How to: Use your USB flash drives with the Nexus 7 [root]

One of the few negative points with the Nexus 7 for some, is the lack of any sizable on-board storage. Indeed, looking at a couple of the latest big name game titles such as Max Payne or the Amazing Spider Man further compounds the frustration. With games going well in excess of 1GB -- and even approaching 2GB -- there isn't a great deal of room left for music and videos. 

Make no mistake, we're not here to discuss the lack of microSD card. It is what it is. But, what we are here to discuss, is a way of using a USB mass storage device such as a flash drive, with your Nexus 7. Hit the break and have a look.

The capability is there, but out of the box you can't make use of it. With root access though, most things are possible. Many long term Android users may already be familiar with an application called Stickmount. To them, we apologize, and say just this. Stickmount works perfectly well with the Nexus 7 and Jelly Bean.

To everyone else who's new to this, we'll walk you through it step by step. First up, besides root you also need to purchase a USB OTG cable. Not sure what that is? It's essentially an adaptor that features a microUSB port that plugs into the device, and a USB socket which you can plug your flash drive into -- or a mouse or keyboard if you so desire. You'll also need some form of file browser, such as ASTRO or Solid Explorer Beta as we'll be using here. 

Then, you'll need to head over to the Play Store and download a copy of Stickmount -- download links below. When you fire up Stickmount, you'll be greeted with the screen seen below. 

The section labelled "mounts" is the key, as this is where you will mount and un-mount your USB drives -- much as you would on a desktop computer. The app will work its magic, and you'll have your files available to you on your tablet. 

From here you'll need to switch over to your file browsing application of choice. You need to head into the folder labelled as 'sdcard,' and scroll down until you reach a folder within called 'USB storage.' It is within this folder you will find the files and folders contained on your USB drive -- shown here holding a Windows 8 .iso file. I assure you I'm not carrying that on my Nexus 7! 

And thats all there really is to it. From there on out just launch the files as you would any stored on the tablet itself. It isn't a particularly elegant solution, but if you have a large collection of music and movies you wish to carry about then it could definitely prove useful. 

Download: Stickmount (opens in new tab)

