Kim Barloso

How do I connect my flash drive to my Android smartphone? Step-by-step instructions


The ability to connect an external flash drive to a smartphone is a little known trick. Even those who have heard of it encounter problems recognizing the device or it suddenly disconnects.

What does it take to connect a USB stick?

Flash drives connect to Android smartphones without problems when the device supports USB Host. This feature is enabled by default on Android models younger than 4-5 generation. The connection requires one of the following 2:

  • TOTG cable with micro USB, mini USB, USB Type-C connectors and a second connector directly to the external storage device;
  • Double USB and micro or USB-C flash memory stick.

The USB Type-C connector and USB Type-C adapters are suitable for notebooks, desktop computers and mobile devices (including tablets). It is good if the flash device has the FAT32 file system, but sometimes NTFS is sufficient.

How to connect the flash device to the smartphone: steps

  • Connect the OTG cable with the smartphone at one end and the flash device at the other end. If the flash drive is reversible - it has its own USB-C and Micro USB ports - no cable is needed.
  • When everything is fine, you will receive a notification from the built-in file manager about the New drive connection.
  • If a notification appears saying that the USB drive cannot be connected it means that the drive has encountered an incompatible file system.
  • The flash memory is inserted but there is no warning - the device does not support USB-Host or there is not enough power to connect it.

Sometimes you need to enter the Developer Mode on the device in order to detect the USB-Stick. The path looks like this: Device and Privacy - SIM Toolbox, Special Features - Developer Mode - OTG Connection (here you can set up Auto Disconnect after N-minutes idle time). On some phones the optionally check the Debug by USB tab has to be enabled.

How to view the contents of the external USB stick using the file manager?

Some apps are more convenient and provide broader functionalities than the internal ones. Examples of successful applications:

  • X-Plore File Manager is a free russified program with a simple interface. There are no unnecessary options that slow down the work. To detect the flash drive you need to open Settings and Allow access.
  • Total Commander for Android - available: copy, move, delete without trash, play media /files. For more functions, you need to install specific plugins.
  • ES Explorer - automatically supports playback from NTFS flash drives. In addition to the basic function of organizing /files and folders, there is the access to cloud storage, the possibility to manage applications.

Total Commander and X-Plore allow the inclusion of NTFS support if a Microsoft paid utility exFAT/NTFS for USB.

The common advantage of third party managers in comparison with the built-in ones is the seamless contact between the media connected via cable and the memory sticks. The information to and from the phone is transferred freely to the USB stick and the integrated file manager sometimes ignores the memory cards.

Can a USB stick be connected to the phone without root?

Smartphones from year 2016 and below can be connected according to the above scheme. For the models older than 2013 you will need to use a third party app. Each phone released between 2013-2016 needs to be checked separately. The most simple and affordable applications are:

  • Nexus Media Importer.
  • Nexus USB OTG FileManager.

These programs work without making changes to root, support FAT and NTFS (both paid).

  • Gato Negro USB OTG File Manager is free but with a lower rating. It lets you add, rename and delete /files. Some users noted that the flash drive is recognized but an error is generated when trying to copy.

If you nevertheless need the root rights, the programs Kingo Root and KRoot Checker are handy. The developer warns, however, that he is not responsible for the consequences. There is a risk of damaging the smartphone and staying without warranty. There is also a risk of damaging the phone warranty. You will need to find a separate manual for each phone model.

To obtain root access for quick flash memory recognition with display in any file manager, try the free StickMount app (there is a paid Pro utility). You may download it from Play Market.

After connecting StickMount should be checked to Run StickMount automatically on the running device and allow Full access to all features. Following that the StickMount software will detect the sdcard/usbStorage folder in the file manager.

The software supports file systems for different handsets with no firmware restrictions. The list of available /filesystems includes: fat and fat32 as well as ext2, ext3 and ext4.

What kind of Flash would be suitable to connect?

Not all external devices are compatible with the Android platform. You could try to connect the following to your smartphone:

  • External USB devices with their own power supply, computer mouse, keyboard, joystick, games wheel.
  • An ordinary flash disk.

Each of these devices would drain the battery of your smartphone twice as quickly.

Why does Android not detect the USB flash disk?

There are cases where the hardware is not recognized. Situations when the phone does not see the USB flash drive or periodically stops recognizing it:

  • When there is no activity with the flash drive for several minutes. The smartphone starts saving its battery power and pretends not to recognize the external storage medium (the flash drive disappears from the list of available devices).
  • The mobile phone is not compatible with the On-The-Go technology. In this situation no applications help you.
  • When you connect the flash media device through OTG-cable and adapter. Two identical looking adapters may have two different pinouts and relate to different technologies (Thunderbolt and OTG).
  • In the schema of the smartphone or tablet the manufacturer has prohibited flash drives reading. Sometimes updating the firmware helps. Changing settings within the root directory may also help.
  • The flash drive is formatted in NTFS. The smartphones are not able to read this file system. You would need to re-flash the flash drive to exFAT or FAT32 formats.
  • Flash memory capacity is too high. Do not exceed the limit of 8GB.

Flash memory for the smartphone is supported by a whole range of applications, including some free ones. The newer the phone, the more likely the flash drives will be automatically recognized.

“Hello. My name is Kim. I discovered that technology, when used with a purpose, can be pretty amazing. To share the wonder of tech, I’ve written for blogs like and With over three years of freelance writing experience in the technology and entertainment niche, I can write a storm about a software app, a cool browser extension, a new mobile device and other geek-centric stuf... “

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Kim Barloso