• ARTICLES
SEARCH

How-To Geek

How To Use USB Drives With the Nexus 7 and Other Android Devices

nexus-7-with-usb-otg-cable

The Nexus 7 may not have a lot of storage space – especially the original 8 GB model – but you can connect a USB drive to it if you want to watch videos or access other files.

Unfortunately, Android doesn’t automatically mount USB drives by default. You’ll need to root your device to enable support for USB drives.

What You’ll Need

You’ll need four things to do this:

  • A USB OTG adapter cable: One end of this cable plugs into the micro USB connector on your Nexus 7 (or other device) and one end allows you to connect standard USB 2.0 devices, such as USB drives. These cables can be had for less than $1 online. USB OTG stands for USB On-The-Go.
  • A rooted Nexus 7 (or other Android tablet or smartphone): We’ve covered using the Nexus Root Toolkit to easily root Nexus devices. If you’ve previously rooted your device and since updated the operating system, it’s just a matter of opening the Nexus Root Toolkit and clicking the Root button again. (The Nexus Root Toolkit currently does not included support for Android 4.2. If you’re using Android 4.2 on your Nexus, select “Any Build” under the device.)

nexus-root-toolkit-any-device

  • The StickMount app: StickMount is available for free from Google Play. Note that StickMount only works if your device is rooted.
  • ES File Explorer or another file manager app: We’ll be using ES FIle Explorer here, but you can also use another file manager if you prefer it.

Accessing a USB Drive

With your device rooted, plug one end of the USB OTG cable into it and connect the USB drive to the other end of the cable.

You’ll see a StickMount prompt when the drive is connected. Tap OK and StickMount will make the files on the USB device accessible.

image

You’ll need to grant root access to StickMount. The process will fail here if you aren’t rooted.

image

If you agree to both dialogs and select the Use by default option in the first dialog, you won’t see any dialogs when you next connect your USB drive – this will all happen automatically.

You’ll see a notification indicating that StickMount successfully mounted the device under /sdcard/usbStorage.

image

Open the ES File Explorer app on your device and tap the usbStorge folder.

image

You’ll see at least one folder inside the usbStorage folder. These folders represent the different partitions on your connected devices.

image

Tap the folder and you’ll see the files inside it. Tap or long-press the files to open them or manipulate them normally.

image

For example, this is particularly useful for watching video files, which can take up a lot of space on your tablet.

image

When you’re done, you can tap the StickMount option in your notification tray to unmount (eject) the drive and then disconnect it. This notification also informs you when StickMount has successfully mounted a drive.


While the cable is a tad bit bulky, it’s still convenient for watching videos on an airplane or while sitting around your house. You can also use it to move files around for any other purpose, just as you’d use a USB drive on a computer.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 11/26/12

Comments (25)

  1. Bilal

    This is pure gold for the newer nexus devices. :)

  2. Oli

    If you don’t want to root your nexus to access an usb drive, just buy an OTG adapter and the “Nexus Media Importer” app and you’re all set

  3. Sep

    In case that you don’t want to root your device, you can use this app:
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.homeysoft.nexususb.importer

  4. TheFu

    I’d like to point out that not all android devices need any help with USB drives. The Acer A500 has USB drive support built-in – it has a microUSB and full sized USB port built into the tablet. The microUSB port is used to access the flash memory inside the tablet from a PC, but the full-sized USB port acts like a USB host port – automatically mounting any connected USB storage with a compatible file system.

    Most of the time, I use the USB port with a keyboard connection. Bluetooth keyboards seem to always lag and drop characters. It is maddening. The USB keyboard is part of a faux-leather portfolio protector for the tablet, nice and compact.

    The Acer A500 tablet is far from perfect, but the out of the box USB support is very nice. It is also fairly trivial to root on 4.x Androids though I haven’t tried 4.2 yet.

  5. Cody

    Also a fantastic way to hook up a gaming controller to play certain games (i.e. Dead Trigger) on your tablet.

  6. pauline

    Anyone know if this will work with kindle fire hd? Also what do I lose if I root?

  7. Sbuck

    What about the Nexus 10?

  8. Zonell217

    Does this works for all Android devices?

