Sentry Mode - USB Data Storage

Sentry Mode - USB Data Storage

It appears Sentry mode created a subfolder titled “SavedClips” and stores potential threat recordings there. Most of these recordings are of motion (I.e. people walking by in a parking lot). Curious, as my USB drive gets full, will Sentry Mode automatically write over older files? Details on Sentry Mode data storage would be appreciated. Thanks!

EVRider | 24. Februar 2019

Good question — see this related thread in the Model S forum:

adamj1722 | 24. Februar 2019

Thanks. My guess is that Sentry Mode will fill USB drives fairly quick because all data is located in the “saved” folder. I plan to get a few USB drives and just cycle through them. I love the advice from experts here. Keep it coming!

Justaguy | 24. Februar 2019

After parking with Sentry Mode in effect, the car records a good deal of footage. That doesn't bother me. But i notice that after each such session that I have to remove the USB drive and scan and fix it before the system will use it again. This seems like another bug similar to the one they had when they started recording on the USB drive. Anyone else notice this?

adamj1722 | 24. Februar 2019

I haven’t noticed that. I get multiple ‘sessions’ from Sentry Mode.

sloflo | 02. März 2019

Filled up a 16gb memory stick in about a day and a half of testing Sentry Mode. Parked on the street, and a parking garage. It seems everything (cars driving in front of it, tree branches etc,) sets it off. Had to remove it and delete everything.

sloflo | 07. März 2019

I replaced the 16gb usb thumb drive with a 500gb external usb drive. Will let it run for a week and i'll see how that goes.

alfoguacor | 08. März 2019

Hello, I was wondering if I have to buy a USB or does the car come with the usb installed? If I have to buy one, where do I put in the car?


sloflo | 10. März 2019

You have to get one. I recommend at least 256 GB I have a 500 GB installed and it uses about 12GB per day with sentry mode on always. Create a folder on it named TeslaCam (case sensitive) Plug it into the first usb port. And thats it.

asterix007 | 25. März 2019

Sorry a new owner here -
1) 1st USB port, which one is that one?
2) Does it need to be a special USB stick (perhaps one with High Endurance which are meant for repeated video recordings?
3) Does the USB stick need to be pre formatted?

Kary993 | 25. März 2019

1. Either of the front 2 ports are data and power, use one of those.
2. Get at least 256GB USB 3 drive as they are fast at writing and endurance really doesn't matter these all can handle a lot. If you are going to use Sentry mode get 500GB drive.
3. Yes look at DashCam in manual and format accordingly as well as create the directory it is looking for. | 25. März 2019

@alfoguacor - Picking the right USB drive will help make it work right, or picking wrong one will give you an ulcer with various odd problems. This comes up so often, I wrote a detailed guide to picking the USB drive: as it's more complicated than most realize.

Also, you should expect the drive (if high quality) to die after 1-2 years (128 GB). Cheap drives will last a lot less. The larger the drive the longer it will last. Small drives might only last a few months. | 25. März 2019

@asterix007 - Most drives 32 GB and smaller are correctly pre-formatted. Drives > 32 GB are almost always the wrong format and must be formatted for FAT32. My guide in prior post shows you how to format on WIndows and Mac, as it is not straight forward. | 25. März 2019

On Sentry mode, there is a bug that once the drive fills up with Sentry mode video, the dashcam stops recording any video. I expect Tesla to fix this at some point, but for now, you'll need to periodically delete the Sentry Mode video from the Dashcam. WIth 128 GB, perhaps every 2-6 weeks. It varies because it depends how much motion occurs while in sentry mode. For a car parked in a home garage, it will store far less video than a car parked on a busy street every night.

johnw | 25. März 2019

This 128gb sandisk is formatted correctly in the box. Add the TeslaCam folder and plug it in.

mknewman | 26. März 2019

First Sloflo the Model 3 only has USB2, so a USB3 drive will work but not get the added benefit. Look for the blue tab vs black in the USB devices.

2nd, you might want to buy a USB hub so that you don't lose your USB charging. You can plug in the USB FOB and the charger cord into the hub.

