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When connecting your smartphone to your PC, you may be given a choice of several options. I'll review what those options mean.

I have a new smartphone - the HTC T-Mobile My Touch 4G Android. Somehow, while attempting to download an app, I received the following screen, "Choose a Connection Type." 1. Charge only. Charge phone over USB. 2. Disk Drive. Mount as a disk drive. 3. USB Tethering. Share phone's mobile network with PC. I don't understand the ramifications of each choice. Can you give a more detailed explanation of the choices and maybe an example of when each choice would be preferred?

I, too, have an Android right now - an HTC Incredible. I'm quite pleased with it.

When you or I connect our phone to the computer, we're seeing the message for one reason - we need to tell the phone what to do. We might be connecting the phone to the computer for one of several reasons.

Let's look at each.

Charge Only

The USB connection on your phone is also where the phone gets power to recharge its battery.

The power adapter you got to plug into the wall has what looks to be a USB connection at the other end. That USB connection provides only power which is used for recharging the phone.

"... the phones are often customized by the various mobile providers."

When you connect to a PC, the USB cable has both power and data connections. By selecting "Charge Only", you're telling the phone to simply ignore the data connection and not interact with the computer in any way. Only the power provided is used as your phones battery recharges.

In other words, it's pretty much like plugging it into the wall, although the recharge rate might well be slower when you use your computer's USB port to provide power.

Disk Drive

When you select this, you're telling the phone to make its internal storage available as disk drives on your computer. While still charging from the provided power, the data part of the USB connection is also used to make the phone look like one or more flash drives.

For example, when I attach my phone on my computer, two drives appear: one, the primary internal memory of the phone that appears as a roughly seven-gigabyte drive "J:" to my computer, and the 16-gigabyte microSD card that's also inserted into the phone, which appears as drive "K:".

Appearing as a disk drive on your computer makes it really easy to copy files to and from the phone. Rather than mailing your photos and videos, you can simply copy them and often much faster. If you want to put some music on your phone, you can simply copy the files to a folder on it.

The catch is that, while your phone is connected to your computer as a disk drive, some applications on the phone itself may not work. Making the internal storage available to your computer may make it inaccessible to those applications until you unplug the phone.

USB Tethering

This is simply a geeky term for using your phone as a cellular modem on your computer and using that to connect to the internet.

Depending on your provider, this might be an extra-cost option, or it may not be available at all.

It typically does require an application installed on your computer as well. Check with your mobile provider for details.

While I do have the option on my phone, I've never used it, relying on other connectivity options for my laptop as I'm out and about.

HTC Sync

I apparently have an option you don't have. This doesn't surprise me as the phones are often customized by the various mobile providers.

To quote the HTC support site:

You can use HTC Sync™ to synchronize Outlook contacts and calendar or Outlook Express contacts and the bookmarks of the web browser between your computer and your phone. It also lets you install third-party Android applications on the phone, and bring your photos, videos, documents, songs, and playlists to your phone.

Basically, it eases keeping the mail, calendar and other applications on your phone in sync with your PC and makes transferring files easier as well.

My experience is that by using Google services, such as Gmail, Google Calendar and more, many of these tasks are handled pretty transparently by Google itself. I can also transfer files myself easily using the disk drive connection I described above. And almost every application I've needed has been available for direct download from the Android Market.

Setting a Default

If it's available, checking the "Don't Ask Again" box will tell the phone to use whatever you select by default from now on. With that unchecked, it'll give you the option screen for some amount of time. After that, I believe it defaults to connecting whatever is configured as your choice.

If you check the "Don't Ask Again" box and later change your mind, or you want to change the configured default choice, go to your phone's Settings for Connect to PC where you'll find both settings.

Article C4737 - February 10, 2011 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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1 Comment
Elizasbeth Brugh
January 27, 2013 1:01 PM

I followed your advice about mounting the disc but only one disc drive came up on my computer and it's the one that doesn't have all my photos which is what I wanted to copy to my computer.

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