External Storage Support Explained Across All Fire TV Models — Fire TV Stick 4K vs 4K Max differences and more

Support for external storage among Amazon Fire TVs, Fire TV Sticks, and Fire TV Cubes varies considerably between models. It’s, unfortunately, not as cut and dry as knowing if external storage is supported or not. Amazon has been doing a much better job lately with consistent support on newer Fire TV models, but, with the announcement of the new Fire TV Stick 4K Max, there have been questions about how its external storage support differs from the regular Fire TV Stik 4K and other models. Here is a breakdown of all the different types of external storage support and which Fire TV models support each type.

This article will explain exactly how external storage works on each Fire TV model. If you do not know precisely which model you have, see this guide. Also, it’s important to note that even though a Fire TV model may support storing apps on external storage, it is up to the app developer to allow it. If an app does or doesn’t support being moved to external storage today, that may change with a future update.

No External Storage Support

Devices: 1st-gen Fire TV Stick

While there are many Fire TV models that could be classified as not having external storage support because they either don’t have the appropriate ports or don’t seem to do anything when external storage is connected, that’s not entirely accurate, as you’ll see with the other sections of this article. No external storage support, for the purposes of this article, means that no data at all can be transferred from an external device to the Fire TV. The only model that behaves this way is the 1st-gen Fire TV Stick. That’s because it has USB OTG capabilities disabled, which means that even if you connect an OTG cable to its micro USB port, it will ignore everything that is connected. That said, it is possible to enable OTG support if the stick is rooted, but I’ll only be going over default factory behavior in this article.

Umounted Data Access Only

Devices: 3rd-gen Fire TV (Pendant)

This is the most limited form of external storage support and only one model behaves this way, which is the 3rd-gen Fire TV Stick pendant. Amazon did not disable OTG support on the Fire TV 3, so you can connect USB peripherals just fine using an OTG cable, but, for some odd reason, the OS does not mount any external drives that are connected. This means that most apps, like Kodi or VLC, are unable to read data from the external drive. Only the very few apps that are capable of mounting external drives themselves, like ES File Explorer or Total Commander (with the help of a plugin), are able to read data from external drives. This, of course, also means that apps cannot be moved to external storage by Fire OS.

Data Access Only

Devices: 2nd-gen Fire TV Stick, and 1st-gen Fire TV Stick 4K

Devices that support this form of external storage support, which include the Fire TV Stick 2 and the Fire TV Stick 4K, will fully mount external drives that get connected via an OTG cable. This means that all apps will see the drive and be able to access its data. However, Fire OS itself will not offer to format the drive or do anything with it. This means that you cannot move apps to external storage on these Fire TV models. There are ways to hack that capability onto the device, but it is not present by default.

App Storage & Data Access

Devices: 1st-gen Fire TV, 2nd-gen Fire TV, 1st-gen Fire TV Cube, 2nd-gen Fire TV Cube, 3rd-gen Fire TV Stick, 1st-gen Fire TV Stick Lite, 1st-gen Fire TV Stick 4K Max

This type of external storage support is the most complete among Fire TV devices. When external storage is connected to the Fire TV, either through an OTG cable or an available port, the Fire TV will display a message asking how you would like it to handle the external storage. The two options provided are to use the external drive for “External Storage” or for “Device Storage.” Selecting “External Storage” will simply mount the drive so that any app can access the data on the drive. Selecting “Device Storage” will format the drive so that it can be used to store apps. This allows you to expand the internal storage of the Fire TV and run apps from the external storage device.

Those are the 4 types of external storage support available among Fire TV models. You can see that the Fire TV Stick 4K only supports accessing data from external storage in 3rd-party apps, while the upcoming Fire TV Stick 4K Max will support both accessing data and storing apps. It seems like Amazon has learned from its mistake of not allowing app storage on the Fire TV Stick 4K, since all models released since then have had full-fledged external storage support that allows both app and data access.

21 comments
  1. Jack says:

    Is only FAT32 supported? Data access also means write support, correct? Informative article!

  2. GL says:

    Thanks for the article. There are still many unknowns. For e.g. for the case where the external storage is selected as “device storage”, will there be any mounting differences? Will the access to the external devices from the apps differ in any way?

    This is all good for the “hello world” kind of application, but when it comes to real apps, we users struggle and the devs put up wikis and stuff, which do not many times work.

    Is there any app independent ways to diagnose such issues? For e.g. see logs of apps trying to save/read data into/from the external and showing any errors encountered?

