What Is an MTP Device?

A type of protocol for connecting portable music and storage devices to your Windows system, Media Transfer Protocol also transfers content between the devices and your computer. A MTP device includes a built-in hard drive and device drivers that load automatically from the device, once you connect it to your computer. The protocol is the opposite of the Mass Storage Class protocol used by flash-based devices that do not contain built-in hard drives or device drivers that load from the device.

Smiling woman with personal stereo
You can transfer content between your MTP music player and a computer via the player's built-in protocol.
credit: Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images

Protocol History

MTP’s transfer technology is based on the Picture Transfer Protocol first used within Windows XP. PTP quickly transfers image and video files from a digital camera to a Windows XP system without the hassle of manually navigating to the camera’s assigned drive letter in Windows Explorer. MTP incorporates PTP’s technology and expands the technology to include audio, document and other file formats you may be transferring from the devices to your computer.

Automatic Syncing and Conversion

MTP devices begin transferring content automatically from their hard drives to your computer using their built-in AutoSync component. You can also customize what content you want to transfer to your computer and the folder you want the content to go into. AutoSync is compatible with Windows Media Player and similar media player applications. MTP devices are also capable of converting file formats and compression ratios to formats and ratios compatible with the MTP device and your computer. This is known as "transcoding."

Windows Explorer Compatibility

Once you connect an MTP device to your computer, Windows automatically assigns the device a drive letter that appears in Windows Explorer, so you can access it directly. You don’t have to set up the device through an installation wizard or manually add it like a mapped hard drive or storage device that requires drivers. If desired, you can drag and drop files onto an MTP device within Windows Explorer.

DRM Files

MTP devices are capable of accepting not only license-free music, video and other multimedia file formats but also Windows Media Audio files that contain digital rights management licenses. DRM files are copyrighted and are only playable on your computer or on an authorized device related to your computer like a MTP device. The files and their licenses are automatically transferred to the MTP device during the AutoSync process.