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How to connect an external drive to your phone via USB

How to connect an external drive to your phone via USB

Whether you are using your device as a game console, as a multimedia database or simply to take a lot of pictures, most of us will at some point want to connect our device to something else via USB. Here's how to connect a hard drive, USB stick or accessory to an Android tablet and smartphone.

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Check that your device is compatible

To connect a hard disk or USB stick to an Android tablet or device, it must be USB OTG (On The Go) compatible. How do I know if it is compatible? It's simple, just check the manufacturer's website or the box of your device.

And that's not all USB OTG can do. By enabling your device to act as a USB host – that is, to be the boss of other devices that you connect to it – you can use additional hardware such as storage, keyboards or even musical instruments together with your handset.

AndroidPIT usb on the go 8596
Connecting a USB device to your smartphone is easy with the right equipment. / © AndroidPIT

If your smartphone is really old, if you no longer have the box or if you are not sure of its model number, you can use Chainfire's app, USB Host Diagnostics, to check. That said, USB OTG is natively present on  Android since Honeycomb (3.1) so it is more than likely that your device is already compatible than not.

  • App version: 1.3
  • App size: 467 KB
  • App Compatibility: Android 2.3 or higher
  • Economic model: Free

A word about power for larger capacity drives

When you connect an external hard drive to your laptop or PC, the drive itself is powered by your computer. The same is true when you connect your storage to your Android phone. However, most smartphones are not capable of pushing out quite as much power as a computer, and this can lead to problems.

Most smartphones can only provide about 0.5A of power. If your external drive requires more than this, it will simply disconnect. Hard drives need a bit more juice when starting up. This is because of the motor inside. If you find that your 1TB drive keeps disconnecting, this is probably your issue.

usb otg power
You might need a USB OTG that allows you to connect a power bank. / © Amazon

You can solve the problem by adding an additional power source. You'll need to get hold of an adapter that will allow you to connect a power bank as well as the connection to your device. Do this, and you should have no problems connecting your external storage to your Android smartphone. Just make sure you connect the power bank and phone first, then the external drive last.

Advantages and disadvantages of USB OTG

You might already be familiar with USB OTG without knowing its name. Anytime you connect a keyboard or mouse to Android you use OTG technology, and it's no more complicated to connect a hard disk to your smartphone than to connect a mouse to it. That said, there are a few conditions to be sure that your external drive will be recognized.

All USB-compatible devices can be used as long as they do not require an external power supply. In addition, your storage device (hard disk or USB stick) must be in FAT32 format. NTFS media will not be recognized. If your disk/key is not in this format, you can of course format it and put it in FAT32 but you will lose any data on it before the reformatting, so be sure to save it somewhere else beforehand.

Your device must be in FAT32 format.

Buy an OTG USB cable

Once you have determined that your device is OTG compatible, you can continue and go to your preferred store and purchase a USB OTG cable. Try to opt for a sufficiently solid connection, there are many cheap offers online but the quality is not always there.

It's also worth noting that Samsung usually ships an  OTG cable in the box, so check your smartphone packaging as you might not even need to buy one at all. You can see what we mean in this unboxing video of the Samsung Galaxy S10 range.

Ideally, you take an angled cable like this one shown in the picture. It's very simple, but it can avoid problems with the USB port, which is unfortunately common with the use of connectors. You can grab one for a few bucks on Amazon. Of course, you'll have to pay attention to the type of USB cable when purchasing: if you have a Type-C USB port, of course your accessory will have to be of the same type.

comment brancher usb otg tablette smartphone
An angled cable is more suitable for most smartphones. / © AMAZON

Connect your USB drive or accessory to your tablet

No need for tutorials to connect a hard drive to your tablet or Android smartphone: simply plug them in using your brand new OTG USB cable. 

To manage files on the hard drive or USB stick connected to your smartphone, simply use a file explorer. When the device is plugged in, a new folder appears. It is called USBDriveA in general, but this may vary depending on the system versions and interfaces. 

usb c to OTG android pie
Once connected, you can move files to and from your device easily. / © AndroidPIT

If you're having trouble finding it, simply tap the slash button ("/") to return to the root of your smartphone. What's the difference from a cloud, you might say? No need for an internet connection, for one.

