How to Use External Hard Drive (NTFS/ HFS+) on Android.
Most Android smartphones have 64GB of storage. But if you have an older smartphone, chances are you will have a 16 or 32 GB variant. Fortunately, you can easily expand your memory using external storage like a flash drive or hard drive. It comes in handy when you are traveling and want to watch your favorite movies on the go.
Related: How to Use USB Drive on Android and iOS
Now connecting your flash drive to Android is very easy. Just buy a cheap OTG cable and then use it to connect Android and Pendrive. Then open any file manager like Solid Explorer, look in the device menu, you will find your Pendrive. This is it.
What about connecting an external hard drive to Android?
For example, I want to use my 2TB hard drive with my Android. Will it work?
Well, yes and no.
Usually external hard drives don’t work with Android devices right away. Though in my testing I found it to be a gray area. Since each Android has a different OS version and a different manufacturer, it’s impossible to say for sure. For instance –
# 1 Some entry-level devices (like my dad’s motorcycle) don’t support OTG. And here we can do nothing. To find out if your device supports OTG or not, you can use USB OTG Helper. The application is free on Google play and does not require ROOT.
# 2 Mid-range devices (like moto g) support OTG with flash drive but will not detect NTFS and HFS + formatted external hard drives. We can fix this.
# 3 And finally, some high-end devices (like my Nexus6) support FAT32 and NTFS volume without using any software. But it cannot read other formats like HFS or exFAT. Let’s see how to fix this.
Why is my external hard drive not working with Android OS?
There are 2 problems that can occur when connecting an external hard drive to Android.
# 1 The hard drive was not detected
You will either hear a click or the lights on your hard drive will not flash, which means the drive inside your drive is not spinning properly.
Reason: Unlike flash drives, external hard drives require a lot more power. And if they don’t have external power, they will be powered by the device itself. So, if your smartphone isn’t powerful enough to power your external hard drive, it won’t work.
For example, my WD 2TB hard drive works fine with the Nexus 6, but doesn’t work with my raspberry pi without an external power supply.
Solution: Use a powered USB hub or powered OTG cable.
# 2 The hard drive is detected but won’t open
Cause: File system error. There are many file systems, and each operating system prefers its own. For example, Android supports FAT32 by default, and since flash drives are also FAT32 formatted, we have no problem with flash drives.
But most external hard drives use NTFS (FS by default for Windows) and sometimes HFS (FS by default for MAC). Thus, this inconsistency in the filesystem results in an error.
On the subject: Why external hard drives don’t work with all operating systems
So let’s see how to fix this. Well, we have two options.
# 1 Format your hard drive
You can format your hard drive to FAT32 using your computer and then use it on Android. Since FAT32 is compatible with all operating systems, it will work with your Android immediately, in fact, you will never run into compatibility issues with any platform after that.
Related How to Format Hard Drive on Windows, Mac, Linux and Android
However, I do not recommend formatting the hard drive to FAT32. Why? Because FAT is an old file system that lacks important features like journaling (data loss prevention) and encryption. And the maximum size of a single file is limited to 4GB.
# 2 Use third-party apps
With this method, you can preserve the original file system of the hard drive. Just use a free app like Paragon NTFS or Stick Mount to use it on your Android. I have been using this for several months and have never experienced any problems. So let’s see how it works
External hard drive on Android
1. USB Media Importer (incl.)
This app is designed for Nexus devices, but judging by reviews in play stores, it also works with non-Nexus devices such as moto-x and many others. Before spending any money, however, be sure to try USB Photo Viewer. It’s from the same developer, but it’s free.
Once you install this app, it will automatically detect your external drive and you can start using it right away. However, it is read-only, i.e. you cannot copy data from your Android to an external hard drive. Moreover, it also does not support HFS formatted drives.
Bottom line: Try the other free alternatives first, and if they don’t work, go for it.
2. Total Commander with USB – Plugin
This is the most popular (and also free) way to use NTFS formatted hard drive on Android. Here you need to install two free apps from Google Play.
First, install the total commander app – this is a file browser that will help us view the contents of our drive.
Next, install the USB plugin for Total Commander – this is a file browser extension that will do the actual work, i.e. mount your external hard drive.
After that, connect your hard drive to Android using an OTG cable. The app will recognize your volume again and you will see a notification at the bottom that says open the drive with Paragon UMS. However, if you don’t see the notification, just open the app and update it. It should work.
It is also possible to get write access. However, since this application is still in beta testing, the recording function did not work for me. But the good thing is that along with NTFS, it can also read HFS formatted disks.
3. Install the stick (root)
This app is made by chainfire (SuperSU developer). Basically, mounting on a USB stick helps you mount an NTFS partition on Android. Thus, you will still need a file manager to view the contents of your disk.
Install Stick Mount from Google Play and then insert the external drive and it will mount it automatically. It usually mounts the drive under Sdcard USB stick, but you can find the mount location by opening the app and clicking on the mount option.
Bottom line: It’s free and works well. However, it still does not allow writing data to disk and does not support HFS disk. So you better try the next option.
4. Paragon HFS, NTFS, and exFAT (root)
Paragon is widely known for its software to access HFS disk on Windows and NTFS disk on MAC. And you know what, they have an Android app too, but this time it’s free.
This app is like all other apps. Install the app, plug in your external hard drive and it will automatically mount it and show you the way. It is also possible to format the disk, but it is hidden in the settings.
Bottom line: this is the best way. It’s free and allows you to read and write, supports both NTFS drives and HFS. However, even though the name says it, it doesn’t actually support exFAT (as it’s a format owned by Microsoft), but you can use a USB stick for that.
If nothing works?
Usually, an external hard drive requires you to plug the cable into your computer (or, in this case, your Android). But thanks to modern technology, we now have wireless hard drives. And it does what it says, that is, when you press a button on that hard drive, it creates an access point that you can connect to from your smartphone, and then view the entire contents of the drive using the file manager app.
You can stream your hard drive from multiple devices (usually no more than 3 devices). Plus, it has a built-in rechargeable battery, so you can use it when traveling by car or train. However, on the other hand. It will cost twice as much for the same storage For example, a typical 1TB Seagate external hard drive will cost around $ 60, and a 1TB Seagate Wireless Plus will cost around $ 140. By default, the hard drive supports NTFS. So you can’t use it on iOS devices.