Cars How To Life

How to use USB devices with Ford Sync

For those with recent models of Ford cars you may have the SYNC in-car system. This includes a USB port for playing music stored on a compatible device.

However, there have been a lot of queries about the maximum capacity of the USB devices that you can attach. Many believe it is 32GB but this is based on the fact that SYNC only works with FAT32 devices and Windows won’t format in FAT when greater than 32GB.

The simple solution is to use software, such as FAT 32 Formatter , which will format a drive to FAT32, whatever its size.

I’ve read of people using 320GB hard drives. However, these are slow to index. I’m using a 64GB memory stick and, although quick, there are too many tracks for the voice recognition to work with it (something Samantha i reminds me of everytime I start the car up. Sometimes twice). Also, many hard drives will require more power than a single USB connection can provide. So, it’s possible, but just be aware of the limitation of using such high storage capacities.

I’m also using a USB 3 memory stick – although SYNC is only compatible with USB 2, USB 3 is backwards compatible and does work fine.

  1. that’s the name of the female voice that SYNC uses, if you didn’t know[]

55 replies on “How to use USB devices with Ford Sync”

Hi David, I’m not sure if you’ll be able to answer my question but I have a 2011 Focus Titanium with the USB port in the glove box (dash looks identical to the picture in this article). I experimented yesterday and left my phone plugged in and it carried on charging even with all the electrics switched off – is there a way if stopping this? (in my old Peugeot, you could move a fuse one slot to the, say, left which meant the 12V socket only powered hen the car elecs were on rather than being powered all the time). My worry is that if I leave an old iPod plugged in permanently it will gradually drain the battery? Perhaps using a USB stick would be better … unless it overheats from constantly being supplied with power?

I’m not aware to stop it but I don’t think the amount of power it would be supplying would be enough to drain your battery – after all, once it’s full it’s going to only trickle-charge to keep it topped up. But, if you’re worried I’d recommend the USB option.

I believe it only continues to charge through the USB for a few minutes after locking the car so shouldn’t drain your battery.

So, I just purchased a 2011 Fusion Hybrid with SYNC (very low miles, like new – I got lucky!). I am considering purchasing the NEW SanDisk Ultra Fit USB 3.0 in a 128 GB capacity. So, I’d like to know – 1. Will USB 3.0 work in the SYNC USB port? 2. If yes, supposedly, this 3.0 is REALLY fast. At 128 GB, might it (or will it) work smoothly – meaning, voice recognition, indexing, etc. Ideally, I’d love to put ALL my music on ONE USB. This seems like a good option, but at nearly $80 for that size, I want a pretty good idea that it’s going to work. I don’t plan on doing any folder setup or playlists, etc. I’m planning to play one artist at a time or choose one track at a time – or play all random. I’m new to all of this. Although I’m somewhat technically more savvy than the random person, the USB car-compatible audio technology is all new to me. Suggestions? Advice? Thanks in advance!!

USB 3 is backwards compatible but the connection in the car is not USB 3 so you won’t benefit from the speed. I use USB 3, though, simply because the connection to your PC (assuming it’s USB 3) to update it will be faster. Whether it will work or not is a different question – I’ve only tried up to 32GB, so I can’t guarantee it. The other issue is that SYNC has a maximum number of tracks it will index for voice purposes – you can access everything via your menu but voice sadly won’t work. I don’t know what the limit is but my 32GB is enough to break it. Annoyingly still EVERYTIME I set off in the car, SYNC warns me vocally that they’re not available for voice command. Every. Single. Time.

Thank you for this response. I may just choose to accept my music will have to be put on multiple, smaller drives – especially if I want the voice recognition to work. This many weeks since my post, I’m still going through the grueling process of ripping my CDs, as I never had a need to before.

Hi I have got a Ford Focus Zetec 55 plate and can’t find a usb connection but on the right of the steering wheel in the little shelflike compartment there is a connection but it looks a it like a scartleed please let me no what this is ASAP if you no thanks?

