Using a Flash Drive or Memory Card with Chromebook

Using a Flash Drive or Memory Card with ChromebookAs is widely known, Chromebooks tend to have small internal hard drives. Most users will probably find themselves getting external storage one day. The most common way to increase the storage capacity of a Chromebook is getting a USB flash drive. There are many different USB flash drives that are compatible with Chromebooks. Files saved locally are stored in the Downloads folder. You can also save to external storage media, such as an SD card or a USB flash drive. Remember that files can be deleted from a download folder in ChromeOS when the disk space is limited. Thus, it is recommended to find other storage options if you intend on downloading many things to your Chromebook.


Using a Flash Drive or Memory Card with Chromebook

Chromebooks include only a small amount of internal storage. However, they support external storage devices like USB flash drives, external hard drives, and microSD cards. Use an external storage device to expand your Chromebook’s storage or transfer files between Chromebooks and other computers, including Windows PCs and Mac

Once a USB flash drive or a SD memory card is purchased, it is very easy to use with a Chromebook. Just plug it in and it will start working. Most Chromebook users will want to do a few more things with the USB flash drives that they purchase. This short tutorial will show how to move files from a Chromebook to a USB flash drive, how to format a USB flash drive on a Chromebook, and how to delete files from a USB flash drive on a Chromebook. If you need more storage space on your Chromebook, it might be best to purchase a Chromebook compatible external harddrive. If you do not need that much, it might make sense to get an SD card that works with Chromebooks.


How do I transfer files to/from My Flash Drive/Memory card on My Chromebook?

You can transfer your files manually to your Flash Drive or Memory card using your Chromebook. The flash drive (whether an SDCard or a USB Stick) should auto-open the files app.

  1. Open the Files app by clicking on the icon.
  2. When connected to your Chromebook, the device appears as a folder in the left navigation panel of the Files app.
  3. Click to place check marks next to any files and folders you want to copy.
  4. Drag and drop the selected items to copy them between the external drive and Chromebook.

Alternatively, press Ctrl + C to copy the selected items to the clipboard, navigate to the desired destination, and then press Ctrl + V to paste to the new location. It is this easy to move files around the ChromeOS “file explorer”


Formatting a Memory Card or Flash Drive using Chromebook

How Do I format My Memory card/Flash drive on my Chrome book? Below are the steps to Format a Memory card/Flash drive on a Chromebook. A formatting option is available directly from the File Manager; no extra apps, add-ons or actions needed.

  1. Click the apps icon button  and then click Files or use the keyboard shortcut Alt+Shift+M.
  2. Right-click on the drive you wish to format and select the ‘Format Device‘ option from the menu.
  3. Chrome OS will prompt you to confirm that you wish to format. To proceed click ‘OK’.
  4. When formatting has completed you will see a small toast appear in the lower right hand corner.

Devices are formatted to a FAT32 file system. This is perhaps the most versatile and widely supported, with read and write support through most operating systems and devices (such as smartphones and digital cameras). FAT32 is inferior to NTFS or /ext3 or 4. The file allocation table gets hosed easily, too, and I’m certain Chrome OS has no utilities to deal with that problem, either. More information on Chromebook file systems.


File Formats compatible with Chromebook

There is a come question, “My files saved on the Flash Drive/Memory Card are not opening in Chromebook” How can I open certain file types of a Chromebook? Do all file types work on a Chromebook? In order to view files on from your memory card/USB flash drive using your Chromebook, the files must be in a compatible format.

The following file formats are supported on Chromebooks:

  • Microsoft Office files: .doc, .docx, .xls, .xlsx, .ppt (read-only), .pptx (read-only)
  • Media: .3gp, .avi, .mov, .mp4, .m4v, .m4a, .mp3, .mkv, .ogv, .ogm, .ogg, .oga, .webm, .wav
  • Images: .bmp, .gif, .jpg, .jpeg, .png, .webp
  • Compressed files: .zip, .rar
  • Other: .txt, .pdf

Deleting Files on a Chromebook USB Flash Drive

How do I delete a File from my Flash Drive/Memory card on a Chromebook?
  1. Click the apps list button.
  2. Select the Files app icon.
  3. Open your Flash Drive/Memory card from the Files app.
  4. Check the Files or Folders which you want to delete by clicking on them.
  5. Click the  trash icon or use the shortcut Alt+Backspace.

Troubleshoot Issues with USB Flashdrive on Chromebook

If you have multiple SDCards and/or USB Sticks, you could try them to see if some are detected and others not. You could try the USB Stick on a different computer. That is about all we can suggest from afar like this since it really requires hands-on testing to try to determine if it is a bad USB port, a bad flash drive,or what exactly is going on. If the analysis still is inconclusive, then a ChromeOS restore might be the way to go to make certain everything is working fine: Recover your Chromebook (also known as Powerwashing a Chromebook).



