There’s one undeniable fact when it comes to tablets — the iPad is the best option available. It doesn’t matter whether you are tied to Windows or macOS, the iPad is the most versatile tablet on the market and the sales numbers show.
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Where things begin to get tricky is when you need to transfer files between iPad and Windows PC. With the Mac, you have AirDrop, which is the quickest and easiest way to transfer files, but that feature is not available on Windows.
Today, we’re taking a look at how you can transfer files from your iPad to your Windows PC with. Some methods are easier than others, but all of these get the job in some capacity.
Just plug it in and use iTunes
While the iTunes app has been deprecated for macOS with the release of Catalina, the app is still available for Windows. This makes it possible for you to transfer files after connecting your iPad to the PC itself. Here’s how you can transfer files:
- Plug your iPad into your Windows PC
- You can connect via USB or through Wi-Fi Sync
- In iTunes on the PC, click the iPad button in the top left-hand corner.
- Click File Sharing, select an app from the list, and then do the following:
- Select the file that you want to transfer, and click “Save To“. Then, choose where you want to save the file and click “Save To”.
We also would like to point out that you can transfer files from your Windows PC to the iPad with iTunes. You follow the same steps, but click Add, select the file you want to transfer, and tap Add again.
How to set up Wi-Fi syncing
If you have a faster home internet connection, another method for transferring files is to use Wi-Fi sync. But before you can take advantage of that, you’ll need to get your iPad and iTunes on Windows communicating. Here’s how to set up Wi-Fi syncing:
- Plug your iPad into your Windows PC via USB
- In the iTunes app, tap the iPad button in the top left-hand corner
- Click on Summary
- In the Options panel, toggle Sync with this [your device] over Wi-Fi
After you have completed the setup, your iPad should show up in the sidebar. Then, you can follow the same steps that we mentioned above for transferring files when hard-wired.
iCloud on the Web
Apple has finally taken the time to turn iCloud into a multi-device and multi-platform utility. Although there are some tools that make it possible to access iCloud files from your PC, nothing beats iCloud on the Web.
All you will need to do is to save whatever file(s) that need to be transferred to the iCloud Drive folder in the Files app. Here’s how to do that:
- Open the Files app on your iPad.
- Locate the documents/files you wish to move.
- Press and hold on the file itself and select Move from the drop-down menu.
- Navigate to the location in iCloud Drive that you wish to move the file to.
- Wait for the file to upload to iCloud Drive via the progress bar at the bottom.
After the file has been uploaded, you’ll need to follow these steps to access them from your Windows PC:
- Open your browser of choice on your Windows computer.
- Navigate to iCloud.com.
- Select iCloud Drive.
- Click on the file that you need to access.
- Tap the Download button in the toolbar at the top of the webpage.
With the toolbar at the top of the page, you are provided the ability to organize and do more with these files. You can upload/download files, delete them, email the files, or invite someone to view the files.
Use an external thumb drive, hard drive, or SSD
It may seem a bit archaic to those who have moved file management to the cloud, but you can still use physical hard drive or thumb drives to move documents. If you have the right cable, every iPad capable of running iPadOS can be connected to an external drive of some kind.
Those with iPad’s without USB-C will have to rely on Apple’s Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter. This provides a Lightning connection to plug into the iPad, and then a USB 3.0 port and a microSD card slot on the other.
Just plug in the dongle to your iPad, plug in the USB from the hard drive, and open the Files app. The hard drive will appear in the sidebar under the Browse tab where you can drag & drop the files to from your iPad.
2018 iPad Pro
The 2018 iPad Pro line made the move to USB-C instead of Lightning. This is extremely convenient for computers that have USB-C ports. It also makes it much easier to use faster storage with portable SSD’s like the Samsung T5.
Some storage manufacturer’s, like SanDisk, have even made USB-C to USB-A thumb drives. Using something like this would be better for smaller files as the transfer speeds to the PC aren’t the fastest. But it’s a viable option nonetheless.
Once you have moved the files from your iPad to the hard drive, you’ll need to eject the hard drive from the iPad. Then, plug it into your Windows PC, open File Explorer, locate the file, and move it where you need to on the computer.
Rest easy in the Cloud
The most obvious choice for transferring files between any devices, is cloud storage. Between iCloud Drive, Google Drive, OneDrive, or Dropbox, there are plenty of options for you to choose from.
Chances are that you are already using cloud storage in some capacity, so you will be familiar with whatever client you are using. As we mentioned previously, you can integrate many of the popular third-party clients into the Files app, so you can access everything from one place. All you will need to do is drag and drop the file you’re looking for into the appropriate location, and then pull it up from your Windows PC.
Third-party apps are here to save the day
In the same vein as cloud storage, there are other third-party apps that allow you to transfer files. Some of these can be accessed from the new and improved Safari browser on your iPad, while others are just a download away. Here are some of our favorites:
- ShareIt (Free) – SHAREit is a cross-platform app that allows you to transfer files between a myriad of devices. The benefit here is that there is no need for an internet connection after the app has been set up on both your Windows PC and iPad.
- Dropbox Transfer (Free) – If you want to send large files, and don’t want to download another app, Dropbox Transfer is a good place to start. You can send up to 100GB of files at once, and there’s obvious integration with Dropbox thanks to drag-and-drop. You can password protect files, and then share them via email or with a direct link.
- Documents by Readdle (Free w/ IAP) – Documents by Readdle is touted as being “a central hub for all your files”, making it possible to annotate PDFs, read books, and even consume media.
- Smash (Free) – This web client allows you to add files, documents and more right from your browser. Then, a link will be created that can be accessed from other devices. Plus, the files will be available for up to 14 days on the free plan. Oh, and there’s no limit to the size of the file that can be sent.
- Raindrop.io (Free / $3 per month) – The primary focus for this app is to act as a bookmarking service similar to Instapaper or Pocket. However, Raindrop.io does so much more as you can upload up to 10GB of files per month, including images, videos, and other files.
There are quite a few different apps and services that you could use, but these are our favorites. Let us know in the comments some of your favorites!
We are far-removed from the days of needing to deal with slow transfers between iOS devices and Windows PC’s. Between Cloud Storage options, using a hard drive or thumb drive, or using a third-party app, there’s a solution for everyone.
But we want to hear from you! Sound off in the comments with how you transfer files between iPad and Windows PC.
Andrew is a freelance writer based on the East Coast of the US.
He has written for a variety of sites over the years, including iMore, Android Central, Phandroid, and a few others. Now, he spends his days working for an HVAC company, while moonlighting as a freelance writer at night.