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Quick Fixes: How to Transfer iPhone Videos to Windows PC When Keeps Disconnecting

Your iPhone keeps disconnecting from your Windows PC or Mac when you try to import photos or videos. You may see the error “A device attached to the system is not working”.

Prevent your iPhone from automatically converting the video to the old H.264 format by going to settings > photos > Transfer to Mac or PC and knock keep originals.

I was repeatedly getting this error “A device attached to the system is not working” on my Windows PC. The iPhone said nothing.
Screenshot by Sean Hollister / The Verge

My iPhone 13 mini ran out of space, but I couldn’t just erase it; I had important videos that I needed to save. But every time I connected my iPhone to my Windows PC, it would disconnect in the middle of a file transfer.

I double checked that I installed the Apple USB drivers correctly. My Windows PC had a lot of space. I even randomly tried deleting some phone apps, wondering if the iPhone might fail due to low storage. That seemed to help some – but it choked on many videos, including the 6.9GB clip I needed for an upcoming work project.

What really pissed me off: When I checked my iPhone’s free space on the iPhone itself, it seemed to be shrinking when I tried to transfer this video!

Why couldn’t I extract these videos to free up space on my phone? Unbelievable it is because my phone didn’t have enough free space.

You should check the

You should check the “Keep Originals” setting if you’re having trouble with a nearly full iPhone.
Screenshot by Sean Hollister / The Verge

You see, it turns out that the iPhone has a hidden setting, by default converts any video you transfer to a PC to the more easily playable H.264 format – but paradoxically, this conversion requires more free storage space on your phone. Actually double the storage: This 6.9 GB clip on my iPhone is a 15.2 GB clip on my Windows computer.

Luckily, you can easily tell your iPhone to stop converting videos. It’s just buried in a system menu underneath settings > photos > Transfer to Mac or PC.

If you have a lot of free space on your phone, Apple’s decision to convert makes sense. Windows didn’t ship natively with support for HEVC/H.265, the more efficient video format Apple uses to pull cool tricks like real-time HDR, Cinematic Mode, and more, while H.264 works pretty much everywhere. You can even tell your iPhone to record in H.264 first settings > camera > formatsbut then you lose those nifty skills.

And you probably shouldn’t as it’s not that hard to play H.265 content on a Windows PC. I can play the original video just fine in my free copy of VLC media player, and my Microsoft Movies & TV app even seems to play it, despite not having Microsoft’s 99 cent HEVC video extensions installed since my last PC reformat.


Another way to get H.264: First, record it this way.
Screenshot by Sean Hollister / The Verge

Anyway, I hope this helps you with your out of stock iPhone. Personally, I will never pay Apple’s ransom, no matter how much the company bugs me to cough up extra loose change for iCloud.

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