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The Complete Guide to Upgrading and Expanding Xbox One Storage

As a long-time Xbox enthusiast and hardware tinkerer, I‘ve experimented with every storage configuration imaginable across Xbox generations. With game install sizes ballooning over the past decade, managing your Xbox One‘s limited internal capacity continues to be an issue.

Hopefully your console didn‘t ship with a minuscule 500GB mechanical hard drive. Those populate instantly! Even the 1TB models fill quickly when AAA games can devour 50GB or more with all content and patches installed.

While the latest Xbox Series X makes progress with its 1TB custom SSD, true long term storage still requires adding external drives. In this epic guide, you‘ll get my hard-earned advice for picking the optimal Xbox One external storage with pro tips to get it up and running smoothly.

The State of Xbox One Internal Drives

First, let‘s examine what we‘re working with inside the console. All Xbox One models feature an internal laptop-style 2.5" SATA HDD ranging from 500GB to 1TB. Slimmer versions downsize to 5400 RPM spindle speeds rather than 7200 RPM for minor power efficiency advantages.

These capacities proved reasonable at the dawn of the Xbox One generation in 2013. However, game developers have since gone wild with crisp ultra HD assets and booming Dolby Atmos audio. These gorgeous blockbusters don‘t even blink at 60, 70, 100+ GB footprint marks as our screenshots and video clips pile up!

Below I‘ve compiled a snapshot of today‘s most popular Xbox titles with their approximate install sizes:

Game Install Size*
Call of Duty: MW2 125GB
NBA 2K23 121GB
Forza Horizon 5 103GB
Red Dead Redemption 2 89GB
Elden Ring 50GB

^*With ^all ^DLC ^and ^updates

You can see how a dozen of these pulsating behemoths would overwhelm even the stock 1TB. And that‘s before capturing all your multiplayer highlights to relive later!

Thankfully Xbox architects had the foresight to make storage augmentation a cinch…

External Storage to the Rescue

Connecting an external drive lets our game libraries scale infinitely while only taking moments to setup. The Xbox One OS efficiently handles directing new install locations once additional capacity gets attached.

But what type of drive is best? And how do you configure it flawlessly? I‘ll cover those key questions next.

Pick the Right External Drive – HDD vs SSHD vs SSD

While any USB 3.0 storage device 256GB and up technically works, not all external drives operate equal. The speed, longevity, and smoothness differ drastically as the components and interfaces evolve.

Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) have moving internal platters where mechanical arms read and write data. Today‘s dense models pack up to a massive 20TB for consumers. HDDs deliver excellent capacity per dollar but suffer slower loads than cutting edge solid state drives. Still, a USB 3.2 Gen 1 HDD offers totally adequate performance for Xbox gaming and media duties.

Solid State Hybrid Drives (SSHDs) blend some SSD-like NAND flash memory with traditional HDD mechanisms. The flash area acts as a speedy cache for frequently accessed data, delivering SSD-esque performance for your main games. Then the platter storage handles cold data at a lower price point. SSHDs make an excellent middle ground choice.

Lastly, Solid State Drives (SSDs) contain no moving parts, instead storing data in high speed NAND chips. That enables exceptionally quick access times and rugged designs. Their downsides are higher costs and lower peak capacities. USB 3.2 Gen 2 external SSDs push limits beyond 2GB/sec while eliminating texture pop-in during intense gaming.

For the optimal blend of price, performance and poise, I suggest a spacious external HDD or SSHD. Models in the 2TB to 4TB range from trustworthy brands like Western Digital, Seagate and Toshiba running over USB 3.2 Gen 1 will serve you well. They‘re built to endure being moved between Xbox consoles for LAN parties or long term travel.

Later I‘ll explain why I don‘t recommend tiny external SSDs despite their radically faster speeds.

Step-By-Step Xbox One External Drive Instructions

With terabytes of external storage prepared, connecting your new toy up takes just minutes using my foolproof walkthrough:

1. Connect USB and Power Cables

  • Plug the drive‘s USB 3.2 Gen 1 cable into any spare USB-A port in the rear of your Xbox console. Avoid using the side or front panel ports since those are handy for controllers and headsets.
  • If your drive didn‘t come with integrated USB power delivery, connect its separate power cable to an available wall outlet or surge protector. Always use the OEM power adapter to avoid voltage issues.