    • Gary B says:

      Just get a shield and avoid the Amazon Fever Headache…

    • When an external drive is formatted for Device Storage (i.e., to store apps) it generally becomes unavailable to 3rd-party apps for data access. I say generally because there may be some apps that can still read/write to the drive in that state, but I haven’t done thorough testing around that to know for sure. I believe it’s also technically possible to prepare a drive ahead of time to be partitioned in a way that allows for both app storage and data access, but that goes beyond default behavior, so I didn’t mention it.

      • GL says:

        Thank you! Maybe that is the issue. Do you know anyone/website who has done that thorough testing or anyone in Amazon to get in touch with bypassing all CS reps? All I need to know if this is an app issue or in general FireTV issue when the storage is setup as device storage (mine is). (Device storage is a must because of the meagre 5GB availibity)

        I had another question, which not sure if you have covered in your posts: how do I get the unused Amazon apps (so many of them simply eating storage) uninstalled without rooting it?

  3. Matt says:

    As mentioned in another thread that went unanswered, where are you getting official data about this? Please tell us all an actual Amazon link where they say they support it. Without that, it’s a crap shoot of someone just testing it out. It may or may not work if there is no official support, and your articles have a glaring lack of reference material indicating that.

    • EJ says:

      I believe Elias is using the word “support” to describe the capabilities of the devices referenced, not the responsibilities of the manufacturer or vendor. As for reliable sources of Fire TV information, you’ll find none better on the infoweb than the extremely knowledgeable and experienced host and moderator of these discussions.

    • My article lacks any references because Amazon, unfortunately, does not document external storage support. I believe that the official stance from Amazon is that only the Fire TV Cubes and the first two Fire TVs support external storage, but that’s not the case in reality. My information is all from first-hand experience with these devices. I did not include how Fire TV Smart TVs handle external storage because I don’t have first-hand experience with all TV models.

  4. Scott Scherr says:

    Will you be able to transfer apps like Netflix to the external storage? It seems that on the 4K, almost all apps were limited to internal storage.

    • It’s up to the app developer if an app can be transferred to external storage or not. It’s a setting that is embeded in the app itself. Even if an app does or doesn’t support being moved today, a future update can change that.

  5. Jack says:

    IIRC, the Fire TV 2 can move apps AND access data on the SD Card. Amazon has made all of this too confusing!

    • I don’t remember if it can do both simultaneously on the microSD card, but it definitely can store apps on the microSD card and access data on a USB drive simultaneously. Just one of the many ways that the Fire TV 2 was/is awesome.

  6. Rik Emmett says:

    On my Fire TV Stick Lite, some apps don’t have the option to be moved to external storage. I think it should be mentioned in the article that the developer of the app must permit the app to be moved to external storage. Additionally, when I first started using the Sling app, it could be moved to external storage, but then I started getting updates for the sling app that failed with a message stating there was not enough storage space. I finally uninstalled a reinstalled the app and found that it no longer had the option to move it to external storage. I’ve got about 900MB of apps on external storage on my fire tv lite.

  7. Keith says:

    Years ago you had a good guide on moving all kodi data to usb. It worked for me until it didn’t. I tried it many times but it seemed to cause Kodi to crash. Out of the box it will let you store some data on usb but very little. If you, or anyone else here, is able to do this without any glitches Id love to try it again.
    8GB isnt enough. Im usually running with about 500MB of free space and Im always deleting thumbnails.

    • Jack says:

      Did you know you can disable the downloading of thumbnails in Kodi settings? That’s what I do. 5mb of usable user storage is ridiculous in 2021! Amazon clearly is interested in streaming only sticks and ignores gamers and sideloaders.

      I’m no help on Kodi using device storage.

  8. Jack says:

    Elias, will Amazon ever support Google’s ‘adoptable storage’? New memory is added to internal memory in this scheme. Apps would simply install to internal memory as usual. I’ve done this on my Shield (added 128GB flash drive) and it works great.
    Just thinking about solutions Amazon could come up with.

  9. Keith says:

    I used the SD card (“external”) storage on my second gen Fire TV boxes but it was pretty worthless. Hardly any app data was off-loaded to the SD card and I could never figure out how to download anything to it. So I’m not optimistic that the newer devices will fare any better.

    • GL says:

      My experience has been the same with my FireTV Gen2. I gave up after many attempts. Because of less storage issues, I stopped using Kodi to its full potential and am using other newly found apps instead.

      Don’t think Amazon is going to address these kind of inherent issues in their OS and now the older FireTV devices have stopped getting updates.

      Has anything tried rooting and see if we can get Kodi being able to use the external sd card?

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