Does Windows Phone 8 have USB mass storage support? Of course it does.

Microsoft already told you WP8 supports USB mass storage

When it comes to Windows Phone 8, there is much more information coming than has been revealed—Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore stresses this at the beginning of the WP Summit a few weeks ago. However, there are things we do know--either things we’ve leaked are or the more direct method like what Microsoft announced during the Summit.

A “rumor” going around today is that Windows Phone 8 supports “USB Mass Storage” i.e. the ability to plug your phone into your computer to transfer files.

Folks, this isn’t a rumor nor is it news. For one, we can tell you 100% that this is the case as Microsoft spoke about this on and off the record with us and a few other news outlets pre-Summit. Second, you can just watch it for yourself when Joe Belfiore briefly discusses this feature at the 14 minute mark in the Summit video:

“We introducing removal micro SD support as a core part of the platform and this core micro SD card support spans both the PC and the phone. The scenarios are both valuable to consumers but also to developers and even hardware vendors.What this enables that’s different than what Windows Phone 7.5 has today is that an end user can add a micro SD card months after they buy the phone expanding their storage and then they can use it to transfer contents between their PC to their phone, from phone to phone, it can be used a distribution vehicle for apps and it supports all of things in a very natural, integrated way in the Metro experience.We didn’t want to deliver this feature until we could do it in a way that would be easy to use, predictable and high performant [sic] and we think we’ve got that nailed in Windows Phone 8”

We admit that this announced feature didn’t include a big, splashy graphic but this technically isn’t a rumor and Belfiore is telling you nearly all you need to know about this upcoming ability to Windows Phone 8. Regarding the other half of the rumor today--that Microsoft getting rid of the Zune Desktop client and allowing native syncing with Windows--this too is old information as it was reported in February and should be obvious by now. If it's not, consider this your confirmation. 

And let’s be clear: this mass storage support gives you a PC mountable experience for the micro SD but not access to the phone’s internal memory for security reasons. But the ability to add media, files, etc. via a presumably drag-n-drop method for expandable storage is what many people have wanted for a long time and it makes sense. So there is nothing to see here but hey, if this is news to you, then we're glad we made you a bit more happy for Windows Phone 8 this fall.

See the video of the Summit cued up after the break...

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been here covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics and ran the projectors at movie theaters, which has done absolutely nothing for his career.

