External Storage and USB Drives with Chrome OS

Ever since Google announced their new line of laptops this month, there have been some misunderstandings about Chrome’s reputation (already) of keeping everything in “the cloud,” and how it gels with things like local storage (hard drives, USB memory sticks, SD cards, etc.). So, can you read files from your local storage device with a Chrome laptop?

Yes.

Using USB external storage devices with a ChromebookIf you thought a company like Google would ever consider releasing a laptop operating system to compete with mega-giants Windows 7 and OSX Lion that included no functionality for users to access files on their own external storage drives, you’re, well… darn mistaken.

Chrome OS has the ability to read files from your attached USB storage medium of choice. When you connect a USB thumb drive, flash memory, or an external hard drive, you’ll see Chrome’s file manager — just like in Windows and OSX. It’s a basic-looking file manager to be sure, but has all the essentials. From what we’ve gathered, you can view further details like file properties, see thumbnails and previews, sort by different criteria, and so on — all the basic controls you expect in a file manager.

From Chrome’s file manager, you can read your documents, mp3s, photos, video files and so on — with “drag and drop” functionality. Media files will play by default in the built-in media player unless you decide to open them with a specific app. There are a variety of free apps that can play files from your own music and movie libraries, but the majority of Chromebook owners will probably just utilize the Chrome media player, which is reportedly similar to Windows Media Player, but optimized to be faster and more responsive.

Both of the Chromebook models come with dual USB ports, the standard for netbooks and ultra-mobile laptops. There’s also the industry-standard built-in 4-in-1 card reader slot. This, combined with the many cloud storage options for Chrome, should provide enough storage for most people. If you have unusually demanding storage needs, you might elect to use a combination of cloud storage (like DropBox) for files you need most often (or files that are changing frequently) and carry a portable external hard drive (or a high-capacity USB thumb drive) to keep your read-only files (like music and video libraries) close by.

Of course, you could always connect several large storage drives through a USB hub (just make sure it’s a good quality hub). But if you’re carrying multiple large storage devices with you, you may be missing some of the key advantages of a Chromebook in the first place. Personally, I’ll probably use one of the ports for a wireless mouse and keep the other open for a 32GB USB drive that’ll hold the more obscure parts of my music library (I’ll “cloud” the things I listen to all the time), a couple movies for entertainment if I get stranded somewhere without YouTube, and so on. Meanwhile, I’ll use the cloud storage to keep important work-related files (photoshop files, office documents, etc.) accessible from everywhere. That way, I won’t have to fret leaving important files behind, or lay in bed at night worrying about huge drive crashes ruining my life, as they have in the past (3 times).

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