How to Format an Xbox One External Hard Drive for Use with a PC

Format Xbox One External Hard Drive Featured

The storage capacity of Microsoft’s Xbox One console can easily be upgraded with an external hard drive. However, if you no longer need the extra storage, you can’t simply just plug that drive into your computer and start using it.

In fact, your PC won’t even recognize that the drive is plugged in. Well lucky for you this article will walk you through how to format your Xbox One external hard drive so it can be used on a PC.

Why Can’t a Drive Used for Xbox One Be Used Simultaneously with a PC?

One might think that since Microsoft develops both Windows and Xbox One, that you would be able to swap the drive between machines. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. After you’ve formatted a hard drive as external storage for your Xbox One, it will no longer be recognized by a Windows-based PC.

Even though Xbox One uses the exFAT format, which is also recognized by Windows (and indeed was created by Microsoft), plugging it into your Windows PC just doesn’t work out of the box.


All games, whether disc-based or downloaded, are written to the drive of the Xbox One. Because modern games are so huge, installing parts or all of the game to the hard drive helps with loading times. Since the bulk of game data is stored to the hard disk, Microsoft doesn’t want anyone to be able to access that data on a PC. Therefore, the reason why Windows doesn’t recognize Xbox One-formatted drives boils down to piracy.

What to Do Before You Disconnect Your External Drive from Your Xbox One

Unless you’re planning on selling your Xbox One console, you probably want to save all of the game data on your external hard drive. Whether you want to upgrade to a larger external hard drive or simply want to migrate your game data to your Xbox One’s internal hard drive, you need to shore up your data before disconnecting your external drive from your Xbox One.

Xbox Settings

To migrate your data, press the Xbox button in the center of the controller. This will open the guide menu. Use the left/right bumper buttons to scroll over to “Profile & System.” Next, highlight “Settings” and press the A button. This will bring you to the Settings menu. Here, highlight “System” and select the option labelled “Storage.” On the next screen you will see your Xbox One’s internal drive, as well as your external drive. Select your external drive and press the A button. In the pop-..up menu that appears, select “Transfer.”

Xbox Transfer Games

At this point, you can manually select what game data you want to transfer to your Xbox One’s internal drive. However, if you want to transfer all of it, choose “Select All.” Finally, choose “Move selected” to begin the transfer process. Depending on how many games are stored on your external drive, this process could take a while.

How to Format Your Xbox One External Hard Drive

With all of your game data off the external drive, you’ll now need to plug it in to a Windows PC. You’ll notice that the external drive does not show up at all within Windows file explorer. Don’t worry, this is to be expected. Remember that Microsoft deliberately disabled the ability for Windows to communicate with an Xbox One formatted drive. That being said, it’s easy to reformat the drive to NTFS so that Windows can see and use it.

Launch Disk Management

To format your Xbox One external hard drive, we’ll need to use a utility called Disk Management.

Xbox Disk Management

To launch it, simply click on the Windows button in the taskbar to pull up the Start Menu. Instead of clicking on any of the apps listed, just begin typing “disk management.” Doing so should display an option labelled “Create and format hard disk partitions.” Go ahead and click on that to open the Disk Management window.

Initialize the External Hard Drive

With Disk Management open, you will see two subsections. The top half simply lists all of the hard disks connected to your PC. There isn’t much you can do here, so turn your attention to the bottom half of the Disk Management windows.

Xbox Initialize Disk Windows10

Here you will also see all of the hard disks connected to your PC. Find the external hard drive you were using with your Xbox One. It will be listed as an unrecognized drive with unallocated space within the Disk Management tool. Right-click on the name of the Hard Drive and select “Initialize disk” from the menu that appears.

Next, a pop-up will appear and ask if you want to use Master Boot Record (MBR) or GUID Partition Table (GPT). In Windows 10 and Windows 11, GPT will be the default. Most people will want to stick with GPT, as there are significant advantages to it.

Create a Volume and Format the Drive

With your external hard drive initialized, you’ll now need to create a volume Windows can read. Right-click on the area labelled “Unallocated.” In the menu that appears, select “New Simple Volume.” This will launch the New Simple Volume wizard.

Xbox New Simple Volume Wizard

At this point, you can allocate the amount of space you want to assign to the new partition. If you want to split your hard drive between an Xbox One partition and Windows partition, enter the volume size (in MB) you want to allocate to the Xbox partition, select the “exFAT” file system for it, then go ahead with the format.

Format Xbox One Drive Windows Volume Size

Once that’s done, create a Simple Volume for the remaining “Unallocated” space, choose its volume size, then the format/file system of the partition you want to use for Windows (we recommend NTFS).

Format Xbox One Drive Windows File System

such as assigning a letter to the drive or formatting it to a file system other than NTFS, you can do so. Finally, complete the formatting operation by clicking the “Finish” button. You will now have an external hard drive that is recognized by Windows.

If you feel like your Xbox One or Xbox Series needs a refresh, check out our guide on how to factory reset your console.

Image credit: External drive connected to computer by DepositPhotos

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