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Need more space on your Android smartphone or tablet? Want to play tunes from another device, or view videos and pictures stored elsewhere? You could be planning on a trip and want to take some movies with you, but don’t want to fill up your phone’s storage.

If your Android has a microSD card slot, then the problem is easily resolved. You buy a high capacity microSD card. On the other hand, if you can’t afford greater storage but have some USB flash devices laying around, why not connect one of these?

You can’t? Of course you can! It’s all thanks to the magic of USB OTG, “on the go”!

What Is USB OTG?

OTG stands for “On-The-Go” and is a facility we can utilise by means of a USB OTG cable. This is usually a short cable with a wide “female” end for inserting a USB device, and a narrow, “male” connector for hooking it up to your phone.

What OTG does is allow your Android device to act as a host, thereby enabling other USB devices to be attached not just physically, but to the operating system as well.

As you’ve probably noticed, your desktop computer has the ability to act as a host, which means that devices with OTG are also capable of switching between master and slave roles depending on what the user requires. If you connect your Android to your PC to sync, it would be in a slave role, but with a USB flash drive connected, the Android device becomes the master.

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USB flash storage is a great way to add data to your phone or provide further storage. You might, for instance, use it for images or videos recorded for a particular project unrelated to your usual photographic activities. Pretty much any type of data you can think of can be stored in this way. You don’t have to be using a standard USB flash device either — a USB adaptor for an SD card will also work.

muo-w8-recovery-usb

It’s a useful way to transfer data to and from Android, perhaps for storage on a desktop computer. This is most useful when wireless connectivity or cloud storage is unavailable. You will need to use your Android file manager to copy the data to the USB device.

For more uses, Erez has examined OTG and the various items you can connect with it How To Connect a USB Keyboard To Your Android Phone How To Connect a USB Keyboard To Your Android Phone While I’m a big fan of Swype, SlideIT, and other advanced keyboards for Android, there’s something to be said about a keyboard with keys on it. I mean the physical-type keyboards – you know, the... Read More .

Things You Will Need

Want to connect your USB flash drive to your Android device? Make sure you have an OTG cable before starting. Inexpensive and lightweight, you can find them on Amazon and eBay, or even from local electronics stockists.

It’s also possible to connect larger, external HDD devices to Android using OTG. For this you’ll need the Y-shaped powered OTG cables, which have an extra cable for supplying additional power for reading from the device.

muo-android-usbotg-cable-stick

As well as the obligatory Android smartphone or tablet, you should also have a USB flash storage device. If you plan on using the OTG facility for additional storage long-term, you might also spend a few dollars on an OTG-enabled USB flash stick, which comes with the compatible micro USB connector to remove the necessity of using an OTG cable.

You’ll need a useful file management app on your device, too, such as ES File Explorer ES File Explorer - The Best File Manager For Android [Android] ES File Explorer - The Best File Manager For Android [Android] Android doesn’t come with a file manager. Google thinks file managers are part of the past – a complicated tool that we shouldn't need when our data is stored in the cloud and retrieved on-demand... Read More . For the best results your external device should be formated with the FAT32 file system How To Format A Large Hard Drive With Either FAT Or FAT32 How To Format A Large Hard Drive With Either FAT Or FAT32 Read More .

Connecting Your USB Storage To Android With OTG

The connection aspect of using OTG is simple. Prepare the USB flash device with the information you want to access on your Android handset, connect it to one end of the OTG cable, and ensure the other end is connected to your device.

That’s it.

muo-android-usbotg-cable-options

Android should alert you that the storage is connected. Check your notification area for confirmation, or open Settings > Storage to see what is attached. You should find that the storage has already been mounted, but if not you can tap Mount.

Once mounted, the additional storage can be accessed using the file management app you installed earlier, and the media on it enjoyed.

You’ll need to ensure the storage is empty and formatted in the correct format for Android (FAT32 is required). If you’re planning on copying data from Android to the device, this can be done in the Settings > Storage screen. Scroll to the device, tap Unmount, and then Wipe storage. Take care that you’re tapping the right button, and not wiping microSD storage!

Trouble Detecting USB Storage? Use An App

All of this so far assumes that your phone has detected the USB storage connected via the USB OTG cable.

But what if it hasn’t?

muo-android-usbotg-cable-mount

Instead, you’ll need to rely on an app. This seems odd, especially as connecting a USB mouse or keyboard will probably work without further assistance, but it’s all down to how storage devices are treated in Android.

