Convenient (and secure) way to transfer files from Android to PC?

Usually I use Signal’s “Note to Self” feature to transfer files from my phone to my PC. I share it with myself via Signal, open up the desktop app and download it there.

However, Signal Desktop can only be connected to a single device at a time, and I want to transfer files from another phone which doesn’t have Signal installed and doesn’t have a SIM card.

I want to transfer individual files on occasion, not synchronize an entire folder, so something like Syncthing is probably overkill. Bluetooth is just too slow and using a cable is less convenient.

Do you have any suggestions on how to do that? I’m using an Android phone and a Windows PC.

Thanks!

In Windows I would have you try to do something similar as it would be done in Linux.

On a Linux PC, this is pretty easy at the commandline (almost every base Linux install includes python3 now)

$ cd test-dir
$ python -m http.server 8000

That will index the files in “test-dir” and present them as a webpage on port 8000. Then you can http://your-pc-ip-address:8000 and download whatever files are in that directory from your phone’s web browser. Then CTRL-C to stop the webserver when you’re done.

You can probably do the equivalent on Windows command line, but you’d need to install Python 3.x first.

Yes, it works on Windows.

That’s very useful and I thank you for the tip, but I wanted to transfer files the other way around, from my phone into my PC.

Is there a way to run that on Android? I guess it would even be possible to connect to my phone via the Wi-Fi Hotspot feature, so other devices on my local network weren’t able to access the files while the http server was running.

Man, sorry. I didn’t apparently read things correctly.

On the phone side, there are “wifi transfer” apps which do the same thing, but I have nothing specific to recommend for Android and would tell you to choose carefully.

I dont understand why Syncthing is overkill. The initial setup is a bit fiddly and its not even bothersome. After that, its just smooth synchronization of files from there on.

I want to transfer individual files on occasion (…)
Bluetooth is just too slow and using a cable is less convenient.

The thing is that under this criteria, Syncthing is actually a great alternative. You can create a separate send-only folder on your phone where you move or copy files you want to transfer, and then turn on Syncthing on your computer as well when you need them.

EDIT: Another great alternative that is no longer maintained was Firefox Send. However there are forks of the Firefox Send project still around and working, and that you can use and even host yourself.

However there are also other alternatives available that might work better for your use case:

  1. KDEConnect: Despite the name you can use it with Windows, the link I provided will direct you to their website for more instructions. I have never used this one specifically but used forks of this app and they work relatively well.

  2. Onion Share: This one is listed by PrivacyTools in the file sharing section. Even though there is no app (I think) you can still access it through the browser on your phone and it should work all the same.

  3. Airdroid: It’s been a while since I’ve used this one and things may have changed. In fact I just tried and the site is quite different from what I remember so I’ll leave you to do your own research. However it always worked great for me, simply scan a QR code from your phone and it creates a connection from your phone to your computer. I don’t think this is very privacy-friendly, so use at your own risk.

  4. Envelop: I found about this one just now and it does look good. I tried it quickly and didn’t quite work but I guess is because you need to sign-up or something. Again I’ll leave it here for you to try on your own should it work for you.

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Use a private mail service like tutanota or protonmail since you said you were going to use it as file sharing tutanota would be better

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If you don’t want to use cable or Bluetooth: Some file managers have FTP server function, make sure that you are on your local home network, start the server, and connect to it from your computer. Data stays inside your home network. But be careful and don’t enable the server in a public network. Better not allow anonymous login in case you do that accidentally.

FTP server on computer and client on Android works too. Or SFTP. Or HTTP server on the phone.
Choose your software wisely, prefer open source.

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ProtonDrive is also a thing, although I’m not sure on mobile client support.

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Protondrive is invite only otherwise you have to pay to use it

OP didn’t say anything about paid/free so assumed it’s an option.

Not available on the Proton app obviously but if you just login into a browser beta.protonmail.com then you can access ProtonDrive (depending your phone screen size once logged-in you may need to turn it 90 degrees to get the view large enough to see the menus to select drive/contacts/mail… otherwise you’ll stay in the mail view). From there you can just add the page to homescreen to make it as convenient as a native app to access.

I don’t think it’s invite only anymore. May have been in the past but I’m pretty sure now anyone (except free members) can access it from the beta website. And yes it’s part of a paid plan… like a lot of things in life : when it’s good usually it costs something to use unless you are the creator of it.

That’s what I’ll probably do, since I usually have to transfer small files. It’s very practical. Select file > share > Tutanota > send it to myself. Done. Then I just have to open Tutanota’s desktop app and download it from there.

Don’t get me wrong, Syncthing is a great option, especially because the connection between devices is encrypted (unlike some other file transfer tools that run on LAN), but I’m looking for the most practical way to do this securely, so having to start Syncthing on both devices and then stop it (not to mention transfering the file to the send-only folder before that) is just too much for me.

@LOK_48SEAL Thank you for the tips! Onion Share is an interesting option, as it has end-to-end encryption, although it’s a bit overkill to use the Tor network in my use case. I’ve used Airdroid in the past but AFAIK the connection is not encrypted, so the file transfer is exposed to the local network.

While researching about this, I came across ShareDrop, which claims to securely transfer files directly between devices using WebRTC. I’m not sure if it is encrypted, but it’s a very practical option to transfer files between devices nonetheless (it runs in the browser). And it is FOSS.

I could never get behind anything that claims to be secure and uses WebRTC. But that’s me.

Turn on “ADB over network” then on PC use adb pull … over home WiFi?

Interesting option this ShareDrop, but I’m also a bit skeptical about webRTC being used. I’ll wait for some feedback from the community in the next months to see if it’s reliable enough.

WebRTC is probably a technology that could be implemented securely. What I’m getting at here is, the problem is less about any of these technologies, but how they get implemented … eg, in web browsers. The average web browser (Chrome, Firefox, Brave, Opera, whatever…) is a massive pile of tech that’s been bolted on over many years. It’s probably the single largest and most complex application you run on any platform.

Any website that claims to run some WebRTC-based thing securely is making a bet on your behalf that all the browsers you might use have implemented it safely.