might try: backup your Android (by means of connecting to your PC wirelessly; there are many apps that can do it for you), and once you are satisfied that everything is backed up, restore your Android to factory settings, and see if that solves the problem. But I actually do not recommend you do this, because it could be a bit of a  hassle. Better show it to a serviceperson who can tell you if the problem is in the hardware, and take it from there.

 

Hope this helps. If you solve this problem by any means different from the interventions above, please let me know about it in the comments section below.


 
 
 
Samer Kurdi

Samer Kurdi

Has been reviewing software since 2006 when he started Freewaregenius.com
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  • Cat

    amazing what just trying a different USB cable can do. i found that to be the issue with an older Coby tablet that i use as an ereader. simply used a different cable and it works every time now.

    • MTP issues

      Having just experienced this, here are my findings: (Samsung SG2)
      I had similar issue – usual windows “failed to install MTP driver”.
      Tried removing drivers – no good
      Tried changing cables, no good.
      Tried #4 it kept telling me “cable attached” even though it wasnt.
      Finally, digging around what worked was powering up with cable attached (ie reboot with cable attached)
      Subsequently what i found was changing from Media to Camera and back solved the problem.

  • tobisham

    Never forget dust and any particles on the connector on the phone, very usual this days of miniusb and iphone-connectors. An old toothbrush do wonders.

  • bruno pagis

    So I’m not the only struggling with my USB devices… I have a Garmin Forerunner 350 running gear, that will perfectly be recognized one day, and totally ignored the next day (same cable same computer, same USB plug, same everything). What a frustration!
    I haven’t been able to download any data from the gear to my computer for the last two weeks, I’m gonna try the suggestion from tobisham, and cleanup the connectors, maybe it will help.
    Something I noticed also, that was not mentionned so far I guess: using a different USB plug on the computer sometimes make a difference.

    And as usual, a big thank you to Samer for freewaregenius.

  • http://cyber-d.blogspot.com dariovolaric

    If all fails, you can always install a free FTP server app and connect to your phone using an FTP client. The added bonus is that you can use sync software (that support FTP) to sync data. Or you can use Bittorrent Sync and share a folder between your phone and pc using wifi.

  • astral_cyborg

    You can also try (re)installing the official PC application of your mobile brand, which contains the USB drivers.

  • Levent

    Intervention #3: Make sure that your Android is set to connect as a ‘Media Device’ (MTP) work for me thanks

  • Marissa

    #2 worked for me. Thanks! very fast and easy steps to follow. :)

  • amrit

    Thanks #3 worked for me.

  • Felipe R Valera

    Hello , Very good post, great the info for how to activate developer options; it does not work for me, I checked everything, finally I connect my phone to another computer with windows vista, it works perfectly, it installed 2 drivers one for the phone, other USB composite device, in my computer with windows 7 was working perfectly but one day stops working , windows is not recognizing the phone, in my computer it shows nothing but if I open control panel devices I was able to see there my cell if I right click and go to troubleshoot this is the message I get problem with Samsung…. USB composite .. device driver software was not successfully installed, I think I have windows update automatically.
    Thanks so much

  • Kaavya

    thank you helped me a lot

  • Boom Pork

    hi hello i have a tablet i dont know who is the manufacturer, i just want to ask i do have the 3 option in “usb computer connection = (MTP, PTP and as Storage)” my android device don’t have “”””USB UTILITIES””” i already check that “””USB DEBUGGING””” thing and still my android device wont recognize, i already restarted it many times still it do nothing to my device, but when i connect the usb to my pc it is charging hope you can help me to fix this thankyou, if you have question please email me and if you already have my answer to fix this.

    here’s my email:BoomPork@yahoo.com

    • Roxy Carroll

      I am having the EXACT same problem. Had Samsung on remote with my pc and phone and it STILL didn’t help

  • Megan

    You are a genius, Thank you. I had to do #5 and #2. I really appreciate you outlining all these options. It was a huge help!

  • sona

    thanku so much… u solved my problem… i wud give u 10 on 10 points for dis

  • Jinjer

    After a year or so not being able to access my phone via USB, your tip #2 solved the issue for me. Yay! Thank you so much!

  • Nick

    Thanks, as a newbie to Android, it was tip #3 for me!

  • Grateful!

    You just saved my sanity!!! Thank you!

  • Junk Data

    Hi! Every time I connect my android always pop up not recognized I already installed the usb driver. My android is not booting and power and volume button not working but the pc detected as unrecognized device. The LED light just light everytime I connect to pc or charging. Please help. TIA.