What other things can I do with USB OTG?

Connect a mouse or keyboard

This is one of the most typical ways to use USB OTG. It's possible to couple your smartphone or tablet with peripheral devices, such as a mouse or a keyboard, which you can then use to control it. There are some restrictions – for example, gaming mice with a billion buttons might not be fully compatible – but for the most part, the basic operations are enabled.

Just plug in a USB mouse and you will automatically see its cursor appear on your display. This is also a great way to use your device if the touchscreen is broken. Alternatively, connect an external keyboard to turn a tablet into a laptop.

AndroidPIT usb on the go 8580
Connect a mouse for plug-and-play cursor action. / © ANDROIDPIT

Connect a MIDI keyboard

If you fancy making music on Android, USB OTG enables you to connect devices such as MIDI keyboards and controllers, audio inputs for instruments and vocals and various controllers that can turn your phone or tablet into a serious music-making machine.

Connect a game controller

Enjoy mobile gaming but yearn for a bit more control? Why not connect a gamepad to your smartphone? Using a wired Xbox 360 controller is an easy way to do this: just connect it to your phone with a USB OTG cable, launch a game and it should work right away, no configuration required.

What is your favorite use for USB OTG? Let us know in the comments.

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  • Wyn 2 months ago Link to comment

    I use otg to connect my hard disk to my phone but still i cannot copy files and open my files on my hardisk.. What shall i do..? Some say needs power supply for my hardisk

  • Sorin Jan 17, 2018 Link to comment

    I used a wireless mouse and connected the adapter to the smartphone via an OTG cable and went perfectly. I also copied photos from an SD memory card from the camera via an SD reader. I did not try, but even the Internet can be accessed by using a NET to USB adapter, the connection speed being much higher than Wi-Fi. Also, using an OTG cable, you can charge the battery to another phone!

  • Wow, rehash of a VERY OLD article.

    • At least it brings the article back up to the top and it's relevant if not much has changed. Saves me from having to search for it. And this is something I'm interested in looking into. Just saying.

  • thanks works for me

  • I just made a mistake, I hope it's not huge and without consequences.

    I bought a USB hub 3.0 with OTG function, the main unit has a USB plug that connects to the computer and on the same cable a OTG microUSB 2.0 plug.

    Without reading the manual I connected the usb plug to the computer and the OTG microUSB plug to the phone, of course it didn't sync or charge with the computer. The producer mention that in order to work you have to not connect simultaneously, but only one a time ( pc or phone ).

    Any damages could appear after such a wrong connection, or there are safety measures/ mechanism in order to avoid damages to the pc, phone and the hub itself ?

    Best regards,

  • I just bought another OTG connector. THis one has the microSD card reader built in for microUSB and standard USB. As I have said earlier, the GoPro Hero 4 is very "hit and miss" to see the photos and stills that are on the camera and get them moved to tablet. But my Hawkeye S7 camera works every time. Why the difference?

    If I remove the SD card from camera and hook it to OTG cable, then I always get to see the photos and videos. So it cannot be a format (Fat32 vs NTFS) difference. There is something about the USB connection in the cameras that make one type work EVERYTIME and other camera software work SOME-OF-THE-TIME. Any hints as to what is happening here?

  • Hi, I have managed to see the USB device contents connected to my Galaxy S2 where the total commander is installed.
    My question now is how to transfer data from the S2 to the USB device.
    Important to know: USB device volume information on top of the total commander: "[NTFS] (Readonly)..."
    So it looks like it wouldn't be possible to paste data on the USB device because it's not writable.

    And on the other hand you obviously can't copy folders on S2 (or other android phones), so you have to check all files in that folder separately (about 1000 in my case)...

    And when I click on a folder in Total Commander then the folder is checked and I can copy that folder to the clipboard
    but there's no "paste" under my "My Files" in order to transfer the data onto my S2.

    • go to Google Play and download USB Stick application. THat works with Total commander to give you both Fat32 and NTFS support on your device. Spend the $.99 to get the non-advertised version. Certain devices (GoPro camera Hero 4 are hit and miss with this setup. Other cameras work every time). tjcooper

  • If only it were that easy. Many devices that appear to have OTG support for things such as removable storage are utterly useless with respect to keyboards and mice. Some work, some don't. It is a very "hit or miss" proposition. I have kit kat devices where it works perfectly and marshmallow devices where nothing works. Much of the effectiveness of OTG seems to hinge on the vendor providing the Android build.

