Can Xbox One use any external hard drive?

Quick Answer

Yes, the Xbox One can use external hard drives to expand its storage capacity. However, there are specific requirements for the external drive in order for the Xbox One to recognize and use it. The external hard drive must use USB 3.0 connection, be at least 256GB, and have a partition formatted as NTFS. As long as these requirements are met, the Xbox One will be able to use the external drive to store games, apps, and other content.

What are the requirements for an external hard drive to work with Xbox One?

Here are the specific requirements for an external hard drive to work properly with the Xbox One:

  • The drive must connect via USB 3.0. Older USB 2.0 drives will not work.
  • The drive must have a storage capacity of at least 256GB. Smaller drives will not be recognized.
  • The drive must have its own power source. It cannot rely solely on USB for power.
  • The drive must be formatted to NTFS. By default, most external drives come formatted as exFAT or FAT32.

As long as the external hard drive meets these requirements, the Xbox One will be able to detect it and use it for storing games, apps, and other content that can benefit from the expanded storage capacity.

Why does the Xbox One require USB 3.0 for an external drive?

The Xbox One utilizes USB 3.0 for connecting external storage drives because of the much higher data transfer speeds compared to older USB 2.0.

Here is a comparison of data transfer speeds:

  • USB 2.0 has a maximum data transfer speed of 60 MB/s.
  • USB 3.0 has a maximum data transfer speed of 625 MB/s.

That is over 10 times faster! This means games and apps can load much quicker. Transferring files between the Xbox One and external drive is also much faster with USB 3.0.

The Xbox One is designed to take advantage of the best speeds possible. USB 2.0 external drives would severely limit performance, which is why the Xbox One requires USB 3.0 external storage devices.

What is the minimum size for an external hard drive on Xbox One?

The Xbox One requires an external hard drive of at least 256GB. Any drive smaller than that will not work.

The 256GB minimum capacity was chosen because the Xbox One reserves a portion of any external drive for system files and caches. On smaller drives, this would take up too large a percentage of the overall storage space.

Requiring a 256GB minimum size ensures there is enough room for a meaningful amount of games and apps after factoring in the console’s reserved space.

It is possible to utilize an external drive smaller than 256GB if it is used with a PC to create a partition of at least 256GB, but standard out-of-the-box drives smaller than 256GB will not work.

Why does the Xbox One require external drives to be NTFS formatted?

The Xbox One requires external hard drives to use NTFS formatting primarily for performance reasons:

  • NTFS allows for much faster data transfer speeds, improving game/app load times.
  • NTFS formatting allows for larger partition sizes beyond the standard 32GB FAT32 limit.
  • NTFS stores data more efficiently, allowing more content to fit on the same drive.

Reformatting an external drive from FAT32 or exFAT to NTFS is simple to do on a Windows PC and well worth it for optimal performance.

The Xbox One does not allow re-formatting external drives itself, so an NTFS-formatted drive is required. But any empty external drive can be quickly formatted to NTFS using Disk Management on a Windows PC in just a few clicks.

Does the Xbox One support SSD external drives?

Yes! The Xbox One is fully compatible with external solid state drives (SSDs). As long as the SSD meets the minimum 256GB capacity and USB 3.0 requirements, the Xbox One will support it.

There are some great benefits to using an external SSD with the Xbox One:

  • Faster load times for games and apps. SSDs have much faster read/write speeds than traditional hard disk drives (HDDs).
  • Faster transferring of data between the console and drive.
  • Less risk of drive failure due to no moving parts.

The only downside to SSDs is the higher cost per gigabyte compared to HDDs. But the performance benefits can be substantial, so an external SSD is a great upgrade option for the Xbox One.

What steps are needed to use a new external hard drive on Xbox One?

When using a brand new external hard drive with the Xbox One for the first time, there are a few simple steps involved:

  1. Connect the drive to one of the Xbox One’s USB ports.
  2. When prompted, format the drive by selecting “Format for Games & Apps”. This will format it to NTFS.
  3. After formatting completes, the drive will now show up as available storage space for games and apps.
  4. To transfer existing games/apps to the new drive, go to Settings > Storage > Transfer.

That’s all there is to it! The external drive will now function as extended storage on the Xbox One. Newly downloaded games and apps will automatically install onto it, and you can transfer existing data over at any time.

Be aware that formatting the drive will erase all existing data, so be sure to back up anything important first. But once formatted for the Xbox One, the external drive is ready for use.

Can I use more than one external drive with Xbox One?

Yes, the Xbox One supports using multiple external USB 3.0 drives for additional storage.

There are just a few things to keep in mind when using multiple expansion drives:

  • Only one drive can be designated as the default install location at a time.
  • Removing the current default drive will make the next drive alphabetically become default.
  • Storage capacities are pooled across all connected drives.
  • Games and apps cannot span across multiple drives (must be installed to a single drive).

Otherwise, using multiple external drives works the same as using a single drive. Simply go through the connect and format process for each new drive, and they will show as available storage space.

This is a great option for easily expanding storage far beyond the capacity of any single external drive when needed.

Can I play games directly from an external hard drive on Xbox One?

Yes, games can be played directly from the external drive. Once games are installed onto the external drive, the Xbox One will fully utilize the drive exactly like its internal drive.

This means games load and perform the same, regardless of being stored internally or externally. You can boot up and play any game stored on the external drive without needing to transfer it to the internal first.

This makes using an external drive for expanded storage extremely convenient. There is no need to manage what games are stored where. You can simply install them to the external and play.

Can I move Xbox One games between external hard drives?

Games and apps can be freely moved between any drives connected to the Xbox One, whether internal or external.

To transfer games between drives:

  1. Go to Settings > Storage.
  2. Select the drive that currently contains the game.
  3. Choose “Transfer”, pick the game(s) to move, and select the destination drive.

The console will then handle transferring the game files to the new drive behind the scenes. Once complete, you can access and play the game from the new drive.

Moving games between external drives is handy for reorganizing your storage space. Just be aware you cannot transfer games while they are currently in use.

How to format an external hard drive for Xbox One on a PC

If you want to pre-format a new external drive for use with the Xbox One on a Windows PC, follow these steps:

  1. Connect the external hard drive to your PC using a USB cable.
  2. Open Windows File Explorer.
  3. Right-click on the external drive and select “Format…”
  4. In the popup, under File System, select “NTFS”.
  5. Check the Quick Format box.
  6. Click Start to begin the format.

This will fully format the drive to NTFS and prepare it for use with the Xbox One. When connected to the console, it should automatically be detected as available storage space.

You can repeat this process to pre-format multiple external drives for use with the Xbox One. Just be aware that formatting erases all existing data on a drive.


The Xbox One is designed to be compatible with any external USB 3.0 hard drive that meets the minimum 256GB capacity and NTFS formatting requirements.

Nearly any standard 2.5″ or 3.5″ external drive from a reputable retailer will work properly, making storage expansion simple and convenient.

External drives provide seamless extra capacity for installing games, downloading apps, recording gameplay, and more. With external SSDs offering additional performance benefits, there are plenty of great options for upgrading storage on the Xbox One.