Kubuntu: Enable write access to Windows Phone


Updated: May 26, 2017

Say you have a Windows Phone, like for instance, Lumia 950. Say you have Kubuntu or any which KDE/Plasma distro installed on your system. Say you want to mount your phone in this system, for the sake of some simple image/video copying. Say you encounter errors trying to do this, being unable to write files to the phone but also copy files from the phone onto your hard disk. What now?

I encountered this issues while testing Kubuntu 17.04 Zesty Zapus, which turned out to be a lovely thing, and it comes with a significantly improved support for mobile devices. In the past, just being able to see your phone in Dolphin was virtually impossible, but now we have it. However, read/write with the Windows Phone is still buggy. Let's unbug it.

Default behavior

From what I've been able to discern, this what you'll get when you mount a Windows Phone under MTP in a KDE/Plasma desktop, Kubuntu specifically in this case:

You are unable to copy files to the device, e.g. music or images.

(Maybe) You are unable to download files from the device, e.g. camera photos.

Cannot write to phone

Cannot write, another prompt

Solution

Anyway, we will now fix this. Some prework first, though. You need to make sure that your device is recognized and shows in Dolphin when you connect it via USB. You want it to be mounted via MTP (rather than PTP). You also do not need to do anything manually, the way it was only a few releases back, as I've explained in my Linux & iPhone tutorial. Nope, you should be able to see your phone without any problems.

The reason why this may happen is because KDE restricts write access to NTFS devices by default, as a safety measure. It makes sense - you don't want clueless users clobbering their Windows installations by accidentally accessing partitions and deleting data.

This also affects external devices. The interaction goes through the Ntfs-3g driver, which we've first seen in action many many years in early Ubuntus, and the concept still remains the same. The Ubuntu family ships with the driver out of the box, but it does not come with the configuration tool, ntfs-config, that lets you choose write access.

ntfs-config - Enable/disable write support for any NTFS devices

sudo apt-get install ntfs-config
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree      
Reading state information... Done
The following additional packages will be installed:
libglade2-0 python-cairo python-glade2 python-gobject-2 python-gtk2
Suggested packages:
disk-manager python-gtk2-doc python-gobject-2-dbg
The following NEW packages will be installed:
libglade2-0 ntfs-config python-cairo python-glade2 python-gobject-2 python-gtk2
0 upgraded, 6 newly installed, 0 to remove and 22 not upgraded.
Need to get 971 kB of archives. After this operation, 5,636 kB of additional disk space will be used.
Do you want to continue? [Y/n]

Once the utility is installed, open it. There are two configuration steps. First, it will detect internal NTFS partitions, and you can toggle the write option for each one. Second, you will be asked about external devices. You need to enable write support. Once this step is done, connect your phone, or if it's already connected, remove it, then connect it again. At this point, you should be able to do what you want.

Partition config

Enable write to external devices

The reason why you should fail to copy files FROM the phone onto the hard disk is a little more arcane, as it also involves permissions, but in general, rather than hacking the FUSE file system interface, you just need the ntfs-config utility to sort things out.

Write works now

Conclusion

If there was a problem, we just fixed it, hook up your phone and with some music mix it. Perhaps my rhyme is lame, but the message of this little guide sure ain't. I believe that MTP support for Windows devices in Linux is still a little bit buggy. Only a couple of releases ago, this was a complete no-no. So things may radically change within a few weeks or months or who knows when. If you're facing issues with the write functionality, you may want to follow the steps here.

Essentially, we need to enable write support for external NTFS devices, and this should also remedy any other write/copy issues you may have with files stored on the phone, and that you may wish to copy or backup to the hard disk. This should make your KDE experience even more pleasant. Stay tuned.

Cheers.

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