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Best USB for Tesla Sentry Mode: 6 Tested, Lasting, and Hassle-Free Products

Damage to Teslas is all the rage these days, with Sentry mode footage regularly showing hit and runs, keying, and other vandalism events.

To protect your Tesla, Sentry mode can capture evidence to catch these offenders — but it requires a storage device.

With the hundreds of solutions that exist, how do you know which is the best USB for Tesla Sentry mode?

We compiled the best USB drives that Tesla owners have actually used for years without problems.

Let’s address the topic by USB type.

Best Overall
Samsung T7 500GB
Samsung T7 500GB
  • Many positive comments from Tesla owners.
  • Higher speed and storage
  • More durable. May outlast your Model 3 ownership.
  • No speed errors
  • Near-perfect rating

 

Best Classic USB
SUMK Dashcam Flash Drive
SUMK Dashcam Flash Drive
  • Works right out of the box. No formatting needed.
  • Ideal for non-techies. No extra configurations or adapters required.
  • No speed errors.
  • Only a 32GB option available, which may not last.

 

OEM Alternative
Samsung BAR Plus 128GB
Samsung BAR Plus 128GB
  • Same Tesla USB for half the price
  • Many positive Tesla owners reviews within Amazon.
  • No speed errors.
  • Universal USB. May need formatting.

USB Types: Which is Better for Tesla Sentry Mode?

For clarity, let’s classify the most common USB solutions in the order in which we recommend you consider them:

  • External Solid-State Drives (SSDs)
  • Classic USB Flash Drives
  • Fit / Ultra Fit USBs
  • MicroSD + SD Card Readers
  • USBs with “On-the-Go” Adapters

External Solid-State Drives (SSDs)

Going as high as 2,000 MB/s of writing and reading speed (500x Tesla’s requirement), external solid-state drives offer the most speed for the buck.

These are the most reliable and lasting choices overall.

They usually have a lot more storage as well (starting at 500 GB), making them the type of device Tesla owners rarely have problems with.

External SSDs are more expensive, though.

And they’re bulky in size, which makes them somewhat inconvenient for Tesla owners — but reduce the risk of overheating substantially.

Classic USB Flash Drives

USB drives in their stick-like, long shape have been around for decades.

Some people debate in forum discussions that the “constant use” of Tesla Dashcam/Sentry mode will break these USBs in months.

That might have been the case years ago.

But current USBs flash drives, even at 32GB of storage capacity, sustain enough heat and data cycles to last several years.

If you want to be conservative, a high-quality 64GB or 128GB flash drive will definitely outlast your Model 3 ownership.

(Keyword: high-quality. Cheap ones do eventually break.)

Overall, classic USB flash drives are affordable and great choices for Tesla owners —

As long as you don’t choose cheap or older models which speeds may not meet Tesla requirements.

Our recommendations exceed Tesla’s requirements by a long shot —

And such requirements, if you’re curious, can be found in our “Frequent Buyer Concerns” section below.

Fit / Ultra Fit USBs

As technology advances, storage has become smaller per unit of capacity.

(If you’re old enough to remember 3MB diskettes, you know what I’m referring to.)

Nowadays, brands offer “fit” and “ultra-fit” models that can pack up to half a Terabyte of storage in tiny, 1-inch by 1-inch devices!

This presents many benefits for Tesla owners:

  • Removes the possibility of passengers hitting and breaking your USB drive unintentionally
  • Easier to carry  around
  • If a thief breaks into your vehicle, the tiny USB drive will likely go unnoticed (which is desirable).

The problem is that they get too hot under the constant reading and writing Tesla Sentry mode requires (more so than the classic USB drives).

Over time, heat can translate into premature file corruptions and physical wear on the device.

Although many Tesla owners have had a fit USB for years, we encourage you to consider the alternatives above first.

MicroSD + USB Card Readers

For various reasons, we’re not a fan of this alternative.

Very often, you’ll have the same heat challenge of small devices and the complexity of having to purchase two separate items (an adapter and a card)…

But for what purpose?

Footage can be seen on your vehicle screen.

Pricing is similar (or higher than) classic and fit USB drives — and speed can sometimes be lower, which may cause errors.

I won’t be recommending any of the options in this category.

Classic, fit, and solid-state drives are simpler alternatives for Tesla owners that work just fine.

USBs with “On-the-Go” Adapters

This is a type of USB for Tesla Sentry mode I was introduced by ThatTeslaChannel:

He recommended this product back in 2019 because it enabled you to watch the footage inside the car from your cellphone.

However, Tesla released an in-car Dashcam/Sentry mode viewer in 2020, rendering the reason he chose an “on-the-go” USB obsolete.

As described above, microSD card readers & USBs with “on-the-go” adapters are unnecessarily complex technologies.

For this reason, we’ll discuss the best choice of the simple (yet effective) USB types first discussed: classic, fit, and solid-state drives.

Best Solid-State Drive: Samsung T7 500GB

SSD / Best USB for Tesla Sentry Mode with high speed.

Samsung T7 is the product many owners have opted for after “burning through” multiple USB drives.

