How to organize music on usb for car – The NON-GEEK guide

Your car audio player is playing your music files in some weird order. You go and check the usb stick and the files are sorted nicely. What the heck is going on???

Yeah, that’s how you ended up here 🙂

In this article, you will how to fix this problem…

…so that your ABBA will play before Metallica (doubt those would ever show up on the same USB, but you get the point)

Step 1: Find out how your car stereo reads files

There are likely two possibilities

1. By Order of filename

2. By Order they were copied to the drive


It’s easy to find out by doing a quick test

  1. Copy a dozen or so music files to a USB. Note the order they appear in on the drive.
  2. Play the files in your car
  3. Did they play in the same order as they appear on the USB drive?
    1. If yes, your car plays in FILENAME ORDER
    2. If no, your car plays in COPY ORDER


BAM!!!!  Now you know which beat you need to slay


Why is the music out of order in the first place?

Let’s start with the why. Car audio players seemingly have a mind of their own.

There are two likely scenarios

The problem is your files are played in the order they were copied, not the order they appear in.

What is really going on behind the scenes is because of a techy mumbo jumbo thing called FAT file storage format.

We promised we wouldn’t get techy, so we won’t 🙂

All you really need to know is your audio player is reading the files in the order they were copied to the drive, NOT by the order, they are in when you view the drive.

Yeah, you read correctly…

The order your files appear in your USB drive IS NOT the same as the order they were copied to the drive.

So now your job is to force or trick the drive into thinking the order you arranged your files is the same as the order they are copied.

Enter some wizardry called Drive Sort

Drive Sort is a handy utility that makes the “copy order” the same as the visible order on your USB drive.

With drive sort you can manually order your music, then copy that music to a USB. Your audio player will keep the same order.

Again, no geeky explanations here, just believe!

Drive Sort is pretty easy to use.

  1. Open a folder full of audio files on your hard drive into Drive Sort.
  2. Choose the way you want them to play
    1. Choose by long name (if your files are already sorted by a number like 001, 002, 003)
    2. Or manually arrange the files in Drive Sort by moving them around however you like
  3. Copy the files through Drive Sort to the USB device and SHAZAM – the universe is back in order!


Folders and nested folders

Most car audio systems have limitations on how many nested folders they will read and how many files inside of each folder they can read. You can nest folders, but to be safe don’t go more than 3 levels deep. You should need to anyway (yeah we are pointing at you over obsessive peeps)

Here are some ideas

Organizing genre and artist in a folder structure

  1. Genre
    1. Artist Name
      1. Album Name
        1. Songs


Now if you really want your music to play in a certain order the above suggestion wouldn’t work out for you.  In this case, read on…

Organizing by a specific order

The trick here is two steps

Keep your files in one root folder.

Name your files with a numeric sequence at the beginning of the file name. For example:


or in real terms…


Yeah, it is is a pain to rename the files, but if you must have a specific order this is one way to do it


You can manually sort them in Drive Sort without altering the file name

Either way, your last step is to copy them via Drive Sort to the USB drive because, remember, the order they are copied to the drive is not the same as the order they are seen in your folders.

You might be able to skip the Drive Sort step with the sequential file rename method. That’s because some audio players will read by file order but that’s a total finger-crossed solution.


Save yourself some time: these solutions don’t work

There is a thing called m3u playlist files. Basically, they are simple little text files that describe the order you want your songs to play in. Media players support them (remember mp3 players) but most car stereos don’t

It doesn’t matter if you are using mp3 files or .wav or any other format, the problem is the same

The type of USB device or USB flash drive doesn’t matter

The format of your USB flash drive doesn’t matter. That is assuming your car stereo is reading your USB flash drive. I mean, FAT, FATX, whatever, are all different file system formats. But if your car stereo is ready the drive then the irresponsible re-ordering of your music files is caused by the same issue we described above.



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