How to Fix It When Android File Transfer Isn't Working on Mac

Troubleshooting tips to help you move those files

Google developed the free Android File Transfer app to help you get files off your Android phone and onto another device, including your Mac.

That process can be finicky at times, so here's how to fix it if Android File Transfer for Mac is not working properly.

Common Causes of Android File Transfer Problems

Often when you're having trouble with Android File Transfer, it's because the phone is not in the proper mode to transfer files. Other causes include bad cables or bad USB ports. Sometimes, third party software can interfere with the proper operation of the Android File Transfer app. Sometimes a computer that is not running the latest software can have trouble.

What to Do When Android File Transfer Isn't Working

There are a number of troubleshooting steps you can try to resolve this issue. Most of the time, after you try a step, it will be necessary to re-launch the Android File Transfer app. To do so, close the app or error message, then click Applications > Android File Transfer.

Here are the steps you can try in order of the most likely to succeed.

  1. Put your phone into File Transfer Mode. Most of the time, when Android File Transfer fails to connect, it's because the phone is not set up to properly transfer data. When an Android phone is plugged into a USB port, most phones default to just charging. This regardless of what USB port the phone is plugged into, whether it is a computer USB port or a wall charger.

    The process is similar on most Android phones, though as always, you may need to follow a slightly different path. Swipe down your notification shade and tap Android System - Charging this device via USB > Tap for more options > File Transfer/Android Auto.

    The steps to take to enable file transfer over USB on Android.
  2. Check your USB Cable. Often, your USB cable can be to blame. Check the length of your cable for cuts, frays, or bends in the connectors. Alternatively, you can try a different cable to see if you have better results.

  3. Try a different USB port. Sometimes if a USB port isn't working quite right, it can cause trouble with this process. Switching to a different port might give you better results. 

  4. Reboot your phone/Mac/both. It's a cliché, but it works. Try powering off your phone or your Mac or both and turning them back on.

  5. Update macOS. If you haven't updated your Mac's software in a while, try making sure you have the latest updates to the operating system. It's always a good idea to make sure you're using the latest and greatest software out there.

  6. Reinstall Android File Transfer. It's always possible that the app itself has become damaged or corrupt. In that case, simply drag the app into the trash and reinstall it from the website listed above. 

  7. Uninstall Kies or Smart Switch.Those using older Samsung phones may have previously installed Kies or Smart Switch which are Samsung apps that perform similar tasks like file management. Unfortunately, that software has been known to interfere with the proper operation of Android File Transfer. Look for them in the Applications folder and if you find them, drag them to the trash.

  8. Turn on USB debugging. USB debugging is a developer mode for Android that opens up a lot of functionality that isn't otherwise consumer-facing. Some phones may have file transfer hidden behind developer options, so this can be a good route to try.

    In order to turn on USB debugging, you need to enable Developer mode which opens up a lot of functionality that most consumers should be careful with. To learn more, check out our article about How to Enable Developer Mode on Android.

  9. Use a different Android file transfer app. Android File Transfer isn't the only game in town. There are other options. Apps like Dr. Fone and Anydroid can be purchased for $30-$40 and can handle file mangement, photos, contacts, backups and more. Open MTP is an open source option you can download from Github. It's free, but it's more of a nerdy option for those who can handle pulling a Github repository.