Since the advent of Nearby Share in 2020, Android users have been enjoying the convenience of wireless file transfers between their phones and tablets. However, moving files from an Android device to a Windows computer has always been a little more clunky, making us envious of Apple’s AirDrop. Times are changing and Google finally has a workable Nearby Share implementation for Windows, currently in beta. We took the utility for a spin to get a look at everything it has to offer.
Google announced plans to launch Nearby Share for Windows at CES 2022. Nearly a year later, like many of you, I was still emailing files to myself, using cloud storage as an intermediary, or messaging myself on WhatsApp. But hope for change arrived earlier this week, when Google announced the Nearby Share beta for Windows. Although still in testing for now, this release gives us a solid look at what to expect from the stable feature.
- Works reliably and quickly, transferring both to and from the computer
- Transfers can run in My Devices mode for Nearby Share
- Works with no specialized changes required on the phone
- Android 13 UI design may look out of place on Windows 10
- Computer must have Bluetooth, limiting applicability
- Implemented as a standalone app, instead of supplementing the nearby sharing already in Windows
Google’s beta is available in the US and many other countries, with the notable exceptions mostly in Europe. You’ll need a device running Android 6 Marshmallow or newer (which is hopefully not a problem for pretty much anyone), and a computer running the 64-bit version of Windows 10 or 11. Unfortunately, ARM-based computers aren’t supported.
All the devices involved in the transfer need Bluetooth, and must be connected to the same Wi-Fi network. Google recommends a separation of 16 feet (5 meters) or less between your phone/tablet and computer.
Installation and setup on PC
To use Google’s Nearby Share utility, you'll need to download and install the software. Click Get started with Beta on the Nearby Share app webpage, download the installer file (named BetterTogetherSetup.exe), and run it. During the installation, it may ask you to sign in to your Google account, name your computer for the Nearby Share transfers, choose who can share with you, and opt in to sending diagnostic data. Don’t worry about incorrectly configuring these during installation, because we can change all these settings later. Close the installer after the setup is complete.
Google Nearby Share Windows Beta installation process
Disappointingly, the installation doesn't create a desktop shortcut, but you will find Nearby Share Beta from Google now living in your Start menu. You can pin it to the Start menu, or set it to auto-run after boot like I did. Switch on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth from the taskbar on your Windows computer and open the program. I was pleased to see a rather Android-y interface, even though that means a stark contrast to the Windows 10 or 11 UI. In the program, click the gear icon in the upper right corner to change a few settings (the ones you configured during installation) before your first file transfer using Nearby Share.
The Device name setting defines how your computer will appear to other devices. Below that, you can configure the directory to save received files. The application defaults to using the Downloads folder, which is okay, but remember that you cannot define the save location separately for each transfer. The Device visibility setting has four options, just like on Android:
- Everyone — Anyone using the same Wi-Fi network can send files to your PC.
- Contacts — Only your saved contacts on the same Wi-Fi network can send you files.
- Your devices — Only devices signed in to the same Google ID as the Nearby Share beta can send you files.
- No one — Turns off device discoverability, even if you leave Nearby Share running in the background.
We advise against using Everyone mode on public Wi-Fi like at airports and coffee shops, for security reasons. The mode is useful if you’re on secure Wi-Fi, though. I found it convenient to switch device visibility from the drop-down menu on the program’s home page.
It's also really nice how the program is minimized to the taskbar corner overflow menu even when you close it. Remember that you can use Everyone mode even without signing in during the setup process, but other modes require a Google sign-in.
How to set up your phone
On your phone, make sure Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are turned on. An option to turn on Nearby Share should be available under Settings > Connected Devices > Connection Preferences > Nearby Share. Here, switch on the toggles for Use Nearby Share and Device visibility, so your phone is visible to your computer.
You can tap the Device Visibility option to switch from Everyone mode to any other setting. For this demonstration, we will use Everyone mode on both the PC and the Android device, but if you sign in to the same Google account on both devices, you can stick to the Your devices mode for enhanced security. Note that Device visibility must be switched on for transfers, even if you’re sharing files between your own devices.
How to send files from your PC
Once configured correctly and connected to the same Wi-Fi network, you can start your first transfer.
- Click the Select files or Select folders option in the Nearby Share program on your PC.
- Use the File Explorer to locate the file/folder you want to send, select it, and then click Open. You can select multiple files/folders at once too. Alternatively, you can locate files using File Explorer on Windows, and just drag-and-drop them into Nearby Share beta from Google to start a transfer.
- Your PC will start looking for nearby devices. The Android phone/tablet should appear in a list on the right-hand side. Click on the name of your device.
- Your PC will connect to your Android device, and you’ll have to unlock the latter to confirm a PIN code shown on both. Tap Accept on your phone if the PIN matches. The transfer should begin automatically, and you’ll receive a notification on both devices after the file transfer is complete.
How to receive files on your PC
Receiving files on your PC is just as straightforward, as long as you connect the devices to the same Wi-Fi network.
- Locate the file on your Android device, and hit the Share option.
- From the share sheet, select Nearby Share.
- Your Android device will start searching for recipients. Tap the icon for your PC when it shows up.
- Switch to your PC and click the Accept button for the inbound file transfer if the PIN code matches on both devices.
- The file should be saved in your pre-configured storage directory. After the transfer, the desktop program gives you an option to Open the file or Dismiss the notification.
A convenient experience, even in beta
In our usage over the last couple of days, Google’s Nearby Share beta has worked reliably, and we didn’t encounter any failed transfers or random disconnects — as long as the Android device was close to the PC. Transfer speeds are respectable, too, with multiple images and documents taking just a few seconds when transferred to and from the Windows computer. Although we only talked about file transfers here, you can also send links and copied text between to and from your Windows machine using this beta utility.
Google’s Nearby Share for Windows has the potential to become the AirDrop equivalent we've always wanted, but the company’s choice of an Android-inspired design for the Windows client serves as a constant reminder this is not Microsoft's native solution. Google’s solution is functional, but for a truly homogenous experience, we may have to wait for Microsoft to upgrade its own nearby sharing for Windows to support Android phones.
UPDATE: 2023/04/11 06:45 EST BY CHANDRAVEER MATHUR
Text and link transfers work too
Thanks to a commenter, we can confirm Google's Nearby Share beta for Windows also allows sharing and receiving plain text and web links. The article has been updated to reflect this.