Hi, not sure if this is related, but I have several albums on my memory stick, I have put them in folders, named the folders and numbered them I’ve also numbered the tracks inside the folders, but, there’s always a but, whenever I want to play them they come up in alphabetical order. Can I change this, I would like them to play in the correct order

I believe that they are shown in the order dictated by the track number data and is unrelated to the actual filename you’ve given. I’d recommend as a way to ensure the MP3 metadata is correct.

My USB port on my focus 2013 has stop playing music from my iPod just come up indexing music but will play throw Bluetooth

I been having the issue with no matter what I plug into the usb it will initializing then say not compatible device and not work. I even went and bought a new ipod and it still won’t work. Anyone run into this problem and have a fix for this?

I’ve been experiencing the same issue. I’ve tried several different USB thumb drives and the system will index the drives and will play a couple of songs but then gives error message that media is not compatible.

Chad: I had a similar problem and it turned out that SYNC only recognises certain file types. If you have anything else on the usb stick then SYNC throws a wobbly and claims the whole thing is incompatible. MP3 is safe: I don’t know what else is. But if you just use MP3 files (ie no folders, no non-MP3 files) then you ought to be okay.

I can confirm that file type .m4a also works. That’s all I have on my 128gb Kingston thunb drive. Also, it’s true that Sync will recognize music if it is in only one folder, but this only works if you don’t have a lot of music on your device. If you have a lot of music, then you will need to put it in folders, for example, by Artist’s name, otherwise when you plug in the USB drive, it will take forever to index the music. If it doesn’t finish indexing the music before the car shuts off, it will the start re-indexing all over again the next time you start your car. For example, my thumb drive has about 21,300 m4a songs on it. On my way back from Florida to Canada, I drove for a solid 12 hours, never shutting the car off, even when stopping for gas or food, and yet Sync never finished fully indexing the thumb drive. It only got about 16,800 songs indexed before I had to call it a day. The next day when I hit the road again, you guessed it, it started indexing all over, starting at song 1. So the way to get around that is to put your music in separate folders. Then it will successfully index your thumb drive in at worst 10 to 15 minutes.

I have been using a 128gb Kingston thumb drive in my 2013 Lincoln for over a year. It had about 100gb of music on it (about 25,000 songs), but SYNC would only recognize about 22,000 songs. I was OK with that. Then I recently reformatted the thumb drive and reloaded my entire itunes library again because I had added new songs and deleted some crappy songs. I still have about 25,000 songs on the thumb drive, but now SYNC only recognizes 14,000 songs. The thumb drive is and was always formatted exFAT. So why is SYNC now only recognizing only 14,000 songs instead of 22,000 like it used to. Also, what’s really weird is that I browsed through the SYNC menu to view the folders on my thumb drive, and it matched what was actually on the thumb drive until it got midway through the “B”s (my music folders are in alphabetical order). Then it skipped right past the “C”s and “D”s, and picked up again midway through the “E”s (at Elton John, in fact). In short, it skipped by about 97 folders. Any ideas out there?

hi, i have a 14 plate Kuga, and is now saying USB not connected, it was working fine went in for service and now doesnt. any ideas, its so frustrating. many thanks

I have a 2013 edge. ANd it seems my sync will not read more the 7.5GB or music, regardless of the capacity of the thumb drive. I have formatted the thumb drive for FAT32, thats fine, but if I load more then 7.5GB it wont index any of it. Below that amount its fine. However Im trying to reach my music list of about 69GB. If I could get it to ready even 32Gb stick, Id be happy to use a couple of those. But it wont read that much. It also wont read my Sandisk mp3 player, or my phone properly. and I know I can just use the ear jack port. But then I wont be able to use any of the car controls, and indedx while driving. Id have to use those devices to start music play. I dont know if any mp3 players are syunc compatible, or not. There has to be a solution to this. I just dont know what it is. Any ideas ?

I have a 2012 Ford Fiesta and have had my iPod plugged into the USB since I bought the car two eyars ago. It has always worked fine. Now, all of a sudden, my car won’t recognise it, it keeps telling me “USB device not supported”.

I haven’t changed anything on the car or the iPod, so I don’t know why it’s suddenly become an issue.

Does anyone have any ideas?

