I would like to remotely and manually or automatically (preferred) backup files on my sd card on my Android phone by copying them directly to my computer's hard drive or external hard drive without using a cloud online storage service like Dropbox. Why? Well, I don't want them or any other company having a copy of my files.

Can this be done by turning my pc into a FTP server, or by buying an external hard drive that connects to the internet, or some other way?

Looking forward to your response.

  • What OS are you running on your desktop PC?
    – misha256
    Feb 2, 2016 at 17:59
  • @gentlesea. You should be asking a new question. What you are asking for in your bounty is very different from the original question and you don't provide sufficient information (see above comment).
    – DavidPostill
    Feb 5, 2016 at 10:18
  • @gentlesea for example the current question says "without using a cloud online storage service like Dropbox". Your bounty asks "Shall be a cloud and no cable or interaction necessary."
    – DavidPostill
    Feb 5, 2016 at 10:21

9 Answers 9


A NAS might be the way you want to go. Network Attached Storage is basically a harddisk with a small computer attached. I have personally used both Synology and Western digital disks (Go for Synology), and they are basically linux machines, which means you can mod them.

I did exactly what you are trying to do by enabling SFTP on my Synology NAS, and installing an SFTP client on my phone. This has the further benefit of being able to use public-private key validation instead of passwords, giving a major boost to security.

OpenSSH SFTP server: http://www.openssh.org/

Android SFTP client: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=lysesoft.andftp&hl=en

SFTP is simply an extension of SSH. For more on logging on to SSH with keys see here: http://sshkeychain.sourceforge.net/mirrors/SSH-with-Keys-HOWTO/SSH-with-Keys-HOWTO-4.html

  • Thank you very much for your response. I would have preferred to not buy new hardware? Is this not possible? Now, with regards to your instructions, once I purchase the Synology NAS, would instructions come with it to enable SFTP on it? Would I need to download something from the OpenSSH website to enable this? And finally, I know nothing of Linux. I only know Windows. Would that be a problem. Thanks.
    – Rolo
    Jul 2, 2013 at 7:53
  • 2
    You can install an SFTP server directly on your computer instead. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_FTP_server_software Jul 2, 2013 at 8:00
  • OpenSSH is found as a basic component of most linux distributions, and should be present in the NAS when its bought. Jul 2, 2013 at 8:01

In theory, if its a powered hard drive formatted with FAT32, you could simply get a USB OTG cable and plug it in. I've tried it with my tablet and it works with external hard drives with their own PSU and some USB thumb drives.

  • I know I can do this, but it requires me remembering. I am so upset that I lost all my data on a sd card (my computer or phone did something to it as I was backing it up with a usb cable and no device recognizes the card) that I want to immediately back it up. So, if I take a picture while out on the road, the minute after I do so, I want to back it up directly to my computer from wherever I am at.
    – Rolo
    Jul 2, 2013 at 7:46
  • As an automatized variant you could keep a small USB drive in your phone/pocket. Then use something like tasker or cron to backup when you connect, or every hour, etc. Something like this: google.com.hk/…
    – jiggunjer
    Feb 2, 2016 at 1:56

You can use AirDroid [for free]. Its a web-based app that runs on your android device and allows you control the device and also copy files.


I'm using bittorrent sync to that effect, it syncs the folders you pick between your phone and your PC (and any other devices you pick) without resorting to external cloud storage. It's also serverless, which is a nice plus.

If you don't trust them, Syncthing is an open-source alternative which has much the same functionality.

Both work like dropbox, syncing files in real time.

  • problem with sync, as opposed to backup, is that deleting stuff from the PC will also wipe his SD card remotely. Hope he doesn't have an evil little sister :)
    – jiggunjer
    Feb 2, 2016 at 1:38
  • But he could have a script set up say a Batch file that automatically copies the files from the current location into a backup location. I could show and example batch file if interested the batch script is also looped so it will continue to backup whatever you put in the folder. Feb 2, 2016 at 8:18

(1) Using Teamviewer's file transfer and an internet connection

works when you're away from home

here's how


(2) ES File Explorer File Manager and LAN

works when PC and Phone are connected to the same network (faster and easier)

  1. Download and install ES File Explorer File Manager from Google Play.
  2. Share a folder on you PC
  3. Open the app on your phone, go to LAN, hit the scan icon on top, it'll find your PC and you can transfer files just as if you're working on your phone


  • you can also add devices by using local IP address
  • you will need to set sharing settings to (edit) if you want to copy to your PC
  • It's recommended you have a secure Wifi network so no one else can access the shared folderm and it's better to stop sharing once done

I'm surprised that nobody said before, even if this is not a remote solution.

The most straightforward way (system and software independent) to "backup files on my SD card on my Android phone by copying them directly to my computer's hard drive or external hard drive" about which I can think is to unmount the SD card [1], extract it from the device, and connect in the SD slot of your computer or in any USB port through an USB adapter or USB reader.

Your system will recognize it as a normal USB storage attached and you can copy, backup, modify as you want.

If you ever want to remove your memory card from your phone then you should go into your devices Settings then tap on Storage or SD card and phone storage and tap Unmount SD card [1].