On Google Play, look for apps (they all require root Take Control: Android Rooting Guide Take Control: Android Rooting Guide As of the writing of this guide, approximately 80% of the world's population owns their own cellphone. Out of those, 1.08 billion are smartphones. Read More ) such as StickMount, which will detect when a USB storage device is connected and mount it for you. From here, you can browse the device using ES File Explorer, or a video playback app such as VLC for Android.

Using USB Flash Storage With Android: The Downside

One key problem exists with using USB flash storage with Android. You can’t take it with you.

Well, you can, but in public it looks ridiculous. You really don’t want to be carrying your phone or tablet around with a cable and USB flash storage drive flapping around do you?

muo-android-usbotg-cable-floppy

So, to deal with this, you’ll need to disconnect the storage, which first means unmounting (either in the notification area or in Settings > Storage). Remember to unmount storage whenever you can as it preserves the integrity of the data.

Any read/write processes taking place when storage is forcibly removed without unmounting will result (if not immediately, certainly soon) in corrupt data on your USB storage. Although this can often be repaired How To Fix Write Protection Errors On a USB Stick How To Fix Write Protection Errors On a USB Stick You've got your trusty USB flash drive plugged into your computer, and you go to copy some files to it. Then you get this - "The disk is write protected. Remove the write protection or... Read More (some data may be lost), it’s best to avoid it happening at all.

USB OTG: How Do You Use It?

Easy to setup and handy for viewing movies and high definition media on your phone, USB OTG is one of those Android features that somehow gets overlooked. Perhaps people think it’s too complicated, or maybe the idea of having just one more cable (however short) doesn’t suit them.

Either way, we want you to tell us. Have you used USB OTG for storage? Does its existence come as a surprise to you? Tell us in the comments.

  1. sofia
    November 4, 2016 at 12:23 pm

    got a phone with android 5 and in the storage management, there is the option for external storage (tough it's disabled) .

    i connect a OTG cabel and a flash drive to it, the phone start "calculating" the usb free and used space and then, suddenly, it's stop and go back being disabled as if there no usb attached....

    saw that behavior before?
    do i have to format mine USB?

  2. Connor
    June 15, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    Kitkat 4.4.2 does not write to USB device without rooting your host and using another app.
    Can anyone show me how to write to an external USB flash?

  3. Limbani Bhavik
    March 13, 2016 at 7:26 am

    thanks for sharing.. helpful article :)

  4. Estella
    December 5, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    I need help I'm trying to move a 46.8mb file from my Android to the usb flash drive with the otg but it keeps saying failed to move. Why can't I move this file from my mobile to usb? Is there a way or app to transfer this file? Please help.

    • Christian Cawley
      December 5, 2015 at 9:36 pm

      You should try syncing via a cloud account

  5. Ali
    November 27, 2015 at 11:19 am

    wow it's awesome

  6. Lmahdi Adam
    September 4, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    this is the first time can I have seen that

    thanks for sharing

  7. Hao Sun
    June 22, 2015 at 6:23 pm

    Can you use your PC as external storage?

  8. afroz
    May 17, 2015 at 1:27 am

    Hi guys I'm using YU yureka I had a prblm ...I can't access my SD card in gallery and also music player...i thought SD card was gone but its working while opening in file manager but I cnt see my stuff in gallery and music i tryed to mount my SD card but mount option was disabled showing interset Ur USB to mount Ur SD card....plz help me frnds

  9. sandeep
    May 13, 2015 at 5:05 am

    I have a Xiaomi MI4I which gets connectec to OTG but I cannot transfer data from phone to flash drive but I can do the other side ,
    Can any body help me.

  10. Sahil
    May 12, 2015 at 9:35 am

    I have a Karbonn A12 Mobile, an OTG cable, and stickmount Pro 3.26.

    I opened the app Stickmount, then I plugged my Pendrive.
    Nothing happened.
    Stickmount couldnt detect any USB storage, so it couldnt mount too (when I clicked mount).

    Feeling Sad. :(

  11. Chris
    March 6, 2015 at 2:16 am

    Google no longer allows me to move files to my otg storage! It was working fine for a long time and today it tells me I need to be rooted put files on my USB! What's the point in having external storage if you can't put files on it? I don't understand.

    • Christian Cawley
      March 8, 2015 at 1:37 pm

      Hi Chris, did this follow an Android update?

