The Windows Subsystem for Android is an optional Windows 11 feature that lets you run some Android apps on a Windows computer without installing third-party tools or virtual machines. The idea is that once installed, Android apps work just like Windows apps.
In practice things have been a bit clunkier than that, partly because those Android apps can’t access your Windows file system. That makes it tricky to do things like uploading pictures or videos from your PC to an Android social media app, or downloading content from an app to your PC. But a new update rolling out to Windows Insiders brings support for file sharing between the Windows Subsystem for Android (WSA) and Windows proper.
File Sharing will be enabled by default once users get the latest version of WSA, but if you’d prefer not to use it you can turn it off in the WSA Settings app. When enabled, Windows user profile folders will show up in WSA as “/sdcard/Windows/.” Apps will also need to request your permission before they can access your Windows file system and you can revoke that permission at any time.
There are some limitations though. First, the Android system won’t be able to access all the files on your PC. It will only have access to Windows user profile folders. That includes most things in your \Windows\Users\<name> directory including your Documents, Pictures, Videos, and Downloads folders. But some things that won’t be shared include:
- Windows system folders like Program Files
- External drives
- Other users’ folders
- Hidden files or folders
- Executable files (like .exe files)
It may also take a few moments for files to show up in the Android subsystem, since they need to be indexed before you can access them.
But the upshot is that not only can users now upload files from Windows to Android apps, but you can also:
- Drag and drop files from File Explorer to any Android app that supports sharing files.
- Save files from an Android app to /sdcard/Windows or a sub-folder to access those files in Windows.
Microsoft says the updated version of the Windows Subsystem for Android is rolling out now to all members of the Windows Insider preview program. It should eventually roll out to stable builds of Windows 11, but there’s no word on when that will happen.
Other updates in the latest preview version of WSA include improved WiFi and camera hardware compatibility, security updates, and an update to the Chromium WebView.