Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

Android File Transfer on Nexus 5X

I’ve used Mac for many years, and Android smartphones too, and I never had trouble figuring out how to move files between my Mac and my phone. But now comes along the Nexus 5X, or perhaps it’s because of Android 6.0 Marshmallow, or maybe it’s to do with Type-C USB cables, I met with a stumbling block. My Mac could not see my phone.

Nexus 5X in front of Retina MacBook Pro

I wasn’t using the original Type-C to Type-C cable, because I had no computer with a Type-C port. So perhaps the problem might be with my Type-C to Type-A cable. I tried others, including a Type-C to Micro-B USB adapter. Android File Transfer, the app on the Mac used to speak MTP with an Android device, would complain that the connected device could not be accessed.

Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 9.35.19 AM

The usual reason for this, as the pop-up message explains, is that the Android device is locked. But my phone was not locked. A casual Google search found suggestions about installation of Android File Transfer, USB connection mode, and possible cable problems.

Android File Transfer wasn’t the issue for me. I didn’t think USB connection mode was the issue. I checked anyway, that under Settings, Developer options, Select USB Configuration, I already had MTP (Media Transfer Protocol) selected. This is the correct mode.

So that leaves cable problems. My non-original cables come from a source that I’ve come to trust. Their cables have never given me any trouble, and I’ve always found their build quality to be excellent. I don’t have a computer with a Type-C port, so it’s not like I could use Google’s original cable.

Solution? It’s quite simple, actually, but it managed to elude me for a few moments. It’s not entire my fault, you know. There was nothing in the notification area to suggest I should check in there. But as it turns out, when I pulled down the notification drawer (or notification shade), there was something in there.


Yes, there it is, USB was used only for charging, despite what I see under Developer options. Tap on the item and then choose MTP.

I didn’t really think my cables were defective anyway, because I ran adb (Android Debugger Bridge) and had no trouble seeing and communicating with the phone. I was just unaware of the behaviour now, whether it be Nexus 5X (and presumably Nexus 6P), or Android 6.0 Marshmallow, or USB Type-C ports, would be in this manner.

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