  9. raddical

    +1 for the “Elephant’s Dream” reference.

  10. Mac

    Useless on my Galaxy Ace :((

  11. Carolyn Agenjo

    The Nexus 7 doesn’t need to be rooted, I just use a $1 OTG cable and it connects, same with my Galaxy SIII phone.

  12. J

    Can someone recommend a good USB OTG cable for use with a setup like this?

  13. GaGator

    @Oli… Thanks for your tip on the “Nexus Media Importer” app. It plays all video formats on my Galaxy Nexus and I can now directly view backed-up movies directly from my WD Passport drive. Great tip.

  14. Me

    I bought a USB 5-pack from “Amazon” for $5. (See: http://www.amazon.com/s/field-keywords=otg)

    They had other vendors with onzies, but after shipping I just figured I’d go for broke.

    Only 99% sure — you know how the vendors can be — but I’m sure that all of the “different phone” cables are all actually the exact same thing; microUSB/M to USB/F Type A.

    @pauline — Root’s a good thing — it lets you do things that the vendor doesn’t directly support so you lose the “Warm Fuzzie” safety factor that the vendor gives you. Basically you’re ripping off the “No User Serviceable Parts Inside” top cover of the device. *IF* you logically poke around with a screwdriver and happen to rub just the right part, POOF! the magic smoke appears but without the Genie, and suddenly the device no workie no more.

    Probably a bit more apt: think of your device is a gun with the safety ON. You can do any stupid thing you want and it’s OK. But by enabling root you disable the safety, and now it’s possible to shoot yourself in the foot — in other words, you can mess up your device SO MUCH that it takes an expert (or the vendor) to fix it.

    But it’s all logical here, you’re NOT going to smoke the device. You can actually “brick” the device if you do it Exactly Just Right, but don’t install any custom ROMs and you’ll always be able to get someone to factory reset it if not do it yourself.

    If you’re not sure, don’t do it. (_That_ advice is probably true for just about anything.)

  15. joe

    @J
    Beware of low priced OTG. Beware of ‘product may not match picture shown’.
    Spend ~$5-$6 on a decent fitting micro-usb.

  16. Jeroen

    My Qware Pro 3 is rooted by default and automatically mounts any USB storage device that I connect. I used it a lot for copying from USB stick to my 32 Gb extSD card.
    Now I ‘m waiting for my USB OTG cable and want to test it.

  17. Kim

    @ pauline – just simply ‘google’ ‘rooting android’ and it will tell you everything there….. you can also sign up for the forums here and look in their beginners root guides. I all the info you need will be right there. However, DO NOT ROOT if you don’t know what you are doing… You could brick your phone. (brick=making your phone an expensive paperweight) AND it voids your warranty – Meanking, DO NOT ask your carrier ‘how to root’.

  18. Kim

    EDIT: I meant to say ‘I BELIEVE’ all the info you need will be right there.

  19. Kim
  20. BK

    My Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 works great with my OTG connector – no software or apps needed to drive the OTG with a flash drive connected.. my Sammy instantly said “USB Storage Connected” and I had full access to read/write to my USB stick. Nice!

  21. Mogster

    How much power can the micro-USB port supply? And how fast will it drain the battery?

  22. Andy

    Hooray, the new toolkit is out today for the 4.2 N7!

  23. thomasclover

    @Mogster
    I use both flash drives (no moving parts) and hard disk drives with mine on a regular basis. The flash drives don’t seem to make a noticeable difference in battery life and I have used a 32GB flash successfully. The hard drive I used was a Maxtor 500GB USB 2.0 drive and it worked well too. It seems to take about my battery life from an average of 6 hours down to about 5 hours so it’s not so bad. I’ve learned to plug it in long enough to copy the TV shows to my internal memory and then disconnect it.

  24. jeroen

    Stickmount does work on my rooted Nexus 7, though some files won’t play unless they’re copied to the internal storage of my Nexus. Any suggestions?

  25. George

    yes i have A Ipod, Apple,ipad….got it a a gift from my place where i work,i would like to have a Nice Laptop–some day i get this right. ty…George

Get Free Articles in Your Inbox!

Join 134,000 newsletter readers

Email:

Go check your email!