    • Patsy Dec 29, 2016 Link to comment

      so, can I try this cable and see if it works? Could something blow up if I do? ;-) Can I use another cable to connect the tablet with the computer? The one that connects my camera to the computer (if the connection fits properly)? (don't understand your kitkat and marshmallow references!!) thanks,,,,,

  • Patsy Dec 27, 2016 Link to comment

    I got myself a $40 fire tablet from amazon. An icon, "photo importer" says "To import photos and videos from your camera, connect it with an OTG cable." Think I could plug it into my computer? To transfer one picture at a time ?

  • Galera to com dificuldade em conectar meu controle xbox no meu smartfone J3. Ja baixei os app joystick center e o joy2touch so que quando aperto no botao j>t da erro dev/uinput como se nao conseguisse acessar a pasta. JA tentei resolver com o selinux mais nao obtive sucesso.

  • If someone could help that would be great. My Note 4 is locked and pin protected. My lcd screen doesn't work. I read a thread on another website saying he bought an usb otg cable and plugged it into a keyboard and his phone and allowed him to use his keyboard to enter his pin to unlock the phone then used Kies 3 to back it up. Is this actually possible? If I buy it, can I plug it into my computer and locked cell phone w a black screen and unlock my phone? Where would it tell me to enter the pin to unlock my phone? I need both audio and pictures off my phone.

    I have since figured out how to unlocked my cell. I had it registered through Samsung's Find my phone app, which unlocked my phone and allowed apps on my pc to back it up

    • Actually if the lcd is broken... stylus might be still working. You can use a usb to hdmi adapter to show content on a monitor or tv and use the stylus even above a destroyed lcd to unlock it.

  • Thanks, I've used for a thumb drive but wasn't aware it would work for a mouse or keyboard. I was able to use the same micro to USB adapter for a wireless mouse radio and voila. Will want to play with whether it works editing in various apps.

  • I bought one to plug a mouse into my android phone because my screen was cracked. I couldn't enter my password and get into my phone without that mouse. I'll be waiting 5 days until a new phone Is shipped out. What a little life saver the OTG adapter is!

    • In deed ... also a keyboard with attached mousepad worked... rescued me often

    • Hi - How did you do this ? I have same problem, cracked screen. Bought otg adaptor but when i plug mouse in at lock screen nothing happens. Tried it on a phone wuth unlocked screen and it works fine. Suspect the lockscreen is blocking other devices . I have a sony z5 compact. Any help would be ace.

  • i have been usisng my USB storage for a while now. i have a note 3 with an internal SD card. I hardly ever use the SD anymore I prefer my USB storage device I even run with it for the music. its so convenient to have all your files readily available across all device. In ny opinion its the way to go and the chances that you will loose the phone and the USB at the same time are less.

  • Very simple - I use otg to quickly send pictures from my camera (via an sd-card), without the need to bring my computer on the move.

  • Hi. I bought from Amazon an HDMI connection kit (hdtv adapter and otg card reader) to access my Samsung Galaxy S3 broken and locked phone. I can see the phone screen on my TV but the mouse is not working. So I'm still unable to unlock the phone. Any idea? THX

    • pat m Mar 21, 2017 Link to comment

      CAN you use an mhl / USBtoHDMI adapter and OTG at the same time? My screen and touch access don't seem to work. I would like to be able to send touch commands to the screen to unlock it.

      From what it sounds like, mhl requires a special HDMI port on the receiving end, and special USB port on the phone end. Samsung s5 has it, but the 6 & 7 don't. And as far as I can tell, none of my home tv's support MHL. Unless their is a way/cable to send strait HDMI to the TV, and let the OTG send the control back

  • If i buy an TAB with OTG support will i be able to connect TAB to LCD tv using HDMI.Please reply

  • I am trying to learn about Otg, and how to hook up an inspection camera.
    Bought two off Amazon , neither of the Qr codes worked to load app.