M3R | 26. März 2019

@sloflo, can I use the 1TB or 2TB or even bigger external HD for Sentry mode (as long as I got it format to FAT32)? I don't use TeslaCam. this HD is solely for Sentry Mode only.

uknowinvu2 | 26. März 2019

Tesla service told me today that regardless the size of the USB drive it will get filled with sentry video and requires a manual clearing using your computer.

Kary993 | 26. März 2019

yes eventually any size's all about the duration between cleanings! At least until they change the software to wrap around in a smart way.

kallian | 26. März 2019

I ended up putting a fat32 formatted 750GB hard drive, yes a spinner! Approximated 4W, max 5W, I probably gather it uses around 3W continous.
Make use of that thing, velcro'ed it to the side wall in the bin.
USB music on a partition on the drive too, USB scanning for files is much faster and remembers last audio place! With the flash drive, it took too long to scan so it never remembered what it was playing.

jvcesare | 26. März 2019

@kallian I'm using a 490 GB SSD formatted with two partitions (Video/Music) that I placed in a USB case (total cost $70). All of my USB problems have gone away. Music and Video have worked flawlessly since I installed it. I suspect there was a seek timeout occurring on slow thumb drives.

stopnair | 26. März 2019

@jvcesare can you describe your setup in detail with model nos?

andrewlee05 | 27. März 2019

FYI - if you need a 500GB portable SSD drive for sentry mode, get the sandisk extreme portable drive for $68 from Sandisk directly. Not sure how long the sale would last. Just bought one for myself.


Amit4123 | 31. März 2019

Hello Everyone, i am new model 3 owner and love it. Did someone tried to put video format on external usb/hdd to play on the screen or its just capable to play music only?

Carl Thompson | 31. März 2019


The Model 3 cannot currently play video on the screen. Even if you use the web browser and navigate to a video site it will not play. I suspect this is for safety reasons.

MoonDog | 01. April 2019

I passed a good part of last evening searching for a low power consumption USB external storage... I was hoping to find an HDD with advertise shock resistance and high MTBF but all of these information seem to not be readily available for most products...

After a while though I realized that almost all options (HDD/SDD/Flashdrives) have advertised operating temperature of 0C/32F. Living in a region that gets and can remain cold for good part of the year (upstate NY) I thought this may be something fellow northerners may want to consider....

So I basically threw all those criterias out of the window and ended up ordering one of the few products I could find that seems to advertise operation below 0C/32F, that's the SAMSUNG BAR Plus. It is advertised shock-proof and temperature proof but unfortunately maxes out at 256GB which is what I got. I was originally looking for 2TB HDD, but oh well...

I'll update if I have any issues with it, but otherwise it remains as a suggestion from someone that looked into options for lower temperatures.

MoonDog | 01. April 2019

All that and I didn't mention that the operating temperature range is -25C/-13F through 85C/185F.

glenn.mcquaig | 04. April 2019

@TeslaTap Great article. Thanks for the detailed guide. Best I’ve seen on the subject. I have a follow up question since you mentioned size as a major factor. I don’t plan on using an SSD (most likely opting for the largest Flash drive I can afford) but is there a size of Flash drive that is just too silly to use? The article shows a 256 as the largest you’ve linked to, but is it worth going for even more storage?

Again, thanks for the great article! I don’t know if you’re on Reddit, but there are some Tesla subReddits that would love to see this info.

jvcesare | 04. April 2019

@glenn.mcquaig The drive has to be formatted FAT32 and 2 TB is the largest most OSs can handle. The max you can format under the FAT32 spec is 16TB.

Teslanene | 04. April 2019

Sorry to hijack this thread but when playing the video sometimes my video looks green and sometimes distorted, its more when its park and recording. Anyone else have similar issues, is it a bug?

leo33 | 04. April 2019

@teslanene I've noticed this as well. It's usually the right or left camera streams when the car is not moving. I've tried multiple usb drives, including high speed/endurance micro sdcard designed specifically for security cameras. I think it's a bug.

