The Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick were primarily designed to stream media over the internet, but they can also be used to play local video files. Many users access their local video files over their home network, but if setting up a shared network folder seems too daunting of a task, it’s probably easier to just play video files off of a microSD or USB drive connected directly to your Fire TV or Fire TV Stick. Here is a breakdown of everything you need to know to play video files from an attached external microSD card or USB drive.
Storage Type (USB / USB via OTG / microSD)
External storage support varies based on which Amazon Fire TV or Fire TV Stick model you have. The 2nd-gen Fire TV can access videos from its microSD slot or its USB port. The 1st-gen Fire TV can only access videos from its USB port, because it does not have a microSD card slot. The 2nd-gen Fire TV Stick only has a single micro USB port, but you can use it to access videos stored on a USB drive if you use a USB OTG cable. The 1st-gen Fire TV Stick does not support media playback from external drives, even if you use an OTG USB cable.
As far as media playback is concerned, it doesn’t matter if you access videos from a microSD slot (2nd-gen Fire TV only), a USB port (1st and 2nd-gen Fire TV), or an OTG cable (2nd-gen Fire TV Stick only). All USB drives are compatible, including flash/thumb drives, spinning external hard drives, and external SSD drives. You can even use memory cards in a USB card reader.
The path to the directory where your external storage is located will vary based on which model Fire TV or Fire TV Stick you have and which type of external storage you are using. The paths are as follows:
2nd-gen Fire TV – microSD:
2nd-gen Fire TV – USB:
1st-gen Fire TV (software version 5.0.0 and newer) – USB:
1st-gen Fire TV (software version 220.127.116.11 and older) – USB:
2nd-gen Fire TV Stick – USB via OTG Cable:
1st-gen Fire TV Stick: No External Drive Support
Storage Format (FAT32 / NTFS)
All Amazon Fire TVs and Fire TV Sticks only support external storage that is formatted using the FAT32 file system. NTFS, exFAT, and all other file systems are not supported. If your device is rooted, it is possible to use NTFS drives if you follow this guide.
FAT32 only supports files up to 4GB in size. If you want to play video files that are larger than 4GB, you have to split the files, which is explained in this guide.
File Containers (MKV, AVI, MP4, MOV, etc…)
It doesn’t matter to the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick which file container is used, but it might matter to the app that you use to play the file. All the apps listed below support a wide variety of file containers, like .mkv, .avi, .mp4, and .mov. If you’re creating your own files and need to choose one, I would select MKV, but otherwise, this is not something you really need to care about.
Video Codecs (H.264/5, x264/5, HEVC, Xvid, etc…)
Without getting into the gritty details of video codecs, the important thing to know regarding them is that only the 2nd-gen Fire TV and 2nd-gen Fire TV Stick support H.265 (a.k.a. HEVC) and x265 hardware accelerated playback. While those codecs will play on 1st-gen devices, it will be a poor experience. You can see that in action here. All Fire TV and Fire TV Stick models support H.264, x264, Divx, and Xvid hardware decoding. If you have a 2nd-gen device, H.265 and x265 encoded files are best because they provide the best quality at the lowest file size. For maximum compatibility across all models, it’s best to use H.264 or x264 encoded files.
Apps (Kodi, SPMC, MrMC, VLC, etc…)
The Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick do not have a built-in app to access video files on external storage drives. You will need to install an app to play your video files.
VLC is a free app in the Amazon Appstore for the Fire TV. It is the simplest option to play video files from external drives. It does not have any of the fancy features found in other apps like Kodi, but it gets the job done. When you launch the app, it should automatically find and list the video files stored on your external drive. If it doesn’t find the files, scroll down to VLC’s “Browsing” section, and select the directory associated with your device and drive, as listed above in the “Storage Location” section of this article.
Kodi / SPMC / MrMC
Kodi, SPMC, and MrMC are all slightly different version of essentially the same core media player app. These are very powerful and feature rich apps, but they do have a bigger learning curve than something like VLC.
Kodi and SPMC are free, but are not available in the Amazon Appstore for the Fire TV, so you will have to sideload them. This is easy to do and takes only a few minutes if you follow this guide. MrMC is not free, but it is available in the Amazon Appstore, so it is simpler to install and keep updated.
To access your video files on an external drive within Kodi, SPMC, or MrMC, you need to select “Videos” from the main menu in the app, then select “Files” and browse to the directory associated with your device and drive, as listed above in the “Storage Location” section of this article.