Hardware Software

How do I use USB devices with Ford SYNC?

black and gray car stereo

If you’re the owner of a Ford car that uses its SYNC infotainment system, it’s not always clear what USB devices you can plug in and the formats that are acceptable. Here, we set the record straight on which USB devices you can use with Ford SYNC.

What’s Ford SYNC?

SYNC is the in-car communication and entertainment system used by Ford since 2007. Early versions of SYNC were based on Windows. From SYNC 3 onwards, it’s Blackberry QNX.

The USB port can be used for charging and for connecting your phone to communicate to Sync. However, you can also plug in storage devices for music playback, as well as for software updates, which is what we’re focusing on here.

But, before we get started, it should be noted that the recent Mustang Mach-E introduced Sync 4 to the world. Ford has released little information about USB usage, so I’ve not assumed anything and excluded it here. Once information becomes available, I will update this article.

Which format should I be using?

For SYNC 1 and 2, you should be formatting USB devices to FAT32. For SYNC 3, it should be ExFAT.

How do I format USB storage to use with Sync?

Windows 10

  1. Insert the USB device into your computer
  2. Open File Explorer
  3. Right-click on your USB drive and select Format
  4. Under File System, select FAT32 or exFAT

Windows 7 or 8

  1. Insert the USB device into your computer
  2. Open My Computer
  3. Right-click on your USB drive and select Properties
  4. Under File System, select FAT32 or exFAT

Mac

  1. Insert the USB device into your computer
  2. Open Finder
  3. Right-click on your USB drive and select Get Info
  4. Under Format, select FAT32 or exFAT

Note: For SYNC 3 updates, it’s recommended formatting the USB drive to exFAT using the Master Boot Record formatting scheme. You should also avoid using GUID Partition Map as a formatting scheme because it may produce errors while updating your SYNC 3 software.

What’s the maximum storage size?

Ford has never published any details suggesting a maximum storage size, and some owners have got devices with hundreds of GB of storage working successfully. I asked Ford directly and it told me 128GB is the maximum supported.

However, bear in mind that your Ford will need to index the device and the more content you have, the longer it will take.

But, based on my own experience, If you have issues with your Ford not accepting a storage device then it’s more likely to have been formatted incorrectly.

What devices can I attach?

Although a memory stick makes most sense, physical disk drives are known to work too, assuming the USB port you’re using supplies enough power.

Earlier Sync models supported iPod connection but this has since been dropped from Ford’s manuals, so compatibility is unknown.

What media file types are supported?

File TypeSync 1Sync 2Sync 3
.aacYesYesYes
.flacNoNoYes
.mp3YesYesYes
.oggNoNoYes
.wavYesYesYes
.wmaYesYesYes

Interestingly, some users have reported that .m4a files will work on Sync 1, despite this not being officially supported.

About the author

David Artiss

Currently working for a technology company based in San Francisco, David has worked in IT for nearly 30 years. He is a keen gamer and happily admits to being a gadget nerd too.

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