For the past years, a common trend in mobile technology is to become wire-free. Our Android phones are capable of sending and fetching files using the cloud, connect to the internet over Wi-FI, beam audio content to our headsets without the need of a cable and even charge wirelessly.
But even if almost all Android models are perfectly capable of connecting to a PC wirelessly, most of us still prefer to plug them into their PC the old fashion way when trying to transfer files. There are advantages of going with the classic approach – the transfer speed is usually faster and the connection is, in theory, more reliable.
Unfortunately, in reality, things don’t always work as they should and your mobile device might not get detected by your PC.
Ideally, when you connect your Android device to a PC, Windows will immediately treat it as an MTP (Media Transfer Protocol) connection and install the necessary drivers so that it shows inside File Explorer.
If you rooted your device, used it as an emulator for an Android Studio / Eclipse project or installed a new ROM on it, chances are you installed the ADB driver (Android Debug Bridge). This will allow your PC to send commands to your device but has the habit of tampering with the standard MTP settings, which will cause your device to stop appearing on My computer.
But keep in mind that the ADB driver is not solely responsible for preventing your phone from showing up on PC. This problem has numerous potential causes and can appear on devices that never used the ADB driver.
With this in mind, we’ve created a collection of methods that will make your phone appear in File Explorer again. Since the guide includes a lot of troubleshooting, we ask that you start with the first potential fix and move down until you find a method that works for you.
Method 1: Restarting both devices and using another port
If you connect your Android device and nothing happens, this should be the first course of action. USB ports can easily become faulty, so it’s usually best to rule out the obvious stuff first. Here’s what you need to do:
- Disconnect the cable and restart both devices.
- Once both are fully rebooted, re-connect the cable, but this time make sure you use a different USB.
Method 2: Use a different USB cable
Now let’s rule out the possibility of a faulty USB cable. USB cables don’t always break completely, that’s why it’s usually hard to identify them as the problem.
If you look closely inside the micro-USB port, you’ll see a few gold connectors. They are used for charging purposes but also facilitate the transfer of information when connected to a different device. It’s enough for one or two to change their position or break for the cable to stop working. Chances are it will continue to charge but it won’t have enough functionality to support a file transfer. Here’s what you need to do:
- Connect your phone to a different cable and see if it shows up in My Computer.
- If it shows, your problem is solved. If it’s not showing, change the USB port and listen closely for the Windows sound that signals new connected devices.
- If you hear the sound, most likely you don’t have a hardware issue and you’re dealing with a driver problem.
Method 3: Cleaning the micro-USB port
Let’s make sure there aren’t any foreign objects that are blocking the micro-USB port, preventing the file transfer from happening. If you use to carry your phone in your pocket too much, the micro-USB port might suffer from lint accumulation. This can hinder the transfer of electricity and prevent your smartphone from exchanging data. Here’s what you need to do:
- Use a flashlight to take a look inside the micro-USB port and see if you can spot anything that shouldn’t be there.
Note: If you see anything that shouldn’t be there, move over with the next steps. If the port is clean, start with method 4.
- Make sure your device is powered off and use a small pair of tweezers, a needle or toothpick to drag any lint out of the port.
- Dip a small cotton swab in rubbing alcohol, insert it into the charging port and rotate it so that you get any of the remaining dirt out.
- Let it dry for at least 2 hours before attempting to power up again.
If you went on with the troubleshooting guides above, we successfully eliminated most hardware related issues. Now let’s start dealing with the potential software problems.
Method 4: Connecting as Storage
If your device isn’t showing up in My Computer, you might be using the wrong connection mode. Android knows several different modes to connect with other devices – charging only, MTP, PTP, and MIDI, among others. For our purpose, we need to use an MTP connection. Here’s what you need to do:
- Plug in your device to your PC.
- On your phone, pull down the notification windows and select the MTP select. Depending on the manufacturer, this option may have different names like Transfer files or Device File Manager.
Method 5: Updating the MTP Driver
If the methods above didn’t work, let’s see if you’re dealing with a driver problem. We’ll start by confirming that your PC sees your Android as an MTP device.
Open Control Panel and go to Devices and Printers. If you manage to locate the name of your Android device, the MTP connection is working properly. If your device is named MTP or Unspecified, you’ll need to update some drivers.
Fortunately, you can easily fix it by tweaking some settings in Device manager. Here’s how:
- Right-click on my computer and click on Device Manager (Manage on Windows 10).
- Now expand Portable devices and see if your device is located there. If it doesn’t contain your device’s real name or it has a yellow exclamation mark, right-click on it and tap on Update Driver.
Note: If the Portable devices tab is not available, look for an entry with “ADB” in the name.
- The Update Driver window will now ask you to either search for the driver automatically or to browse your computer manually for it. Choose the latter.
- You’ll be presented with a location box, but you need to click on “Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer”.
- Select Android Device from the long list of hardware types.
- Click on MTP USB Device to highlight it and then click Next.
7. The old driver should be replaced with a new one. Wait until the process finishes. Your Android device should now be seen as a multimedia device in File Manager.
Method 6: Re-Installing Android Drivers
While we’re here, let’s make sure you have the latest Android drivers installed on your PC. There’s also a slight chance your drivers might not have installed properly or have been tampered by other services such as the ADB. Here’s how to reinstall the Android drivers:
- Connect your Android to the PC and go back to Device Manager.
- Look for your device name under Portable Devices. If you don’t see this entry, look under Other devices.
- Right-click on the device and click on Uninstall.
- After your device disappears from the list, disconnect the cable.
- Connect it again and wait for Windows 10 to reinstall the Android drivers.
- Wait to see if your device appears inside My computer.
Method 7: Download Media Feature Pack (Windows 10 only)
If updating the MTP driver and the Android driver didn’t do the trick, maybe a different driver is the culprit. As I’ve stated above, your Android device uses an MTP protocol to transfer data back and forth to your PC. MTP transfer has common processes with Windows Media Player, Windows 10
MTP transfer has common processes with Windows Media Player and some versions of Windows 10 versions don’t have the Media Player installed by default. In those cases, related technologies such as the MTP protocol won’t work as they should.
Luckily, this can be fixed by installing the Media Feature Pack for the N and KN versions of Windows 10. Download it from here.
Method 8: Connecting as a USB Mass Storage
Some versions of Android(particularly older versions) will let you connect as a USB Mass Storage device. USB Mass storage doesn’t use the same drivers as an MTP connection. It’s similar to connecting an external SD card or a flash drive to your pc. Instead of recognizing your device as an Android, your PC will treat it like mass storage volume and will mount it accordingly.
Of course, you won’t be able to do things like connecting to your smartphone PC suite, but at least you’ll be able to move files back and forth. Here’s how:
- Go to Settings > More Settings.
- Tap on USB utilities and then on Connect Storage to PC.
- Tap on Connect Storage to PC and then on Turn on USB storage.
- Wait until it installs the needed drivers.
- On your PC, open up My Computer and see if your Android appears as a Windows volume.
Method 9: Enabling USB Debugging
USB Debugging is meant for advanced users that test and decompile apps on real devices. But since it works with elevated privileges, it might just solve your problem. Here’s what you need to do:
- Go to Settings and scroll down to the About or About phone entry.
- Tap on the Build Number seven times.
- Now you should be able to see a new entry called Developer Option.
- Tap on Developer options and tap on USB debugging to enable it.
- Plug in your device and agree with the message asking to Allow USB debugging on your phone.