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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best external hard drives for Xbox One

Last Updated September 2019

The Xbox One is one of the most powerful gaming systems on Earth: it plays cutting-edge triple-A titles, streams every different kind of media you can think of, and it’s got a 4K Blu-ray player inside. There’s only one catch: every Xbox One comes with a limited amount of file storage, and you must install every game you want to play. Game files can be huge, so the storage space goes fast.

At some point, you’re going to run out of room on the Xbox One’s built-in drive, so you’ll have two choices: either delete content to make more room or buy an external hard drive. Most players opt to buy an external hard drive because they’re relatively affordable and can add terabytes of storage.

Buying an external hard drive for your Xbox One (or Xbox One S or Xbox One X) is the best long-term option because you’ll be able to install games to your heart’s content without having to worry about sacrificing fast load times. But not every external hard drive works with the Xbox One, and not every drive that works with the Xbox One is a good value, so it pays to do some research ahead of time. That’s probably why you’re here, so let’s dig in to everything you need to know to pick out the right external hard drive for your Xbox One.

No matter what version of the Xbox One you have, the requirements for external hard drives are the same. If you upgrade your console, taking all your content with you is simply a matter of connecting the external hard drive into the newer Xbox One.

Key considerations

Requirements

The Xbox One has some unique requirements for hard drives it will work with. Here are the four most important things to know before you start shopping so you can be certain to buy a compatible model.

  1. It must have at least 256GB of storage. This is a Microsoft requirement: the Xbox One won’t recognize hard drives smaller than 256GB. If you were thinking about connecting an older, smaller hard drive to your Xbox One, you’re out of luck. Thankfully, there are plenty of affordable external hard drives that do meet the requirement.

  2. It must be USB 3.0 compatible. Although the evolution from USB 3.0 to USB 3.1 is well underway, the Xbox One can only connect to external hard drives that support the older USB 3.0 standard. Some high-end external hard drives support USB 3.1 only, so be sure to double-check one last time before you buy.

  3. It can’t be a flash drive. Even if you have a flash drive that meets the 256GB minimum requirement, you still won’t be able to use it for storage on your Xbox One because the data transfer speeds aren’t fast enough to support gameplay.

  4. You can’t use the hard drive for anything besides Xbox One storage. When you connect your external hard drive to your Xbox One, the Xbox will completely erase the contents of the drive and reformat it. Once this is done, you won’t be able to access the content on the drive from any other device besides your Xbox One – the files won’t be readable. The bottom line is, don’t bother trying to use your Xbox One external hard drive as anything besides an Xbox One external hard drive.
     

Storage space

The biggest question to answer as you’re shopping for an Xbox One external hard drive is, how much capacity do you need? And, naturally, larger drives are more expensive than smaller drives, so you’ll need to pick the external hard drive that’s a good match for your gaming storage needs and your wallet.

Generally, the smartest thing to do is buy as much storage as you can afford. The price difference between a 4TB drive and an 8TB drive is typically less than $100, meaning that the more you spend, the cheaper storage gets on a per-gigabyte or per-terabyte basis. Don’t be concerned about having “too much” storage. Game files are getting larger, and so are movie files, so it’ll go faster than you think.

What’s not to love?

The Seagate Game Drive is one of the few external hard drives that’s explicitly made for the Xbox One, from the officially branded enclosure down to the “plug it in and it just works” functionality. It’s simple to use, it’s got plenty of space for the typical gamer, and it’s affordable. What’s not to love?

Xbox One external hard drive prices

Knowing how much to spend on an external hard drive can be tricky because, in some cases, a small price difference can mean a big increase in the amount of storage you get.

Between $50 and $100

If you’re looking to spend between $50 and $100, you can get a good external drive with anywhere between 500GB and 1TB. Mainstream games, such as first-person shooters like the Call of Duty games, can take anywhere between 10GB and 120GB after updates, so if you’re a serious gamer, you’re going to need more space. If you game casually, or don’t play that many different games, a 1TB drive will be perfect.

