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Ford Sync 3 USB Drive Music Playlists

Published on Saturday 22 October 2016
Categories: General |

Ford Sync 3

Our new Ford Focus arrived on Thursday this week and the 2016 model in the United Kingdom is now shipped with Fords latest Sync 3 multimedia system which has been available in the USA for some time.

I have a large music collection of around 14,000 tracks and I wanted to be able to use this in the car as I had previously done via an iPod Classic in my old Landrover via an Alpine head unit.

Sync 3 has support for USB drives but the Ford help pages do not seem to have any mention of maximum storage capacity and playlist formats. There is a limit of 50,000 files per device in the handbook but it doesn’t make it clear if this is a limit of 50,000 files overall or mp3/flac files. The drive must be formated in FAT32 format.

I did a lot of research on various Ford official and unofficial forums and there was a lot of confusion on how to get the Sync 3 system to index and read playlist files for your music.

To store the music in the car I decided to use an external SSD hard drive as it would be a lot faster to copy the music onto rather than using a higher capacity USB stick drive. I ordered a Samsung T3 USB 3.1 250 GB External Solid State Drive from Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01AAKZRKW/ to use for the music.

My music collection is stored on a Synology Diskstation NAS and Windows 10 maps the network drive to a letter on my PC with each album sorted into an artist folder with each artist being in a folder for each letter of the alphabet.

The external SSD drive

The external SSD drive

I use a program called MP3Tag from http://www.mp3tag.de/en/ to update the ID3 tags on my music files and this also has options to generate playlist files (.m3u format) for the selected tracks.

MP3Tag also has an export system where you can write your own custom playlist formats which are exported into the folder of your choice.

MP3Tag file list window

MP3Tag file list window

In MP3Tag I selected all the tracks in the MP3 folder and then used the File – Export menu to open the Export Configuration window.

Export configuration window

Export configuration window

I created a new export preset and called it createplaylists. Select the new export configuration and click the Edit icon (second icon down) which will open the preset in notepad and then add the following code:

$loop(%_filename_ext%)#EXTINF:%_length_seconds%,%artist% - %title%

I saved the file and then on the Export Configuration window I changed the “Export file name:” to the following:


This creates a new playlist file in each of the album folders with the file name being the artist and folder(album) name.

Clicking the “OK” button starts the selected export configuration and after a couple of minutes it had created all the new playlist files for all the albums.

The screen shot below shows the new created playlist file for one of the albums.

The exported playlist file

Exported playlist

Note that the file path starts with a back-slash \ character. This tells the Sync 3 software that the file is root relative to the USB drive.

After connecting the SSD drive to the car via the USB connector in the centre console, the Sync 3 system scanned the drive and after a few minutes it had completed the scan and the albums and playlists can be selected and played via the touch screen.

I have added a short video to my YouTube channel showing how to select files from an external USB drive. 





21 March 2018 at 8:03 pm

Can you please explain how to open the empty preset and add the code, I cannot get past that part


22 March 2018 at 4:10 pm

Great instructions, had problems with my car music since buying car, I now have album art showing as it should
Brian it has been a pleasure corresponding with you, thanks enormously


26 March 2018 at 4:33 pm

Thank you for posting this -- I've been searching for a concise reference for Sync 3 playlist requirements, and this fit the bill perfectly. I ended up creating playlists with VLC and just editing the paths for my (very small) use case.


09 May 2018 at 2:53 am

Thanks for the information. This is very helpful. I am assuming Sync Will index all files an a given usb drive. Has anyone found a way to hide folders from being indexed?


14 May 2018 at 2:05 am

I have used mp3tag for years and had never used this export feature. I followed your directions. The playlists work great when testing them on my PC when the usb drive is connected to it. But once I connect the usb drive to my Escape the playlists are all listed as being corrupt. Any idea what might be the reason?


14 May 2018 at 11:03 am

Kevin, It maybe worth formatting the drive and try a single album with a playlist in your Escape to see if this solves the problem.


24 May 2018 at 5:25 am

Hey and thank you for your how to. I got the problem, that my playlist on sync3 shows not all single Songs, but instead all the artists folders, they contain the songs. Disadvantage is, if i play the first artist, it does not play the next one when finished. I did everything like you mentioned above. I want to create a playlist which plays different artists and albums from my stick. My structure is Artist, Albums, Songs. All tagged correctly with mp3tag. Could you please Help me Out? I got a long 17hour travel to norway in June and NEED this Playlist.

Thx again and Kind regards


24 May 2018 at 9:58 am

Josch, I made a single large playlist in the drive root and called it aaamusic so it would show at the top of the playlists list page. I copied the text from all the albums playlists I wanted into this file and this allows me to play more than one album at a time.
I havent found any other way to make Sync3 play more than one playlist file at a time.


