While my PCs were mostly Windows and my phones Android, I use a Mac for work, and I’ve always been jealous of the ease with which people in the Apple ecosystem can AirDrop files from one device to another. Google introduced a similar feature called Nearby Share in 2020, but it only shared files between Google products. Now Windows has finally presented its version of Nearby Share, which is currently in beta and allows you to easily move files between Windows and Android systems.
I installed the Nearby Share beta on a Windows 11 system and used it to move photos between it and my Pixel 6 and it worked like a charm. Here is a step-by-step guide to setting up Nearby Share for Windows. (Note: The feature is available on Windows 10 and later, but not on ARM-powered Windows laptops.)
Activate Nearby Share on your Android device
Before you start installing Nearby Share on your Windows laptop, you should make sure that you can use it with your phone or other Android device. While Google offers Nearby Share as a feature in the Files by Google app (which most Android phones come with), you can still receive files without the Files app (we’ll get to that in a moment). There are two ways to find out if the feature has been enabled. If you have the Files app:
Open the Files app and tap the three-line icon in the top left. Go to Settings > Nearby Sharing.
In the settings, select Nearby Share.
Turn on Nearby Share to activate it.
If you don’t have the Files app but still want to use Nearby Share to receive files:
Go to your Android phone settings. Select Connected devices > Connection settings > Nearby Share (or Google > Devices & Sharing > Nearby Share) and turn it on.
BTW, if you intend to use Nearby Share a lot, you can turn it on/off with a button in your phone’s quick settings menu (the one you get by swiping down from the top). If you don’t see the Nearby Share button in your quick settings menu, swipe down twice, tap the pencil icon in the button corner, find the Nearby Share button and move it to your active quick settings menu by holding and move up .
Set up Nearby Share on your Windows PC
The app is still in beta but is publicly available and as far as I could tell it works pretty well.
To get started, download the Nearby Share beta here. Click Let’s go. You download a file (it’s called something like BetterTogetherSetup). Click on it to start the installation. Once the app is installed, a pop-up window will ask you to either sign in to your Google account or use the app without an account. Out of curiosity, I clicked Use without an account.
Once the app is installed, a pop-up window will ask you to either sign in to your Google account or use the app without an account.
Regardless of whether you sign in, the next window is Set Up Nearby Share, which lets you name your PC and choose who, if anyone, can share with you – this is set under the Receive subheading. (If you’d like, you can also uncheck the box that sends usage information and crash reports to Google at this point.) When you first see the setup window, Receiving will be set to Nobody — in other words, you won’t be sharing with anyone , and your device is not visible to other devices. Since you installed this to share files, you’ll probably want to change this.
With Nearby Share setup, you can name your computer and decide who should receive your shares.
Click the box under “Receive” to get a drop-down menu called “Device Visibility”. You can choose to share files or folders with everyone, with your contacts, with your devices, or with no one. I selected your devices and was informed that I need to sign in to my Google account. So I did. If you choose contacts, you must – logically – also register.
You can choose how visible your device is to others.
On the other hand, if you choose Everyone, you’ll be given two options: allow everyone to share files with you all the time, or just leave that option on for a few minutes. Once you’ve signed into your Google account (whether at this point or earlier in the process), you’ll be prompted to verify your phone and turn down the volume to verify your identity. You can then return to your Windows PC and the Nearby Share app. If you’ve chosen to enable sharing with your contacts or with your devices, you’ll now see a message under Receive letting you know that your contacts can now share with you as long as you approve the requests, but you have to approve the sharing for devices signed in with the same Google account. When you are happy with your selection, select Done.
After signing in to your Google account, you can share content with contacts or other devices.
Now that it’s set up, Nearby Share is ready to use. The app shows an animated blue geometric image to indicate that it’s ready to receive and an open area where you can drop (or select) folders or files that you want to share with others.
In the Nearby Share window, you can drop files or folders to send them to your Android phone.
How to use Nearby Share
Now you can easily share a file between an Android phone and a Windows PC. To send a file from an Android phone:
Go to the Files app, select a file and tap the Share icon. The selected file will now appear with a button titled “Nearby” below it. Tap the button. A Nearby Share window will appear with one or more shareable devices (e.g. your Windows computer) listed below. Tap the one you want to share with. A check mark indicates the file has been shared. You can find the file in the download folder of your PC.
Tap the Nearby button to share the file with another device.
A device that you can share with is marked in the middle; Tap on it and the file will be shared.
To send a file from your PC to your phone:
In the Nearby Share app, select a file. You may get a notification on your phone that a nearby device is trying to share the file. In the PC’s Nearby Share app, tap the button that lists the device you want to send the file to. It should only take a few seconds before you get a notification that the file was sent successfully. If you sent it to a phone, you’ll get a notification on the phone that the file was received. It will be saved in your Downloads folder.
Tap the name of the device you are sending the file to.
All of this may sound a bit complicated, but once Nearby Share is installed, you can share files between your Windows PC and your Android phone without resorting to email, Google Drive, or any other circuitous route.
Update April 7, 2023 3:30 PM ET: This article was originally published April 5, 2023 and has been updated to explain how to receive Nearby Share files without installing the Files by Google app.