Between $100 and $200

If you can spend a little more, you can get significantly more storage. Pricier external hard drives are more capacious, and in some cases come with additional benefits like their own power supply. If you’re a moderate gamer, a 4TB external drive will be more than enough, but if you’re serious about your Xbox One gaming, you’ll be better off buying an 8TB or 10TB external hard drive.

EXPERT TIP

Always play it safe and buy hard drives in brand-new condition from manufacturers and vendors you trust.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

Without adequate ventilation, all external hard drives can overheat and corrupt your data. Don’t set your external hard drive on top of your Xbox One (which also generates heat). Put it nearby in an area with enough room for proper airflow.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

If you’re unsure how much storage your current games and media take up, go to the home screen and select My Games & Apps. You’ll see the percentage of your hard drive that’s full, along with information about what content is taking up the most space.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Confirm that any external drive you buy works with the Xbox One. If you’ve got your eye on a specific model, read user reviews to see how it performs with the Xbox One specifically. If users report any problems getting it to work with the Xbox One, don’t buy it.

  • Never unplug an external hard drive from your Xbox One when the Xbox is on. All external drives have the same weakness: if you unplug it while it’s in use, it can corrupt all the content on the drive, rendering the drive useless without a complete reformat. Play it safe: only disconnect your external hard drive from your Xbox One when the console is completely turned off.

  • Remember that game updates often require quite a bit of storage. Whether you download them directly from Microsoft or buy them on physical discs, games take up a lot of room – anywhere from a few hundred megabytes to 60GB per game – and that’s before you download any updates. Game updates can double the amount of file size a given game requires, so it’s always a good ideas to buy more storage than you think you’re going to need.

  • Never buy a used or refurbished external hard drive. There are no recognized standards for refurbishing a hard drive, so if you buy one refurbished, you have no idea what’s been done to it – if anything has been done at all. Furthermore, there are no easy ways to determine if a hard drive is used and how long it’s been used, so any used hard drive you buy could only last a few weeks.

The biggest, most economical hard drive there is

The Western Digital 10TB drive is one of the biggest out there, so it’s perfect for hardcore gamers who want to keep their entire game collection available at all times. It’s fast, it’s got plenty of ventilation, and it’s one of the best values available on a cost-per-gigabyte basis. If you want the biggest, most economical hard drive there is, this is the one to get.

Other products we considered

Western Digital makes some of the best hard drives in the business, so it’s worth spending some time looking at its various product lines.

For casual gamers, we love the WD 1TB My Passport External Hard Drive because it’s small, efficient, and comes in different colors.

For serious gamers, we recommend the WD 8TB Elements Desktop Hard Drive because it’s got everything we like about the My Passport drive plus eight times as much storage.

The Xbox One only supports external hard drives that are 16TB or smaller. This isn’t a problem for most people, but if you’re thinking about buying the maximum amount of storage, be forewarned that the Xbox One itself has a hard limit.

FAQ

Q. Why do some external hard drives require two open USB ports on the Xbox One?

A. USB cables aren’t just for transferring data – they’re also for powering devices. If you buy an external hard drive that requires two USB ports to connect, be sure to plug them both in. One will allow data to transfer successfully, while the other will provide power to the drive.

Q. What else can I store on my Xbox One external hard drive besides games?

A. In addition to Xbox One games and apps, you can also use the external hard drive to store your personal media files like photos, music, or videos.

Q. Why are some external hard drives called “SSDs” while others are called “HDDs”?

A. There are two types of available storage: the solid-state drive (SSD), which has no moving parts, and the hard disk drive (HDD), which uses spinning platters to store data. SSDs are typically more stable because there are fewer moving parts. They’re also typically more expensive only available in smaller sizes than their HDD counterparts. SSDs are also much, much faster, so in many cases the trade-offs are worth it.

The team that worked on this review
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