  1. Does chromebook publish a dictionary of terms described in this tutorial. I have no technology skills and am not able to interpret the meaning of the technology words. I want to backup some docs on my chromebook then transfer the documents from my chromebook to a flashcard. I keep getting a screen that says I must eject the flash card before removing it or I will lose my documents. I have not found how to eject the flashcard.

    • How your mouse pointer over the thumb drive and it should give you the option to eject the usb.
      If you do not do this, you will damage your USB and possibly corrupt the files on your thumb drive.

      • there is an ‘up’ arrow on the left of your chromebook at the bottom of the files menu (usually under’unknown device’) this is the eject icon.Click on it and the unknown device will disappear from the menu.Ejected.

    • What? Have a link to how to drag and drop?? YOu just explained how to do it it’s literally the explanation you are looking for. You drag the file (it’ll start moving around the screen as you hold i t down and then drop it in the location you want to move/copy it to. Easiest thing you can do on a computer

  2. My chromebook has a read only option, and i cant format it, or manually delete anything off of my adata s102 16gb usb3.0 pro. How do i disable that, and delete my stuff.

  3. So, I purchased a 64 H2O-proof SD card for a friend’s chromebook; however, after plugging it into the chromebook, absolutely nothing happens. Is there some sort of trick to get it to respond once it is inserted by chance?

    Thanks for any help!
    Nikki Grace Holmes
    (Zero relation to California’s ex-governor.)

  4. Google’s relationship to the ordinary person untrained in the specific characteristics of each of many different computers, operating systems, applications and other devices and capabilities, resembles the relationship between the inhabitants of two different worlds on two different galaxies on opposite sides of the celestial sphere. At the very least, more pictures of what one is to hope to see would help. Lots more.

    Many users do not even have a website.

    • Thank you, Michael, for your very apt description of the difficulty even experienced users face when dealing with Google. There is nothing intuitive about their products, and I wish I knew how much of my life I have wasted trying to get answers to what should be simple questions similar to those preceding your reply. For example, I am currently trying to determine how to access the flash drive on my Chromebook when it is not listed on my Files Menu and landed here in this blog while researching my problem. Google´s support system leaves much to be desired; some would even say that it stinks. Thank God for my Windows computer.

    • Michael… What do those of us do when nothing happens whenever we put anything into that port?
      …I do not have a computer degree but I do have a couple of degrees in the medical field none of them tell me what to do when a simple USB drive is not being read and it’s not only mine it’s obviously a few other peoples…is there something else we need to click on???

  5. My chromebook does NOT recognize ANYTHING I stick into a port! My flashdrive doesn’t open anything. I opened MY Files. There is nothing at all to be found: it does NOT recognize anything plugged in. I have 4 ports, the only one that fits anything is the one I used. The other time, I plugged my ext. HD and same thing. WHY?? What do I do now?? Thx in adv for any helpful reply.

    • Did you find your answer? If not, the reason the flash drive doesn’t show up is that either there’s nothing on it or Chromebook doesn’t recolonize that drive. Google compatible flash drives for Chromebook.

  6. I’ve been using desktops, laptops and other people’s laptops, Macs and Chromebooks to access files I have saved on a portable external hard drive. Recently, I purchased a Chromebook and connected my portable external hard drive to access various files. To this point, all is fine.

    However, after using the Chromebook and connecting the portable external hard drive to a desktop computer or my laptop, there is one file in particular that, at first appeared on the list of available files, but it contained contained nothing; it was empty. Naturally, I panicked thinking that I had lost everything; all of my life’s work, personal documents, pictures of my mother and daughter and all of my military certificates and awards, etc. However, it seems that Chromebook has “kidnapped” that one particular file, because I am “only” able to access and edit every part of the information saved in that one file. So, I am content that the information is available and accessible. However, I am agitated that this has occurred.

    Is there any way to “free” this file from Chromebook so I can access it in any computer, like before?

  7. I was trying all the options to copy a file to flashdrive and i never succeeded in getting it done ,is there an easy way go do this .

  8. i have 2 flash drives that when i do a format on them regardless if it is on chromebook or windows will freez my device and restart with nothing done to the usb
    tell me how to fix this i have been looking for fucking weeks now on how to do this shit i need sleep

  9. I see this problem in every thread and no one gives a clear answer. I uploaded movies to a usb off my chromebook. A few days later i go back to delete them and add more. The usb is in a read only mode and nothing can be deleted nor uploaded. Does anyone have a clear answer on what to do???


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