One of the really cool features you can make use of with the Xbox Series X is the ability to store and run games from an external hard drive. This allows you to very cheaply expand the storage you have on your system. With a big enough drive, you could download a large portion of the games on gamepass and never need to worry about what game to play next again!
Running games from an external drive is fairly simple, but it comes with some terms and conditions. You will not be able to use any old USB based storage, it must fit some minimum requirements in order for it to even be recognised by the system.
What External Drives Work With The Xbox Series X?
If you are just looking to deal with pictures, videos or audio, you will be able to use any USB storage device to do this. Simply insert a USB stick into the system and it will be detected and work. If you want to play games though, you will need to use a specific type of drive. If you are looking to purchase a hard drive, you will need to ensure it meets the following requirements.
- Minimum of 256GB of storage
- USB 3.0
If you insert a hard drive that meets the requirements, the Xbox will give you the option to format the drive to use the specific file system type that the Xbox requires. The reason it does not use a conventional type is to prevent piracy. If it was NTFS like you might expect from a Microsoft device, you could view it on your PC and copy all the games. They don’t want people sharing them online, so it is restrictive.
External Drive Not Working?
Getting this to work can be a bit of a tricky task at times. The section below contains some common issues and questions that people have when attempting to get an external hard drive setup for playing games on the Xbox Series X.
Can a USB stick be used to store games?
No, it is not possible to use a standard USB stick. If you buy a high end stick with a very high transfer rate and is bigger than 256GB then the Xbox will allow you to use it but it is likely a lot cheaper to purchase a standard USB hard drive as the capacity will be much larger and cheaper to purchase.
Does a drive need to be USB 3.0?
Yes, this is critical. USB 3.0 allows for much faster transfer speeds. The speeds of USB 3.0 are needed in order to read assets and other data that the game needs in a timely manner. Even though lots of games have load screens, there will often be other data that is loaded as the game plays. With a slow read speed, the game will not perform correctly and may even crash. The Xbox will perform a check before allowing you to format. It will prevent you from being able to use a drive that does not meet the requirements.
Why is my PC unable to read the drive after formatting with Xbox?
In order to prevent piracy, the Xbox will format the hard drive in a format that a PC is unable to read. I am sure there are ways to access the data but it is intentionally made difficult so that people do not copy games over and then share them with others online. It is unfortunate but this is what is needed as a means to prevent piracy.
Hard drive only Allows Media, not Games
When you connect a new drive to the Xbox, it will run a check to see if the drive is capable of reading and writing at the speeds required to run games. There is also a minimum storage requirement of 256GB. If the storage device does not have this much memory, it will not work for games. If either of these checks fails, the device will be rejected for use with games and will only function as a device to allow media and not games.
External Hard Drive Used On Xbox won’t Work On PC
Once a hard drive is formatted for use with the Xbox Series X, it will no longer work with a PC. If you had any important files on this drive, they get wiped when it is reformatted. The drive is formatted using a file system type that not recognized by windows or any other PC natively. This is an anti-piracy mechanism and you will be unfortunately unable to use this drive on a PC again unless you reformat it. It is not possible to use the same drive with a windows PC and the Xbox at the same time.