    My phone is verified as having OTG. Loaded a app. My phone is a Samsung Sm s765c
    Straight talk.
    I loaded camerafi and other apps
    None detect device

    So do I have a host problem.?

    Been trying to undestand what root and debug do. Do I have to go in my phone and enable something.

    • Try another app. I have tried 3 apps for my Endoscope camera. The one that I am using right now, is the one that works best for me, considering pros and cons compared to the price of buying thr "Pro" version of the apps.

  • Great..working well on my Xiaomi Redmi Note

  • Hi, I have a san disks otg usb flash drive 32g but my samsung galaxy tab a doesn't detect the drive. I also used otg cable for my external hard disk 1tb also cannot detect. Is that any problem?

    • I have the same tablet and flashdrive but they are working well... Have you unlocked your tablet or try other cables/flash drives?

    • Rhonda Aug 29, 2016 Link to comment

      I have the same OTG Flash drive and the same problem with my Galaxy S6.

    • I've experienced this as well o had to download a differnt file manager Try "ES-file Explorer. Sometimes it takes a couple toys to get it to pick it up for some things but should help

  • How many devices can be connected through a usb hub with usb otg? Could there be an instant desktop setup if you can connect alltogether portable usb monitor, keyboard mouse, midipianokeyboard, printer and usb external harddisc to an android flagship?

  • Great function. You look like Jon Snow btw

  • I bought one for my then Galaxy S4 off ebay for $1.89AU, works great on my Tab S and my S6 Edge. I don't use it very often but I know it works and is great to have.

  • Hello
    I wish to charge my Samsung Note 5 while watching a film ran from memory stick. Although the connection is possible with OTG cable (uUSB male connected to Note 5, uUSB female connected to the charger and the USB female connected the memory stick), there no charging. How this can solved?

  • When I connect the mini endoscope on my Doogee Valencia Y100 the recommended camera shows up, all functions look normal, but the screen stays black! No picture!
    What's wrong, please?

  • Is it possible to plug your tablet into your computer with a normal cable and direct that to another port with a mouse plugged in?

  • I have purchased a USB 2.0 On the Go cable for my Galaxy Tab A 9.7 ( SM-T550 ) It accepts a USB Flash Drive.The thumbnails for the videos and photos appear.It plays the videos ok.It shows a photo ok but it does not appear to let you scroll to the next photo in the album.Does anybody have any views or comments about this function ?

  • magic

  • LOL,appreciated to your really pretty professional and detailed comprehensive review about usb otg cable,we really learn a lot and know what it is and how to properly choose one preferred.
    I also found a pretty useful article from blog.onu-mall.com/?cat=99 filled with tons of practical information about how to properly pick up USB peripherals preferred and i also surprised by the huge collections of various USB cables and power banks from www.onu-mall.com/, i bought a really fashionable affordable USB OTG cable for my samsung galaxy

    • Nice commercial...
      You posted your comment 2 months ago and while the Samsung Galaxy S7 was only released 6 days ago, you already had one and you were buying fashionable affordable accessories for it?

  • Samsung S3 and USB endoscope could assist medical intubation. Google "smartphone endoscopy via OTG"

    • Yuppp... It can also assist plumbers, car mechanics and individuals who work in pest control too... Hahaaa

  • Can i connect a OTG smartphone with a monitor (VGA port) or a projector (VGA as well) so as to work as a mini pc?

  • I want to buy the mini android endoscope will it work on my S6

  • Is there are any application which support usb otg hosting? my Android doesn't support otg

    • storm Dec 5, 2015 Link to comment

      Most of them need root if your phone doesn't support it out of the box. Another problem with some phones is they don't have the full output voltage to offer full OTG support. In those cases, you may need a Y OTG cable. The Y offers another USB connection for power from another USB port. Not a great solution, but useful at times.

    • Your device will need the hardware installed. If it doesn't support OTG then unfortunately there is nothing you can do other than buying a new device which does support OTG.

      Peace ✌

  • storm Dec 4, 2015 Link to comment

    Now if we could only make MHL or mini display port a popular standard too.

  • I have Apple 4S , can I use this OTG? How? Pl reply.

    • storm Dec 5, 2015 Link to comment

      No Apple doesn't do this. They also stopped using USB ports on the phones which was a user hostile decision.

