One of the many cool things about Android is the fact that you can access every aspect of the operating system. Unlike iOS, you can see all system files and have access to all files and folders on the device. If you are new to the operating system and want to know how to upload, download and view all your Android files, this tutorial is for you.
Android has its own file manager but there are also third-party file managers to make your life easier. Since the native file manager is part of every Android device, we will use it in our examples.
How to see your Android files
The easiest way to see your Android files is to access the device storage on the handset. You can do this in two ways: from the app drawer or from the settings.
Access "My Files" from the app drawer
If you think the best path is the path of least resistance, this method is for you. Accessing all the files on your Android device is very simple:
- Open your devices app drawer – Depending on the version of Android software you are using, you can click on the home screen icon which has several dots or you can swipe up the screen.
- Use the search bar to quickly locate the "My Files" app.
- Or, locate it among your other apps and tap on it.
- Select folders to access the files you want to view.
Access files from settings
This method isn't exactly the fastest way to get your files, but it does allow you to quickly see different types of files.
- Go to Settings, Storage & USB and Internal Storage – Since settings vary depending on your manufacturer, use the search bar in “Settings” and type “Storage” to find it quickly.
- Tap the three-dot menu icon in the top right corner
- Tap "Advanced".
- Select one of the options that appear. For the purposes of this article, we will select “Files”.
- Browse the folders by selecting the one you want to view.
Using a computer
You can also view files when your phone is connected to your computer. It works on both Mac and Windows computers.
- Plug your Android phone into your computer with a USB cable.
- Set it for file transfer if the cable is not used by default. Wait for Windows to detect it.
- Open the phone in Windows Explorer and Browser as you would any other hard drive.
Windows treats Android devices as external storage so you can drag, drop, add, move, and delete files and folders as you see fit. The only limitation is that Android can only handle one file or folder at a time.
How Android orders files
Although you can see and manipulate Android files in Explorer, the file system is not the same as in Windows. Device storage is the internal memory of your device. Portable or SD Card is external storage, the SD card attached to your handset, if you have one installed.
The SD card can be configured to store images, videos, games, and other data. Not all apps can be loaded onto an SD card, so if something is missing, check the device storage.
Android core files will still be stored in the device storage. Many applications, games and programs will also be stored there. In Device Storage, you will see folders created by the Android operating system.
DCIM is the camera and is where your images will be stored. By default this will be on device storage but can be configured to store on the SD card. The download should speak for itself, just like Movies, Music, Pictures, and all other folders.
If your device has an SD card, it will appear next to Device Storage both on the phone and in Windows Explorer. You can browse and explore it in exactly the same way. In Windows 10, it may show as Card, External Storage or SD Card depending on the type of card and your phone.
You explore the SD card the same way as any Windows file. If you see a DCIM folder, that means your phone is set to save pictures to the card instead of internal storage. Same goes for music, movies, playlists, and other files. As mentioned, not all apps and files can be saved to external storage, so you might not see everything you expect.
Upload and Download Android Files
Now that you know how to see your Android files, you should be able to move, add, and edit them too. Uploading and downloading Android files is a simple matter of dragging and dropping them into Windows or selecting the menu option on your phone.
On an Android device:
- Go to Settings, Storage & USB and Internal Storage.
- Select the file or folder you want to move by pressing and holding the icon until it says selected.
- Tap the three-dot menu icon and select "Move to" or "Copy to."
- Select the destination and confirm the move or copy.
Third-party file managers
The Android file manager is quite capable but isn't the easiest to use or navigate. If you don't like it much, you can download and install third-party file managers from the Google Play Store. Look in File Manager and pick an app that you like the look of and has good reviews. Download and install, then use default. Most installation wizards walk you through replacing the original file manager so you're in safe hands.
Are you using a third-party file manager for Android? Which do you use? Tell us about your experience below!