How to manage files on Android device over FTP using Windows Explorer

FTP is a convenient method to manage files between computers. It can be used to easily manage files on an Android or CyanogenMod device from a Windows computer, both connected to the same network. Using Windows Explorer itself as the FTP client makes it really easy to create, copy, rename, move or delete files or directories on the Android device.

  1. Note the IP address of the Android device. Make sure the Android device is accessible from the Windows computer by pinging it.
  2. Install and run a FTP server on the Android device. Note the username, password and port it is running on.
  3. In Windows Explorer, choose Computer. Right-click in the right pane and choose Add a network location.
  4. In the Add Network Location wizard, choose a Custom network location, provide the IP address of Android device in this format: ftp://ipaddress:port Disable anonymous login and provide the user name of Android device. Give the connection a name and you are done.
  5. The Android device now appears in the Computer section of Windows Explorer as a network connection. Double-click to connect to it and you can create, copy, rename, move or delete files and directories on the Android device right from the comfort of Windows Explorer 🙂

Tried with: FTPServer 2.2.1, CyanogenMod 10-20121228-NIGHTLY-encore and Windows 8 Pro 64-bit

How to view Undo or Redo actions in Windows Explorer

Windows Explorer can undo or redo any actions performed on files or directories. Sometimes, after performing a series of actions it might be useful to know what exactly will be undo or redo before taking that step.

Thankfully, this information is available in Windows Explorer. See this question on SuperUser. Make sure the toolbar and status bar of Windows Explorer are enabled and visible before choosing Edit → Undo (or Redo).

Tried with: Windows 7 Professional x64

QTTabBar: Capture All Explorer Instances as Tabs

Problem

I like to have a single Windows Explorer window holding all my open directories. That is the reason I started using the awesome QTTabBar, which adds tabs support to Explorer. QTTabBar opens all the new Explorer windows opened using it inside the same Explorer window using new tabs. However, by default, it does not capture the new Explorer instances opened outside it and open them inside this Explorer window. For example, I have the habit of opening new Explorer instances using Win+E, which is a very useful shortcut to know while using Windows.

Solution

To open all Windows Explorer instances as new tabs using QTTabBar, open the Options dialog. In the Window tab, check the Capture new Explorer processes option and uncheck the Do not capture window as a new tab when opened from outside option. With this setting, you can now truly live your entire day inside a single Windows Explorer window.

Tried with: QTTabBar 1.5.0.0 Beta 2

Windows Explorer: Turn Off Network in Navigation Pane

In Windows Explorer, the Navigation Pane is the pane displayed on the left with the tree of all drives and other directories. If your computer is on a Windows domain (say at work), it might display a lot of network computers under the title Network.

If you do not want this list of Network computer displayed, the remedy is easy. Head over to Network and Sharing Center. Choose Change Advanced Sharing Settings and click Turn off Network Discovery.

Tried with: Windows 7

Windows: Launch Programs from Address Bar of Windows Explorer

If you thought launching the Command Prompt from the Address Bar of Windows Explorer is cool, you will love this: any program that lies in %PATH% can be launched by typing its name in the address bar. The current directory that is active in Windows Explorer will be set as the working directory to that launched program.

Tried with: Windows 7

Windows 7: Blank Taskbar Icons

Problem

Sometimes, all the taskbar icons turn blank. Yes, just like that! This has happened to me a couple of times and I am not able to figure out the reason behind it.

Solution

Since I cannot figure out the reason behind this problem, I use the brute force solution of killing all Explorer instances and recreating it. For details, see the solution in this post.

Windows 7: Explorer Problems

Problem

The Explorer process in Windows 7 handles the taskbar and any of the Explorer instances you create to browse directories. Due to file handles problems with applications, directories on plugged-in portable devices or on network share folders, Explorer might sometimes behave erratically. You might face one of these problems with Explorer:

  • Explorer hangs while displaying a directory or during a cut-copy-paste operation.
  • Explorer does not show up when its invoked by clicking its icon or by pressing the keyboard shortcut Win + e.
  • Taskbar is frozen or has disappeared.

Solution

First, it is better to carefully kill all currently running Explorer instances. To do this open Task Manager. One way to do this is using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Shift + Esc. In Task Manager, click the Processes tab, there should be one or more explorer.exe instances. Right-click on each explorer.exe and choose End Process. Do not choose End Process Tree! That would kill explorer.exe and all the application processes it might have spawned, this is not good. End Process only kills explorer.exe, making its children processes as orphans, but they are otherwise unharmed. All open Explorer windows and the Taskbar disappear after this operation.

Next, create a fresh new instance of Explorer. This can be done in Task Manager itself. Switch to the Applications tab and click New Task. Type in explorer and click OK. Your taskbar should be back and hopefully you should be able to invoke Explorer without any problems after this.

Windows Explorer: Why the Refresh?

Bharat was wondering why Windows Explorer needed a Refresh option. Certainly, a modern file viewer is aware of the changes to the files it is displaying without requiring a manual poke?! After all, Apple is so confident of the auto-refresh of Finder on OS X that it does not have the Refresh option! 🙂

Not being able to figure out the reason, I asked Raymond Chen. Raymond, with his fantastic The Old New Thing blog has become the wise man on top of the Windows history mountain. Raymond replied pretty quickly:

Probably for similar reasons to the ones that cause people to write OSX extensions, eg. http://lifehacker.com/252956/download-of-the-day-refresh-finder-mac.

Not all network drives broadcast updates — I imagine that would be a performance nightmare in some cases — so you sometimes might need to refresh manually.

Windows (at least since Vista — it’s been too long since I used XP to remember) does do auto-refresh, which works most of the time and about as well as the one introduced in (IIRC) OSX 10.4 in my experience.

Windows XP: Run Explorer as Administrator

If you are using Windows XP as a non-admin user, you will frequently encounter file operations that require Administrator privileges. Logging off and on or using fast user switching to get to an Administrator account for trivial tasks is laborious. Instead, an easier way is to run an instance of Explorer with Administrator privileges.

However, if you try to execute the Windows Explorer shortcut (StartProgramsAccessoriesWindows Explorer) with the Run as trick, you may find that it does not work. To make this work, login into an Administrator account (say IAmRoot account), open Windows Explorer, choose ToolsFolder Options and enable the option Launch folder windows in a separate process. You should be able to launch Windows Explorer with Administrator privileges (of the IAmRoot account) from a non-admin account after this using Run as.

For more details and alternate methods to achieve the same, please check out the detailed post by Aaron Margosis on Runas with Explorer.