Receiving & Saving Bluetooth Shared Files on Windows Phone 8

Windows Phone 8 uses Hubs and application sandboxes to store and access user files. You can browse and access the files that are stored on the phone by accessing the hub or app that is used to view and work with the file.  Files that are stored on a phone must be associated with a Windows Phone app (native or third party) and files are stored in the associated [opening] app’s hub or “sand box.”

Windows Phone 8 can receive and store files that are shared with it from another Bluetooth connected device. Bluetooth shared files are stored in one of the hubs on the phone or in a compatible app’s sandbox.

Receiving Shared Files via Bluetooth

When a Bluetooth-enabled device shares a file with your Windows Phone, you’ll be prompted to “accept” or “ignore” it (in this example, my laptop which is named AVALON48 is sharing a file with my Nokia Lumia 920).


After you tap the “accept” button, you will see a message on the top of the phone’s screen. The message varies based on the kind of file that is being shared with the device. You need to pay close attention to this message since it indicates if the file is automatically saved to the phone or if you have to tap the file to view it in order to save the file permanently to the phone. The message you see will be:

  • “Done. Tap to View.”  OR
  • “Done and saved. Tap to view.”

“Done. Tap to view.”

The “Done. Tap to view” message indicates that the file has been transferred to the phone temporarily, but NOT permanently saved anywhere on the phone.  If you do not act on this message by tapping it to view the file, the file will be treated as a temporary file and will not be stored anywhere on the phone and you won’t be able to find it or open it later.

These types of files rely on a third party app to view and work with them. When you tap the “Done. Tap to view” message, the phone will check to see if there is a app installed on the phone that can be used to open and store the file.

PDF Files

To open or store a PDF file on a Windows Phone, you must first install one of the PDF reader apps to the phone. PDF files are stored in the PDF app’s “sandbox” that is used to view the files when they are received and viewed on the phone.  PDF files are not opened by any native Office-related app (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), so when PDF files are delivered to a windows phone from another Bluetooth connected device, the file won’t be stored in the Office Hub.  In fact, the files won’t be stored anywhere on the phone unless you tap the “Done. Tap to view.” message that appears at the top of the screen after you tap the “accept” button.

Bluetooth PDF1

Shared PDF files are treated as temporary files and NOT saved anywhere on the device until you tap the “Done. Tap to view” message. When you tap this message, the PDF file will be opened up and saved in the PDF Reader app (if you have more than one PDF reader app installed on the phone, you will first be prompted to choose the app you want to use to open and store the file). The act of viewing the PDF file in a related app automatically saves the file in the related PDF Reader’s “sandbox” or private file system.

There are three different PDF Reader apps installed on my Nokia Lumia 920, so for this demonstration I chose to open the shared file in the Adobe Reader app.

Bluetooth PDF2

Bluetooth PDF3

Since I viewed this particular file with the Adobe Reader app, this particular file is now permanently stored it in Adobe Reader’s  “sandbox.” I can find and view the file later by opening up Adobe Reader and looking for it in the “recents” or “documents” view.

Bluetooth PDF4

“Done and saved. Tap to view.”

The “Done and saved. Tap to view” message indicates that the shared file was automatically saved to the phone in the hub that will be used to view or work with the file.

  • Office documents are saved in the Office Hub;
  • Photos are saved in the Photo Hub; and
  • Media files (videos & audio) are saved in the xBox Music (formerly called the Music+Video) Hub.


Office Files (PowerPoint, Excel, and Word documents)

When I refer to Office files, I am referring to PowerPoint (pptx); Word (docx); and Excel (xlsx) files.

When you “accept” an Office file that has been shared with the phone, you’ll see the “Done and saved” message shown above in the screen shot. This message indicates that the file was automatically saved to the Office Hub of the device. You can either tap the message to view the file or you can do nothing with that message (it will disappear after a few seconds). You can find and view the file later in the Office Hub.

To view a file that has been stored on the phone in the Office Hub, tap the Office Hub tile on the home screen. Then under the “places” view, tap “phone.”

On the documents screen you’ll see a list of all the documents that are stored in the phone’s memory. The “Personal Stats” file that you see in the screen shot below is the Excel file that I just shared with my phone from my laptop.

