How to connect an external drive to your phone via USB

Whether you are using your device as a game console, as a multimedia database or simply to take a lot of pictures, most of us will at some point want to connect our device to something else via USB. Here’s how to connect a hard , USB stick or accessory to an tablet and smartphone.

Check that your device is compatible

To connect a hard disk or USB stick to an Android tablet or device, it must be USB OTG (On The Go) compatible. How do I know if it is compatible? It’s simple, just check the manufacturer’s website or the box of your device.

And that’s not all USB OTG can do. By enabling your device to act as a USB host – that is, to be the boss of other devices that you connect to it – you can use additional hardware such as storage, keyboards or even musical instruments together with your handset.

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If your smartphone is really old, if you no longer have the box or if you are not sure of its model number, you can use Chainfire’s app, USB Host Diagnostics, to check. That said, USB OTG is natively present on  Android since Honeycomb (3.1) so it is more than likely that your device is already compatible than not.

  • App version: 1.3
  • App size: 467 KB
  • App Compatibility: Android 2.3 or higher
  • Economic model: Free

Ideally, you take an angled cable like this one shown in the picture. It’s very simple, but it can avoid problems with the USB port, which is unfortunately common with the use of connectors. You can grab one for a few bucks on Amazon. Of course, you’ll have to pay attention to the type of USB cable when purchasing: if you have a Type-C USB port, of course your accessory will have to be of the same type.

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your USB drive or accessory to your tablet

No need for tutorials to connect a hard drive to your tablet or Android smartphone: simply plug them in using your brand new OTG USB cable.

To manage files on the hard drive or USB stick connected to your smartphone, simply use a file explorer. When the device is plugged in, a new folder appears. It is called USBDriveA in general, but this may vary depending on the system versions and interfaces.

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If you’re having trouble finding it, simply tap the slash button (“/”) to return to the root of your smartphone. What’s the difference from a cloud, you might say? No need for an internet connection, for one.

What other things can I do with USB OTG?

Connect a mouse or keyboard

This is one of the most typical ways to use USB OTG. It’s possible to couple your smartphone or tablet with peripheral devices, such as a mouse or a keyboard, which you can then use to control it. There are some restrictions – for example, gaming mice with a billion buttons might not be fully compatible – but for the most part, the basic operations are enabled.

Just plug in a USB mouse and you will automatically see its cursor appear on your display. This is also a great way to use your device if the touchscreen is broken. Alternatively, connect an external keyboard to turn a tablet into a laptop.

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Connect a MIDI keyboard

If you fancy making music on Android, USB OTG enables you to connect devices such as MIDI keyboards and controllers, audio inputs for instruments and vocals and various controllers that can turn your phone or tablet into a serious music-making machine.

Connect a game controller

Enjoy mobile gaming but yearn for a bit more control? Why not connect a gamepad to your smartphone? Using a wired Xbox 360 controller is an easy way to do this: just connect it to your phone with a USB OTG cable, launch a game and it should work right away, no configuration required.

What is your favorite use for USB OTG? Let us know in the comments.

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