Neither forum users nor Amazon buyers have had any problems with this drive — with 96% positive ratings and a 4.8-star average.

The speed exceeds that of classic and fit drives by 5-8 times, making it nearly impossible to present speed errors.

But, of course, the higher speed and storage come at a higher price — and admittedly, 500GB of storage is almost overkill territory.

One particular reviewer tested this newer, T7 version against its T5 predecessor — and the T7 got slightly warmer.

But with twice the speed, a difference of a handful of degrees Celsius is acceptable.

All things considered, this is the “stress-free” choice.

No ” too slow” complaints with speeds of up to 1000MB+/s, exceeding Tesla requirements by 250x.

No extreme heat.

No corruption or cracks after several months of use.

No product is perfect — but if you want something that will just work flawlessly for years to come, this is your safest bet.

Pros:

Compatible with all Teslas.

✅ Higher speed and storage

✅ More durable. May outlast your Model 3 ownership.

✅ No speed errors

✅ Near-perfect rating

✅ Many positive comments from Tesla owners in forums and online communities.

Cons:

❌ Universal USB. May need formatting, which as of 2021, can be done through your vehicle’s screen.

❌ Too big in size

❌ Expensive

Runner-Up Solid State Drive: SanDisk Extreme Pro 500GB

Given its design, it’s even less likely to have heating problems with more surface area to dissipate heat.

Its new-gen “Extreme Pro” comes with twice the speed, doubling Samsung’s T7.

But it comes at a higher price tag.

For this reason — and because, unlike Samsung’s T5 & T7, fewer positive comments can be found from actual Tesla owners —

I’d encourage you to take a look at Samsung’s solid-state drive first.

Pros:

Compatible with all Teslas.

✅ Most durable choice

✅ No speed errors

✅ Less prone to heating problems

✅ New generation available with 2x the speed

Cons:

❌ Universal USB. May need formatting, which as of 2021, can be done through your vehicle’s screen.

❌ Too big in size

❌ ~50% more expensive than Samsung S7

Best Classic USB Flash Drive: SUMK 32GB

Best USB for Tesla Sentry Mode by SUMK.

Ironically, the most outstanding benefit and the biggest flop of this product are one and the same:

It’s built specifically for Tesla’s video recording system.

This makes it a plug-and-play system that works right out of the box — and it’s compatible with all Teslas.

But…

It’s labeled as “TeslaCam,” not the type of name a thief breaking in will ignore.

*womp womp*

It’d be nice to have a 64GB option available from the brand because 32GB, although sufficient, may feel barely enough for some.

Users of this product confirm it gets “warm” or “almost hot,” but never beyond the drive’s operating temperature — the shell is designed to minimize heat. 

It’s the best classic flash drive for Tesla owners — especially the non-techies who don’t want to set additional configurations, adapters, or software tweaks to make things work.

Pros:

Compatible with all Teslas.

✅ Works right out of the box.

✅ Ideal for non-techies. No extra configurations or adapters required.

✅ No speed errors.

Cons:

❌ Labeled as “TeslaCam.”

❌ Only a 32GB option available, which may get full quickly.

❌ May not be as durable

Runner-Up Classic USB Drive: Samsung BAR Plus 128GB

Samsung BAR Plus USB

Following the only product targeting Tesla owners comes the one with the most positive Tesla owners reviews within Amazon.

Samsung’s BAR model comes at a lower price tag than “fit” variants of the same storage capacity, which makes it a great value for money.

And it’s Samsung — a brand with a record of quality I’m sure you’re familiar with.

Heat is less likely given the wider and longer dimensions.

As a result, the product is likely to last longer than smaller variants, too.

As of mid-2020, Tesla allows you to format the USB for Dashcam / Sentry mode purposes.

This means that the formatting you previously had to do to universal USB drives like this is now done automatically by tapping “Controls > Safety & Security > FORMAT USB DEVICE” on your Model 3 screen.

Although not as plug-and-play as SUMK’s USB, it’s definitely one less thing to stress about.

Interesting fact: 🧐

By the end of 2020, Tesla started delivering vehicles with an USB for Tesla Sentry mode.

Funny enough, the design is the exact same as the Samsung Bar USB drive we’re recommending — while the price almost doubles.

It could be the case that it’s the same technology with different branding,

Reinforcing the idea that this USB flash drive is truly a great alternative — proven by Tesla itself.

Pros:

Compatible with all Teslas.

✅ Same Tesla USB for half the price

✅ Many Tesla owners positive reviews within Amazon

✅ No speed errors

Cons:

❌ Universal USB. May need formatting, which as of 2021, can be done through your vehicle’s screen.

Best Fit USB for Tesla Sentry Mode: SanDisk Ultra Fit 3.1

Best USB for Tesla Sentry Mode (Fit type)

Lastly, we get on to the “fit” USB models and SanDisk takes the lead.

As of 2021, it’s one of only two devices Tesla has tested and mentions on its Model 3 Owner’s Manual.

Many Tesla owners followed suit and positive experiences can be found in forums, Amazon reviews, and various online discussions.