MoonDog | 04. April 2019

@Teslanene I have this same issue. In my case, it is always in the left camera feed. Which I think eliminates data writing issues because the files for the other streams are fine. Also, it is not throughout the whole image, only a portion of it (about the bottom half). Additionally, it is not throughout the whole length of the saved videos, it is intermittent.

I was going to contact customer support to see if the sensor/camera needs to be changed. I'm waiting to gather a few more data (was going to wait a week) before sending them the info. I'm worried that if it is a camera issue and it uses that feed for autopilot that it will put me at some point into a 737 Max 8 situation :O

pdet | 04. April 2019

Can anyone confirm that if a storage device fills up with sentry videos, we can expect to see an "x" in the camera icon, so we know it's no longer recording?

jvcesare | 04. April 2019

@pdet Correct | 04. April 2019

@glenn - Thanks for the compliment! The only limit is 2TB that FAT32 supports, other that, it's fine to go with a larger drive. I wouldn't spend too much on it, as at some point the drive longevity will kill the drive when used in a dashcam type application. On the plus site, usually (but not always) a larger drive should last longer. It depends on the internal controller design - something few manufacturers talk about.

@jvcesare - FAT32 is limited to 2TB on the Tesla. You might use ext4 (Linux) to get a larger drive, which is supported. Not sure if there is a limit in the Tesla, but the ext4 format supports up to 1 exbibyte (EiB) or 1152921504606846976 bytes

M3R | 04. April 2019

@TeslaTap, if i only using the drive for Sentry mode only can it records over 2TB limit and i must have it format for FAT32? I am thinking of getting WD element either 2 or 3TB. any suggestion?

ODWms | 04. April 2019

I’d love it if it would just overweight the oldest.

ODWms | 04. April 2019

I’d love it if it would just overweight the oldest.

ODWms | 04. April 2019


bmobile | 05. April 2019

@TeslaTap how do I know if sentry mode filled up my usb and isnt recording anymore?

sromano | 30. April 2019

Got a software update on 2017 Model S produced May 2017 & to my surprise got entry Mode. Most of the folks were saying Sentry Mode was only available on Model S & X produced after August 2017.

Frank99 | 30. April 2019

bmobile -
The camera icon in the upper right corner of the screen will show a grey "x" (if I remember correctly) in the corner of the icon rather than the normal red dot. It's subtle, so you have to look for it.

Syed.Hosain | 30. April 2019

For the folks using a partition for Music, do the files need to be in one big top folder? Or can they be separated into subfolders for each artist or record? When I play music from my phone, I am not able to select files from the Tesla screen - have to play using an app from my phone. Then, only the files in one subfolder are visible to the car.

Also, what is the top level folder name for this folder on the second partition?


Haggy | 02. Mai 2019

You don't need a special top folder for music.

EVRider | 02. Mai 2019

@sromano: 2019.12 added Sentry Mode to S/X cars with HW2, but the video can't be saved on a local USB, it gets saved on the Tesla server somewhere. Tesla hasn't said how you would request this video if you needed it. If you try using a USB with a TeslaCam folder, you'll find that Sentry Mode creates files there, but they're all empty.

Do you own both a Model S and Model 3? Just wondering why you posted the question here rather than in the Model S forum.

greg33 | 03. Mai 2019

Has anyone confirmed what happens when the hard drive fills up? Thanks.

andrewsjra | 03. Mai 2019

What would be awesome is if you can delete the files from the drive without having to remove it. Especially for those using sentry mode daily. Especially if there’s nothing you want to save. Just a thought.

EVRider | 04. Mai 2019

@greg33: When the drive fills, both dashcam and Sentry Mode stop recording. Unfortunately, Sentry Mode doesn't start overwriting old files in that case.

YVS | 06. Mai 2019

And does a warning pop up? And also is there a format/delete button?

EVRider | 06. Mai 2019

@YVS: No to both questions. If you use Sentry Mode, you need to periodically remove the USB and erase anything you don't need. A warning or delete button would be good, but it would be even better if Sentry Mode automatically overwrote old files when the disk got full, so Sentry Mode and the dashcam would never stop working.