How to Add and Use an External Hard Drive with Xbox Series X or S

Get around storage limitations with a USB drive

What to Know

  • Plug in the drive and select FORMAT STORAGE DEVICE > Name it > arrow icon > KEEP CURRENT LOCATION > FORMAT STORAGE DEVICE.
  • You can use any USB 3.1 external drive with Xbox Series X|S, but only the Seagate expansion drive lets you play Xbox Series X|S games.
  • You can play Xbox One, Xbox 360, and original Xbox games from a regular USB 3.1 drive.

This article explains how to add an external drive to an Xbox Series X|S, and outlines compatibility requirements.

How to Add an External Drive to an Xbox Series X or S

If you have a drive you use with your Xbox One, you can just plug it in and use it. If you have a new drive, or a drive that has been used for other things in the past, you'll need to format it first so that it can work with your Xbox.

Here's how to add an external drive to an Xbox Series X or S:

  1. Turn your Xbox Series X or S on.

    The Xbox Series X|S dashboard.
  2. Plug an external HDD or SSD into one of the USB ports. If the console recognizes your drive, the message seen in the following step will appear on the screen.

  3. Select FORMAT STORAGE DEVICE.

    The Xbox Series X|S format hard drive message.
  4. Name your drive, and select the arrow icon or press the menu button to continue.

    Naming a drive on Xbox Series X|S.
  5. Select KEEP CURRENT LOCATION.

    Installation options on Xbox Series X|S.
  6. Select FORMAT STORAGE DEVICE.

    Formatting a drive for Xbox Series X|S games.
  7. Your new drive is now available for use.

    External storage available on Xbox Series X|S.

How to Move Games to an External Drive on Xbox Series X or S

When you connected and set up your drive, you probably chose to keep your current install location, because Series X or S games won’t play when installed on a USB drive. If that’s the case, you’ll need to move games to the drive from time to time to free up space for new games. Here’s how to accomplish that.

  1. Press the Xbox button to open the Guide, then select My games & apps.

    The Xbox Series X|S Guide.
  2. Highlight the game you want to move, and press the view button (two stacked boxes) on your controller.

    Games on an Xbox Series X|S.
  3. Highlight the game, select it, and select Move or copy.

    Moving a game on Xbox Series X|S.
  4. Select the game you want to move, and verify you are transferring from internal storage to your external drive. You can use the Select all option if there are multiple items on this screen.

    Moving a game on Xbox Series X|S.

    If you select an Xbox Series X or S game, you'll see a warning on this screen that your external drive is too slow to play the game unless you have the Seagate expansion drive. You can still move the game to free up storage, you just won't be able to play it until you move it back.

  5. Select Move selected.

    Moving a game on Xbox Series X|S.
  6. Wait for the game to move.

    A game being moved to external storage on Xbox Series X|S.

    You can do other things while the game is moving, but it may proceed more slowly.

  7. When it finishes, your game will be on your external drive. You can move it back at any time, or play it directly from the drive if it's an Xbox, Xbox 360, or Xbox One game.

What Drives Work With Xbox Series X or S?

The Xbox Series X and S both come with lightning-fast NVME SSDs that reduce load times dramatically, but neither one has all that much storage. The Series X ships with a 1TB drive, and the Series S with a 512GB drive, and a decent amount of that space is taken up or reserved by the operating system.

If you own an Xbox One and currently have an external drive with Xbox One games on it, you can plug it directly into your Xbox Series X or S and it will work. As long as it’s a USB 3.1 drive that worked with your Xbox One, you’ll be able to play your old Xbox One, Xbox 360, and original Xbox games directly from the drive. You can also move Xbox Series X or S games to a drive like this to free up space, but you won't be able to play them from that drive until you move them back.

In fact, you can only play Xbox Series X or S games if they are installed on the internal NVME SSD drive, or installed on the optional expansion drive. The expansion drive fits into a slot on the back of the Xbox Series X and S, and it provides transfer speed just as fast as the internal drive.

We tried a super fast USB 3.1 NAND drive with transfer speeds of 520 MB/s and write speeds of 420 MB/s, and that wasn’t even fast enough. The Series X or S will only play games from the internal SSD or expansion card SSD that provide 2.4 GB/s of raw I/O throughput.

Here’s a rundown of what you can do with what type of drive:

  USB 3.1 HDD or SSD Seagate Expansion Card
Store any Xbox game Yes Yes
Play Xbox One, Xbox 360, and original Xbox games Yes Yes
Store Series X|S games and games optimized for Series X|S Yes Yes
Play Series X|S games and games optimized for Series X|S No Yes

While only the Seagate expansion drive can play Series X or S games at launch, Microsoft may offer alternatives at a later date.