This is a complete how-to guide that’ll explain the process of formatting your USB to use with Tesla dashcam and Sentry Mode.
For your convenience, I’ve broken down the process into small steps. The process itself must not take you more than 5–10 minutes.
Yes, it’s that easy!
Aside from the procedure, I’ll also cover the most common problems that owners mostly face during the formatting and ways to rectify them.
Without further ado, let’s hop into it.
Where Is the USB Drive on My Tesla?
To my surprise, I actually found many owners who were asking questions along the lines of “Where is the USB drive on my Tesla?”
If you’re one of those owners, let me show you where you can find your USB drive on your Tesla:
Present on the rear wall of the center console compartment.
Present at the rear part of the glovebox. It’s the most suitable place to plug in the USB you’d use for Tesla Sentry Mode or dashcam.
Present at the rear part of the center console.
Present at the front of the center console.
>>Note: All images are taken from the respective Tesla vehicle manuals.
How to Properly Format a USB From Your Tesla
Before you get on with the formatting process, you should know that Tesla only supports USBs with exFAT, MS-DOS FAT (for Mac), and ext 3 or ext 4 formats.
Most 32GB USBs are already formatted as exFAT. But USBs having storage over 32GB are formatted as NTFS, a format that Tesla doesn’t support.
That’s why if you’re using a 32GB+ USB, you’ll need to reformat it to one of the supported versions, such as exFAT from Windows, MAC, or Linux (the procedure will be explained later in the article).
With that aside, let’s discuss how to format your USB from your Tesla.
Plug the pen drive, SSD, micro SD, or whatever you’re using into one of the USB ports (preferably in the ones present in the glovebox for added security).
Tap Controls > Safety > Format USB Drive.
A pop-up will appear with a warning that all your data will be deleted. Just accept it if you don’t have any valuable data present in the USB.
This process will clear all your data present on the USB, format it to exFAT, and automatically create a folder named “TeslaCam” in your USB.
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How to Properly Format a USB for Tesla From Windows 10
We’ll divide this section into two subsections:
- Formatting USBs with storage of 32GB or under
- Formatting USBs with storage over 32GB
Both can be done from Windows 10; only the route will be a bit different. Let’s dive into the procedures:
#1: 32GB USBs
- Connect your USB to the PC.
- Right-click on the USB and select Format.
- Set it to FAT32.
- Once the formatting is completed, open the drive and create a new folder, “TeslaCam.”
- Don’t just pull the drive out after you’re done. Rather, right-click on the drive again and tap eject. Now it’ll be safe to remove the drive.
- Plug the drive into your Tesla and it should work perfectly.
#2 USBs with 32GB+ Storage
- First, understand that for USBs with storage over 32GB, the FAT32 format isn’t available. It may be NTFS or something else that your Tesla won’t support.
- To format such USBs, go to Start on your PC and search “PowerShell.”
- Tap Run as Administrator.
- Copy the following code and paste it in the command prompt: format /FS:FAT32 yourdrivelabel:
- Replace “yourdrivelabel” with the drive label of your choice.
- Now hit enter. It’ll ask you something along the lines of are you sure or not. Just hit enter again.
- Be patient; it’ll take 30–40 minutes.
- Once completed, just exit the PowerShell, open the drive, create a “TeslaCam” folder, eject the drive, plug it into your Tesla, and you’ll be good to go.
How to Properly Format a USB for Tesla From MAC
- Plug in the USB.
- Go to the search bar and search “Disk Utility.”
- Hit enter to open it up.
- Click on the drive that you want to erase. It’s crucial that you double-check that format is set to MS-DOS (FAT).
- Hit erase.
- Once completed, just open the drive, create the “TeslaCam” folder, plug it in your Tesla, and it’ll work perfectly.
Common Tesla USB Formatting Issues — and How to Solve Them
If it’s your first time formatting the USB, 90% chances are that this section will prove to be a gold mine for you as I’ve enlisted all the possible issues that you can face during the process and how you can solve them.
#1: The “Grayed-Out” Dilemma
“Oh-uh, my ‘Format USB Drive’ button is grayed out. What’s wrong with it!”