If you do not trust any 3rd parties company to store your data (and I can easily agree with it) you may reserve some doubt on the software houses too (unless you do not have access to the source code of the program or you execute it in an isolated environment). So a solution can be to directly connect the SD card to your computer minimizing the number of software that can access to your data.

  • you missed the word "remotely" but I agree that the fastest way is a trusty good old usb cable. Jan 30, 2016 at 14:08
  • 1
    @MaherFattouh For this I was wondering :-) I give so much more importance to the privacy and security aspect that I missed :-) BTW if you want to decrease the risk of 3rd parties intrusion a direct way is the only one...
    – Hastur
    Jan 30, 2016 at 14:10

Everyone puts their phone on a charger at night.

Why not backup your data when that happens too?

There are two methods of modifying your charger setup to accomodate this:

  1. Old-school solution: Having your old laptop under the bed that your charge cable plugs into, with a batch script that copies your files when your phone is plugged in at your night-stand.

  2. Cleaner solution: If your phone supports OTG while charging, use an OTG+charge cable to make a direct backup to a flash drive while charging.

Old-school solution disadvantage: will require a laptop to be running all the time, and Androids do not mount a drive letter, making it difficult to back up automatically.

Cleaner solution potential disadvantage: requires Android kernel that allow OTG while charging.

Clean solution will also require an OTG+Charge cable: (Amazon)

OTG Charge cable

Once you have that, you can plug your existing charger cable into the female end, and hook up a 32GB flash drive into the USB port, or a FAT32 HDD that you can stow underneath your bed.

The software side is pretty easy with the OTG cable thanks to Android:

Download Tasker from Play Store, setup a "profile" Profile>State>USB connected and create a new Task to copy your files you need copied. You may also have to run a task to delete old copies on the flash drive before it gets full.

Tasker UI screenshot:

Tasker screenshot

This guide has some good shell commands for copying all of your pictures to external media via Tasker: Tasker shell copy DCIM pictures

The guide let's us in on a shortcut to copy all .jpg files:

cp /sdcard/*.jpg /storage/USBDriveA/backups/

If OTG+Charge doesn't end up working for you, you can try the old laptop trick.

You'll have to use a Scheduled Task to launch a batch file in middle of the night. Here's an idea of what the batch file will do:

adb pull /sdcard/DCIM
pull: building file list...
pull: /sdcard/DCIM/090313-110415.jpg -> ./090313-110415.jpg
pull: /sdcard/DCIM/090313-110412.jpg -> ./090313-110412.jpg
pull: /sdcard/DCIM/090313-110408.jpg -> ./090313-110408.jpg
pull: /sdcard/DCIM/090313-110406.jpg -> ./090313-110406.jpg
pull: /sdcard/DCIM/090313-110404.jpg -> ./090313-110404.jpg
5 files pulled. 0 files skipped.
61 KB/s (338736 bytes in 5.409s)

adb pull basically just copies the files (or folder in this case) to the working directory of adb.exe.

I hope this helps!

  • The bounty says "no cable or interaction necessary"
    – DavidPostill
    Feb 5, 2016 at 10:35
  • And not everyone puts their phone on a charger at night. Some of us only do that once per week.
    – Hennes
    Feb 5, 2016 at 11:10
  • The bounty asks a different question, I was looking at the OPs question. Perhaps the bounty should be separated into a new question if you want an answer for that. Feb 5, 2016 at 11:18

I'd say the easiest solution might be to get a personal cloud NAS drive like WD My Cloud that targets users who wish to run and maintain their own personal cloud storage.

It supports automatic backups and has apps for Android, iPhone, Windows and Mac. It also has a web interface where you could access your files.

Other competing solutions are CloudBox by Lacie and Central by Seagate.

If you'd rather not buy new hardware, the simplest (and rather kludgy) way I can think of to back up files to your computer (assuming you're running Windows and it's always on) is to set up a network share and use a SMB aware file manager app (like FX) on your phone to copy files manually to your computer over a local Wi-Fi network.

You could automate this using Tasker if you use a rooted Android phone and are able to mount the SMB share on your filesystem. However, some trial and error may be required to get it to work. I don't know if you can achieve this on an iPhone.

To access and backup your files when you're not connected to your wireless home network, you could set up Tonido Server on your PC or Mac and access your files over the web. It has mobile apps for a Android, iPhone, iPad, Windows Phone and Blackberry.

EDIT: I haven't used Tonido but I believe it can also back up files over a local wireless network. If it can do that, you can skip my kludgy SMB/FX/Tasker solution altogether.


I recommend using the free MyPhoneExplorer PC version together with its Android Client.

Both versions have the option to start with the device. One can also setup the client to launch automatically when a certain Wi-Fi network is within range.

On the PC side, one can schedule a Windows task to trigger a sync every certain number of minutes, using the command-line options.

For a review, see the article
Sync files wirelessly between your PC and Android with MyPhoneExplorer.

  • The bounty says "to both a PC and a Mac"
    – DavidPostill
    Feb 5, 2016 at 10:35
  • 1
    @DavidPostill: It says nothing about using the same product for both. I thought at least to take care of the PC side. This is a great utility, but apparently not appreciated. I made this into a Community answer, to avoid downvotes and to signal my non-claim to the bounty.
    – harrymc
    Feb 5, 2016 at 11:11

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