First suspect is the iPod cord. Try another USB cord, or alternatively, connect your iPod to iTunes on your computer with the existing cord. If iTunes recognizes your iPod when it is connected with the existing cord, then the cord is not the problem. Or, if you try another cord in your car and the problem still exists, again, it’s not likely a cord problem. Then try another USB port in your car, assuming you have one. If not, try putting a few songs on a spare thumb drive and stick it into your car’s USB port. If the car plays the songs on the thumb drive, the problem is not the car’s USB port. That would indicate that your iPod is the problem. If the car doesn’t play the few songs on your spare thumb drive, then your car stereo is likely the problem. If you get to this point, try a Master Reset of your SYNC system or MyFordTouch, whatever you call it (assuming this is what you have in your car).

Failing that, I got nothing else.

I have recently bought this car in UK and has all the gizmos – entertainment, climate control, USB connections, Bluetooth, Sync 2, front, side and rear parking sensors, rear-view camera, cruise control, heated seats and wing mirrors, LED headlights, 8″ touch screen and SD socket, Sync 2 etc. etc – BUT NO SAT NAV!!

Is it possible at reasonable expense to retrofit Sat Nav to this Focus?

Is Ford UK contemplating an “add-on” so that sat nav can be included at a later date?
Can iPhone screen be mirrored to 8” touch screen and thereafter use Apple Maps app on touch screen?

On Sync 3 models you can connect via a cable Google Drive and a couple of other nav apps via your smartphone . Check they work before purchasing via the free trial.

Hello David – I’m having trouble with using a 1GB USB stick. I put one track on a USB stick to test the audio system; it worked fine. Then I added a few more tracks. The system will only play the track which I originally put on the stick; it’s not seeing any of the others. Obviously there is some adjustment I have to do so that the stick gets re-indexed. Is there a simple way of doing this, please?

Which format are you adding them to the USB stick? If you’re using Windows then using the media player works particularly well – drag music over and sync and the format should be correct.

Dear David – . I’ve altered the format to mp3.

I also found that I have to use the voice command “USB” and then the voice command “PLAY ALL”. This re-indexed the stick, and now all files are working. The ‘Play All’ instruiction doesn’t seem to be available unless you use a voice command.

I appreciate your quick reply – especially on a 4-year-old post. Thank you very much.

And I don’t even own a Ford anymore 😉

Yeah, that’s odd – mine always re-indexed as soon as I updated the stick and switched to it. You may be on a much more modern sync version, though, so it may work differently.

I have a Ford Mondeo Vignale and when I first got it I plugged in a USB stick with some songs on it, and it appeared as one of the “Sources” no problem. Just one day later and “USB” as a source no longer appears. I’ve taken the drive out and plugged it back in – nothing; I’ve turned the whole car off and on again without the USB in / out – still refuses to detect it; I’ve tried both USB sockets – nothing. Next step is to plug the USB drive into my PC and see if the tracks are there and accessible. If they are, does this mean that the USB sockets are goosed for reading data? They seem to charge devices fine.

I’ve been on an endless cycle to update Sync 3 to version 3.0. So far no go. Can you tell me how people see files like GraceNotes and it’s version? Do I need to link to my car with my laptop, wifi, bluetooth. I see many people seem to mention files and versions, but I can’t find a way to see them on my car.
If you know, it would be a great help because many of my features are not working because I can’t complete the version install.

Does anyone else have an issue with SYNC doubling the songs? I insert my 8GB Walkman and after indexing, each album has each song listed twice. It is quite annoying to have to skip every other song. Any ideas? Cheers.

i have a 2012 Ford Explorer. My ipod has worked for years. Recently the vehicle recognizes the ipod, it displays the songs, but it won’t play the songs. It’s as if the thing is on permanent pause on the Explorer. I can play the songs just fine when it’s not connected to the car. I can change or forward to new songs on the vehicle, but I can’t get the thing to play. Any ideas?

I have been dealing with this exact same issue with my iPod 5th Generation Nano, and my 2013 Ford Focus, ever since I got my car, 4.5 years ago. I have gone mad, trying every other suggestion to resolve this issue, and the only thing that worked, was restarting my iPod. The process of restarting an iPod, depends on which model you have. Just do a web search for “How to Reset Every Model of iPod nano”, and you’ll find a page by “Lifewire”, detailing the process. I hope this works for you!

