Tesla storage set-up for sentry mode, dashcam and boombox

Recent Tesla's have had the ability to use the built in cameras as both a dashcam when driving and as a sentry mode facility when parked up. Both these features require the owner to use a storage device plugged into the USB port to store the content. Regular USB thumb drives or memory sticks are not idea due to the limitations of the technology, they are either not fast enough or are not designed to be rewritten to many times. Even the device that Tesla supplies with new cars has a limoted life span. This guide discusses the choice of storage, how to set it up, and how to also add a music partition if required.

What to use for storage

We recommend avoiding thumb drives as the type of memory used is not designed for frequent rewrites which will occur when being used as a dashcam or in sentry mode. They also typically have too slow a write speed and simply can not keep up with the requirements of the car. Even if they work initially, they usually fail after a few months. Even the Tesla supplied drive has a limnited life expectancy.

Depending on the amount of storage required we believe the best memory card for a Tesla is a video grade SD memory card or use a solid state disk if you are also looking to store music files locally:

Sentry mode storage

A popular solid state drive is the Samsung T5 USB External Solid State Drive which is even available in a colour close to the Tesla red.

Sentry mode storage

If you prefer something smaller, then a memory card such as the SanDisk Extreme PRO SDXC Memory Card with a write speed of up to 90MB/s coupled with a quality USB memory card reader is a far better choice than a dedicated USB memory stick. This device is designed for photography and video storage and is therefore both much quicker than the average USB memory stick and designed to be rewritten to many times.

Formatting the device - quick guide

The quickest guide is to now use the Format device option within the car. You can however manually format the storage device using one of the methods below:

For the storage device to work, it needs to be formatted in FAT32 format.

On a Mac, use the Disk Utility to format the storage.

On windows this may not be as easy without a 3ed party utility if the memory card is above 32GB in size as Windows does not natively support this. To format the whole memory card as FAT 32 as 1 partition you can use a 3rd party tool and we suggest using AOMEI Partition Assistance. The instructions below will vary slightly depending on the tool used. If the memory card is 32GB or smaller, you can use the Windows tool by simply selecting the device in file explorer, right clicking and selecting Format and then then selecting FAT32.

Setting up the storage device

Tesla require a specific folder to be created for it to store the captured footage.

Using in the car

All you now need to do is eject the storage device and plug it into the car. Use one of the data enabled USB ports (typically ones accessible from the front seat, and the icons should soon appear.

It should be noted that sentry mode keeps the car awake which increases vampire drain quite considerably. The flashing lights of sentry mode can also be triggered by rain or passing animals and in some residential areas this flashing can annoy neighbours. While the advantages of sentry mode help protect your car, its worth being selective in where and when you enable it and we'd suggest if you have relatively safe parking at home and/or work then select the option to disable it in these locations.

You may want to change some of the setting for the dashcam, for instance to save clips on honking the horn visit Navigate to Controls > Safety and Security > Save Clips on Honk > ON. We suggest you read the manual for other settings.

Formatting the device - advanced guide

If you are using a larger device and wish to split the storage to include an area for music and an area for sentry mode then we suggest creating two partitions on the device.

Using AOMEI Partition Assistance this is relatively easy. We have assumed a degree of knowledge with these steps as each device and individuals requirements may vary, but this should give a suitable guide and key pointers to achieve two storage areas on the same storage device.

We have found that SD memory cards do not support split formats easily. When creating the partitions we have found creating the higher partition first (ie the area to the right on the selection area) and then create the second partition using the remainder on the left seems to work better.


Setting up custom boombox files is very easy. Either create a music partition on the same device as your sentry mode and dashcam storage as suggested above, or format a USB drive just for music and add a directory/folder called Boombox. Then simply add up to 5 mp3 files to that folder, and remove any spaces in the file names. These will then appear at the end of the list of available boombox sounds.

You can not just create a folder next to Teslacam as the car does not seem to want to read this which we think is disappointing, but that is how Tesla do it. Finally, the boombox feature only works with cars with the external speaker. Its been rumoured that they have made some cars with the wiring for some time and just the speaker needs adding, but at the moment, there is no retrofit option.

A word about sentry mode

Sentry mode in theory is a great idea, however in practice it is very hungry on energy consumption. Our advice is thats its use should be the exception rather than the rule, and only turn it on if the car is being left in a vulnerable area for a short period of time. Do not use sentry mode when leaving the car for a long time unless you really need to as the battery depletion will be fairly significant.

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