    • Lol no Apple is crap you won't get any useful extras unless they can charge ridiculous prices and rip you off. You been conned by a organised crime syndicate called Apple.

      Peace ✌

    • No. Apple hates innovation. The only thing they ever pioneered was USB Type-C. Why is a fruit-user on an Android website. And if it's because you can't afford another phone then google One+ or any other budget Android maker. Samsung isn't the only one (in case you thought that).

  • www . youtube . com/watch?v=Dth5FrLqi5s ejemplo de us ode OTG

  • Ross R Nov 18, 2015 Link to comment

    Using an OTG Cable, we have connected an IMI Onyx Geiger Counter to both our Nexus 7 and our Amazon Fire tablets to display and share radiation data around the world.

  • I have Samsung Galaxy Grand Max SM-G7202 will otg work for this device I mean can I connect Pen drive to this device

    • sir the answer is actually on the article, you just need to read. "-.-

      How do I know if my Android device supports USB OTG?
      USB OTG has its own logo (seen above), which will be on your device's packaging if it's supported. If you don't have the original packaging to hand, you can use your old friend Google. However, if your smartphone was released within the last two years, you can almost guarantee it will support it.

  • Does usb otg wprk on samsung galaxy light?

  • I have lenovo yoga 2 , which it support otg , but can it afford an external dwd-rom player?

  • I have Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 SM-T535 will otg work for this device I mean can I connect mouse,keyboard and joystick to this device

  • You can connect USB cameras with "Webeecam Free" App.

  • I was wondering what the difference Is between an OTG cable and a regular micro USB charging/data transfer cable coupled with an adapter with 2 female ends. I can use the regular USB cable to swap data with my PC, so why doesn't it work the same way for a thumb drive?

    • The OTG cable is just an adapter to allow a full sized usb connection such as a USB stick or USB Game pad. If your phone doesn't have OTG capablty then using a usb stick won't work. You can still transfer data via a normal micro usb to a PC. I believe it has to do with how the device is powered. Without OTG on the phone then there is no power for the usb stick. Though the pc doesn't matter as it's self powered.

      I think thats right.

    • You can also buy an OTG adapter (it won't let me post links so just type in ebay(dot)com and paste this immediately after it: /sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=p2057872.m570.l1313.TR12.TRC2.A0.H0.Xotg+usb+adapter.TRS0&_nkw=otg+usb+adapter&_sacat=0 or search eBay or Amazon for "OTG USB adapter") which is basically an adapter that is as small as a finger nail comprised of a full size USB jack on one end, and a Micro USB on the other end) to fit into either a USB cable or any USB plug (example a USB Flashdrive) on one end and a your OTG compatible mobile device!

  • if i have it in my tab can i use 3G modem to have internet ????????????????????????????????????????

  • I have always used OTG first with the Galaxy S3 now I use it regularly with the excellent Galaxy S5.
    I use it with a MHL cable to use my tv as a Screen. I use a bluetooth keyboard and will connect a usb mouse for when I'm doing word processing (I don't need a PC anymore).
    I use USB stick to back up my data.

    Only problem was when I used a cheap OTG cable. It would be hit or miss.

    Only buy decent cables/USB peripherals /SD cards or run the risk of damaging your data or worse bricking your phone.

  • Ran the Diagnosis on my Moto G 1.... not supported.

  • I have used it on my old S4, my sons S5, my new S6 edge and Tab S, all works great.

    And it only cost me $1.88AU on ebay.

  • You can connect USB cameras with camerafi app.


  • I have a Samsung Galaxy S4, and I use the USB OTG quite often. However, whenever I am also using the Mophie Juice Pack (a case with an extra battery within), I have to remove the S4 from the case in order to use the USB port. Why is this?

  • I connect my Samsung tab s to my DAC for playing spotify

  • Pavle Aug 1, 2015 Link to comment

    How to use OTG cable on S3 Neo I9301I ???

  • i'm using Zenphone 5..like watching all my downloads with it but the problem is that the battery drains so fast (down side of Zenphone 5) Is there a double headed OTG cable where It can read my USB flash drive and charge at the same time??

  • Nothing happens when i connect my OTG cable to my smartphone Blu Studio X, it works perfectly fine with my Astro Tab. Please help.

