One of my most viewed (and controversial) posts from last year was why you should never power a Fire TV Stick from your TV’s USB port. Seeing how many people have recently purchased or received new Fire TV Sticks over the holidays, it’s a good time to revisit the subject.
First and foremost, I am not saying that it’s not possible to power a Fire TV Stick from a TV USB port. Millions of people do it every day without any issues. The purpose of this article is simply to inform you that there are risks involved in doing so. Firesticks, especially when on sale, are cheap enough for many people that the convenience of using a TV USB port for power is worth the rare risk of damaging it and having to replace the Fire TV Stick. That’s perfectly fine, but you should know what the risks are and that there are ways to limit those risks if you do choose to power a Fire TV Stick through a TV’s USB port.
The primary risk to a Fire TV Stick being powered by a TV USB port is not having enough power or losing power entirely during a software update. Fire TVs perform two types of updates, operating system (OS) updates and component updates. Both update types can happen automatically at any time. OS updates will typically wait for the device to be idle and display a message informing you the update is occurring, but component updates usually happen silently in the background and will often happen while you are actively using the Fire TV. Cutting off the power or rebooting the Fire TV Stick during either update type can damage the device. At best, the part of the Fire TV being updated will not work correctly and the device will need to be factory reset, and, at worst, the Fire TV will stop working altogether and need to be replaced. This usually manifests itself as the Fire TV not being able to get past the “Fire TV” logo that gets displayed while it is being powered on.
Losing power to the Fire TV Stick during an update can occur in two ways when using a TV’s USB port. First, many TVs cut off power to their USB ports when the TV is turned off or sitting idle for too long. If this occurs when the Fire TV Stick happens to be updating, either because you manually turned off the TV or because the TV turned itself off automatically, the Fire TV Stick can be damaged. Second, the TV’s USB port might be providing enough power to the Fire TV Stick for daily use, but not enough power during high-draw events, like software updates. Even if your TV’s USB ports are providing power all the time, the Fire TV Stick might start to install an update, which is when it uses the most power, and then find that it can’t pull enough power from the TV and reboot itself at the worst possible time.
In summary, TV USB ports are typically not a reliable source of power because they either cut the power off unpredictably or they could provide insufficient power for all scenarios that your Fire TV Stick can go through. Since it’s impossible to know when your Fire TV Stick will be updating its software, it’s always best to simply use the included power adapter that came with the Fire TV Stick. That’s why Amazon prints a warning message right on the Fire TV Stick wrapper about using the included power adapter.
If you don’t want to run a separate power cord to your TV for your Fire TV Stick, the best solution is to either tuck a power splitter or small power strip behind your TV for both the TV and the Fire TV Stick power adapter to use. If that’s not a viable solution for your setup, then you can mitigate half of your risk by using a special USB cable with a built-in battery. The USB Power Cable by Mission Cables is the only one that is certified by Amazon for use with Fire TV Sticks. The battery built into the cable charges from your TV’s USB port and provides extra power if the Fire TV Stick draws too much or your TV’s USB port is too weak. You still run the risk of your Fire TV losing power completely when the TV is turned off or goes idle, but you can at least be assured that your Fire TV Stick is getting enough power while the TV is on.
One final note is that Fire TVs perform a lot of maintenance tasks while they are idle (i.e., asleep). So, if your Fire TV Stick is always being powered off with your TV, it never gets a chance to perform those tasks. This means it has no choice but to do them while you are actually using the Fire TV Stick. The result is a Fire TV that feels extra sluggish for a little while after it is powered on. That sluggish performance will last longer the longer that your device has been powered off because there are more tasks that need to be done. That’s just another reason to use a stable power source for your Fire TV Stick that is always available.