  12. Nikhil
    February 4, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    Can I move android apps to USB OTG? I am just able to move/install apps onto external sdcard and not to USB OTG. Why is this behaviour? Can someone explain.

  13. hitesh
    January 15, 2015 at 6:24 am

    Well i can read from it but i cang write on the pendrive
    i.e i cant move files frm my android to my pendrive

    • Christian Cawley
      January 18, 2015 at 6:02 pm

      Can you move files in the opposite direction?

      Also, does the pendrive usually work as expected? Do you have a second Android device you might be able to test it with?

  14. Chris
    December 29, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    Will this work with a game camera SD card ? I'd like to view and or download pictures from that on my phone..

  15. Pedro
    December 20, 2014 at 11:42 pm

    To expand memory otg is obsolete: use wireless connectors. You can use a flash drive as well as an external hard disk, all hidden in your pocket, just connected to the wireless device. Take for example the HooToo TripMate Nano Wireless N Pocket Travel Router

  16. Isaiah
    December 20, 2014 at 10:31 pm

    hello i am using a paranoid android custom rom and i have been trying to use my OTG cable but not working i have even tries stickymount... please what should i do

    • glen
      January 26, 2015 at 5:34 pm

      my music player recognized the music files immediately, just plugged in & they showed

  17. Glen
    December 8, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    this is great...I have a Moto G with only 8 gigs of storage & I'm a music freak, now I can listen to more of my tunes

    • Flijem
      January 25, 2015 at 6:30 pm

      How did you get the music app to see the music? I can play one file at a time but not the whole album :-(

  18. Ben
    December 4, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    So, if I'm getting it right, on Android 4.4-5.0 you can mount storage in partition types, other than fat32 (with the respective mounting apps) without root "persay", because root functionality is built into the system...???

  19. darrin
    December 3, 2014 at 5:37 am

    this is nothing new i was doing this years ago

  20. John Williams
    December 2, 2014 at 2:01 am

    I meant to add that, yes, I've had tremendous success with OTG.
    Most no-name Chinese tablets come ready rooted, stock Android and you can connect all sorts of USB widgets to them.

    I also found a 16Gb "double ended" USB flash pendrive with two endcaps. It has a full size USB A plug on one end for the laptop and a mini USB A on the other for the tablet or phone. OTG must be in there somewhere, because it just works. It came from Ali-Express, but is probably on ebay and Amazon by now.

    • Ben
      December 4, 2014 at 2:14 pm

      There have been loads of those, for quite a while now. Just about two months (or was it years, I can't remember) ago, Sandisk - the worlds premier leader in flash storage - released their very own 64 GB OTG Flash Drive.

  21. John Williams
    December 2, 2014 at 1:49 am

    I used to have a cable with a full size USB A plug at each end and a blob of electronics in the middle. You could join a PC to a laptop and transfer files with it - one way. Moving stuff back required you to turn the cable around. It saved all the hassle of briefly networking the 2 machines over Ethernet, or worse, making a null-modem cable to move stuff through the COM port.

    RS 232? COM port? Clear to Send? Handshaking? Not a clue? You haven't lived guys. Moving data around used to be a major civil engineeing job!

    OTG has done this by making USB bi-directional allowing either device to be the host. The electronics in my old cable have moved in behind the 5 pin mini or micro USB port. Simply grounding the extra pin (in the plug) makes the device a host. Very clever - but older technology than you think.

  22. Mike
    December 1, 2014 at 11:49 pm

    I have used this setup and I have yet to find a way to disconnect properly, or "unmount" the flash drive. I have a Samsung Galaxy S4.

    • Ben
      December 4, 2014 at 2:17 pm

      It's in your storage settings.

  23. Jardorie
    November 30, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    Before during and after trying out iOS 8 on a iPhone 4S, I knew I wanted an android device for a smart phone or tablet. When I found out about mounting a usb flash drive and even an external hard drive it made me want an android as my mobile device of choice.

    I've seen USB 3.0 Type A Female to Micro-USB 3.0 Male adapter no cable in between which I might invest in. Unless I were to use an external hard disk drive that has usb 3.0 capability as well, then I would look for a long cable adapter.

  24. Nicholas Bodley
    November 30, 2014 at 6:25 am

    Some time ago, I was foolish and failed to get a bumper jacket for my Nexus 2012. Finally, it fell face down and apparently hit a tiny pebble. I got so many cracks I didn't try to count. Digitizer died totally, but display was fine. Eventually got an OTG cable and a USB optical mouse, connected it/them, and the mouse worked just fine. I might have enabled debug/developer options earlier.

