As an alternative to connecting an USB Hub to one of the ports in the front console, for the purpose of fully taking advantage of all the Model 3 can achieve via these ports, like charging phones, listening to your own media or recording dash cam video, let’s explore the idea of sharing one storage media for both dash cam video recordings as well as media files for playback. USB Hub works too, if you don’t mind the clutter, that is.
Based on a fair amount of research it seems that most of the external SSD brands work and the process of formatting will be pretty much identical in all cases. I did not try it, but I am confident that this process applies to internal hard drives installed in an external enclosure connected to the PC via USB.
In my testing I used one of the most popular SDD drives favored by the Tesla community, the 500GB Samsung T5 SSD which retails on Amazon for about $79.99:
The drive comes pre-formatted and loaded with some applications used for managing and encrypting your data. If you are going for this drive, I suggest a backup of these applications although I am sure they can also be downloaded from Samsung. The drive itself looks quite sleek and being a very small form factor, fits nicely in the space below the USB connectors in the Tesla Model 3.
Step 1 – Connecting SDD Drive to PC
First things first: connect the SSD to a PC and confirm that Windows correctly detected the drive by accessing it in windows explorer. This would be a good time to backup those pre-loaded applications that came with the drive. Once you have confirmed that the drive works out of the box, make a note of the letter windows assigned to it. In my case the drive letter was I (capital i).
Step 2 – Launch Disk Management application
For this step you will go to the disk management section of windows. You can usually find this section in the Administrative Tools -> Computer Management, or by simply clicking Start and searching Disk Management. In windows 10 the Start menu entry is called “Create and Format Hard Disk Partitions”.
Step 3 – Delete existing partition on the SDD Drive
Notice in the lower pane that the installed hard drives are pictured as complete rows and partitions on each of the drives are pictured as separate boxes on the same row. In our case, the Samsung T5 SDD drive should have only one partition (one box spanning the entire row). Make a note of the disk number assigned by windows to this drive.
Since you will want to have both personal media files and Tesla dash cam recordings on the same drive, the best idea is to create two separate partitions on this drive. In order to do that you will need to delete the existing partition that came with the drive.
IMPORTANT: Please make sure that the correct SDD is selected and any actions you take from here on are done by clicking/right-clicking the CORRECT drive. This step destroys data on the drive you select so take extra care. Best thing to do is to always remember the disk number, which in my case was “Disk 4”.
In order to delete the existing empty partition that came with the drive, right click in the lower pane on the large white box titled Samsung T5 (or whichever name your drive came with) and select “Delete Volume…”
Confirm the deletion of the volume. Once this action is done, the box will have a black band at the top and the label of the box will say “Unallocated” which means that now we are free to create the new partitions the way we want.
Step 4 – Create the dash cam recordings partition
The plan now is to create two separate partitions for our purpose. First decide how large you want each partition to be. In my case I decided that I will dedicate 300Gb to the dash cam and whatever is left of the drive to personal media. Feel free to decide how much you want for each partition based on your needs.
So let’s create the first partition, in my case the dash cam storage, with a size of 300Gb. Right click as before on the big “Unallocated” box and select “New Simple Volume”:
The next dialog will prompt you to select the new partition size. As I mentioned, I went for a 300Gb size for this, but you can enter any size you want here. One thing to note is that the value in the box is in Mb not Gb. That means for my 300Gb partition I had to enter a value of 300000 Mb (1 Gb is roughly 1000 Mb). Remember also that you want to save some space for the personal media files partition, choose a smaller size than what is already selected when the dialog opened.
Clicking “Next” will take you to the type of partition you want. It’s important that at this step you select exFAT as this format will later be switched to FAT32, the only type currently accepted by Tesla. Once “exFAT” is selected, leave the allocation unit as “Default” and name the partition to something relevant, like “TeslaCam” for example. Also make sure to check the “Perform a quick format” option as it will save you a lot of time.
Click Next and start the formatting process. When it’s finished, you should be able to see that the new partition spans to about the half way point of the entire row for your SDD. It should have a “Healthy (Primary Partition)” label and a size of around the value you chose before formatting.
Step 5 – Create the personal media partition
You will now create the second partition that holds the media files. For this, you will use whatever space is left on the disk after you created the first partition. So, right click on the “Unallocated” space right of the partition you just created.
You will follow the same steps as before in creating a new partition. Select “New Simple Volume”. This will open the size selection dialog. This time however, we will leave the value that Windows suggested. That is the entire portion left available on the disk.
Next you will select again the “exFAT” partition type and name the partition to something more relevant, like “Media” for example.
After the quick format is performed, you should now see the second partition of the drive labeled also “Healthy” by Windows. At this point you will also notice that your SDD drive will list two drive letters in windows, one for each of the partitions. Don’t start copying media on the drive yet, as you have one more step to do.
Step 6 – Convert partitions to FAT 32
In order for Tesla to be able to access the partitions we just created, you need to convert them from exFAT to FAT32 format. This is just the way windows and other devices store and manage files on the disk. The simplest tool I found so far to achieve this is FAT32Format. You can download the tool by clicking the image on it’s home page. In case the URL may become broken, I am sure you can find plenty alternate sources to download this tool from, by googling “fat32format gui“.
Again it’s VERY IMPORTANT that you select the correct drive letter (confirmed by the label) so that you don’t format by mistake a different drive.If you used the same labels as I did, then you should see a TeslaCam label once you selected the correct drive letter for the first partition on your SDD.
Initially, after selecting the drive, the format will be listed as exFAT (that’s what you selected when you created the partition in the first place). Check the “Quick Format” box again, to avoid long format delays. After confirming that the correct partition is selected and without changing the Allocation unit size, click Start. The format process should be fairly quick. Once that is done, you will notice that the new format listed next to the drive letter is now FAT32.
Repeat the step for the second partition which is the personal media storage.
Step 7 – Create the TeslaCam folder
Now that all is good with the drive partitions, the last step is to create the required folder on the dash cam recordings partition.
In windows explorer, select the TeslaCam partition and create a new folder called “TeslaCam”
Before ejecting the drive remember to copy a few mp3 files on the Media partition for testing and making sure that the car recognizes the partition and is able to play the files.
Disconnect the drive and connect it to the USB in the car. Now you should be able to see the dash cam icon on the Model 3 screen (if it does not have the red dot, simply tap on it and it will start recording).
Also in the Media screen, you should be able to see the “USB” section which will contain the MP3 files you just copied.