You have an Android. Check. You have a computer. Check, check. You want to connect your Android to your computer to rip files off of it (or add files to it, like all those ringtones you spent hours designing). Check times three. You plug your phone in to your desktop or laptop’s USB port and…nothing happens.
Welcome to Lifehacker reader Stu’s little corner of tech hell, which he describes for this week’s tech Q&A:
For years now I’ve transferred files between my Samsung S7 phone and my computer with a USB cable and everything worked fine. Then a few weeks ago I found that Windows 10 File Explorer no longer recognises my phone. It’s recognised in Device Manager, and it works fine on my Windows 10 laptop. I’ve spent hours on the phone with Samsung and Microsoft with no solution. Here’s what I’ve tried without success:
- Uninstalling and reinstalling phone drivers.
- Using several different USB cables
- Using different USB ports
- Updating the whole Win 10 operating system
- Making sure USB debugging is on in the phone
- Making sure the phone is in MTP mode
There are probably a few I forgot, but if you have any thoughts I’d be grateful to hear them.
Connecting your Android to your PC should be easy, right?
I apologise in advance, Stu, if this answer-turned-column is a bit short, because you’ve already done a lot of the troubleshooting I would have suggested. And that’s awesome! You’re already six steps ahead of the game. Even though you weren’t able to come up with a working solution, the fact that you can cross out a number of ideas on your “won’t something fix this, please” list is a step in the right direction, and it helps us narrow down to a few other tricks to try.
Given that nothing has solved your issue, and you’ve tried all of the usual steps I would have recommended, my first and initial thought is to factory reset your phone. I realise that’s leading with the nuke, rather than the surgical strike, but I wonder if simply starting from scratch on your Android might cure whatever setting is now making it impossible for Windows 10 to see your phone.
Start by backing up your working phone using Samsung Cloud. Once you’re done, factory reset it, and I recommend not restoring from any kind of backup when you’re setting it up the second time. Do the same things you’ve already done — enable USB debugging, set the phone in MTP mode, et cetera — and connect it to your Windows 10 system. If your laptop still can’t see the phone, I feel like we can rule out the phone as the culprit. Almost.
One thing I’d then try is seeing if you can get any Windows 10 system to recognise your phone. Even though we’re in quarantine times, maybe you can borrow a friend’s laptop or desktop, plug it in using the same methods I just described, and see what happens. If it shows up in File Explorer, then we can reasonably assume that there’s something wrong with either your laptop or your Windows 10 OS. If not, well, shoot. I have no idea what’s wrong. Maybe rooting your Galaxy S7 and installing a third-party Android OS might fix your issue? We’re getting to extreme solutions here, but this is a vexing issue if you frequently need to transfer files between your phone and laptop.
If the another Windows 10 computer lets you access your Android, and yours does not, my initial thought would be to just say “screw it” and reinstall your version of Windows 10. Again, it’s another nuke, but I often find it takes less time to set up Windows 10 from scratch than it does to try and troubleshoot an especially problematic issue you’re having with the OS. Plus, you get all the added benefits of having a lovely clean, fresh, and speedy system to work with.
However, before you go with this approach, clone your existing drive. If your Windows 10 reinstall doesn’t solve your issue, you can just overwrite it with your clone to get your old OS back (and your data/files/settings/apps/etc.)
While you’re at it, I’d make sure you’ve also installed any BIOS updates or updated USB drivers that your laptop’s manufacturer might have made available. It’s possible that this could fix your issue, too, if you haven’t already tried. (If it’s an older laptop, odds are good that whatever Windows 10 is using for your USB drivers is more up to date than what your laptop’s manufacturer has on their website. Please don’t go installing, say, some kind of driver pack that was posted five years ago.)
My suspicion — which seems confirmed by other reports — is that some kind of major Windows Update has borked the Samsung MTP driver. So, before you nuke and reinstall Windows 10, consider trying this advice (Step #7). Find your connected galaxy S7 in Device Manager, even if it’s listed as an “unknown device,” and try updating the driver using the “Let me pick from a list…” method. Select “Android Phone,” and select the “MTP USB Device” option instead of “MTP Device.”
Otherwise, you could try using an app/service like AirDroid or SuperBeam to get your files to and from your Android to your laptop. You could also pick up a cheap microSD card and USB reader to manage your files between devices that way — cumbersome as it might be compared to a direct connection. Finally, if this is all driving you crazy, you could always dual-boot an earlier version of Windows 10 (or even, say, Windows 8.1 or something) on your laptop. It’s really not ideal from a productivity standpoint, but it’s certainly a solution.
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