Tesla sentry mode USB flash drive recommendations
Image Credits: Tesla

Tesla sentry mode USB flash drive recommendations

The Tesla sentry Mode is a function for monitoring against burglary and vehicle theft by storing surveillance videos on an USB device. If the sentry mode is activated in the parked vehicle, the environment is continuously monitored by the vehicle cameras. As soon as someone comes very close to the vehicle, the warning mode is activated and the video recording is stored on a USB flash drive. A message on the screen indicates that video surveillance is active. In the event of a major threat, such as the breaking of a window, the alarm system is activated. At the same time, music from the speakers is played at maximum volume to attract attention.

The following link shows a funny demo video of sentry mode:

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Required amounts of data on the USB flash drive

The video recordings of the Tesla sentry mode and the dashcam function are stored on a USB flash drive. The drive must be connected to one of the two front USB ports in the car. With dashcam and sentry mode, the footage from the front camera, the two side-facing rear cameras and the rear camera footage is recorded. One minute of image recording requires 30 MB of memory per camera. Since the Dashcam only stores 60 minutes while driving and then overwrites the oldest data, the following space is required for the Dashcam function on the USB devies:

60 Minutes * 30 MB * 4 Cameras = ~7200 MB (=7 GB) for one hour dashcam recording. 

10 Minutes * 30 MB * 4Cameras = ~1200 MB (=1.2 GB) for a manual 10-minute recording by pressing the dashcam button.

The sentry mode also stores 10 minutes of video from four cameras per threat detected. This means 1200 MB per incident. A USB device that is too small can become full very quickly. In addition, the stored videos of the sentry mode cannot be deleted from within the vehicle. Currently, this only works by plugging the device into a PC or mobile phone and delete the files manually.

In order not to have to delete the videos constantly, it is recommended to use at least the following USB device size:
64 GB for dashcam and 1-2x per week sentry mode use.
128 GB for dashcam and frequent sentry mode use.
minimum 256 GB for dashcam and daily sentry  mode usage.

IMPORTANT: check the USB device operating temperature capabilities!

For all devices presented here, it is essential to ensure that the operating temperatures are maintained. The sentry mode keeps the storage device permanently active and, depending on the season, extreme temperatures can occur in the vehicle. Most USB pen drives and SSD’s are not suitable for operating temperatures above 45 degrees celsius and below 0 degrees celsius . They are therefore not recommended for the sentry mode during hot summer or cold winter times.

Only the Sandisk ExtremePro and Samsung Endurance MicroSD cards can cope with hot and very cold temperatures without being damaged.

The units become also hot during operation. Using it outside the recommended temperature range will damage the storage medium and in extreme cases could even result in fire.

USB pen drives suitable for Tesla sentry mode

For video recordings, the pen drive is exposed to many write accesses and should have sufficiently high values for the write speed maximum. Since the stick is heavily used by the many writing cycles, only products from brand manufacturers should be used. Very cheap devices are often not designed for many writing cycles. If the manufacturer offers more than 2 years warranty, this is usually a good sign regarding the quality.

Write speeds from 25 MB/s should work properly, but can sometimes lead to individual picture disturbances in the videos if the stick cannot write the videos fast enough. A speed higher than 40 MB/s is ideal. Higher writing speeds are not relevant, because the USB ports in the car does obviously only comply with the USB2 standard, so the speed is limited by the port. However, a pen drive with sufficient reserves is certainly better than a device that is too slow and overloaded with video data by the vehicle.

The following USB pen drives work with the sentry mode and have been tested and recommended in forums or in Facebook groups by Tesla drivers (ATTENTION: observe the device operating temperatures). Note: The product links on this page are affiliate links. If you buy through them, you will not incur any additional costs. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Write: 70 MB/s Read: 180 MB/s 0 °C – 60 °C

Write: 70 MB/s Read: 180 MB/s 0 °C – 60 °C



Write: 25 MB/s Read: 200 MB/s 0 °C – 60 °C

Write: 25 MB/s Read: 200 MB/s 0 °C – 60 °C



Write: 55 MB/s Read: 130 MB/s 0 °C – 35 °C

Write: 55 MB/s Read: 130 MB/s 0 °C – 35 °C



Write: 140 MB/s Read: 210 MB/s 0 °C – 70 °C

Write: 140 MB/s Read: 210 MB/s 0 °C – 70 °C


The advantage of the small USB pen drives is that they are practically invisible in the car. But the heat dissipation is not so good. A high reading speed is only positively noticeable when copying videos to the PC, but does not bring any advantages in the vehicle. USB pen drives are also not actually designed for continuous operation.