Richard Devine
  • What's performance like? I've been told by others that accessing storage this way can be quite slow.
  • As I said, it's not very elegant, and it's definitely not the fastest. But, it's a means to an end. For me, i carry a lot of .pdf and office files around with me day to day so this has allowed me to carry my Nexus 7 and use it productively 
  • Will this work with a spinning external drive that has its own power supply?
  • They make wireless hard drives. They are battery powered.
  • "They" who make wireless hard drives, are battery powered?
  • Seagate GoFlex Satellite Wireless Portable Hard Drive
  • Kingston makes a more affordable option, if the half terabyte seagate is too costly.
  • Yes Sure. I use my seagate goflex 2TB drive very easily with this.
  • Good enough to play a 720p MP4 transcoded for my HTPC. Perfect size for my Nexus 7...looks crystal clear. Can't wait for a stable version of XBMC to hit Android. Of course, the flash drive I'm using is one I bought for it's your mileage may vary depending on what flash drive you're using.
  • I've used this app for months with my Xoom and it was the first app I tried after rooting my N7. It is a great way to keep large files, especially videos, to use without taking up the small amount of internal memory. If I had been 100% sure it would work, I may have saved $50 and gotten the 8gb version.It really is a great app.
  • I end up not buying many games because of the lack of free storage on my Galaxy Nexus (13gb in fact like the Nexus7) There is a market for OTG compatible microusb discret USB drive. Or better: discret microusb microSDHC card reader.
  • Pretty sad you have to root to enable functions like this.
  • You beat me to the comment. I was going to say the exact same thing. You shouldn't need to root OR to have some app just to use a USB mass storage device.
  • Bah! If you haven't rooted it yet, you're holding it wrong.
  • LOL
  • Another reason i am passed i have not rooted yet, ugh. Anyone know if it it can power an external HDD? Of course your other option is the GoFlex Satellite for a couple hundred bucks.
  • I've heard you can, but at the cost of your smartphone battery going dead in an hour or less trying to keep the HDD platters spinning.
  • You will need a powered USB hub to use an external drive that uses the USB for power. If the drive has it's own power source, it should work fine. I have been using a Micro SD adapter with a 16GB card as well.
  • Nope an external HDD won't work.(without rooting)
  • Hah I just ordered my USB otg cable about a week ago and it came today and I was wondering how to do this. Thanks!
  • one of the things I missed on a symbian device(mock me if u will) is the ability to access flash drives without any need for apps. I wish google had a proper file manager for android
  • You want to spend only $200 on a tablet, they have to cut corners somewhere. In this case, it was memory. You want more memory, you're going to have to buy a device with an actual profit margin. So you'll have to spend more money.
  • Can someone with a makerbot make a case that hides the OT.G
  • I have my nexus 7 rooted and everything now. But every time I go to download an app I hear that works for it I always get a message saying its not compatible with my device. Stickmount would be one of these apps.... and so would the dark knight rises game. What's wrong and how can I fix it?
  • I was hoping this would show up on the AC news. This should get stickied to the front page for a couple days.
  • Honestly, I wouldnt own an Android device and not root it so this solution is good enough.
  • Is it possible to use OTG for Apps2sd or is it only for data consumption?
  • I'm going on a 2 week trip soon, so I'm putting all my movies on a 32G thumb drive. I plan on copying each movie over as I want to watch it, instead of trying to to watch them directly from the thumb drive.
  • Why do that? MXPlayer plays videos from my USB Drive fine. Only reason I can think of to do that is so you can plugin your charger.
  • Maybe he wants better performance. Like one of the top comments and the walk through said, you'll get solid but not perfect results using this method. Can anyone verify if you can 'drag and drop' files from your USB drive to your n7 effectively?
  • Can it read NTFS filesystems or is it FAT32 only?
  • NTFS works fine. It read my 2tb USB Drive with no problems.
  • sorry to update this old discussion, can I ask you which HD do you have? I'm looking for a compatible hard disk thanks in advance faithjano
  • Root is not required on the galaxy s3, so why on the Nexus 7? I can plug the usb otg right into my S3 without any app and it will read any usb device. Not a worry as rooting the n7 is very easy, I rooted mine the first day I got it. I just find it odd that a Nexus device that has all the latest hardware has to have root access in order to access a flash drive.
  • I don't get it either. Hasn't USB Host functionality been around since like Android 3.1? My ICS running Asus TF300 works perfectly fine as a USB Host, so why do they not have it enabled or something in the Nexus 7's Jellybean Build? The code should still be there to support it. The only thing I can think of is maybe they just didn't have the time to get it properly working in the Nexus 7's short development cycle, so they left it up to rooters and developers like this.
  • My solution around the storage space issue (I only got 8 Gb planning to do this) is to simply use my phone as a wireless SD card reader/ hard drive. I wirelessly tether the phone to the tablet, then I use the app "File Expert" on the phone to make it into an FTP server, and the app "ES File manager" on the nexus to access the phone's FTP server. You can stream music and most many video filetypes, or simply transfer files back and forth. It sounds like a pain, but it's really only about 3 clicks on each device, and then I don't have to worry about carrying 2 more things with me (Micro-USB dongle and the flash drive), as I always have my phone anyways, and big micro-SD cards are cheap.
  • thwack79 where in file expert on your phone do you find the server address?
  • aparish, you start up file expert, then hit "share my contents", then "start share via ftp". as soon as you do, it will pop up a window that gives you the ip address of the server (along with login and pass). If you have hotspot mode turned on, the phone's serveraddress should be, port:2211 . Then just start up es file explorer on the tablet, hit the ftp tab, add a server, and configure it with the ip, port, login and pass, and bam, you should be done.