2. Format Your Drive

Once connected, the Xbox will automatically detect the new external storage device and prompt you to configure it.

  • You‘ll be asked whether to partition the drive for media or games & apps. Choose the games & apps option since we need room for our swelling installations. Media partitioning works too but won‘t allow game installs so isn‘t ideal.
  • Next you‘ll have the choice to tie this external drive to just one Xbox console or enable it for usage across multiple systems. I suggest the one Xbox only mode for automatic game patching and DLC populating. Drives juggled between consoles tend to get messy with missing updates.
  • After choosing your preferences, the Xbox will quickly format the blank drive, wiping any previous data. This prepares a fresh file system while encrypting contents for anti-piracy protections.

Xbox External Storage Formatting

The initial external drive setup only takes a few moments

After less than 5 minutes formatting, your shiny new external drive will be prepared! The Xbox dashboard will indicate the total capacity and available space.

3. Install All The Games

Now the real fun begins – downloading a plethora of games until the drive inevitably hits capacity again!

By default all new installs get pushed to the external drive as the Xbox properly juggles titles across locations. Media apps can also be installed externally.

You‘re free to transfer previously installed games over to the external drive through the My Games & Apps > Manage options. I like keeping my most played titles such as multiplayer shooters on the internal drive for a subtle speed boost.

For optimal usage:

  • Install high fidelity single player adventures like Red Redemption 2 externally.
  • Maintain competitive online shooters like Call of Duty on internal.

Juggling storageTetris style may sound complex but the Xbox OS transparently handles soon everything once setup completes.

Pro Tips and Troubleshooting

With the basics covered, I want to share some expert advice for choosing the ultimate external drive and avoiding headaches.

Tip #1: Why pay more for compact external SSDs? Their radically faster speeds don‘t help much on Xbox One. The internal SATA interface bottlenecks transfer rates. And the console can‘t address advanced NVMe SSD capabilities.

Instead get an external HDD or SSHD with at least 2TB capacity. The price per terabytes is far lower. Xbox gameplay remains smooth on these drives their higher latency disappears once titles get installed fully internally.

I only suggest external SSDs for transporting files or cold storage backups, not active Xbox installations.

Tip #2: Always allow the Xbox to fully power down before unplugging your external drive. Ripping it out without warning could corrupt the drive‘s formatting. The console may fail detecting the drive upon reconnection if you don‘t eject properly.

In some cases, you may need to plug the external drive into a Windows PC to run CHKDSK /f. This scans for file system errors then fixes them before reattaching to your Xbox.

Tip #3: Is your drive causing frequent crashes or game texture glitches? This often indicates a bad external drive beyond rescue. First run the Xbox Offline System Update option to confirm the OS itself isn‘t corrupted. If issues persist, backup your game captures then buy a fresh external drive.

Tip #4: Need to migrate to a different external drive someday? Easy! Just connect both the current and replacement drives simultaneously after proper formatting. All games and media get displayed together under My Games & Apps > Manage. Then choose what to transfer over to the newer bigger drive.

The Right Drives for Every Budget

I want to leave you with some topexternal hard drive recommendations fitting all budgets and use cases.

Best Bang for the Buck

  • WD_Black 2TB Game Drive HDD – $69
  • Seagate Portable 2TB External HDD – $47

Best High Performance

  • WD_Black P50 1TB Portable SSD – $142
  • Seagate FireCuda 510 1TB SSD – $160

Max Capacity on a Budget

  • Seagate Expansion Desktop USB 3.0 10TB – $199
  • WD Easystore External USB 3.0 8TB – $139

Visit my Xbox accessories storefront for all my latest external drive reviews and unbeatable deals!

I hope this technical deep dive helps you conquer your Xbox One storage dilemmas once and for all. Let me know if you have any other questions – I‘m always happy to help fellow gamers!

Game on.

-Dan S. Head Editor
Twitter @XboxStorageGuru