    Mouse power drain was modest.

    • Ben
      December 4, 2014 at 2:30 pm

      Yeah, unfortunately that's true. When I first heard about USB OTG, I started showing that to everyone, unfortunately, if I used my phone like that, for more than about an hour (my battery is going wonky on me) it'd be dead "before I know it". That's only with a mouse, that requires a 100 mAh charge, a gaming mouse would almost certainly make your battery go faster.

  25. nolan
    November 30, 2014 at 1:48 am

    Does it work on a samsung 7" Tab 4

    • Ben
      December 4, 2014 at 2:46 pm

      It works on practically every Android device (except (maybe) those (like the two latest gen. Kindle Fires, they have Fire OS) that have hopelessly mangled versions of Android), USB OTG is a feature (all be it, not very well implemented, until android version 4.0) of stock android version 2.3, and above.

  26. Darek
    November 30, 2014 at 12:18 am

    Or you could use one of those usb memory drives with micro usb connector built-in. No additional cable required.

    • Christian Cawley
      November 30, 2014 at 10:07 am

      Good suggestion, Darek. Albeit one mentioned in the article ;)

    • Ben
      December 4, 2014 at 11:11 pm

      Also, if you have a large capacity regular size SD (or any other) memory card, you could just get a USB card reader, and use it that way.

  27. STLShawn
    November 29, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    Very detailed article. Well thought out and a good read. I like the detailed steps. Far too many writers "get tired" and rush through the last half of the steps, but not is one.
    Not something I can think of as a use case for me , as I seem to always be swimming in wifi and connected to cloud storage when on my tablet.
    Having said that, I will be sharing this with others when the subject comes up.

    • Christian Cawley
      November 30, 2014 at 10:08 am

      Thanks Shawn, hope it proves useful to your friends.

  28. Rich G
    November 29, 2014 at 12:41 pm
  29. SIlverlokk
    November 29, 2014 at 3:04 am

    Doesn't the phone or tablet have to be OTG-capable as well?

    • aaish
      April 25, 2015 at 1:29 pm

      yup

  30. Doc
    November 29, 2014 at 3:01 am

    USB OTG support requires at least Android 3.1, and device support (not every device with 3.1 or later supports it).

    Here's how to find out if your device supports OTG, before buying a cable you might not be able to use:

    http://www.cnet.com/how-to/how-to-tell-if-your-android-phone-or-tablet-supports-usb-on-the-go/

  31. s.a.ansari
    November 29, 2014 at 2:42 am

    Does it work with samsung grand 2

    • cheech
      December 2, 2014 at 4:40 am

      Works with all android phones/tablets

  32. pete
    November 28, 2014 at 9:09 pm

    I use an app called Nexus Media Importer. It cost a couple of pounds but I bought it using money I earned from google surveys.
    It allows me to use an OTG cable and USB without need for rooting.
    I use the Nexus 7 (2012) although, now it has v5.0 installed the tablet really slow and I hardly use it.
    Before I had Lollipop installed the Nexus Media Importer was a great app and worked like a charm.

  33. ReadandShare
    November 28, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    I use microSD cards as the common denominator for all my devices - MP3, phone, tablet and desktop.

    My Nexus 7 tablet has no card slot at all. So, to easily transfer / backup files between my tablet and the microSD card in my camera (used with SD card adapter) -- I use this Microtek adapter:

    amazon.com/Unitek-Connector-smartphone-function-Notebook/dp/B00GLL40SA

    I think it's great for versatility. The microSD card format is the tiniest and it works on pretty much everything. And with the above adapter, you can use the card like a USB drive as well.

  34. mRINAL
    November 28, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    It may look little awkward in public if you carry your android with OTG cable but who said you have to do that all the time. While I am traveling long distance, I always take my Nexus 7 and pen drive and otg with me.

    If I need to get something from my pendrive, I connect them for a min and transfer the data. It take no more than a min.

    • adam
      November 29, 2014 at 6:23 pm

      Seagate wireless plus works damn nice no ned for cables

    • Jardorie
      November 30, 2014 at 9:34 pm

      Wireless hard drive means having to keep two things charged. Cellular phone or tablet is one thing, but now the wireless storage device, not fond of. Not to mention if a person is on a plane that can not be turned on.

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