With the following table you can compare the USB sticks by size and price. To do this, simply type in the desired size in the “Search” field. For example 64 or 128. Of course, you can also compare all sizes of a manufacturer and sort them with the arrows at the top by typing in the search field, for example Samsung.
Product nameRatingPrice
Kingston  128GB DataTraveler Elite G2 Black Metal Casing Fast 180MB/s R, 70MB/W USB 3.1 Flash Drive with LED light indicator (DTEG2/128GB)Kingston 128GB DataTraveler Elite G2 Black Metal Casing Fast 180MB/s R, 70MB/W USB 3.1 Flash Drive with LED light indicator (DTEG2/128GB) *$47.25
Kingston  64GB DataTraveler Elite G2 Black Metal Casing Fast 180MB/s R, 70MB/W USB 3.1 Flash Drive with LED light indicator (DTEG2/64GB)Kingston 64GB DataTraveler Elite G2 Black Metal Casing Fast 180MB/s R, 70MB/W USB 3.1 Flash Drive with LED light indicator (DTEG2/64GB) *$27.99
Samsung FIT Plus USB 3.1 Flash Drive 128GB - 300MB/s (MUF-128AB/AM)Samsung FIT Plus USB 3.1 Flash Drive 128GB – 300MB/s (MUF-128AB/AM) *$24.99
Samsung MUF-256AB/AM FIT Plus 256GB - 300MB/s USB 3.1 Flash DriveSamsung MUF-256AB/AM FIT Plus 256GB – 300MB/s USB 3.1 Flash Drive *$42.99
Samsung MUF-64AB/AM FIT Plus 64GB - 200MB/s USB 3.1 Flash DriveSamsung MUF-64AB/AM FIT Plus 64GB – 200MB/s USB 3.1 Flash Drive *$14.47
SanDisk 128GB Ultra Fit USB 3.1 Flash Drive - SDCZ430-128G-G46SanDisk 128GB Ultra Fit USB 3.1 Flash Drive – SDCZ430-128G-G46 *$18.50
SanDisk 256GB Ultra Fit USB 3.1 Flash Drive - SDCZ430-256G-G46SanDisk 256GB Ultra Fit USB 3.1 Flash Drive – SDCZ430-256G-G46 *$32.75
SanDisk 64GB Ultra Fit USB 3.1 Flash Drive - SDCZ430-064G-G46SanDisk 64GB Ultra Fit USB 3.1 Flash Drive – SDCZ430-064G-G46 *$10.94
Transcend 128GB JetFlash 780 USB 3.0 Flash Drive (TS128GJF780)Transcend 128GB JetFlash 780 USB 3.0 Flash Drive (TS128GJF780) *$68.99
Transcend 256GB JetFlash 780 USB 3.0 Flash Drive (TS256GJF780)Transcend 256GB JetFlash 780 USB 3.0 Flash Drive (TS256GJF780) *$149.99
Transcend 64GB JetFlash 780 USB 3.0 Flash Drive (TS64GJF780)Transcend 64GB JetFlash 780 USB 3.0 Flash Drive (TS64GJF780) *$40.99

The better alternative for Tesla sentry mode: SDCard with USB adapter

In Internet forums, some Tesla drivers favor SD memory card instead of a USB pen drive. One reason for this, is one of the disadvantages of USB pren drives: they are not designed for continuous operation. A pen drive can therefore become unusable relatively quickly after 1-2 years if it is used very frequently. Many Micro SD cards also have a much higher operating temperature range from minus 25 °C to plus 85 °C. Since SD cards are used in cameras where high writing speeds are also important, they also work very well for the dashcam and sentry mode. For SD Cards you need a card reader:

For example, if you use the card reader and one of the following SD cards with 100 MB/s write speed. This compares to the high-speed version of an USB pen drive. It is also important to format the USB pen drives and SD cards with the file system FAT32 or ext4, otherwise they are not readable in the vehicle. (Instructions for formatting)

-25 °C – 85 °C



-25 °C – 85 °C



-25 °C – 85 °C


The following special SD cards are best suited for continuous operation of a dashcam and sentry mode. They have a longer durability with continuous use and a higher operating temperature range, but are also more expensive in price per gigabyte. (Samsung info)


-25 °C – 85 °C



-25 °C – 85 °C



-25 °C – 85 °C



-25 °C – 85 °C


Product nameRatingPrice
Samsung PRO Endurance 128 GB microSDXC UHS-I U1 Memory Card with AdapterSamsung PRO Endurance 128 GB microSDXC UHS-I U1 Memory Card with Adapter *£36.02
Samsung PRO Endurance 64 GB microSDXC UHS-I U1 Memory Card with AdapterSamsung PRO Endurance 64 GB microSDXC UHS-I U1 Memory Card with Adapter *£22.99
SanDisk Extreme Pro 128 GB microSDXC Memory Card + SD Adapter with A2 App Performance + Rescue Pro Deluxe 170 MB/s Class 10, UHS-I, U3, V30 Red/GoldSanDisk Extreme Pro 128 GB microSDXC Memory Card + SD Adapter with A2 App Performance + Rescue Pro Deluxe 170 MB/s Class 10, UHS-I, U3, V30 Red/Gold *£25.99
SanDisk Extreme Pro 400 GB microSDXC Memory Card + SD Adapter with A2 App Performance + Rescue Pro Deluxe 170 MB/s Class 10, UHS-I, U3, V30, Red/Gold SDSQXCZ-400G-GN6MASanDisk Extreme Pro 400 GB microSDXC Memory Card + SD Adapter with A2 App Performance + Rescue Pro Deluxe 170 MB/s Class 10, UHS-I, U3, V30, Red/Gold SDSQXCZ-400G-GN6MA *£123.91
SanDisk Extreme Pro 512 GB microSDXC Memory Card + SD Adapter with A2 App Performance + Rescue Pro Deluxe 170 MB/s Class 10, UHS-I, U3, V30SanDisk Extreme Pro 512 GB microSDXC Memory Card + SD Adapter with A2 App Performance + Rescue Pro Deluxe 170 MB/s Class 10, UHS-I, U3, V30 *£136.99
SanDisk Extreme Pro 64 GB microSDXC Memory Card + SD Adapter with A2 App Performance + Rescue Pro Deluxe 170 MB/s Class 10, UHS-I, U3, V30SanDisk Extreme Pro 64 GB microSDXC Memory Card + SD Adapter with A2 App Performance + Rescue Pro Deluxe 170 MB/s Class 10, UHS-I, U3, V30 *£12.99
SanDisk Ultra 128 GB microSDXC Memory Card + SD Adapter with A1 App Performance Up to 100 MB/s, Class 10, U1SanDisk Ultra 128 GB microSDXC Memory Card + SD Adapter with A1 App Performance Up to 100 MB/s, Class 10, U1 *£14.99
SanDisk Ultra 256 GB microSDXC Memory Card + SD Adapter with A1 App Performance Up to 100 MB/s, Class 10, U1SanDisk Ultra 256 GB microSDXC Memory Card + SD Adapter with A1 App Performance Up to 100 MB/s, Class 10, U1 *£29.99
SanDisk Ultra 400 GB microSDXC Memory Card + SD Adapter with A1 App Performance Up to 100 MB/s, Class 10, U1SanDisk Ultra 400 GB microSDXC Memory Card + SD Adapter with A1 App Performance Up to 100 MB/s, Class 10, U1 *£44.99
SanDisk Ultra 512 GB microSDXC Memory Card + SD Adapter with A1 App Performance Up to 100 MB/s, Class 10, U1SanDisk Ultra 512 GB microSDXC Memory Card + SD Adapter with A1 App Performance Up to 100 MB/s, Class 10, U1 *£71.99
SanDisk Ultra 64 GB microSDXC Memory Card + SD Adapter with A1 App Performance Up to 100 MB/s, Class 10, U1SanDisk Ultra 64 GB microSDXC Memory Card + SD Adapter with A1 App Performance Up to 100 MB/s, Class 10, U1 *£8.99

