Ask Juan: Why won’t my Moto X show up as a USB drive on my Mac?

surface connected to lg g2 file management transfer somegadgetguyFrom our Facebook page, Robin asks:

Here’s a question relating to Android… When I plug my Moto X into my Windows PC using the supplied USB cable, it shows up as a storage device and I can copy stuff to/from it with no problems. But when I plug it into a USB port on my wife’s MacBook Pro, it’s not even recognized as a device. How can I access my Moto X from Mac OSX?

Hey Robin,

It’s because Apple can be frustrating about supporting standards like MTP. Apple refuses to natively support the USB Media Transfer Protocol. It’s how you can plug your phone into a PC and see files on your phone and computer at the same time.

There are two different ways to share files between a phone and computer, MTP and Mass Storage. If you use Mass Storage, the storage on your phone becomes a standalone drive for your computer, and your phone will no longer be able to see any of those files. That was fine during the Windows Mobile and early Android days. You’d plug in your phone, and it would essentially become a dead lump of a USB drive. Now though, we don’t want to lose access to our precious communication tools, even for a brief file transfer. That’s why Android and Windows Phone now utilize MTP. It comes with some drawbacks like slower file transfers, and you can only move one file at a time, but your phone wont be separated from its storage while connected to a computer. Given the trade off, I’d rather be able to connect my phone to my computer, and still being able to use it as a normal phone with all of my files and apps intact.

The iPhone just doesn’t work that way, so Apple doesn’t feel any great pressure to support other mobile device file management protocols. As far as they’re concerned you should be using iOS and iTunes.

Google did release an Android file manager program for Mac users which might work for you –

If that doesn’t work you might need to look at cloud solutions. The nice thing about Android, it’s silly easy to move files on and off via services like Google Drive, Box, and DropBox.

You could also do a local network sync via an app like AirSync – or Air Droid – which will use your home WiFi network. It wont be as fast as a cable connection, but it’ll be faster than Bluetooth. 

But yeah. Short story long, this is basically Apple’s fault.

4 Replies to “Ask Juan: Why won’t my Moto X show up as a USB drive on my Mac?”

  1. Its the reason why I’ll never buy an Apple Product ever. It’s their elitist mentality that only they do it right and everyone else has it wrong.

    1. I blame Motorola. There was nothing wrong with having the option for Mass Storage Device AND Media Transfer Protocall. Earlier versions of android had it, and now I can’t connect my phone to some of my home servers, still running XP (my xp machines failed to load the correct drivers the first time).

      I agree with you on Apple, but Moto made the change that’s giving us the grief.

  2. Downloaded the the Android File Transfer software from your link. Installed perfectly. Does not see the Android no matter what I do.

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