How to Format an External Hard Drive for Xbox One

By Sean Carey,
How to format external hard drive xbox one

Video game file sizes are becoming monstrous. Take a look at the recent Call of Duty Modern Warfare, for example, the day one download clocked in at a whopping 137.66 GB. Combine a couple more games like that and all of the fantastic offerings in Xbox Game Pass; your internal Xbox one hard drive is going to fill up pretty quickly. Now is the time to consider purchasing an external hard drive to expand your storage. We've outlined what you'll need, the different speeds and types of hard drive and provided you with a guide on how to set up your new drive with your Xbox One console.

This guide is part of a series aimed at first time Xbox owners. TrueAchievements is the largest Xbox community site on the internet, allowing players to track their gaming achievements, discuss strategies and compete in contests and leaderboards. Once you have set yourself up on Xbox, you can register with us for free using your gamertag.

What external hard drives are compatible with Xbox One?

First of all, let's talk about what's compatible with your Xbox One. You will need to own a hard drive that supports USB 3.0 as slower USB 2.0 drives will not work with an Xbox One console. The old USB 2.0 interface is considerably slower at transferring data compared to the younger 3.0. In terms of capacity, an external drive must be at least 128GB in size with a maximum capacity of up to 16TB. Unless you are buying solely digital games, a 1TB or 2TB hard drive should be more than enough to accommodate most people's needs.

Seagate Game Drive for Xbox - Xbox Game Pass Special Edition (2TB) - 2TB
Seagate Game Drive for Xbox - Xbox Game Pass Special Edition (2TB) - 2TB

Seagate Game Drive for Xbox 2TB - Xbox Game Pass Special Edition


When buying a new external drive, speed should also be considered. Your Xbox One comes with an internal 5400RPM hard-disk drive (HDD). RPM stands for revolutions per minute — essentially the higher the number of revolutions the quicker games will install and load. Most hard drives on the market today either come in a 5400RPM configuration or a 7200RPM with the latter providing a small boost in terms of speed. However, if you really want to cut down on your load times, you're going to want an external solid-state drive (SSD). An SSD is blisteringly fast compared to an HDD, but that performance usually comes at a much higher price.

Seagate Game Drive for Xbox SSD - 1TB
Seagate Game Drive for Xbox SSD - 1TB

Accelerate installation and load times for your Xbox One games with this sleek external solid state drive.


How do I format an external hard drive for Xbox One?

External Drive Setup

Connect your drive to a free USB port on your Xbox One. The external drive should be automatically detected and will prompt you to format the drive or keep it as a device used to store only photos, video and music. You will need to format the drive if you wish to store games on it. Just be aware that formatting the drive will erase everything stored on it, so either make a backup or copy the contents to another device.

Connect your drive to the USB port on your Xbox One – you'll find one at the back, and one on the front of an Xbox One X or S, or on the left side of an Xbox One. The Xbox One will detect the drive and prompt you through the steps to format it. You will have an opportunity to name the drive. If you select "Install new things here", all future games and apps you install will go to the new drive by default. Finally, you will be prompted to Format Storage Device. Once it's done, you're good to go.

External Drive Setup


How do I set my Xbox to install games to my external hard drive by default?

If you've just formatted an external hard drive for use on Xbox One and chose "Install new things here", all games and apps will now automatically install to your new external drive. You can change this back to Internal Storage at any time by going to Settings > System > Storage >Manage Storage > Select Internal Storage > Install Here by Default.

How do I move installed games on to my external hard drive?

External Drive Setup

Now you're all set up with your new external drive; it's time to move across some of your already installed games to free up space on your console's drive. Head to the Systems tab on your Xbox Guide Menu (press the big Xbox logo on your controller to get to the Guide Menu at any time). Go to Settings > Storage > Manage Storage. Select the internal storage drive. Scroll down and select Transfer. Select the games you want to move, and then select Move Selected. Now choose the External Drive you want to move the games on to. Finally, hit Move. The games will begin transferring across to the external drive.
Sean Carey
Written by Sean Carey
Sean joined the team as a Staff Writer for both TrueAchievements and TrueTrophies in 2019. He games across all platforms and is always looking for an excuse to replay any of the Metal Gear Solid titles.