What are MTP USB devices?

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What are MTP USB devices?
MTP treats the USB memory stick as a separate computer. (Jeffrey Hamilton/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

MTP USB devices are storage media that connect to a computer via a USB connector. MTP stands for “Media Transfer Protocol.” There is no specific configuration of hardware for MTP USB devices. The category applies to any device that stores media in binary form and connects to a computer via a USB port.

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USB stands for “Universal Serial Bus.” It was invented by a consortium of computer manufacturers in the United States and was first integrated into commercially available computers in 1996. The first USB flash drive was produced in 2000. Flash drives use a USB mass storage protocol to transfer data from the computer to the drive and vice versa. The specifications of USB connectors is managed and developed by the USB Implementers Forum.


The Media Transfer Protocol was invented by Microsoft and adopted by the USB Implementers Forum in 2008. The protocol does not just specify transfers of data over USB connections. It can also operate transfers of media across IP, which means TCP/IP networks and the Internet. The entertainment industry and the computing industry have a problem over the sharing of copyrighted material. This applies especially to music and film. MTP includes procedures to link “Digital Rights Management” to the transfer of copyrighted material, that is, it enables devices and computers to block the transfer of copyrighted material. MTP does not include blocking procedures, but software producers have the ability to develop blocks in their code to prevent the illegal copying of media.


USB devices previously became part of the computer to which they were attached. The drivers of flash memory drives installed the device as a drive of the computer. The microcontrollers of the computer were informed that the computer had an extra drive and so continued to regard the USB memory as an integral part of the computer until told otherwise. The user had to inform the computer to disregard this extra drive when he wanted to remove it.


MTP does not integrate the temporary storage into the recognised hardware of the computer to which it attaches. It signals the storage availability to the microcontroller of the host computer but that microcontroller does not regard the device as an integral part of its hardware. Instead, the storage device is treated as a remote computer available over a network, even though it is directly connected via a USB port. The advantage of this is that the device can maintain its independence and is allowed to form its own checking procedures. This is how DRM processes are possible under MTP. When the computer regards the flash drive as though it were any other drive it carries out transfers of files to that drive without any formal notification procedures. The MTP USB drive has the responsibility of checking whether it should receive data sent to it by the computer rather than behaving as a passive piece of hardware. The benefit to consumers is that this enables the drive to implement anti-virus checking. The benefit to providers is that this also enables DRM tracking.

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