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date 5.Oct.2014

■ Extract media from your Android mobile phone without special software

You've just bought yet another mobile phone and guess what, it asks you to install a new software suite to synchronize its content with your PC or laptop. Such software is bulky, resource hungry and invariably style-over-function. Most of the time you don't hook up your phone or camera, but they nevertheless keep running, checking for updates, and doing all sorts of annoying things. Next year you buy a new phone and it adds its own syncrhonization suite on top. Surely there must be a way to avoid piling junk software on your system?

There are simple ways to extract pictures from your phone, for example via BlueTooth or sending it as an email attachment from your phone (over a wifi connection). These methods are ok for 1-2 pictures but not when you need to get all the pictures out. But thanks to the extensibility of windows shell, most phones and cameras appear as a virtual device under My Computer (or This PC if you prefer). You can drill down and find where the pictures are stored in the phone using the familiar folder concept, just like as if your phone was an external hard disk. You may find that your other file manager cannot enter such extended folders, but xplorer² can do it for you. All this without installing the phone's software; just connect the phone with its cable to a USB port.

Some phones (e.g my Sony W995) have a special mode to turn them into a proper USB stick, with drive letter and all. I am not sure if it works with an iPhone or you are stuck using its iTunes software.

Recent android versions have removed the possibility of assigning drive letters to USB-connected phones, and the MTP connection described in this article can get too slow to copy out photos and videos. I recommend storing your photos in the phone's SD card, then using the card directly to import your files to the PC

Once you enter the phone and you browse its folders, you can see all the usual details like names and size/date information for your pictures, even thumbnail previews. The pictures are stored usually under a folder called DCIM, either in the phone itself or its external memory card.

The pictures are numbered consecutively like DSC02510.JPG or using the date as you can see in the pic to the right. Sorting by name puts the pictures in the order they were taken (equivalent to arranging by date). Using xplorer² in dual pane mode you can put the phone to one side and the PC folder on the other (e.g. a folder under My Pictures), then you can drag-drop the pictures to extract them off the phone.
android phone showing as virtual device

Once extracted you can delete the media files from your phone, as in any regular folder (select and hit <DEL> key), making room for new photos. You can manually organize the photos once in your PC in folders, changing names, adding tags and all the other usual file management tasks.

Here is a demo video browsing mobile phones as folders play

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