The latest Amazon Fire TV update has added official support for external USB storage. This new feature has raised a lot of questions about what types of drives will work with the Fire TV and what can be done with an attached drive. Read on to learn all about the Fire TV’s new USB storage support.
USB drives connected to the Fire TV are, according to Amazon, to be used for storing apps and games. This feature was added to the Fire TV so that you can store more apps than the internal 8GB storage allows. There is, however, a huge disappointing shortfall with this new feature. You can only move an app’s main files to USB storage. An app’s “data” files must remain on the Fire TV’s internal storage. Many popular large games like GTA: San Andreas and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic store the vast majority of the game’s files as “data”. This means these games essentially cannot be moved to USB storage.
To get an idea of how much of an app can be moved to USB storage, look at the app’s “Size” value listed on the app’s detail/product page. The amount listed is usually how much can be moved to USB storage. For example, GTA: San Andreas lists a size of 77.2MB, which means the majority of the game will remain on the Fire TV’s internal storage. NBA 2K15, on the other hand, lists a file size of 1.8GB so you can be pretty sure that most of the app can be moved to USB storage.
As for other uses of USB storage, Amazon explicitly states that “you cannot access any media that you side-loaded onto the USB device.” The good news is that Amazon is not going out of their way to block apps from accessing USB external storage. Apps like Kodi and VLC can play media stored on an attached external drive without any issues. Files stored on a USB drive attached to the Fire TV can be found under the directory: /storage/extUsb/
USB hubs work with the Fire TV and external USB storage. Since the Fire TV only has one USB port, you can use a USB hub to connect both a USB drive and other USB devices like a FLIRC, mice, and keyboards simultaneously. You cannot use a USB hub to mount two USB drives. The Fire TV will only mount the first USB drive it detects.
Both powered and unpowered USB hubs work with the Fire TV. Some powered USB hubs will cause the Fire TV to freeze on the white Amazon logo during boot up. This is due to the Fire TV detecting power coming into its USB port which makes the Fire TV think it’s plugged into a computer which causes it to enter fastboot mode. If your powered USB hub does this, then you will need to unplug or power down the powered USB hub every time you reboot your Fire TV and then plug it back in once the Fire TV has booted.
Amazon’s USB storage requirements state that the USB drive type must be a “Flash drive” and that “external hard drives are not supported and may result in inconsistent behavior.” That said, external SSD and spinning disc hard drives are detected and work with the Fire TV. However, the Fire TV’s USB port will not be able to power most external hard drives. To use an external hard drive with the Fire TV, you will likely need to use a powered USB hub if the hard drive does not have its own power supply. Even 2.5 inch portable hard drives, which normally do not require external power when used with a computer, cannot be powered by the Fire TV’s USB port. You should also be aware that spinning hard drives have significantly slower access times compared to flash drives and SSDs. This means apps and games stored on spinning drives will likely load slower and may stutter or freeze at times. Lastly, the Fire TV will not spin down most external hard drives when idle. This is bad for the drive and will shorten the lifespan of the drive. If you plan to use a large spinning drive to store media for playback on the Fire TV, I suggest you turn off the drive when it’s not in use. The slower access times and shortened lifespan are why Amazon is rightfully not officially supporting or recommending the use of spinning external hard drives with the Fire TV.
The Fire TV only supports USB drives formatted with a FAT32 file system. NTFS, exFAT, HFS, ext#, and other file systems are not supported. If you insert a USB drive with a file system other than FAT32, the Fire TV will ask if you’d like to format the drive. Also, if the USB drive has multiple partitions, the Fire TV will only use the first FAT32 partition it detects. The FAT32 file system only supports file sizes up to 4 GB. Many HD movie files are larger than 4GB, so this means you will not be able to store these types of files on a drive that the Fire TV can read.
Amazon officially recommends USB drives that are 128GB or smaller. However, the Fire TV will detect and use drives that are larger than 128GB just fine. I personally connected a 1.5TB drive and have read comments from people who have connected even larger drives. Even Amazon’s list of officially supported USB drives includes a drive larger than 128GB.
Amazon recommends high speed USB 3.0 drives for use with the Fire TV. However, USB 2.0 drives work fine. The Fire TV has a USB 2.0 port, so you may wonder why Amazon recommends a USB 3.0 drive. It’s likely because USB 3.0 drives tend to have faster read and write speeds than USB 2.0 drives. This ensures the bottleneck between the Fire TV and the drive is the speed of the USB port and not the speed of the drive.