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Published Aug 16, 2022 10:00 AM

If you’re playing games on an Xbox One, it’s very easy to download enough games to fill up your console, whether you have an Xbox One S with a 500GB hard drive or an Xbox One X with a 1TB drive. If you’re tired of deleting games every time you want to download something new, it’s time to pick up an external hard drive that gives you more space for games and even lets you take them with you if you upgrade to an Xbox Series X or Series S. The best external hard drives for Xbox One will let you download every game you’ve purchased, with plenty of room to spare for whatever comes next.

How we picked the best external hard drives for Xbox One

I’ve covered game consoles and computers for sites like TechnoBuffalo, The Tech Report, and GameSpot. Having watched games go from taking up kilobytes to megabytes to gigabytes, I’ve worked with both desktop and server computers for years and have a pretty good idea of what makes for a reliable hard drive brand.

To make these selections, I stuck to those reliable brands and looked for the highest capacity, smallest, fastest, and best-value drives out there, keeping in mind user impressions on retail sites and aggregated technical reviews from tech blogs.

Things to consider before buying an external drive for Xbox One

After almost nine years, the Xbox One has been around the block a few times. Technically speaking, it is a last-generation console, though supply shortages of the Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X have led developers to continue optimizing Xbox games for it.

Unlike the new consoles, which have internal solid-state drives—SSDs, for short—a hard drive is a hard drive to the Xbox One. As long as it hits the minimum requirements, which we’ll go into a moment, your Xbox One doesn’t care how fast or large your drive is. That would change when and if you upgrade to an Xbox Series X or S. For the time being, though, you are mostly free to get a very large hard drive without worrying too much about its specs.

Minimum requirements

There are really only two major Xbox One drive considerations: size and speed. According to Microsoft, you can connect between 128GB and 16TB of external storage to your Xbox One. With that much storage, you can download every game you’ve ever played, with plenty of room to spare. There’s also a connection requirement—you must connect it via USB-A 3.0 (the Xbox One predates Type-C connectors)—which sets a hard 5.0Gb/s transfer limit.

One more thing: You cannot use an external hard drive to store Xbox One games and other files from other devices at the same time. When you plug a drive into your Xbox One, the Xbox will ask you to format it before you can store games, erasing any data you might have stored there. Once formatted, you cannot use the external drive for anything else until you reformat it again, which will delete all the games.

So long as your hard drive meets those requirements, which aren’t very high by modern external hard drive standards, you can use any external hard drive with your Xbox One.

Xbox One is old: Don’t overspend …

Given that there’s a hard cap on how fast your Xbox One can handle data coming off an external hard drive, you should also put a cap on buying the fastest possible hard drive to go with it. You won’t see substantial boosts to load times if you connect an external SSD to the console, since its core boot drive is a conventional rotating hard disk or HDD.

This is great news! There’s no downside to buying a huge 16TB hard drive that’s shockingly affordable, given its size, because it’s actually very slow.

… unless you’re planning to upgrade to a Series S or Series X

Of course, the equation changes if you’re planning to buy one of the 4th-generation Xbox “Series” consoles. While you can’t play Xbox Series X/S games stored on an external drive, you can use one to store and play older Xbox games. Virtually all Xbox One games, as well as many Xbox 360 and Xbox games, are playable on Xbox Series X and S. All you have to do to move your digital Xbox games over is unplug the drive from the Xbox One and plug it into the Xbox Series X or S, and you’re ready to go. It’s very helpful to have for the transition and it saves you a lot of space on the new console’s core drive.

In this scenario, though, your external hard drive’s read and write speeds matter. An SSD is significantly faster than an HDD and the Xbox Series X can unpack and load games faster. How much faster will vary from game to game, but most games should load faster and perform better on Microsoft’s latest consoles.

What games do you play?