  • I LOVE IT!!!
  • While that's nice to hear, if Zune is going away, how am I supposed to transfer my music and playlists in a non mass storage manner? I have no interest is digging through my music folders to find the songs that I want.
    I know W8 has a, rather terrible, music app that will supposedly fill this need, but what about W7? I personally love the Zune software and would be sad to see it go.
  • Of course not. Why would Microsoft surrender a popular syncing option for a manual method? What it means is Zune Desktop won't be a separate app but media syncing of music will be handled by the OS directly...i.e. you plug in  your phone, it shows up as a phone. Media is handled by the media player and syncing, playlists, etc. are done through the OS directly. It's more of a integrated experience as Windows Phone 8 is like a companion device to the OS. Your contacts on your phone will show up in desktop apps that request it, etc. Photos on the phone will automatically show up in your desktop Picture Hub. Do you see where I'm going with this?
  • That doesn't really answer his question though. Specifically, having it integrated with the OS is nice and all but if Zune is going away, what about Windows 7 and XP? I'm guessing there will be a stand-alone app rebranded as Xbox Music and it may or may not include a patch to the OS to allow other media players to make use of it as well (only if Windows 8 does so).
  • That will probably be the case with Win 7. But the core, pristine experience is garnered from using WP8 and Win 8 together. And with a $39 upgrade fee, there's really no excuse to not upgrade.
  • I concur. No reason not to get Windows 8 if you're gonna be getting Windows Phone 8, especially for that price.
  • Daniel, I think people here are saying, "Hey, that's great and all....but I'm running Windows 7/Xp/Vista, so how would I sync my media files and playlists etc, on that, if the Zune software is going away?"
  • Zune will get rebranded is my guess. So it doesn't go away, it just changes names more or less. Win7 users should have nothing to fear. :)
  • It's more than that though...Win 8 uses "hubs" like WP. Those desktop hubs can "talk" with WP8, see their content, sync back and forth. Like I said, think of WP8 as a companion device to Win 8, not just a phone you plug and sync with like an external device.
  • I think that's quite clear, however it seems as if the OP is concerned with how WP8 will interact with Windows 7.
  • I don't care about the name, but if the Zune desktop foes away and we are stuck with that POSmusic app I will be cancelling my Zune pass and there is no way I will get a WP8. That will frustrate me so much that my overall opinion of MS will be changed.
  • Sigh, and its people like you who stand in the way of progress.
    We've been having this debate at work. I've been trying to articulate to the hard of thinking that the Microsoft are moving its experiences to the new world.
    That new world is the "consumer" experience. Pick up, use, put down.
    Part of that journey is that "consumers" (and by virtue business "users) will stop thinking about "documents" directly. This is why Metro is much better than traditional "Desktop".
    Hands up how many people have a Desktop covered in docs/ links and cr4p?
    How many people do you know who don't file, backup and manage their digital lives?
    I am really organized, more than most people I know, I backup - but yet I still have crud on my desktop. Where I am going with all this, is that people will use native "tools" (the apps) to process the underlying document directly without "knowing" about the mechanic of file saving.
    This removes the need from users to understand about "filing" documents, managing music. You might want to, you might like Zune, but its going away - so get used to it.
    People will take a photo, edit a photo. And they won't know its a C: drive, an SSD drive, a Micro SD - they will just press buttons to save, add and it will all auto sync to Skydrive.
    The days of your old desktop style paradigm will within a decade be a thing of the past. And I for one am really glad to see it go, and we move on to something much more direct, effective and simpler/ smarter. This is the future, self micro document/file management is the past.
  • I consider myself a consumer and more knowledgeable about PC use than say my mom or even my wife. Maybe it will take giving this new paradigm a go to fully understand it. But it just sounds even more convoluted than it needs to or should be
  • And dont get me wrong, I like progress as much as the next guy. Provided its not a convoluted mess. I don't know if this will be or not.
  • people need to know those little details. Not average users I guess but enthusiasists like myself need to know. Your loosing the interest of tech savy folks to apeal to the average user. That's not fair especially with that heafty price tag. I think there is room for both techy's and normal users in an OS.
  • The music app isn't terrible and it isn't complete yet.
  • "And let’s be clear: this gives you a PC mountable experience for the micro SD but not access to the phone’s internal memory for security reasons."
    Well, THAT'S the rumor, that it will give you direct access to the phone's internal memory. You know, USB MASS storage.
    MicroSD is not USB transferable; the rumor refers to WP8 being able to tranfer data from the phone's mass storage through USB, instead of simply acting as an adapter for SD cards, as it is well known from the announcement.
  • If that's the rumor, it's the dumbest thing I've ever herad. They don't give you direct acces to the phone's memory nor file system. Why on earth would MS do a 180 on this and reverse their security concerns? That rumor is so bad it doesn't need to be disproven.
  • What do you mean "if that's the rumor"? That's the rumor. Lol.
    Quote from your source:
    "In the roughly translated article,WPDang says that users will have direct access to the  phone's file system  and be able to drag-and-drop media files like photos, videos and music."
