What you should know before using an external hard drive on Xbox One or PS4

Whether you live in a “PlayStation household” or an “Xbox household,” your gaming console is likely one of the most important electronic devices in your home. For some people, the amount of storage space on their console is even more important than the storage space on their other devices, as games are often a huge time investment.

Xbox users have been taking advantage of external drives for some time now, allowing them to expand their storage and back up their content. For PlayStation users, however, delving into external storage is a more novel endeavor. Recent firmware updates have made it so you can finally install an external hard drive on your system with relative ease.

Here is our brief guide for all of your external storage needs — how to choose the right hard drive for your console, how to install your external hard drive, how to troubleshoot, and how to manage your storage. Read on for more information.

Xbox One

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Your Xbox One or Xbox One S will connect to an external hard drive via USB 3.0, so long as it has a storage capacity of at least 256 GB. You can use a hard drive with lower specs, but it will only save your media, and it will not work for your games. You can also connect two external drives simultaneously, using a USB 3.0 hub, or use multiple hard drives on one system, swapping them out and using them two at a time.

Choosing your hard drive

How do you pick the right hard drive? This depends on a few factors, such as the amount of money you want to shell out, your gaming setup, and your speed and storage needs. External hard drives come in a variety of flavors, and Xbox is liberal with its requirements, allowing for all sorts of drives, including both HDD and SSD solutions.

What the hell is the difference between SSDs and HDDs anyway? A solid state drive (SSD) stores data on microchips, and there are no moving parts within the drive, hence the name. A hard disk drive, however, uses moving parts to read and write data on a disk. With an SSD, you’re likely going to pay more for less storage space, but faster load times.

As of late 2016, SSDs typically cost between 20 and 50 cents per GB, while HDDs are generally less than 5 cents per GB, Extreme Tech reports. HDDs are better for those who prioritize budget and large amounts of space, while SSDs are better for those who value speed and are willing to shell out cash for something a bit more reliable and high-end. However, keep in mind that your system will operate faster with an SSD, but you may not see the huge difference you’re expecting. You’ll likely see about a 20-percent reduction in load time if you have a good SSD, as opposed to an HDD. But, a game that took 90 seconds to load before is not going to all of a sudden load in a single millisecond. It’s also wise to remember that a hybrid (SSHD) will be “almost as fast” as an SSD, so their value is really in the eye of the user.

Whether to go with an HDD or SSD is not the only thing you have to decide on, either. Some drives come with their own power source — a power cord and an AC adapter — while others rely on power from the console’s USB 3.0 port to operate. If you like a clean setup (without a lot of cords) or you’re looking for something small and portable, these are factors to consider as well. In terms of price, you’ll pay anywhere between $40 and upwards of $300, depending on the type of drive and its specs.

A few of the best Xbox One hard drives you can buy for a decent price:

  • WD 1TB Black USB 3.0 My Passport Portable External Hard Drive — $60 on Amazon
  • Seagate Expansion 1TB Portable External Hard Drive USB 3.0 — $55 on Amazon
  • Seagate 1TB FireCuda Gaming SSHD (Solid State Hybrid Drive) — $80 on Amazon
  • Samsung T3 Portable SSD – 500GB – USB 3.1 External SSD — $180 on Amazon
  • Samsung 850 EVO 500GB 2.5-Inch SATA III Internal SSD — $170 on Amazon

Installing your Xbox one external hard drive

First, make sure you’ve installed any and all updates to your system. If you have an Xbox-certified hard drive, the system should detect it and it’ll be plug and play for the most part, with the system walking you through the process automatically.

For other hard drives, plug the drive into a USB port and press the Xbox button in the center of your controller to launch the guide. After that, go to Settings > All settings > System > Storage > Manage storage. Under Manage storage, you should see your external hard drive listed. If you don’t see your external drive listed, try the following troubleshooting steps:

Step 1: Remove and reconnect the drive into the same USB port.
Step 2: Remove and reconnect the drive in a different USB port.
Step 3: Reboot your console.
Step 4: Go into Settings > All settings > Power mode and uncheck the box besides “When Xbox is off, turn off storage.”
Step 5: Plug another compatible device into your console’s USB port to see if it functions properly.
Step 6: If your hard drive is working on an AC power adapter, try plugging it into a different outlet.

Once you see your external hard drive listed, follow the on-screen prompts. Also, name the drive something unique so you’ll be able to recognize it easily. You can rename your hard drive by selecting it and choosing the “rename” option.

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Using your external hard drive

To view the contents of your hard drive, visit the Storage menu, select the name of your drive, and choose the View contents option. While your new games will install onto your hard drive automatically using the default setting, you’ll have to move your old games over manually. To do so, go to your console’s My games and apps menu and find games you’d like to move. Alternatively, you can go to the Storage menu and click on your internal hard drive and find the games there.

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To move a game, select Manage game, Move all, and choose Move to your external hard drive. Depending on the size of your game and your drive’s specs, this can take anywhere between a few seconds and several minutes to complete. If you want to house a game on both your internal and external drive — say, if you’re copying your content from an Xbox One to an Xbox One S perhaps — you can select Copy all instead of Move all, and the game will copy to your external drive instead of transferring.

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