How to Format and Use an External Hard Drive on an Xbox One

Running out of storage space on your Xbox One? Here’s how to format and use an external hard drive so you can install games on it.

Unlike the PlayStation 4, you can’t change the size of your Xbox One’s internal hard drive without invalidating your warranty. The next best thing is to plug in an external USB hard drive. Here’s how to do just that.

  1. Get an external USB hard drive that supports USB 3.0. You can buy these, or you can purchase an external USB caddy if you’ve got a hard drive lying around.
  2. Turn on your Xbox One, Xbox One S or Xbox One X. Don’t plug the hard drive in just yet.
  3. When you’re at the dashboard, plug the hard drive into any of the USB ports.
  4. A message will pop up asking whether you want to format it for media or for games. Choose “Format Storage Device” to use it for games.
  5. Give the USB drive a name if you want to, or stick with “External”.
  6. You’ll then be asked whether you want to install games on your newly-installed external hard drive by default. If you’re running out of space, choose “Install new things here”, otherwise choose “Keep current location.”
  7. Whatever you chose, select “Format storage device” to continue.
  8. You’ll shortly be told your storage device is ready.

Hey presto, you’re ready to fill your USB hard disk with more games than you’ll reasonably have time to play!

To change where games and apps install on your Xbox One by default, you can go to System – Settings – System Storage and, by clicking on the appropriate device, choose to install games to that location. If you’ve used the hard drive you’re installing for anything out of the ordinary, such as a Personal Video Recorder, and it won’t install, it’s worth using a partition manager, or Windows 10’s Disk Management app to delete all the partitions first.

You can unplug the USB drive from your Xbox One but since it’s formatted for that console you won’t be able to use it with a PC until you format it again (erasing all your games). If you have multiple Xbox One consoles or want to play your games over at a friend’s house, your external hard drive will work on any Xbox One machine. We’ve also had some success using (slower) USB 2.0 hard drives/enclosures. You can also plug multiple external hard drives into your console if you need extra space.