Maximum storage capacity: SSD

Some Tesla drivers also prefer only SSD with 500 GB capacity. SSD’s are slightly larger than USB pen drives and SD cards, but combine very large storage capacities with a very high write speed and a long life. It is important to use a model that draws its power directly from the USB port. Not every SSD works in the Tesla (this probably has to do with the fact that some SSD’s need more power than the USB port can provide). The following SDD models have been mentioned by Tesla drivers in Internet forums and work with the Tesla (IMPORTANT: Also note the operating temperature of the device! SSD are more sensitive to temperatures than Micro SD cards.):

0 °C – 45 °C



0 °C – 45 °C


Also the SDD’s must be correctly formatted, so that they function in the Tesla (instruction for formatting). IMPORTANT: SSD’s as well as sticks and SD cards should always be “ejected” by long pressing on the Dashcam icon before unplugging to avoid typing errors.

Watch Tesla sentry USB videos in the car

Those who want to watch the movies in the car can do so directly on the screen of the Tesla since software update 2020.12.5. Unfortunately this only works for cars with a MCU2. As an alternative you can use a one of the following “USB on-the-go” adapters the stick can be plugged into the smartphone and the videos can be watched there.

on the go Adapter for Android Smartphones


For Smartphone with USB-C connector



For Smartphone with Micro-USB connector


Watch sentry mode videos on the mobile phone

With the “TeslaCam Sentry Reviewer” app for Android you can watch the movies of all three cameras simultaneously: 

iPhone owners can download the app “SentryView” for iOS.

The same function for the PC can also be used via this website.

An alternative for Mac owners is DashCam Magic.

Apple iPhone on-the-go Adapter

For iPhone owners the following flash drive might be interesting. You can watch the videos directly on your smartphone without using an on-the-go adapter.



The following iPhone “on-the-go” adapter is suitable for normal USB devices:

Please note that some USB devices do not work with this adapter because the iPhone does not provide enough power. More details in the product description.

Wireless pen drive

The following stick can be read wirelessly with a mobile phone, regardless of whether it is plugged into the Tesla or not. Important to remember: Anyone who installs the SANDisk app on their mobile phone can read the stick if it is switched on. There is no security through a password, etc.
 



0 °C – 45 °C

The iPhone app “SentryView” can be used for the SanDisk Connect Stick to watch the videos directly. Attention: The performance when playing videos is low.

Too few USB ports?

Since the same USB device cannot be used for video recording and listening to music from USB without partitioning the device, two USB devices are required to use both functions simultaneously. This means that both USB ports are occupied and there is no connection left for the mobile phone charger. The remedy is a passive USB hub. This allows two USB devices to be connected directly to one port in the car. The second port remains free for a Qi charger in the Model 3 (see my accessories page for example products). The following USB hubs have been tested by Model 3 drivers:







Another way to save a USB port is to partition a USB device. This allows you to use videos and music on the same device. However, you risk losing your music library. At the moment a device has been filled up by many sentry mode videos it is sometimes no longer readable and has to be reformatted. Instructions for formatting can be found here.

Sentry mode and autopilot AP2.0 hardware

For Model S and Model X vehicles the sentrymode works with at least software version 2019.12, but it works in a limited version. The system monitors the environment and reacts to potential threats, but the videos are not recorded on the USB flash drive.

It is still unclear whether the camera recordings will also work with the upgrade to the new autopilot hardware AP3. Those who buy the additional option “full self driving” (FSD) will receive the AP3 hardware free of charge.


Note: The product links on this page are affiliate links. If you buy through them, you will not incur any additional costs. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.