One big unadvertised but significant difference between the Fire TV Stick 4K Max and the original Fire TV Stick 4K is how each one handles external USB storage. With the original Firestick 4K, you can connect a drive using an OTG cable and access files on that drive through 3rd-party apps, but the Fire TV operating system ignores the drive entirely. With the new Fire TV Stick 4K Max, external drives are fully supported, meaning, you can mount, format, and eject the drives. Most importantly, you can also use external drives to expand the device’s internal storage and move apps to the external drive.
If you connect a USB drive formatted with FAT32 to the micro-USB power port of the Fire TV Stick 4K Max using an OTG cable with micro-USB power, the device will mount it and add a notification declaring that the drive has limited device access. This just means that you can’t store apps on the drive in its current state, but the drive will be mounted and accessible by 3rd-party apps. Amazon labels this as a drive for “External Storage,” as opposed to a drive for “Internal Storage” which I’ll get into more further below.
FAT32 formatted drives mounted as External Storage will appear under the Fire TV Stick 4K Max’s Settings > My Fire TV > USB Drive menu. From there you can see how much of the drive’s available storage is used. You can also use this menu to safely eject the drive and can choose to format it for use as Internal Storage.
Apps, like Kodi, will be able to access any files stored on the USB drive. As mentioned, the drive must be formatted with FAT32. If you connect a drive that is not FAT32, the Fire TV will ask if you want to format it for External or Internal Storage. Selecting External Storage from the prompt will erase the drive and format it with FAT32. Like all past Fire TV models, NTFS formatted drives are not supported.
If you select Internal Storage from the formatting prompt, or you go to Settings > My Fire TV > USB Drive and select “Format to Internal Storage,” then the drive will be erased and formatted to allow Fire TV apps to be stored on the drive. Once formatted for Internal Storage, the drive cannot be used for anything else unless it is first formatted back to FAT32 or some other file system format. The Fire TV will provide a new option under the USB Drive menu to “Format to External Storage” when a drive formatted for Internal Storage is connected.
With a drive formatted for Internal Storage connected to the Fire TV Stick 4K Max, certain apps will now have a “Move to USB Storage” option in the Manage Installed Applications menu. It is up to the app developer to decide whether their app can be moved to USB storage, so many apps will not have the option. Additionally, it’s important to note that only the apps “Application” files will be moved and not the “Data” files. In the image above, you can see that Kodi is using 153 MB of “Application” storage, which can be moved to USB storage, but the 103 MB of “Data” storage must remain on the Fire TV’s internal storage.
Once an app has been moved to USB storage, a USB icon will appear next to the app in the Fire TV’s management menu. You can also filter the list of installed apps by only those stored internally or externally. An app can easily be moved back to internal storage using the same app management menu. If a USB drive with apps on it is disconnected, those apps will not be accessible until the drive is reconnected.
If you connect a USB hub to the OTG cable, or, better yet, a USB hub with OTG capabilities built-in, you can connect multiple USB devices. The Fire TV does not handle multiple USB drives too well, since the settings menu only shows the last drive you connected, but it is possible to mount and access more than one drive at the same time, as shown within Kodi in the image above. You can also connect USB peripherals, like mice and keyboards, as well as Ethernet adapters, all simultaneously.
One limitation, however, is that you cannot connect both a drive for Internal Storage (for apps) and a drive for External Storage (for media) simultaneously. The Fire TV can’t handle that and just makes the External Storage drive accessible. This means that, if you want to store apps on a USB drive, you can’t also access files on a second drive at the same time.