Don’t use Windows 10 to move data on your Android phone

Details are still sketchy, but if you use Windows 10 to move data on a USB-attached Android phone or tablet, you may lose your files.

Don’t use Windows 10 to move data on your Android phone
Derek Walter

When you attach your phone to a PC with a USB cable, you expect File Explorer to work the way it’s intended to work — copy, move, drag, drop and the like. As long as your PC is running Windows 7 or 8.1, that’s exactly what happens. But if you’re running Windows 10, watch out. You may end up deleting files.

Jörg Wirtgen on German-language site heise.de has a description of the problem. Here’s a translation, courtesy of DeepL:

Be careful with Android devices connected to a PC running Windows 10 via USB: harmless cleanup operations can cause photos and other files to be irretrievably lost. Almost all Android devices except the newer ones from Samsung are affected.

There is an error in the USB MTP connection of Android and Windows 10 that leads to data loss if you move files on an Android device: If you connect the Android device to Windows 10 via USB, and then move files inside the device, the files are deleted from their source, but they don't reach the destination. Particularly precarious: The deleted data could not be recovered with any of the usual recovery tools; they disappeared irrevocably.

He goes on to list all of these devices as vulnerable, some of which have been tested in a crowdsourced effort:

  • Android 8: Nexus 6P, 5X
  • Android 7: HTC U11, Nokia 6, OnePlus 3,5, Xiaomi Mi 6, Mi Mix, LG K8, G5, Motorola Moto G3, G5
  • Android 6: Sony Xperia Z3 Compact, Huawei Honor 7
  • Lineage OS 7.1.1: Samsung Galaxy S5

He also lists these specific devices as having problems, without mentioning which version of Android they’re running: Galaxy S2, S4 mini HTC 10, 8s Sony Xperia Z, Xperia Z5 Huawei Mate 9, P8 Lite.

Newer Samsung devices with Android 7 — Galaxy A3, A5, Edge S6, S7, S8, Tab A — seem to be immune as are the BlackBerry Priv and Huawei Honor 8.

Günter Born notes that he tried to copy and move data on his Moto G5 and it, too, had problems. He didn’t have any trouble at all with Win7.

One of the big problems, of course, is that there are so many variables — different devices, running different versions of Android, with different versions of Windows.

I tested this on my production setup — Win10 1607 and a Nexus 6P running Android 7.1.2. Here’s what I found:

  • It’s easy and fast to copy from the phone to the PC, and from the PC to the phone. Move goes quickly and easily too.
  • Copying from one folder to another on the phone is very, very slow — I gave up after 30 minutes.

There’s a month-old thread on Reddit that describes precisely this problem, using a Sony Xperia Z3. Unfortunately, the poster didn’t mention which version of Windows 10 was messing up.

Care to run a test? Post your results — version of Windows, version of Android, device name please — on the AskWoody Lounge.

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