  • Given the popularity of the Nexus 7, isn't it likely someone will just manufacture a small device similar in size to a Nano mouse receiver, that is just a combination OTG "cable" + 64gb flash that you can just plug into the micro USB port and leave there except when charging. Very much like there are Nano size USB flash drives to use with laptops. I have a 32gb one in my netbook USB port that just stays there all the time.
  • Already done! .....but expensive. I just don't see the problem even with being limited to 8GB. As I stream directly to and from my PC's monster hard drive via both Bluetooth 4.0 and Wifi b,g,n dual band right now. The wifi radio in Nexus 7 is a broadcom combo radio that includes both 2.4 and 5.0ghz simultaneous access. The feature just hasn't gone live or been put into the firmware and received an update to the OS to enable it! But I choose Bluetooth anyway. Because of it's more secure local transmissions, faster lag free streaming off my PC as a virtual drive. Just as our devices now see the Cloud as a virtual storage medium as well! .....remote virtual desktop access of my PC using Bluetooth 4.0 adapter: It doesn't use much energy and like I said, even Wifi doesn't beat it for streaming of content to my Nexus 7 and even enabling me to virtually use my PC desktop, better than even wifi Direct. With less packet loss, faster bit rate and far less lag! ....but next time I will buy one with Tap to pair for sure with Nexus 7's built in NFC!
  • FAR BETTER DEAL on BLUETOOTH v4.0 Dongle with "SSP" for Tap to Pair feature on Nexus 7 with NFC!!! .....only $12.95 ^_^
  • Great tip, I ordered a cable today and a small card reader so I can make use of the 16gb micro's that I swapped out for 32's. Question... could you plug an Android phone into it and access the storage there? Specifically, is there any reason I couldn't plug my Droid X into it? Seems like it oughta work. Thx thwack79 for the FTP tip, I was considering that as well. Solid Explorer should access it just fine from the N7.
  • Will an OTA update bring this functionality to the N7? I don't want to root.
  • They are bringing out a cradle that will have HDMI (which is something you can do now rooted w/ HTC Wifi wireless dongle to HDTV or monitor!). When you put your device into the combo cradle it'll shut down the screen to save power. While you stream to your PC and keep it charged up as well. So yes I'm sure something is coming or they wouldn't have just released the two drive size models! Also... consider Google Drive for streaming content to your Nexus 7! btw.. you can remove the back cover and you find that not only can change the battery yourself (unlike $500 iPad user charged a $180 now). It is also designed be upgraded to 3G/4G in future models. But you get what you get and what about the Millions of $500 Wifi only New iPad buyers that are stuck with 16gig too? Do you hear them crying like a bunch of sick cows over not having more storage? No! they use dongles like you can do now! ....and rooting is not some mysterious strange thing that will kill your device. It's simply changing administrative permissions that you can do on Windows easily too!!!
  • Can I transfer my files over from the usb drive to my tablet for quicker access, or must I go through the mounting process every time?
  • So, how about a case for the nexus 7 that adds 32gb of storage and more battery?(: Is it a good idea?
  • do you have to root your device first cos stickmount will not mount my usb drive ?
    Thank you a bit lost !!
  • You no longer have to root your Nexus 7 to mount a USB drive and watch movies from it. Download "Nexus Media Importer" (Free) from Google Play, plug in your OTG cable with your flash drive plugged into it and you are set to go. I have also downloaded MX Player and Dice Player onto my Nexus, both free. My movies look great on my N7.
  • Found this post on XDA and thought about making it, though i havnt searched for an already made one, possibly out there.
    anyone know of any cons for this? charging and otg at same time? was just wondering if it works well, as this is a great perk for when im in the field and using my tablet alot in my 113 track.
  • Wellcharging at tend project was a great success! Made my otg y cable for using usb mass storage And t at the same time. Works great and looks fairly good too. Sacrificed some old cables and was g2g otg.
  • I have my Nexus7 rooted and bought a OTG cable on-line from T&S Electronics. When I plug any USB flash drive (tried 2 of them and both work fine on my home Microsoft computer), the Nexus7 goes blank, and stays that way even when the flash and cable are removed, even with a hard boot. If I plug in my charger cable, it will reboot ok. I suspect the OTG cable. Where did you folks with sucessful OTG cable/flash drives get your cable from?
    Any other thoughts?
  • thwack79 This seems like a great solution but I am a bit confused re File expert. Do you tether the phone to the Tablet or the tablet to the phone ?
  • Silly question from a newbie: what does "root" mean, and what does it have to do with this? Do you have to do something to the "root" BESIDES the Stickmount steps listed above?
  • I think "Rooting" is some exotic stuff that some people get up to but when they dig deep into the system. Please someone correct me but I thought StickMount is designed to stop you having to do that in order to use an OTG cable with a Nexus 7.
  • I hesitate to root my Nexus 7, for reasons I can't quite articulate. However, I found an app called "Total Commander", which is a file manager and, a plug-in called "USB-Stick Plugin". I believe "Total Commander" was 99 cents and the plugin was free. Setup was straight forward. Along with the OTG cable (like 2 bucks on Amazon) I can use any USB stick, no root necessary. No mount/unmount commands needed. Plug in the stick while running "Total Commander", it is immediately recognized and, you are off to the races. Works on my Motorola Ultra also. Just my 2 cents worth.
  • This doesn't work, don't waste your time!
    Stickmount keeps telling you to get another app " Supersu v1.93 ", then shutting itself down.
    There's no v1.93 listed, so you download supersu.
    Then you get a notification from Supersu that you have no binary
    But you can't download that.