    It's not a "dumb" rumor (whatever that means), it's just a rumor: could be true, could be false.
    There are no real security concerns for USB mass storage if WP8 will use the 20-year NT kernel. BitLocker encryption can encrypt filesystem sectors (\System32 comes to mind) that could potentially be accessed through USB upon connection. Taking away that plausibility, you are left with the fact that WP8 and Windows 8 are technically the same thing; CE was a mobile embedded OS, lots security concerns can be applied there, but not necessarily for NT.
  • No, it's not the rumor, it's part of it. WPDang lumps a bunch of features, not one, into that article.
    "and be able to drag-and-drop media files like photos, videos and music."
    That part is true. 
    "users will have direct access to the  phone's file system"
    That part is false. Clear? Confounding the two is a mistake. There is no file manager to Windows Phone 8. You can't see system files, you can't alter apps directly, you can't delete files and modify the registry...that is what "access to the phone's file system" actually MEANS. Plugging the phone into a PC won't change that fact.
  • Funny you say "Clear?" As if I'm the one confused. If I could write "slower" for you I would.
    First let's focus on the main context of the rumor: WP8 will USB Mass storage.
    Do you know what USB mass storage refers to? It refers to the type of connection certain devices have with another. Specifically Mass Storage Class devices, that can be recognized as native external drives to the connecting device, so that functions such as drag-and-drop are feasible. But you know that. What you don't seem to know is that you can't alter system files through Mass Storage if you don't allow it; Mass Storage is not free-for-all access to the drive's files, it is simply a user-friendly way for devices to access certain parts of other devices.
    The same way you can drag-and-drop pictures to an iPhone (without using iTunes), and yet you are not able to do or see more.
    The rumor is not referring to "see system files" or "alter apps directly" or "delete files" or "modify the registry", it simply refers to, contrary to what we already know (which is that WP8 will allow SD card access through USB), that it will in fact allow direct access to the phone's file system. Not specifically system files. All the rumor is implying is that WP8 will now become a MSC (Mass Storage Class) device, as opposed to WP7.
    The source even goes on to say the following: 
    "Interestingly the report mentions that Windows Phone 8 will support the "storage mode of the Symbian platform"
    Symbian devices, after S60 V3, all supported MSC USB connections. That's what the rumor is referring to.
  • I've already told you everything you need to know in this article. The notion that WP8 will be a MSC device is not new as that is what Belfiore was referring to. (WP7 could act as a mass storage device early on with a registry hack.) Your wording is still confusing, sorry. "that it will in fact allow direct access to the phone's file system. Not specifically system files." When people speak of "direct access to the phone's file system", they are referring to what users see in Windows Explorer--unfettered access to the file system including system files. This is what users get access to on Windows Phone 7 when they root, install a custom ROM, etc.  This is what Windows Mobile users had too. I do not consider access to the a limited feature-set of files on a microSD card e.g. the ability to drag and drop files for transport as a thumb drive "direct access to the phone's file system". It is not.
    "All the rumor is implying is that WP8 will now become a MSC (Mass Storage Class) device, as opposed to WP7."
    Great. This is not new nor news.
  • But most people would consider that direct access to the file system. Same as if you are a non-admin in a desktop environment.
  • If Belfiore talks about removable storage as "[consumers] can use it to transfer contents between their PC to their phone, from phone to phone" what else could this possibly mean other than having access, even severely limited, to the file system (if we go by your wording)? I'm still not seeing what is new here. Yes, WP8 functions as a MSC when you plug it in for transferring files, sideloading apps, etc. And what is WPDang saying that is new?
  • Daniel, at least to me it was/is a little confusing that you were/keep talking about access to MicroSD only. Do you really mean that, i.e. that only photos etc. on the MicroSD can be dragged and dropped etc. but not those that are on the phones internal, built in memory? That would sound really weird. I assume you meant the user can do that on both the MicroSD and the built in memory. Could you just clarify/confirm.
  • No I meant that part. I'm under the impression that only removable storage is accessible as a "mass storage device" e.g. think of this as being able to use your phone as a thumb drive. That's the context of Belfiore's comments (removable microSD) and what MS told us. 
  • Wow, that would kinda suck/be very disappointing. I don't want to store my pics etc. on some flimsy MicroSD (heck, I prefer not having a MicroSD port I don't need or use), especially if I cannot have that as the default for all user created/saved files on the phone - having e.g. pics in two different drives would be annoying.
  • I would say dismissing a rumor is news. Also, you're confusing me a bit. Are you saying we will plug our phones into a windows 7 PC and access the SD card? What if we have no SD card on our device? Or are you saying that a picture of our phone will pop up in the device manager and we can drop pictures and music and movies onto it to sync? Some people want a more automated process like Zune, which is what the other poster before this one was referring to.