Office Hub PlacesPhone Documents

Text Files (.txt & .rtf files) that are shared with a windows phone are automatically saved in the Office Hub and are opened as Word documents on the phone.

Media Files (audio, videos, & photos)

Media Files include music (audio), video, and image files. Similar to Office files, once you accept the shared file by tapping the “accept” option on the Receive Content screen (seen in the screenshot shown above), the file is automatically stored in the xBox Music (music+video) hub or the photo hub, as long as the file is in a compatible format and as long as the file is DRM-free (not encrypted with any kind of Digital Rights Management – as can be the case with some audio or video files).

  • Music & Videos: Common audio codecs that are supported on Windows Phone include MP3, WMA, AAC, and others (see the “Supported media codes for Windows Phone” article for a complete list of audio, video and image codecs that are supported on Windows Phones) Compatible music files are automatically saved to the xBox Music (Music+Videos) hub.
  • Photos: Image codes that are supported on Windows Phone include bmp, jpg, png, and gif files. Shared Photos are automatically saved to the “Saved Pictures” album in the Photos hub.

Audio or video files that are DRM protected cannot be properly shared via Bluetooth connection. The files may be transferred and even stored in a phone’s xBox Music hub, but you won’t be able to play them on the phone since the DRM protection on the file is not transferrable to a phone via Bluetooth sharing and the DRM protection will prevent the files from being played on the phone. DRM-related protections cannot be transferred or circumvented when sharing files via Bluetooth connection.

Shared Contacts

Contacts or vCards (.vcf files) are another kind of file that can be shared with a windows phone 8 via Bluetooth, but, similar to PDF files, a shared contact record is initially received on the phone as a temporary file. You must tap the “Done. Tap to view” message to open the file up and then save it permanently to the People Hub.

When you tap the “Done. Tap to view” message, the contact will open in the People Hub and then you must select the save icon that you see in the center of the dark gray bar on the bottom of the screen to save the contact to the People Hub.


Final comments

Send & Receive Individual files NOT batches of files: When you receive files such as PDF files or vCards via Bluetooth sharing, the files are stored on the phone temporarily.  You must tap the “Done. Tap to view” message to save the files permanently to the phone.  Batches of these kinds of files (again, PDF files or vCards) cannot be saved all at the same time on the phone. Each file must be sent, tapped and saved on the phone individually before the next file is received on the phone.

Don’t Waste Time Sharing Unsupported File Types: Files that are not supported by a native or third party app are not compatible with Windows Phone 8. Even though the file may be transferred to the phone as a temporary file, the file won’t be associated with any app, so the phone has no way to open the file and, in turn, no way to store the file in an app’s sandbox. Temporary files are not stored in a user accessible place on Windows Phone 8, but instead are stored temporarily in an inaccessible place on the phone. Temporary files are automatically deleted from the phone. An example of incompatible files are .exe files.

Even If An App Supports a File Type, Bluetoothing the File Over to the Phone Does Not Mean the Phone Can Use It:  You may have a third party app installed on a phone that supports a file format you’d like to receive via Bluetooth sharing, but if the app is not designed to open up Bluetooth shared files (when you tap the file to view it and the app is not used to open it), the file may only be received as a temporary file that cannot be stored permanently to the phone. Files that come to mind are HTML, ePub or FB2 files – there are Windows Phone apps that work with these kinds of files, but the apps can only receive the files by downloading them directly to the phone, through the app, from a OneDrive or Dropbox account.

Shared ringtones probably won’t work either: Shared audio files are stored in the phone’s xBox Music hub and cannot be used as ringtones on a Windows Phone 8. To store an audio file so it can be used as a ringtone, the audio file must be smaller than 30 MB and not be  protected with any kind of digital rights management (DRM). To use custom ringtones on a Windows Phone 8, you can

  • Use a ringtone app which you’d install from the Windows Phone Marketplace to create a custom ringtone from an existing audio file; or
  • Receive a ringtone via text message and then save the audio file as a ringtone when prompted to do so on the phone; or
  • Copy an audio file to the phone to the phone via your computer’s file explorer (see this link to learn more about copying files to a windows phone 8 from a computer).