As warned, though, smaller variants are more likely to get hot.

The heat on the product’s plastic body has caused it to crack (and its files to corrupt) after several months of use, some users report.

As an established brand, SanDisk offers up to 5-year limited warranty.

I wouldn’t blindly trust this “limited warranty,” though — it may exclude the high writing cycles the device goes through in a Tesla.

Overall, this is a great USB for Tesla Sentry mode but durability won’t be as good as other alternatives (Expect a few years at best.)

This shorter lifespan seems to be the price to be paid for a tiny and fairly unnoticeable USB device.

Pros:

Compatible with all Teslas.

✅ Affordable

✅ No speed errors

✅ Established brand with 5-year limited warranty

✅ Up to 512 GB of storage (although 64-128GB should suffice)

Cons:

❌ Universal USB. May need formatting, which as of 2021, can be done through your vehicle’s screen.

❌ May get hot

❌ Questionable durability

Runner-Up Fit USB for Teslas: Samsung Fit Plus

Best USB for Tesla Sentry Mode by Samsung.

As an alternative to SanDisk comes Samsung… again.

With specs that exceed Tesla requirements, this is the only other USB officially mentioned on Tesla’s Model 3 Owner’s Manual.

Being nearly identical to SanDisk’s Fit Drive on specs, price, and warranty, Samsung earns the second spot for only one reason:

Some Tesla owners report getting occasional speed errors after several months of use.

This may be due to speed degradation after the many writing cycles these storage devices go through in a Tesla.

All in all, this seems to be the exception rather than the norm as only two-speed error complaints were found.

(And on Samsung’s defense, heating and premature cracking stories are absent from buyers of this product.)

In the big picture, both Samsung and SanDisk models satisfy Tesla owners’ needs.

Your final choice will vary primarily on the brand you’re most comfortable purchasing from.

Pros:

Compatible with all Teslas.

✅ Affordable

✅ Established brand with 5-year limited warranty

✅ Up to 256 GB of storage (although 64-128GB should suffice)

Cons:

❌ Universal USB. May need formatting, which as of 2021, can be done through your vehicle’s screen.

❌ May get hot

❌ May get occasional speed errors

Frequent Buyer Concerns

*Important 2021 Update*

The refreshed Model 3 (which Tesla started delivering by late 2020) will have a USB port in the glovebox.

It may also be delivered with a storage device.

Also, Tesla updated its system to save footage from Sentry alarms into its onboard memory. If you had no USB inserted, now you may insert capture evidence after the event.

What’s the difference between Dashcam & Sentry mode?

Dashcam records events while you drive. It will record accidents on the road.

Sentry mode works while you’re parked, making it useful for hit and runs, keying, and other threats that may lure wherever you leave your Tesla unattended.

What are Tesla requirements for a USB storage device?

As of software 2020.44, USB flash drives must meet the following requirements, as told by Tesla:

• The flash drive must have a sustained write speed of
at least 4 MB/s. A sustained write speed is different
from the peak write speed. Check the product
details of your flash drive for more information.

• The flash drive must be USB 2.0 compatible. If using
a USB 3.0 flash drive, it must be able to support USB
2.0.

• Use a flash drive with as much available storage as
possible. Video footage can occupy a large amount
of space. Tesla recommends using a flash drive with
at least 32 GB of storage. Some personal computer
operating systems may be unable to format flash
drives larger than 32 GB as FAT 32. Consider using a
third party application to format flash drives larger
than 32 GB.

• The flash drive must be properly formatted
(described below).

• Use a dedicated flash drive exclusively for saving
Sentry Mode recordings.

How do I format my USB for Tesla Sentry mode?

Insert your USB drive into the corresponding USB port (center console for Model 3 2016-2020, glovebox for any refreshed model delivered after late-2020),

Then tap “Controls > Safety & Security > FORMAT USB DEVICE.”

Why does Tesla complains about my current USB solution speed?

As said by Tesla, the device must be able to “sustain” a writing speed of 4MB/s.

Even if your USB solution advertises more than 4MB/s, consider that writing speed may degrade after hundreds of writing cycles.

Also, the writing speed advertised by USB brands is usually a peak speed —

Therefore your USB device might be genuinely running below 4MB/s.

We encourage you to purchase the higher-speed device you can reasonably afford to avoid speed errors — today and into the future.

So What’s The Best USB for Tesla Sentry Mode?

Echoing our conclusions above, if you want the “stress-free,” most reliable solution that will last for years to come,

Samsung T7 Solid-State Drive is your safest bet.

If you’re on a budget, though, consider SUMK Tesla Cam.

You can always hide the notorious “TeslaCam” label with a sticker — and if you have a refreshed Model 3, the USB port resides inside the glovebox anyway.

By Zac Ludicrous

Mechanical engineer by profession. TSLA shareholder before the hype. EV enthusiast all day long. Zac enjoys learning about the future of battery technology, autonomy, and EVs. He considers Tesla Model 3 the most important vehicle of the 21st century -- and is in a quest to improve the ownership experience of every Model 3 owner he possibly can.

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