  • Your phone can fully sync with a desktop PC so long as it has the installed software (Win 8 though will make this native).  Your phone with a microSD card can act like a thumb drive through which it will allow you to plug into any PC and drag and drop files. Presumably the phone OS will "see" media files and you can then have access. Non-supported format types won't be seen but will remain. The process is a bit murky because MS has not given details on specific nor have they demonstrated it.
  • You haven't really said much to be honest. You wrote an entire article that only paraphrased what was already revealed in the Summit, and used it as a sort of claim that USB Mass Storage has already been announced, when it hasn't. 
    "When people speak of "direct access to the phone's file system", they are referring to what users see in Windows Explorer--unfettered access to the file systemincluding system files. This is what users get access to on Windows Phone 7 when they root, install a custom ROM, etc.  This is what Windows Mobile users had too."
    Oh, now I get it why you don't get it. You do know when the rumor mentioned direct access to the phone's file system they reffered to these type of file systems, right? FAT, NTFS, ReFS, etc.
    For flash memory found on smartphones, the file system is FAT. NTFS can access FAT. In other words, Windows can access WP8.
    For a PC to access a phone's internal storage it is imperavite that, through USB mass storage, the connecting device's drive is recognized as just another drive. This process requires the OS to mount the partition, but before, the connecting device has to have a compatible file system, such as the aformetioned. You can't mount and thus access a, say, Linux XFS-based external partition from a Windows (NTFS) drive.
    All the rumor is saying is that the flash memory onboard WP8 devices will be able to be accessed through USB Mass Storage mode, as the phone's memory has to be mounted. This in turn allows for the much requested drag-and-drop. Once again, you CAN'T modfy registry files and other low-level files through external mass storage block, especially if they make it read-only like the iPhone.
    What does this all mean? In fact, I'll make it even easier for you. Your link to the WP7 mass storage hack does nothing but better illustrate my argument:
    Low-level file systems can't be accesed through USB Mass storage mode, as evidenced by the fact that, once you do hack your WP7 for it to be recognized as USB Mass storage, you still can't access nor modify the phone's system files. All the rumor is saying is, you will be able to replicate this scenario (but without the hacking)
    It's unfortunate your "article" has done nothing but spread incorrect information. Wheter you've been directly told by Microsoft that told Mass Storage will be on WP8 or not is another matter. (And I seriously hope that's the case, because if all of what you're saying is truly based on what was explicitly said in this article then I foresee your journalistic integrity will take a hit.) 
  • So it's not really USB Mass storage mode, but probably MTP (Media Transfer Protocol).
    There's a difference there.
  • Yes finally!
  • What about mass storage on the onboard memory?...that's the real deal.
  • I'm thinking, probably not.
  • Hell, that was news to me!! Love my Hd7 but I can't wait to upgrade! :-D
  • Nothing new, but still good to hear. Looking forward to my next purchase or a Windows Phone. Which will be WP8. Now lets see what Verizon comes out with. Tired of seeing all these Android commercials. People underestimate WPs soon they'll ser they're just as good or, i say, better them androids and just as good as an iPhone. (i personally think any WP is better then both)
  • This is really bad that those who have already bought the windows phone are getting less update. They should have at least given ie10 as well which could have given us a quite good pleasure.
  • you dont even know what features windows 7.8 is getting.
    and rumors about WP8 having NT kernel have been around for months and months, people who care about updates and wp8 and got a 7.5 expecting to be a wp8. well it was THEIR mistake, not waiting for it to be cleared out, but alot other people who got 7.5 phones doesn't care about anything related to updates so even they got wp9 they would probably never update it from 7.5 becasue they maybe dont even have zune in their computers.
  • Here we go again
  • LOL! McDonald Tamtrum girl again?
  • Try this one I think it fits most of the people here.
  • Ugh says not available
  • Try this one
    I checked the other link it's working.
  • Hmm still says not available ,I'll have to watch it on my PC later.
  • Khuol .nntku ,tbiyi. hmhi n bm.
  • i
  • I wish everything was drag and drop..soo simple!
  • Like Windows Mobile! Even though I've gotten used to the way the Hubs organize pictures, music, and documents I still would like some control..
  • Will we finally be able to backup SMSes and practically everything on the phone? Recently lost about 17months worth of texts after I was forced to hard reset my phone. I'd a pretty long list of apps and having to manually install each of them totally sucked. Would have loved it if I could simply plig my phone to my pc, and viola! everything is bavc to the last state of backup.
  • WP8 has built in SkyDrive support for backing up SMS. 
  • Awesome! My only problem will be deciding which wp8 device to pick up on launch day. kinda torn between htc and nokia. My htc hd7's served me quite well without much of an issue but those nokia exclusive apps are simply too sweet to let pass by.
  • I still have my HD7 but since I got the Lumia800 in a developer event I've been using it as my main phone (even switched from simple mobile to red pocket to support AT&T's 3G). The Nokia's hardware looks so much better and all the exclusive software is nice as well (although some of it will be built in to WP8) I guess you'll have to wait and see actual devices...
  • Is there any other way to backup sms messages without an unlocked phone? On wp7 or 7.8. I know wp8 you can.
  • Yes... Press and hold on your SMS, select copy, switch to email or document app, paste, switch back to messages & repeat :P
