How to Use an External Hard Drive with Xbox One

As you may or may not know, all Xbox One games must be fully installed to your console’s hard drive for optimal play experience. This is regardless of whether or not you purchased a game on a physical disc.

Waiting for the installation isn’t so bad, but the rate at which your storage space disappears is. The problem stems from the fact that Xbox One games are huge. For example, The Master Chief Collection weighs in at a whopping 62.74 GB. Grand Theft Auto V is a hefty 49.03 GB. To put these numbers in perspective, the Xbox One ships with 500 GB, 1 TB or 2 TB of built in storage space. With big budget titles often clocking in around the 50 GB mark, you can see how storage space can quickly become a problem.

It used to be that if you found that you were running out of space, you had limited options, none of which were particularly appealing. One potential fix was to replace the internal drive of your Xbox One with a larger one. Unfortunately this isn’t condoned by Microsoft and voided your console’s warranty. The only other option was to delete a game and reinstall it if you wanted to play it again. This meant that people with large libraries of games hoping to be able to play whichever they wanted at any given time were out of luck.


Fortunately, Microsoft heard the collective groan of anguished Xbox owners and released an update that enables users to attach an external hard drive. Currently, the Xbox One supports two external drives at once, allowing users to easily expand their storage.

Ready to give your Xbox One a storage boost after that massive Mass Effect Andromeda patch? We thought so.


Before you take an old flash drive out of a drawer and stick it into one of the Xbox One’s USB ports, there are a handful of stipulations. First of all, the drive must be at least 256 GB. This means that you can use a USB flash drive, provided it’s large enough.


Secondly, the drive has to be USB 3.0. The reason behind this is simple: USB 3.0 provides faster transfer rates. USB 3.0 supports a data transfer speed of 5 Gbit/second (or 625 MB/second). This speed is necessary to ensure games and apps load quickly. The last thing Microsoft wants is bad publicity that could damage the Xbox brand because people used a cheap drive with sluggish data transfer rates. Most modern hard drives and USB flash drives support USB 3.0 nowadays, but double check before you hit the checkout counter.

It has been reported that external storage for the Xbox One is capped at 16 TB which is huge. The size of your external drive will depend on how much space you need and how much you can afford. If you have a large collection of games and apps, you’ll probably want to opt for a fairly large drive. Seagate produces a “game drive” that is marketed to those wishing to increase the storage on their Xbox One. The drive comes in 2 TB and 4 TB varieties, and aside from the Xbox logo stamped in the corner, doesn’t seem to be any different from other portable hard drives. This means that you can use any off-the-shelf external drive. If you have a spare hard drive from an old laptop or desktop computer, you could even throw it in an enclosure and use that.

Portable or Desktop?

There are two different types of external hard drives on the market, commonly referred to as “desktop” and “portable.” Portable drives are much smaller and rely solely on the USB cable for both power and data transfer. Desktop drives are considerably larger and require a separate power supply in addition to a USB cable.


Portable drives are a bit more convenient, but desktop drives tend to be faster. Hard drive speed is measured in RPMs, and more RPMs means better performance. Portable hard drives tend to spin at 5400 RPM, whereas desktops spin at 7200 RPM. Faster performing hard drives offer faster boot times and shorter load times.

Note: SSDs may seem like a good choice due to their improved performance over mechanical drives. However, Eurogamer concluded that there wasn’t much benefit in using one with your Xbox One.


Plug your hard drive into one of the free USB ports on your Xbox One console. This can be done whether your console is on or powered off. The Xbox will detect the drive and ask if you want to use it as external storage. Say “Yes” and your drive will be formatted. Be aware that any data on the drive will be wiped clean. Also, take note that the Xbox format is a proprietary one, so you won’t be able to use that drive with anything but your Xbox.


The console will then ask if you want games and apps to be downloaded to the external drive by default. It’s up to you but you might see a slight improvement in performance if you opt for the external drive. The internal Xbox drive is of the 5400 RPM variety, so if the external is faster, you might see shorter load times, etc.

Managing Games and Apps

If you want to move an existing game or app from your console’s internal storage to the new external storage, you’ll have to do so manually. Head to the “My Games and Apps” menu. Highlight a game you want to move and press the Menu/Start button. Select “Manage Game” from the menu that appears. Select “Move to External,” and in a few seconds your game should start transferring. You can automate the process by selecting “Move all.” This will transfer all of the games on your internal drive to the external one, saving you from having to move each one individually.


Have you expanded your Xbox One’s storage capabilities by adding an external hard drive? What size drive would you recommend? Do you enjoy better performance from using an external drive? Let us know in the comments!

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