A disappointing recent trend has been for smartphone manufacturers to eliminate any expandable storage for newly released phones. In a way, it makes sense since more and more data is streamed from the cloud. But at other times not being given a choice is difficult to swallow.
The good news is, nearly all Android devices possess a workaround—a USB port. At the same time, manufacturers have started to forgo expandable storage, we seem to have forgotten about our USB drives as a means to carry files with us wherever we go. We have acclimated to cloud storage.
The USB drives that you would use on your desktop are not the same ones intended for your phone. As you might have noticed, there is a difference in size. That doesn’t matter; however when you enlist the help of a USB OTG cable. OTG stands for On The Go. It is how you can connect USB to Android device.
Method 1: Attach USB (For Non-Rooted, OTG-Enabled Devices)
Do you have a device that is already OTG compatible and ready to go? That’s great, because this is the method for you, and it’s the easiest by far. This is how you can connect USB to Android without root. Although it usually happens automatically, ensure USB drivers get installed.
- If you have yet to purchase a flash drive, consider cutting out the middle man (or middle cable) and buying an OTG capable USB flash drive or card reader.
- If you are using a freestanding USB drive, you will need a USB OTG cable. The USB OTG cable is usually short in length with a full-sized female port for your USB and a narrower small USB male connector to attach to your phone. Such a cable can be found on sites like Amazon or eBay at inexpensive prices. Make sure to get a cable with the correct small Male USB end so it plugs directly into your phone’s charging port.
- If you are connecting a full external hard drive that has its own power source, you will most likely experience no issues. However, if you are using an external hard drive that relies on your Android for power, or using any device that draws more than 500 mA of electricity strongly consider purchasing a Y splitter OTG cable. These materials also work to connect USB to Android tablet.
Download File Manager
Nearly any halfway decent file manager app will do, but if you are looking for suggestions, ES File Explorer can read and write to the USB drive.
You should receive a notification from your Android that the device is connected.
- If you are using ES File Explorer, you can access files by going to /sdcard/usbStorage and tapping the name of your flash drive.
- You can also navigate to Settings>Storage to take a closer look at USB storage options.
Method 2: Flash ROM with OTG Support (For Rooted Android)
Unfortunately, OTG support is not always a given, depending on the type of Android you possess. For this method to work you do need a rooted device. JOA just so happens to offer numerous tutorials about rooting for various Android devices. OTG support is highly hardware dependent. If it’s the software that’s your problem, this is how you can connect USB drive to Android.
Complete a Backup
- This should include your messages, contacts, photos, and anything else you wish to save.
- You will also want to ensure that your device has at least 80% charge.
- There is, of course, at least one app for that. For suggestions, follow the link below.
- Ensure you are running the latest version of a recovery program.
- If you are using TWRP, make sure that it is v2.8 or greater. Older versions will most likely fail. TWRP 3.0 is out!
Latest TWRP Recovery
Download OTG-Supported ROM
Download a custom ROM to the internal storage of your device. USB OTG Helper is specifically intended for this, but it also depends on your device. You may need to download the file to your PC and use a USB connection to transfer it to your device.
USB OTG Helper
Enable USB Debugging
- Go to Device Information from the Settings
- Tap Build Number several times (approximately seven times). A window should appear, verifying that the Developer mode (is) enabled. If you have already done this step previously, your phone will tell you it’s unnecessary.
- You can accomplish this by going to Settings and tapping on Developer Options.
Enable OEM Unlock
- While you are in Developer Options, go ahead and enable OEM Unlock as well.
- Move the toggle.
Download Open GApps
- Ensure that the proper USB drivers are installed first.
- Download Open GApps (Open source version of GApps zip file) to your internal storage.
Open Google Apps
Turn Off Power
Hold down the Power button.
Boot into Recovery Mode
- This is usually achieved through a key combination, which largely depends on your device.
- Now you can navigate by using the Volume Up and Volume Down buttons.
- Wipe the /data and /system partitions.
- For CWM Recovery, press Wipe Data/Factory Reset and confirm.
- For TWRP, use the Wipe
Install Custom ROM
- Install the custom ROM by tapping on Install and locating the CM ROM zip file that you downloaded in Step 3.
- In the custom recovery, the Install option is located on the main menu.
- Now install the Open Google Apps
- Go back to the main menu of the custom recovery and tap Install
- Navigate to the Open GApps zip file that you transferred to your device in Step 6.
Reboot your Device
- From the main menu of the custom recovery, select Reboot System Now.
Method 3: Mount Using StickMount (For Rooted Phones)
Maybe your problem isn’t that OTG is not supported on your phone. Maybe it’s that the USB does not automatically mount on your Android. If you’ve checked your Storage and still don’t see any option to mount your USB, we have a solution for you. This is how you can connect your external USB to Android and mount it.
- Although this work on many a Nexus, it does not work on the Nexus 4. StickMount is great for resolving the problem of your Android not detecting your USB.
- You will need to accept terms and conditions.
Download File Manager
In Method 1 is the link for ES File Explorer, but we also like Astro File Manager, so take your pick.
Astro File Manager
Attach OTG Cable
Connect an OTG cable to your phone.
Connect the flash drive or SD card reader to the cable.
Open the StickMount app.
- Select Mount Mass Storage Devices.
- Choose OK.
- Allow StickMount to have superuser access.
Confirm Successful Mounting
You should see a notification from StickMount informing you that mounting was successful and giving you the directory location of your files.
Open File Manager
Devices are usually mounted to /sdcard/usbStorage/xxx/.
If you are using Astro File Manager, it will be on the main menu.
Now you can explore and transfer files; maybe even watch some movies.
Method 4: Transfer Files Between PC and Android Device
Although this process is usually pretty straightforward, there can be difficulties due to the large variety of Androids available and the imperfect protocols involved.
Plug It In
- Plug the USB cable into your device and into your PC.
- You can change connection options via the notifications bar. MTP stands for Media Transfer Protocol and is intended to support the transfer of music files, media files, or personal information. PTP is an acronym for Picture Transfer Protocol—designed, of course, for transferring photos.
- A File Transfer window may appear on your PC that will allow you to drag and drop files.
- If no such window materializes, go to Windows Explorer.
- If you are using a Mac, download Google’s Android File Transfer.
Android File Transfer
Let’s say you receive an error message instead—perhaps regarding drivers, missing files, or problems using Ubuntu GNU Linux. There is an app called MTP-Alternative USB Drive that will allow you to bypass some of these issues.
MTP-Alternative USB Drive
There are more apps out there on which you can explore your files or transfer them from your mobile to USB or vice versa. Nexus Photo Viewer and Nexus Media Importer can be used on many Android devices. You could also use VLC for Android if you are looking for a video playback app. The developers at Chainfire have also devised the USB Host Diagnostics app to troubleshoot USB hosting issues.
Nexus Media Importer
Nexus Photo Viewer
USB Host Diagnostics
So now you can enjoy your music, view your photos, use apps, and even watch videos on your Android without having to account for every precious megabyte of space on your storage. Unlike cloud storage, USB drives don’t require Internet access. Do keep in mind, however, that they are more susceptible to damage and viruses, so be careful. Nonetheless, now you know how to connect USB flash to Android.
Tell us how about your USB adventures in the comments section below. If you are still having difficulty attaching the USB to your Android, tell us about your troubles.