It would be best if you also kept in mind what kinds of games you plan to store and play. While many games are below the 30GB mark, a few recent games have passed the 100GB mark. Grand Theft Auto V can take up as much as 94GB; Red Dead Redemption 2 is 110GB; Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is upwards of 120GB, even on Xbox One. So just those three games can consume almost 500GB. 

Best external hard drives for Xbox One: Reviews & Recommendations

These drives run the gamut from the cheapest, lowest capacity storage to the fastest and most lightweight portable options. The best picks, we think, balance storage capacity and price, but we considered some very large drives as well. They’re all going to be equally easy to set up, and can handle a small game library equally well—the details are around the edges.

Best overall: Seagate Game Drive for Xbox Game Pass Special Edition

Seagate

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Buy it used or refurbished: Amazon

Why it made the cut: The Seagate Game Drive for Xbox Game Pass is portable and offers a lot of storage for a decent price.

Specs

  • Capacity: 4TB
  • Drive type: HDD
  • USB type: USB 3.0

Pros

  • Reasonably priced
  • Interesting look
  • A good fit for Xbox 360 and Xbox One games

Cons

  • HDD isn’t a great pick for Xbox Series consoles

While you can plug just about any external hard drive into an Xbox One, the Seagate console-specific “Game Drive” looks sharp, stores a lot of games, and is small enough to carry around if you need to. This model’s 4TB of storage can hold 90-100 Xbox One games, which is plenty of space for most game libraries. A compact package at just 21mm thick, you can get a green Xbox-branded version, a white Game Pass model (which comes with a free one-month Game Pass Ultimate subscription), or even black to match a PS4. Every drive here is worth the money, but Seagate’s offering is a perfect fit for the Xbox One.

Best value: Western Digital 12TB Elements Desktop Hard Drive

Western Digital

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Buy it used or refurbished: Amazon

Why it made the cut: The 12TB Western Digital Elements external hard drive comes close to the Xbox One’s external storage limit, but doesn’t cost all that much.

Specs

  • Capacity: 12TB
  • Drive type: HDD
  • USB type: USB 3.0

Pros

  • Tons of storage
  • Best value per dollar (as of August 2022)

Cons

  • Requires a separate power adapter (included)

The Western Digital 12TB Elements Desktop Hard Drive isn’t the cheapest drive on our list but it offers the best value when you look at the capacity and the price. We dug around, looking at drives from a variety of reputable drive makers and capacities, and this drive edges out the others in byte-per-dollar value—just barely, though. The price may fluctuate over time but this is the best value you can get right now.

Best high-capacity: Western Digital 14TB Elements Desktop Hard Drive

Western Digital

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Buy it used or refurbished: Amazon

Why it made the cut: Push the Xbox One’s storage limitations with this even larger Western Digital Elements external drive.

Specs

  • Capacity: 14TB
  • Drive type: HDD
  • USB type: USB 3.0

Pros

  • Tons of storage
  • Great byte-per-dollar value

Cons

  • Requires separate power adapter

This larger version of the previous pick gives you a slightly lower byte-per-dollar value, but it gives you an extra couple of terabytes and comes very close to maxing out your Xbox One’s storage capacity. It’s more space than most players reasonably need for their game library, holding roughly 350 average-sized games. With Microsoft’s focus on backward compatibility, though, you could keep buying Xbox One and 360 games for years without worrying about how much space you have left.

Best portable: SanDisk 1TB Extreme Pro USB 3.2 Flash Drive

SanDisk

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Why it made the cut: The SanDisk 1TB Extreme Pro USB 3.2 Flash Drive makes it easy to carry a lot of Xbox games in your pocket.

Specs

  • Capacity: 1TB
  • Drive type: Flash
  • USB type: USB 3.0

Pros

  • Tiny
  • Faster than an HDD

Cons

  • Not much storage

Going from 14TB above down to just 1TB may seem like a big step down, but keep in mind that we’re talking about a flash drive now. The 1TB SanDisk Extreme Pro will fit on your keychain if you want to carry it around. It may not be an entire library, but 1TB still doubles or triples your console’s internal storage capacity, depending on what Xbox One you have. It is far and away the easiest option if you want to unplug and store your external when you aren’t using it.

