Installing external hard drives for Xbox One and PlayStation 4

At this point, extra storage for game consoles may be almost as critical on Christmas morning as fully charged AA batteries. With modern games taking up a ridiculous amount of space on your typical console it’s all too easy to fill up a 500 GB hard drive … and not realize it until Santa’s already deposited this year’s games under the tree.

Fortunately both the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 support external hard drives. This allows you to use an external USB 3.0-compatible hard drive as a destination when installing new games. After you’ve installed games to the external drive, you can play them just like you would if you’d installed them to the console’s own drive.

I purchased a 1 terabyte Western Digital Drive drive at Amazon for the Xbox. Inspired by the success of that install, I got a 2 terabyte Western Digital “easystore” drive from the PS4 from Best Buy. While I went with Western Digital, any USB 3.0-compatible hard drive should work. I recommend double checking the compatibility before buying a drive, just to be sure.

How to install an external hard drive on Xbox One

I have one of the older Xbox Ones, from the first Christmas after they were released (your mileage may vary with the Xbox One X or Xbox One S, but probably not by much). I followed the instructions on “Troubleshoot external storage detection on Xbox One”. They mostly worked but I did run into two issues.

  1. I added the hard drive to the lower USB port but the Xbox One didn’t detect it. I switched to the other USB slot, and it worked just fine (perhaps only the first slot is USB 3.0 compatible?)
  2. When the Xbox detected the hard drive, a setup wizard appeared. As I clicked through it, it asked me to name the device, but the normal pop-up keyboard didn’t appear. Or rather, it appeared and then flicked away. I couldn’t get it to stay on screen and thus couldn’t get at the dialogue box to accept the default.  I plugged in a  spare USB keyboard, which let me finish the set-up process.

After the set-up, the Xbox allowed me to choose that drive as the default destination for new game installations.

Setting up a PS4 external hard drive

I have a regular PS4 with a 500 GB internal drive. It’s about a year old and is in high demand with my kids. Originally you couldn’t use an external drive with the PS4, but the 4.50 core system software release added the capability.

Instructions for adding an external drive can be found at PS4: External HDD Support.

When I initially plugged in the external drive the PS4 complained that the device didn’t have a supported file system, but that was to be expected. Out of the box, the drives are formatted for Windows, so you need to follow the instructions and re-format it for the PS4. The process went faster and with fewer hiccups than the Xbox.

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The Xbox One. Credit: Microsoft.

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