Your flash drive must have enough capacity, performance, and the ability to handle a range of environments for proper dashcam operation.
Larger is better, and 32 GB should be the lower limit. 128 or 256 GB is ideal. Generally, the larger the drive the longer it lasts. Sentry mode can also fill the drive, at which point it overwrites the oldest saved videos. A larger drive allows more storage before the oldest files are lost.
To write four 720p video files, the drive must handle 16 MB/s or better. We recommend 20 MB/s or higher, and perhaps a lot higher. Drives are often only rated at a peak write speed, but with continuous writes, such as four channels of dashcam video, the speed slows down once the tiny RAM cache in the drive fills up. We’ve seen drives rated for 50 MB/s that drop down to 3 MB/s in as little as 5 minutes, while a high-quality drive may only drop the continuous speed by a small amount no matter how long writing occurs.
There is a lot of variances with different products. The cheapest drives often show the most dramatic slowdowns during continuous writes. Drives may also slow down as they near filling up.
The temperature range is the operating temperature. Only micro SD drives are rated to work below freezing but we expect most drives to work fine, even below freezing as the drives do heat up when in use. At the high end, only micro SD cards are suitable for high temperatures often encountered in parked cars in the summer. Temperatures can easily reach 150° F, but you can use Tesla’s Cabin Overheat Protection feature to keep the temperatures below 105° F or so if you elect to use a drive without a high-temperature rating.
While USB 2.0 works fine, we recommend 3.0, 3.1 or 3.2, which cost no more than old 2.0 drives. The USB version does not matter in the Tesla, but the 3.x types will often speed operations on your PC, such as viewing and formatting. The newest Tesla vehicles also support USB 3.
FAT32 is the standard. NTFS format will not work. With Tesla software version 2020.12.5 and later, exFAT is now supported. Tesla also accepts the Linux ext4 format, but few use this. See our Preparing your Drive section on how to format your drive under Windows or Mac.
We recommend you only use a well-known brand such as Patriot, Kingston, PNY, Samsung, SanDisk, and Transcend. There are many mystery names that change every year. These are usually garbage drives and should be avoided.