  • Does USB OTG also compatible with local smartphone and tablet??

  • Hallo, it is interesting.This is very simple solution:

    https: //youtu.be/08HJKECVY-Y


  • yana Mar 7, 2015 Link to comment

    Is Samsung Tab 7.7 compatible with OTG cable?
    If compatible, can my OTG cable work as battery charger when connected to another USB for my tablet?

  • A problem I have experienced is that it is very difficult to OTG phones and tablet that can charge while using OTG, since they use the mini-USB for charging. In my case I use OTG to receive data from an external sensor 24x7. The solution I have found is an Point-of-view tablet with mini-USB and separate DC charging socket. But for industrial applications I would like a better (less discount type) tablet. Any suggestions...?

    • kumar Sep 13, 2015 Link to comment

      what for this OTG function used? is this used with any camera?

      • Usb otg is usb on the go. You can find usb otg cables over at Amazon for cheap. They allow you to plug the cable into your phone. Adding a usb port to your android phone. You can connect usb keyboard and mouse or usb flash drive to transfer files from your phone to the usb drive. You can also connect a PS3 controller to your phone and play old games in emulators like Mupen 64. If you're on a nexus device you will need some thing like nexus media importer or stick mount if rooted.

    • I have yet to use one yet, but what come to mind as a solution is a USB hub that you plug in to the USB slot, which has multiple usb cables running from the hub.

      tinyurl dot com/oggbak8

      I also wonder if you could plug in a chrome cast into one. I don't know why, but would that work?

      • I have used a USB hub and connected keyboard and mouse, both worked ok. I also used it for copying files from one USB Stick to another.

        Peace ✌

    • Wireless charging

  • Wao i found it best price at amazon : amazon.in/gp/product/B00GTADSXQ/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=3626&creative=24822&creativeASIN=B00GTADSXQ&linkCode=as2&tag=onlineservi0f-21&linkId=DM5DNTGGK7OAUBFK

  • Fabulous! This article helped me get OTG working on the Sony Xperia Go (ST27a). It couldn't be easier.

    A OTG adaptor (Pudney Micro to USB A Socket, $10 from local electronics store) plus Total Commander, free from Google Play, and it worked blindingly easy. I can now connect external USB flash drives and synchronise exercise data onto Strava from my Garmin Edge 500 cycle computer.


  • note 4 should have it? The article didnt mention it except the note 1,2 & 3

  • Correction: www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005GGBYJ4/ (posted a link to a controller by mistake)

  • Be careful with cheap OTG cables. One I got on Ebay fried my phone (S4). I use these from Amazon and have fund they're very solid.

  • My mobile is samsung galaxy express 2. Does it support otg? My tablet is samsung galaxy tab 4 SM-T230. Does it support otg? I failed when I tried to connect a keyboard or a memory stick. And... where can I find that logo of usb otg?

  • My new Nexus 7 (2013) does it work with this 4.4 KitKat that I have?

  • Huawei Ascend P7 has it,
    LG Optimus L7 doesn't.

  • And although the Nexus 5 is stated as a device which supports USB OTG, it does not work anymore with 5.0.1 unfortunately. Did work properly on KitKat though.

  • Does Moto G2 support usb otg?

  • I presumed all smart phones allowed OTG.. What would be useful is a list of phones that don't provide OTG as I see it as a basic necessity.(And deff would not buy a phone without this feature). I use it to plug my phone to the TV (MTP). Iv tried connecting a mouse but it was more a novelty. I always back up onto USB via OTG connection cable.

  • The list of OTG compatible devices is far from complete.

  • I use my old Galaxy Note 2(rooted)with various flash drives holding numerous music selections using an OTG cable in my car as a bluetooth media server. I also use OTG cables with the adapter cable to plugin to controllers(gamepads) for use on games that normally don't have controller support. (Root phones/tablets at your own risk), but the payoff can be phenomenal...

  • dan Dec 29, 2014 Link to comment

    Can I use an OTG cable with my Samsung Tab 4 (10.1") ?

  • Certainly Sony has been doing well to make its smartphones USB OTG compatible.

  • Is it compatible with all the models of printers? and data-cards?

  • Fantastic! Wasn't aware of the certified OTG logo...better keep an eye out for that!

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