Get more storage for your games with a USB hard drive.
Games are getting bigger, but the internal hard drive in your Xbox One is not. Games like Halo 5 and Gears of War 4 are reaching over 100GB, post-launch DLC continues to grow in size, and that’s not even factoring in the 4K assets for “Xbox One X Enhanced” titles. And with the base storage on Xbox One ranging from 500GB to 1TB, your console will soon be full after a few installs.
Sooner or later, you’ll need to invest in an external hard drive for your Xbox One. Doing so will increase your storage capacity and even make games install and load slightly quicker. Installing an external hard drive is a snap, but you probably have some questions if you haven’t made the jump. We’re here to help with this guide to selecting and using an external hard drive with your Xbox.
Choosing an external drive for Xbox One
All Xbox One games must be fully installed on the console’s hard drive before use — even those you bought the disc for. The Xbox One’s built-in hard drive cannot be replaced or upgraded without voiding your warranty, so unless you’re into the hardware-mod scene, you’re stuck with the stock drive.
Luckily, the console supports the use of external drives, making it easy to expand your storage space for games and other content. The external drive must be at least 256GB and support USB 3.0. Slower USB 2.0 drives are not supported because Microsoft wants to ensure that data will transfer very quickly between the Xbox One and an external drive.
When choosing a drive, your first consideration should be how much space you want. The console has a 16TB limit on external storage size, so for many, the sky is the limit. For context, 1TB externals run in the $60 range, though we recommend thinking longer term and going with at least 2TB. Drives with 4TB and 8TB offer a little more room to freely install games, especially for those on Xbox One X that take advantage of 4K assets.
Your next decision will be whether to seek a drive that requires a separate power source. Some drives can draw all the power they need from the console’s USB 3.0 port. Other drives include a power cord or AC adapter and tend to be faster than smaller, USB-powered ones.
Hard drive speed can be roughly estimated by the drive’s revolutions per minute (RPM). And 7,200 RPM drives are faster than 5,400 RPM drives. So 10K RPM drives are even faster, hybrid drives (a combination of a large traditional hard drive and a smaller solid state drive) are faster still, and pure solid-state drives (SSDs) are the fastest. Theoretically, the faster the drive, the faster games will install, load, and save.
All Xbox One models, including the Xbox One X, pack a 5,400 RPM internal hard drive. However, limitations of the console’s “SATA II” interface means its full potential is rarely used, making a 5,400 RPM USB 3.0 drive a preferred solution in many situations. As for the Xbox One X, which uses high-bandwidth “SATA III,” internal load times are significantly increased, as demonstrated by our own extensive testing.
Alternatively, you can opt to pick up an external hard drive enclosure and stick the hard drive of your choice inside of it. This is a good option for people who already have a decent sized spare hard drive that’s collecting dust — you’ll just need to buy the enclosure. You can also recycle any old PC or laptop hard drives you have laying around, essentially making for a free drive.
Installing your hard drive
With your drive in-hand, it’s time to connect it to the Xbox One. The console doesn’t have to be turned off when you connect the drive, although connecting and disconnecting peripherals while powered down never hurts.
Here’s how to get the drive up and running:
1.Connect the drive to a vacant USB port on your Xbox One. 2. Select Yes when asked how to configure the drive. 3. Enter a drive name. 4. If you want to install games on it by default, select Yes when prompted.
Managing your new drive
With your external drive installed and formatted, you’re ready to install and copy games onto it. We recommend moving all but the lowest-priority games onto the new drive so that they can benefit from the performance increase it brings. Follow the steps below to transfer games between your internal and external drive in bulk:
- Open the Settings app on Xbox One.
- Scroll down to the System tab.
- Choose Storage.
- Select your internal drive.
- Select Transfer.
- Select the games you wish to move from your Xbox One console.
- Ensure the storage required for the selected games is less or equal to the available storage on your external drive. Alternatively, you can choose Select all to automatically select the entire contents of your old console.
- Choose Move selected.
- Select which drive you wish to move games onto.
- Hit Move to begin the transfer.
After you’re done moving your games, the “My Games & Apps” menu will now display the total combined free storage and percentage of used storage on the left side of the screen.
We added details for the revised Xbox One OS of fall 2017, as well as mentions of Xbox One X, where appropriate.