24 June 2018 at 11:27 am

I would like to have the Sync 3 screen show not only the album and artist. I would also like to see the year. Is there a way to format the file to do this?


24 June 2018 at 2:20 pm

Growler, I dont think it is possible to also show the year unless you added that into the title or album name


16 July 2018 at 11:35 am

Can Sync 3 only play via playlists or can it play also mp3's directly from the root?
I have tried multiple times to play MP3's but don't seem to know how....


16 July 2018 at 12:20 pm

Kevin, according to https://owner.ford.com/support/how-tos/sync/sync-3/entertainment/how-to-connect-digital-media-player-with-sync-3.html there maybe an Explore Device (if available) button allows you to browse folders and files in the order in which they appear on your USB device.


19 July 2018 at 12:43 pm

Hi, I have been going through all sorts of documentation, and indeed you can browse a media player device. I'm just not seeing anywhere a confirmation that you can just put your music on a usb stick.

When I plug in my USB stick I can see that it says it's indexing the device, but nothing more then that. I don't see any indication how I can switch to this USB device to select it as a source and the major problem is really that I don't know what to expected that should happen, so troubleshooting is really difficult.

Can you tell me is the USB stick should show up as a source like CD, DAB etc.?


01 November 2018 at 11:39 pm

Hi Brian!
Thank you for posting this entry.
I've tried to use "/" and ";" to separate multiple values in the same ID3V2.3 tag (like in Artist = "Simon/Garfunkel" or in Genre = "Country;Bluegrass") but Sync 3 does not seem to recognize these characters as list separators.
Do you know if the player can handle multiple instances of an ID3v2.4 tag or, at least, multiple values in the same ID3V2.3 tag separated by any other special character? Thanks!


02 November 2018 at 11:01 am

Hi Luca, I dont know if Sync 3 has any seperators which you can use in file names or tags.


02 January 2019 at 7:42 pm

Thanks for this Brian. One other thing worth mentioning is that the usb stick has to be formatted in fat32. The one I've just bought was formatted in ntfs out of the box and wouldn't work. This may have been the cause of Kevin's issue.


27 January 2019 at 1:14 am

Kevin, and the rest of the group. I have a new F150 with Sync 3. ExFat is also usable as an alternative format to Fat32 and is preferable as it's optimized for Flash Drives without the overhead of NTFS and the limitations of Fat32.
I started testing it today. I formatted a 128GB Sandisk Flash Drive in ExFat and named the Volume "Music". I have read on other forums that leaving the default Volume name after formatting has caused people issues. Once i changed the volume name, i copied about 50 FLAC files onto it and popped it in my vehicle. Click on "Audio", then "Sources" and you should see the name of your USB drive Volume as an option. I haven't messed with playlists yet so i can't speak to them, but figured this might help a few of you out that are having trouble getting up and running.


05 March 2019 at 7:41 pm

I used your instructions on a memory stick to test it out and it worked flawlessly. I am planning on moving up to an SSD in a short time. Is there a limit to the size of the SSD that the Sync system will recognize, or is that only limited to the ExFat or Fat32 partition size?


05 March 2019 at 7:49 pm

Gary, I am not sure the largest size the Sync 3 system will work with. I dont have any other USB drives to test it with for larger sizes.


21 March 2019 at 5:43 pm

Is there something that would stop the Sync system from recognizing a new USB device? I created a second memory stick (128 GB) and was able to get all of my music collection, some 17,000 files loaded and created a playlist with only a few of the files listed. When I plug it in, the car does not even register the device. It is formatted exFat from a Windows 10 system. I'm going to get another stick just to test with a third.


26 March 2019 at 9:06 pm

I picked up a new SanDisk 128 GB USB 3.0 memory stick and copied my entire music collection onto it. When I plugged it into the USB port on my 2018 Mustang Sync 3 it recognized it right away. Selecting the USB stick the display showed almost 8,000 songs. There was no delay and no extended indexing, it just started playing. I don't even have the main playlist in the root directory setup. Maybe the playlist isn't needed anymore. I haven't tried to use any voice commands to select tracks yet but that is on my list to try.

I have experienced where the whole system, maps, entertainment ..., seem to just stop working but after getting out of the car and coming back after a while the system starts right up.


19 April 2019 at 3:08 pm

I use a 128GB flash drive in car, just over 22000 files. I named the drive Music and have a separate flash drive named Audiobooks. It is those name that are displayed on the sync3 screen.

I just copied all my music on to the drive, it's sorted in folder (letter of alphabet) - (artist name) - (album title)

After the system indexed, I can search by any of the following, artist, album, song, genre and of course there is the browse device option. I see no need for a separate playlist in each album folder, if you've tag them correctly sync 3 knows which is track 1, 2, and so on.

I'm about to try and make a plays that pulls in different track from multiple artists.

I did use several music formats just to test the system and can confirm it does support mp3, flac and dsd.

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