Here is what the Tesla vehicle manual says:
Format USB Drive is available only when a USB flash drive (with one or fewer partitions) is inserted into a front USB port.Tesla
This means if your USB already has two or more partitions created in it, the car will not let you format it until you clear those partitions.
The solution is to connect the USB to your PC and format it as explained above in the article.
#2: “TeslaCam” Partition Not Created
This is how it goes: You format the USB. Tesla clears out all the files and creates a partition named “TeslaCam,” in which all the video footage will be stored.
In some cases, owners formatted the USB from Tesla, but for some reason, Tesla didn’t create the “TeslaCam.”
It mostly happened to owners having ample-storage USBs (around 500 GB or 1,000 GB of storage).
Let’s go through some of the case studies to better understand the problem:
I have a USB drive that I use for my dashcam, and a short time ago I got a notice that the drive was almost full. Having no incidents that I needed footage for, I used the in-car operation to format the drive and then went about my merry way.
Fast forward a couple of weeks, and my car was dinged in a parking garage hard enough to dent the door and for me to get a car alarm notice on the app. However, when I pulled the drive and reviewed the footage on my computer, I found the drive was formatted but completely blank.
WTF? Has anyone had this happen? Obviously now the car won’t have any footage from the incident, and I’m a bit concerned about how secure I should feel about the car’s sentry features if the dashcam drive isn’t going to record anything.
When I say completely blank, I mean it. The car didn’t create the “TeslaCam” folder after formatting. So that’s probably why I have no files. Known issue?leisurelee
I have a 500GB SSD and a 1TB SSD. They both worked with the FORMAT button in my M3. Now, when I format either one in the car, it erases everything but doesn’t create the TeslaCam folder. I’m on v10.2 (2021.32.22).
I don’t know if the software version that lasts worked – but I know it did. I like to erase all the videos periodically and the FORMAT button made that convenient but no longer works. I have to take the drive out, format it on a laptop or PC, and put it back in.
Does anyone know if Tesla intends to fix this?vanderark1
Bringing this up again. When I format my USB drive (Sandisk 256GB) in the car, the drive gets formatted, but it is not creating a TeslaCam folder.
I get the camera icon with the red dot on it, but when I touch it to view TeslaCam, the TeslaCam viewer closes on me, and the camera icon disappears. If I then go to the security settings, it tells me to format the drive. If I click on format, the same thing happens again.
If I remove the drive and view it on a computer, the drive is blank. Once I create the TeslaCam folder, everything works as it’s supposed to. Until I reformat the drive in the car.
It’s not an end of the world type problem, but annoying to have to remove the drive to reformat and create a TeslaCam folder.
I am on 2021.36.8.
Any solution to this?f308gt4
The exact problem is pretty understandable from the above-stated case studies, but the solution is not certain.
One thing must be noted here: The problem was most frequent in the 2021 software versions. I couldn’t find many owners on the 2022 software versions facing this issue.
As this is a software bug, only Tesla can fix it properly. But what you can do is connect the USB to a PC, format it (as explained above in the article), and create a custom “TeslaCam” partition. It should do the job.
Best USB for Tesla Dashcam & Sentry Mode
We have already published a roundup of the best USBs for Tesla Dashcam and Sentry Mode.
We’ll just discuss our top choice here. For more details, you can visit the detailed article.
Best Overall: Samsung T7 500GB
After “burning through” several USB drives, many owners choose the Samsung T7 as their next purchase. Both forum users and Amazon customers have had no issues with this drive.
The speed is five to eight times faster than those of vintage and physically fit drives. The higher speed and storage are, of course, more expensive.
The simple truth is that this is your best option if you want something that will just operate flawlessly for years to come.
You might not take it too seriously, but you need to be highly cautious while formatting your USB for Tesla dashcam and Sentry Mode.
Any negligence in it can result in the loss of your precious data. Just make sure you purchase a well-reputed drive that Tesla owners vouch for and format it according to the guidelines shared here.
Formatting can be done from within your Tesla itself, but if some complications arise, you can always use your MAC or Windows PC to properly format your USB.
Zac LudicrousMechanical 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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