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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Nokia N800 & N810: How to connect to a computer using the USB cable

The Nokia N800 and N810 internet tablets can be attached to a Windows, Linux or Macintosh computer using a USB cable. In normal mode this lets you transfer files to and from the tablet's memory card (or memory cards if you have more than one). You can also use the same cable to update the tablet's firmware when it is in update mode.

Unlike Nokia's phones, the tablets do not have a PC Suite mode. They will not work with Nokia PC Suite at all.


How to transfer files onto and off the tablet's memory card or cards using the USB cable

The main thing to bear in mind about this process is that the computer never actually accesses the tablet itself. All it does is access the tablet's memory card or cards.

Another thing to bear in mind is that you can transfer absolutely any kind of file on and off the card or cards: music, video, text, anything at all. Not all file types will work on the tablet, but all file types can be placed on the tablet's memory card or cards.

Here's how to do it:

1. If you're using an N800, make sure you have at least one memory card inserted. If you're using an N810 its built-in 2 gigabyte card is enough, but you can insert your own card as well. You cannot access any of these cards on the tablet itself while you have it connected to the computer.

2. Make sure your tablet is switched on and has a good amount of charge left, and plug the smaller plug of appropriate USB cable into the socket on the tablet's right side underneath the built-in stand.

The N800 uses miniUSB cables, while the N810 uses microUSB cables. These two types have the same large plug at the PC end, but their smaller plugs are very different (microUSB has a much thinner small plug than miniUSB). If you want to, you can use a miniUSB or microUSB cable made by a third party manufacturer, you do not have to use the Nokia-made cable that came with the tablet. As long as it is a miniUSB cable it will work on the N800, and as long as it is a microUSB cable it will work on the N810.

3. Plug the larger plug of the cable into your computer's USB socket. Your computer probably has more than one USB socket, it doesn't matter which one you use.

4. After a short while your computer should detect the presence of the tablet's memory card or cards. Most computers will treat them as external drives, just like an external hard disk, music player or camera. On Windows PCs, the tablet cards will show up as drives named F: and G: or perhaps some other letters instead. The internal card of the N800 (the one in the slot next to the battery) and the built-in card of the N810 should be the drive with the earlier letter, for example F:, while the later letter represents the external card (the one inserted in the slot on the outside of the tablet). Note that you may see two drives listed even if you only have one card inserted in the tablet.

5. Some computers may automatically display the contents of the cards, while others may do nothing at all. You should be able to look at the contents of the cards using whatever file manager your computer uses (on Windows PCs you'll be able to find them listed as removable drives in My Computer). Once you've opened a window for a particular memory card, you can transfer files to and from it by just dragging and dropping the icons of the relevant files into or out of the card's window.

Alternatively, you can also use certain computer applications to transfer files to and from the cards. For example many computer music applications such as iTunes, Windows Media Player and Winamp let you transfer music tracks onto the tablet's memory card or cards. You can also use computer applications to transfer video files, or indeed any kind of file, as long as you know what the tablet memory card is on your computer.

6. When you've finished transferring files, do NOT disconnect the cable yet. First of all, exit any applications accessing the tablet's card or cards. Second, deactivate the USB connection so that the cable can be unplugged safely. This can be done on Windows PCs by clicking on the grey-and-green icon in the bottom right corner of the screen and selecting the memory card or cards from the list that appears.

7. When the computer tells you it is safe to remove the cable, you can do so.

The reason you have to make the disconnection safe is because the memory cards may be damaged if they are being accessed when the cable is unplugged. When you ask the computer to make it safe to unplug the connection, the computer immediately stops anything accessing the cards so that they cannot be damaged.