Everything You Need to Know About Xbox One External Hard Drives


If you’ve had your Xbox One for a while, the chances are it’s running low on storage space. Most Xbox One models come with 500GB or 1TB drives, which isn’t much to work with.

Thankfully, you can add some additional space using an Xbox One external hard drive. In this article we detail everything you need to know about Xbox One external hard drives.

You Can’t Replace the Internal Xbox One Drive

It’s important to note that external hard drives are the only officially supported solution for gaining more Xbox One storage. While you can technically replace the internal hard drive, doing so will void your console’s warranty.

It’s also moderately difficult, so we wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re very comfortable opening up your gadgets. Buying an external drive is a much simpler solution.

Games Can Run Faster From External Storage

While it might seem counterintuitive, older Xbox models can actually see better performance when running games from an external drive.

This is primarily because the external drive’s USB 3.0 connection offers faster speeds than the SATA II drive inside the console. Additionally, the external drive doesn’t have to handle console features like juggling multiple apps and running the OS. Thus, it has more resources to dedicate to games.

If you have an Xbox One X, however, the performance from an external drive will likely match that of the internal drive. The more powerful Xbox One X uses a superior SATA III connection for its internal drive, meaning that the speeds are comparable to what you get from external disks.

See our comparison of Xbox One models

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for more on their differences.

You Can Use External SSDs Too

Most people are interested in buying an Xbox One external hard drive to increase available storage. However, you can purchase an external solid-state drive (SSD) if you prefer.

SSDs are much faster than traditional hard drives, but are more expensive for less storage space. If you have a few specific games that you like to play and want them to load as fast as possible, consider an external SSD. For everyone else, though, the sheer size of HDDs makes them the better value.

External Drives Let You Bring Games to Other Systems

Modern consoles make it difficult to bring a game over to your friend’s house to play, due to account restrictions and huge file sizes. However, you can use your external hard drive to easily play installed games on another Xbox One.

The only requirement is that you’re logged into the account that owns the games. As long as that’s the case, you can enjoy the Xbox games installed to your external drive on a friend’s console. If the games are disc-based, you’ll also need to insert the disc to play them.

Xbox One External Drive Requirements

The requirements for Xbox One-compatible drives are pretty lenient. Microsoft’s Xbox One external storage troubleshooting page notes them:

  • The drive must be at least 128GB (though other Microsoft pages put this minimum at 256GB). You’ll probably want to use a much larger drive to store games, though, as 128GB won’t store more than a few titles.
  • It has to use a USB 3.0 connection. This makes sure it can handle the high data transfer speeds that games require.
  • You cannot connect more than three storage devices to your Xbox One at once. However, other Microsoft pages state that the limit is two, so you may want to stick to that.
  • While it hasn’t been officially been confirmed, the maximum storage size for an external drive is 16TB. You’re unlikely to need this enormous amount of storage, so it shouldn’t be an issue for most people.

Any drive inside these parameters should work fine. Pretty much all external hard drives from the last several years are at least 500GB and use USB 3.0, so you shouldn’t have much issue finding a compatible unit.

See our explanation of USB cables and standards

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for more info on USB 3.0 if you’re not familiar with it.

The Best External Hard Drives for Xbox One

Not sure which drive to pick up for your Xbox One? Here are our recommendations…

While shopping around, you might notice there’s an official Xbox-branded Seagate drive. We recommend avoiding this, as it’s more expensive than comparable drives but offers no additional value.

The Best Overall Xbox One External Hard Drive: WD 2TB Elements Portable External Hard Drive

WD 2TB Elements Portable External Hard Drive

WD 2TB Elements Portable External Hard Drive

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For the average gamer, this 2TB WD drive strikes a great balance of affordability and space. Its small profile means you can plug it into the back of your Xbox One, set it on top of the system, and forget about it.

If you like this drive but need more or less space, you can pick it up in sizes ranging from 1TB to 5TB.

The Best Xbox One External Hard Drive for Maximum Storage: Seagate Expansion Desktop 8TB External Hard Drive

Seagate Expansion Desktop 8TB External Hard Drive

Seagate Expansion Desktop 8TB External Hard Drive

Buy Now On Amazon

If you have piles of games to store, take a look at this desktop Seagate drive for plenty of space. 8TB should be enough for almost anyone to keep their entire collection on, and it’s still relatively affordable.

Since this is a desktop drive, it’s not powered over USB like the other options. You’ll need to plug it into a power outlet instead. It’s also larger than portable drives, so make sure you have some extra room for it.

The Best Budget Xbox One External Hard Drive: Silicon Power 1TB Rugged Portable External Hard Drive

Silicon Power 1TB Rugged Portable External Hard Drive

Silicon Power 1TB Rugged Portable External Hard Drive

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Do you need more storage but don’t want to break the bank? 1TB is the smallest size that’s worth buying, and this Silicon Power drive has a lot to offer. In addition to its affordable price, the drive has a rugged build and water resistance.

These features, along with the built-in cable storage slot, make it a great fit for those who travel with their console often.

The Best Xbox One External SSD: Samsung T5 Portable SSD 500GB

Samsung T5 Portable SSD 500GB

Samsung T5 Portable SSD 500GB

Buy Now On Amazon

Those who want an external SSD instead of an HDD should look at this drive from Samsung. It’s tiny in size and offers 500GB of speedy storage for your favorite titles.

Of course, an SSD is more expensive per gigabyte than standard hard drives.

How to Use an External Hard Drive on Xbox One

Once you have one, using an external drive on your Xbox One is simple. Here are the basic steps you need to know.

How to Set Up an Xbox One External Hard Drive

First, plug the drive into your console. You can use any available USB port; the ones on the back work well to keep the cable out of the way.

After a moment, you’ll see a message appear asking if you want to use the drive for media or games. While you can use an external drive to store music and movies, this isn’t what most people are after, so select Format storage device.

Xbox One External Device Connected

Next, give your device a name. You’ll then choose whether you want to install games on the external drive by default. Based on the speed gains discussed above, this is usually a good idea.

Finally, you’ll need to hit the Format storage device to confirm.

Xbox One Format External Drive

Keep in mind that formatting an external drive for use with your Xbox One will erase everything on the drive, so make sure you’ve backed up any existing contents beforehand. Also, once you’ve formatted a drive for use with Xbox One, you can’t use it on other platforms like your PC unless you format it for them.

Managing External Storage on Xbox One

Once you’ve formatted the drive, it’s all set to go on your Xbox One. To manage your storage, hit the Xbox button on your controller and use RB to scroll over to the cog icon, then choose Settings. Open System > Storage.

Xbox One Storage System Settings

You’ll see a Manage storage section on the right, which breaks down all of your connected drives.

Select one to see various options, such as setting it as the default install location, viewing what’s installed on it, transferring content between devices, and more.

Xbox One Manage Storage Options

Your Xbox treats all available storage as one big pool, so it shows everything you have installed in My Games & Apps. Thus, you don’t need to worry about where a game is saved unless you want to move it due to speed or space concerns.

Get More Xbox One Storage With an External Drive

Now that you’ve installed an Xbox One external hard drive you should have plenty of room to store your game collection. A few extra terabytes goes a long way, so you shouldn’t have to worry about uninstalling anything until you upgrade to the next generation of Xbox.

To get more from your system, check out some useful Xbox One settings you might have missed

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If you’ve got an Xbox One, you should know about these useful settings hidden in your console. Here are ten you can use to tweak the Xbox to your liking.
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Explore more about: Gaming Culture, Gaming Tips, Hard Drive, Hardware Tips, Storage, Xbox One.

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