  • LMAO!
  • Does this mean the Xbox will be able to play my music when my phone is connected to it, finally!? :D
  • what do you mean? like through USB? or something else?
    (i think u can do it through smart glass once it comes out though)
  • I hope so! I've been bugging them on twitter for over a year to have this! My old Samsung Blackjack 2, Epix, & HD2 did this just fine, but not my WP7 devices -.-
  • It's not a rumor unless is referring to connecting USB devices to the phone itself, which wasn't mentioned but should be supported (connect a thumb drive or external hard drive to the phone and browse that file system)
  • WIth Cloud storage taking front and center these days, don't expect that.
  • well, with unlimited data plans gone, cloud will be limited. they could get this feature for free since the kernel supports it. In fact, usb host can add a lot of great options to WP8. connect all kind of accessories to turn your smartphone into a lot more.
  • one example would be connecting an audio interface and using your phone for real multi-track recording on the go or with guitar effects (like guitar rig or line 6).
  • Unlimited data plans gone??? Hmmm sprint still has unlimited data plans. Dah? =P
  • Unlimited at dial up speeds
  • right, but no word WP8 devices with sprint. so can't count them as an option for it
  • that sucks. I suddenly feel a a dejavu comming on. Forced to drink MS Koolaid. Feeling more and more like apple now that I think about it.
  • Im curious to see the Zune Desktop replacement. I currently really like the program and have used it for several years now (I have a Zune 8GB that I use daily at work for podcasts/music). I dont use my phone (Lumia 800) to listen to podcasts/music because I dont want to drain the battery and I dont overly like the music player on WP (having to use an app (Stop the Music!) to stop the player completely is pretty rediculous). Im hoping the replacement offers a similar experience and is just being rebranded for Windows 8.
  • Can't believe people are complaining about that
  • Complaining about what? The lack of a stop button?
  • I just pause my music, I've never really seen a need to stop it
  • Exactly,it's pointless
  • No, not exactly. Its point would be to stop the music player. When you pause and lock your screen, is the music player still there? Yes, and thats my issue.
    Thats fine that you dont like it/care for it, but its something I would like to see on my device.
  • It disappears from the lock screen after awhile
  • WP Central, have you noticed the JUPITER update on the Outsider? Windows 8.0 RT.
    Any info about it??
  • I might be mistaken, but I remember Paul Thurrot posting an article that suggested that you'd be able to access the phone's "file system" via SkyDrive, similar to how you can with another PC.
  • He did mention that. of course, they can always lock down system folders so you can't mess things up (or improve them...)
  • Probably does to much to tell lol
  • Wow, thanks for clearing that up!
  • Daniel, I have been very impressed by the fact that u take the time to respond to your readers. It is much appreciated and just wanted to thank you for your hard work on all the news and info you provide us.
  • Thanks. I consider myself a part of the community in addition to reporting on it. Plus I know sometimes things aren't clear, need more explaining so I'm happy to do that.
  • USB storage is such a lame, tired feature.  I have seen no need for it since the cloud.  What a waste of coding.  Stop with the bloatware and focus on more important features. 
  • And you are the center of the universe.  Since you do not like, i shall not like this feature either and nor should anybody else in this world...
  • the cloud. hmmm, we may as well throw away all hard copies of everything. All backups of everything. All of it. Just jump into the cloud. Nothing will ever go wrong with the cloud. Or your internet connection. Or the MS business model. usb storage provides another layer of protection. Makes me feel warm and fuzzy to know I can access my information and carry it on my person as opposed to some server someone else manages. some things are too precious
  • maybe this will help all tmobile lumia 710 users with low storage lol.... Right Daniel. Can't wait get wp 8 phone
  • Except the 710 isn't a WP8 device. Just stop with that the public has spoken.
  • +1
  • We need Serial Port support to use wp8 as a REAL business device too !!
    Lot of great wm apps were not ported to wp due to this (stupid) limitation and companies passed to Android...My company sold hundreds of rs232 portable printers bundled with a wm app we cannot port to wp7. The lack of serial port (or usb2serial or Bluetooth spp) is a real pity...Hoped it will be added to wp8 but also winRT sdk does not seems to support it so we are quite discouraged...
  • COM ports are so 90s
  • it was - in fact - news to me. Nice
  • That is great news, mass storage is a definite want and need for WP users. My comment is this though as a newbie to the platform (1month) As a WP 7 user I won't be benefiting from the upgrade on my shiny new lumia 800 . So Microsoft why don't you offer to subsidise us on the old platform to allow us to upgrade onto the new when it comes out . Help keep us in the program :-)
  • well. I think MS will likely do this. if they did it would be very good. to allow us wp7.5 users to a wp8 phone in a cheap price 
  • Can't wait!
  • Excellent news if true. A mass storage mode is a must for any phone I'm going to purchase. "Hey honey, don't worry about our home pr0n videos, I synced 'em to Skydrive, what could possibly go wrong?"
  • You can already get USB mass storage for Windows Phone 7. Look for the USB Storage Enabler program to enable it.
  • do you know if you're finally able to store any file types directly from the web to the phone?
    and another wp8 upgrade i really want is mp3 ringtones for email, sms etc!
  • Does anybody know if the original Samsung Focus will get removeable storage even though it's only WP7.8?