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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.