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What Is a Mass Storage Mode?

By Alex Newth
Updated May 16, 2024
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Mass storage mode is a setting that allows a desktop or laptop computer to easily integrate with a mobile device. When mass storage mode is on, a mobile device is treated like a removable disk, which allows the computer to directly talk with the device. While the mobile device goes into this storage mode, the computer is actually accessing the device's memory card and its contents. The major benefit of this mode is that files can be quickly moved and added without intermediate software. Some mobile devices force users to manually enable this mode, while others enable it automatically.

Before mass storage mode, a mobile device could be connected to a computer and the user could move and add files. The difference was that the mobile device had to use an intermediate driver to communicate with the computer. This intermediate driver slowed down the process and required some of the computer’s hard drive space. With mass storage mode, the mobile device is treated like a removable disk when it is plugged into the computer’s universal serial bus (USB) port.

Some mobile devices have internal memory, meaning they can hold files without a memory card. Most devices require a memory card, and this is where all or most of the devices’ contents are stored. This means that, when this mode is enabled, the computer is directly accessing the memory card. If mobile devices have internal memory, then the computer is typically able to access both the internal memory and the memory card simultaneously.

The primary benefit of using mass storage mode is that it takes much less time to move and interact with files in the mobile device. By using the driver method, the computer has to go through the driver and initiate a command to move or add a file, and the driver must relay this command to the mobile device. With mass storage, the computer directly tells the mobile device that it wants to move or add a file. This also means the computer has to use less memory to work with the mobile device, resulting in faster transfers.

Mobile devices may require the user to manually enable mass storage mode. Some devices can automatically initiate this mode whenever a USB connection is made. Performance levels are about the same when the computer is interacting with the device, regardless of whether this is initiated manually or automatically.

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Discussion Comments

By Soulfox — On Oct 22, 2014

@Logicfest -- A lot of people don't take the attitude that they have to assume responsibility for ruining a mobile device by using it in ill advised ways. If they wipe out an operating system by doing something the manufacturer has warned against, guess what happens? That consumer will want the manufacturer to fix it for free.

For that reason, I have no problem with a manufacturer restricting access to the internal memory in my smartphone or tablet.

By Logicfest — On Oct 21, 2014

@Logicfest -- People might damage their devices and engage in pirating apps by having direct access to their mobile devices, but those folks are in the minority. A lot of them will simply store their own much files and such on their devices, so why punish them for the bad or inadvisable behavior of a few people?

Besides, the manufacturers of those mobile devices can and do take steps to make sure people don't erase parts of their mobile operating systems. Why not give users access and still protect the parts of their operating systems and such they have no business fooling around with?

To put it another way, if I pay for a mobile device I expect to be able to access its internal memory for whatever purposes I want. It's mine, so why restrict me? If I mess it up, that is my problem and not the problem of the manufacturer.

By Terrificli — On Oct 20, 2014

Not all mobile devices can be set up for use as a mass storage device. While it is handy to be able to move files to and from one of those devices at will, there are some drawbacks.

For one thing, the notion that someone could put harmful things on a mobile device or even wipe out some essential code by given that much access to the devices internals is enough reason for some manufacturers to block access. Also, one could "side load" pirated apps by loading them directly to the device instead of having to go through an apps store.

Honestly, there are a lot of reasons why it is good not to give people such access to their devices.

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