The Xbox One (XBO) is nearly two years old, and those who chose the One over the PlayStation 4 (PS4) are having a great time with Microsoft’s latest offering. Between games with easy Achievements and blockbusters like Halo 5, if you bought your Xbox at launch your hard drive is likely close to full.
Thankfully, Microsoft updated the system to let you connect external hard drives and gain additional space. Here are some reasons why buying an external hard disk drive (HDD) is worth the investment, as well as some advice on which to get.
You’ll Have More Space for Games
This is the obvious reason for adding an external drive to your system, but it bears explanation. Both the XBO and PS4 require you to install games onto your hard drive before playing them, and the space requirements are hefty. Taking a look at a list of game install sizes, we can see that Grand Theft Auto V clocks in at 49 GB, Halo: The Master Chief Collection is 63 GB, and Assassin’s Creed Syndicate (our review) takes up 40 GB.
Remember that even though the Xbox One comes with a 500 GB hard drive installed (though you can get a one terabyte model nowadays), you’ll only have about 360 GB of that space to use for yourself. That means if you installed the three games above on your system, you’d be looking at around 208 GB left – and those numbers don’t even include mandatory game updates (which can be several gigabytes, such as Destiny‘s 18 GB 2.0 update) or DLC.
Finally, with Xbox Live Gold, you get free titles to download every month via the Games with Gold program. So, even if you’re not buying many full retail games, you’ll still be doing a lot of installing to check out what you got for free. Nobody likes to have to juggle games around because they don’t have enough space; adding an external hard drive will fix this.
You Can’t Replace the Internal Drive
We’ve shown how to upgrade the internal hard drive on the PS4, but you can’t do this easily (or aren’t technically supposed to) with the Xbox One. Instead, connecting an external HDD to the system serves as your way to upgrade.
People who want a no-fuss solution to storage space will appreciate this, because replacing an internal hard drive necessitates backing up and restoring your content, removing some tight screws, and ensuring you get a drive that works with the system and doesn’t cause problems. With an external drive, you simply plug it in, format the drive, and start using it. It’s much simpler.
The New DVR Functionality Requires One
Cord-cutting to get away from ridiculous cable costs is becoming more popular. With support for services like Netflix and Hulu, along with the ability to watch live TV, using your Xbox One as a media center is a great way to break away from traditional TV. In 2016, you’ll be able to do even more when the XBO gets support for digital video recording (DVR).
To keep recorded shows, you’ll have to have an external hard drive; even the new 1 TB internal drive won’t work. This won’t be a draw for everyone, of course, but if you want to get the most out of your Xbox One’s functionality, an external HDD is a necessity for DVR.
Games Load Faster on External Drives
- USB 3.0 used by the external drive is a faster connection than the SATA II used by the internal drive.
- The external drive probably has better specs (the stock XBO HDD is mediocre).
- The external drive doesn’t have to handle all the other system functionality, like running multiple applications or other Xbox features, and thus has more resources to dedicate to running games.
This is an instant performance bonus without any overhead. PS4 owners would have to install a solid-state drive (SSD) to get these performance gains, and they’re much more expensive than an external drive.
The System Integrates Them Nicely
You might think of having an external HDD as a chore, figuring it entails juggling games back and forth or having to explicitly enable it. In reality, using one with your Xbox couldn’t be simpler. Just plug in your drive, format it (you’ll only be able to use this drive with your XBO), and it essentially adds to your available storage.
When you manage your game data, you’ll be able to filter by games on the internal/external drive, and can even set the external as your default for new games (a good idea, per the performance benefits above). The system will roll everything into one and let you know how much total space is left. There really aren’t any drawbacks!
How to Choose a Drive
Hopefully now you’re convinced that buying an external drive for your Xbox One is a worthwhile purchase. Let’s look at a few options to consider when shopping for one, as well as a few potential models. This isn’t an exhaustive look, but should get you on the right path.
A few notes on requirements for the external HDD:
- The minimum size is 256 GB, but you’ll want to go larger than this. Not only is it tough to find a model smaller than 500 GB these days, you want to add a lot of storage, so why buy a drive that’s half the size of the stock HDD? Note that there are no upper limits on size.
- The drive must support USB 3.0. This standard has been around for several years, so finding a 3.0 model should be no problem.
- You can choose between drives that are powered over USB or models that need a separate power cord. This will be up to you, but unless you’re really crunched for outlet space, you might as well get a model that plugs into the wall, as it’s likely to be a bit faster.
Now, let’s talk about a few other points. First, while you could use an SSD as your external drive for increased speed, the price just isn’t going to be worth it. You’ll see only slight speed increases with an external SSD versus an HDD, you’re already speeding up your games in the first place, and it’s better to get a large drive now so you don’t have to buy another one in a year or so. Unless you have tons of money to blow, stick with an HDD for your external.
The other big factor is the drive’s rotations per minute (RPM). The stock internal drive is a 5,400 RPM drive, so you can either match this or go for a faster 7,200 RPM drive. Though there’s nothing wrong with a 5,400 RPM drive, if you can spend a little extra cash a 7,200 RPM model is worth the upcharge. Don’t bother with a 10,000 RPM model, though, as it won’t noticeably increase your speeds.
Finally, you’ll have to pick a manufacturer and buy a drive. The three biggest makers are Seagate, Toshiba, and Western Digital. The name doesn’t mean a whole lot, but since Seagate drives have high failure rates, it’s wise to avoid buying one. Thankfully, your best choices aren’t Seagate.
I’ve had 4 Seagate drives fail on me in the last 6 months.
— chendo (@chendo) May 25, 2015
Here are some of the best choices for different needs:
- The best value for the money is the $130 Western Digital My Book 4 TB external HDD. 4 TB of storage means you won’t run out for a long time, it works out to just $32/TB, is AC-powered, and isn’t a Seagate. It’s a bit large, but that’s typical for a drive this size.
- If you don’t need 4 TB, want to cut costs, or don’t want to deal with an AC adapter, the $87 Western Digital My Passport Ultra 2 TB is probably your best choice. It’s more costly per terabyte than the above model, but it’s much smaller if space is a concern and 4 TB might be overkill for some people. This drive lets you future-proof your console without breaking the bank. A 1 TB model is also available for $60.
- For those looking to spend the least money possible, the $67 Toshiba Canvio Basics 1 TB Drive is a good option. As you can tell, the smaller the drive the higher the cost per terabyte, but you’re still tripling your space with this option. If you plan on playing lots of games, it may be worth spending the extra $20 to get the 2 TB model above so you don’t have to buy another one in the future.
- If you only need 1 TB but want 7,200 RPM, check out the $70 HGST Touro S 1 TB.
Of course, there are dozens of other drives that work with the Xbox One. If you have one already, try it out! Bear in mind when buying one, however, that the system will format it for XBO use, so dedicate the HDD you buy to your Xbox. It isn’t meant for also using on your computer.
Now you know what to look for when adding more space to your Xbox One. With a bit of time, you can get the drive that’s right for you, then set and forget it while enjoying your favorite games. With the added speed, there’s no reason not to upgrade!
Not sure if an Xbox One is right for you? Check out our review from when the system launched.
Which external hard drive will you get for your Xbox One? How much free space does your console have right now? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to leave your drive recommendations, too!