Best high-speed: SanDisk 1TB Extreme Portable SSD

SanDisk

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Buy it used or refurbished: Amazon

Why it made the cut: As a portable M.2 SSD, the SanDisk Extreme Portable series is infinitely faster than our other picks.

Specs

  • Capacity: 1TB
  • Drive type: M.2 SSD
  • USB type: USB 3.2 Gen 2×2

Pros

  • Incredibly fast
  • Very small
  • Rugged Construction

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Limited capacity

If you’re buying a portable external with hard drive speed in mind, the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD offers far faster delivery than our other picks. According to SanDisk, it supports up to 2000MB/s read/write speeds, which blows our other picks out of the water when plugged into a device that could take advantage of those speeds.

Of course, that’s the main limiting factor: Your Xbox One and even the Series X won’t be able to make full use of the drive’s speed. Older games are often limited by compression and built-in features meant to make the game work on a standard Xbox One hard drive. With that said, these games will load as quickly as your console can handle, making it a great way to future-proof your drive for your next Xbox upgrade.

Aside from being fast, it’s also small, light, and built for abuse. The drive has 2-meter drop protection and IP55 water and dust resistance. You shouldn’t take it swimming, but you don’t have to worry about getting caught in the rain with it in your pocket.

Best budget: Toshiba Canvio Basics 1TB

Toshiba

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Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: The Toshiba Canvio Basics doubles or triples your Xbox One’s storage, and costs less than a new AAA game.

Specs

  • Capacity: 1TB
  • Drive type: HDD
  • USB type: USB 3.0

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Simple design

Cons

  • Limited Capacity

The Toshiba Canvio Basics isn’t the fastest or biggest external hard drive on this list by any stretch, but it’s definitely the cheapest. If you want to double or triple your storage quickly, and you aren’t worried about keeping a massive library of games at the ready, this drive will get the job done. It’s simple, small, and straightforward.

FAQs

Q: Does any external hard drive work with Xbox One?

In 2022, pretty much any external hard drive should work with an Xbox One. As long as it fits the requirements above—128GB or more of space and a USB 3.0 interface—the Xbox One will support it.

Q: Can you play Xbox games straight from the external hard drive?

Yes! Better yet, you can take the same drive from one Xbox One to another, or from an Xbox One to an Xbox Series X or S, and play those same games there, too.

As we mentioned before, though, you cannot play Xbox Series X/S games off an external hard drive. If you upgrade to one of either of the newest Xbox consoles, you may want to consider grabbing one of Seagate’s proprietary storage expansion cards.

Q: How many Xbox One games can 2TB hold?

The short answer is “2TB worth.” Game sizes vary wildly these days. Many indies will use up less than 1GB of storage on your hard drive, while a few major AAA games can take up 100GB or more. What you choose to play and how you manage your hard drive will determine how quickly it fills up.

All that said, we estimate that most major Xbox One games require 30GB to 50GB of storage space. If all your games fall in that range, you’ll be able to fit about 35 to 45 games on a 2TB drive.

Q: Can you use the same drive for Xbox One and PlayStation 4?

Not really. Both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 require you to reformat your external hard drive to store and play games. If you use an external hard drive for Xbox One or PS4 games, you can’t use it for anything else. 

There’s one small exception: Both consoles can play media—movies, photos, or music—off of a hard drive that isn’t formatted for games. That drive will work across both consoles.

Final thoughts on the best external hard drives for Xbox One

Just about any external hard drive will work as an Xbox One expansion drive, so there’s enough variety out there. Since speed isn’t a huge factor for the Xbox One specifically, you can focus on getting a large, cheap external that can hold all your games. Just keep in mind that you may find yourself looking for another hard drive to go with your next console, Xbox or otherwise.