We have to say it was very disappointing not to have a CD player in our new car especially as we have recently recorded 100’s of albums onto CD for this very purpose. Our new Ford Focus is lovely in every other way. We do think the sellers should advise on this at the point of sale. We will have to learn how to burn CDs and then onto a USB which is all new to us. Don’t think you have been fair to older drivers as there should still be the option.

Me? It’s not my fault!

Sadly, things have moved on, such as when cassette players were finally removed from cars. My Focus had a CD player but I’m guessing the latest models don’t. However, not messing around with CDs when trying to drive, imo, is a great safety improvement.

Trying to change a wallpaper on 2015 F150, it will not recognize the USB drive. The USB is 32GB, can you give any insight or tell me the type of USB that it will recognize.

Hi David I have a 2015 kuga with the usb connection in the centre armrest console. I have music on usb 32gb for 18 months playing fine then just stopped working saying connect a usb device on the dash screen, I have tried numerous usb of different sizes, re formatted using Fat32, the information is on the stick as if I switch just the ignition on it will play the usb as normal for about 7 seconds then throw up the message connect a usb device, so I used a my phone charging cable connecting to the usb in centre console and it does the same thing it charges my phone and connects for 7 seconds then stops working. Looks to me like the power trips off to the usb port , any ideas its driving me mad.
Thanks. Martin.

I have this problem too!! Did you find out what the problem was/is? And more importantly,did you fix yet?

So i found a Facebook group for Ford edge. Found the solution. Forget the usb thumb drive. Get an ipod classic, 5th generation. Works fine, no limit on music. Uses itunes top transfer. I am not an apple fan, but this works. I found one on ebay cheap. I don’t know if it works with newer versions. But it seems that Ford sync was designed for iPods, or at least this ipod classic. Holds my full music list, no limitations.

Glad it works for you, but not everybody wants, has, needs or can find an ipod classic. I use a 128GB thumb drive in my 2018 Ford Edge and it recognizes all 21550 songs (about 108 GB of music). Format is .m4a (iTunes). And SYNC is pretty good at handling voice requests (not flawless, but most of the time it’s pretty good). I inserted the thumb drive in the center console over a year ago and have never touched it since. I don’t think you can do that with an ipod (leaving it in your car throughout the summer can cause the battery to fail (it swells because of the heat…not good).

I’ve just got the new ford focus 2019 plates with sync3 but it’s not working with my Fiio X5iii. When i plug in the device no usb icon comes up under source. What am I doing wrong as this worked fine in my old ford 2015 plates

SYNC 2 is apparently supposed to accept USB Mobile Internet devices (for making the car a WIFI hotspot. SYNC 2 claims ‘device not suported’ for the ones I’ve tried. I’m presuming that SYNC 2 needs a device driver installed, but it’s entirely undocumented as to how that’s done. SYNC 2 is just a Microsoft embedded Windows variant, so there has to be a way …..

I have a 2Tb hard drive and want to play music in a Ford ranger. Not recognised by vehicle. Any suggestions? 31,000 songs.

Is that a mechanical hard drive or an SSD? I’m not sure if they’ll work. I’d recommend a memory stick and, I suspect, there’ll be a limit to the recognised size too – I’d stick to 64GB but it may work with higher.

I have an IPOD classic 164 gig that worked flawlessly in my 2013 Honda cross tour (left in the console year round). I recently purchased a Ford F150 with sync 4 and have been trying about every option to get them to work together to include direct through USB and several Bluetooth dongles I also tried my smaller 64 Gig iPod but nothing is recognized will not connect with sync 4. I had a Ford recall service performed on the computer so I asked the technician who recommended the dongle or FireWire as a fix but as I said nothing connects. Anyone from Ford reading this that can help?

When I spoke to Ford, they said that 128GB is the maximum USB limit for music. It’s noticeable that manuals no longer make reference to connecting up iPods directly, so not sure if the support is any different for that than for memory sticks.

Bear in mind that Sync was iPod compatible prior to Sync 3, but this new version is not by Microsoft but Blackberry, so this may have been dropped.

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