All about external hard drives, cards and SSDs on Xbox Series S and Series X

What types of hard drives or SSD can be used in Xbox?

The new game consoles of the Seattle company have at their disposal two types of interfaces to expand your storage space:

  • ESATA connector: in this port you can put the Storage Expansion Card which currently only offers the Seagate brand. Although they are advertised with 1 TB, the reality is that they offer 920 GB of real space. They have a transfer rate of 2.4 Gigabit per second. Its price is 239 euros, although it is possible, on specific occasions with an offer, to find them for up to 180 euros.

Seagate Storage Xpansion Card on an Xbox Series S

  • Compatible USB connectors up to version 3.1: can be connected to them from hard drives (HDD) until Conventional SSD, but depending on the type of each one, certain functionalities or others can be used. They can be used from capacities of 128 GB, costing the most suitable for price-size, those of 2 TB, about 80 euros on average.

SSD drive with Halo Master Chief connected to Xbox Series S

What can you do with a Storage Expansion Card on an Xbox Series?

If we choose to expand the storage with a card for the ESATA port we will achieve the increased feature compatibility with an external storage device in one of the new machines of the American brand. It is possible both to make backup copies of the system and to save multimedia content in addition to running from that unit both the video games of the previous generations (Xbox One, 360 and the first console of the system) as well as those that come out exclusive or with functions that are only executable in Series X and S.

What are the limits of solid state drives and HDDs on Microsoft consoles?

If we use the memory expansion of these new generation consoles by means of the USB connectors, both the back and the front that both have, we must know that there are limits in the use of these devices.

  • Media storage and playback (photos and videos): available for both SSD and HDD.
  • Running games from previous generations: Available on both media, as long as they are USB 3.0 or higher, but there will be a big difference in performance – especially in load – in favor of SSDs compared to traditional mechanical hard drives, which are slower and prone to errors.
  • System backups: the system only allows them to be done with a Solid State Drive and only with certain compatible ones, which are also formatted in a special way when we use this option. This allows us, when starting a new Xbox, configure it exactly as we had the previous one and it is very useful to do so if we are going to buy a new one.
  • Play next-gen titles or upgraded versions: it is not possible, we can only use them as a storage medium, but to execute them we will have to transfer them to the internal memory of the console.

Front usb connected SSD drive on Xbox Series S

Compatibility Is a “special” disc, card or Solid State Drive required for Xbox?

Although in the images that you can see accompanying the report there is a personalized SSD unit with the logos and a character as charismatic as the Halo Master Chief – for those interested, it is the model Seagate Game Drive for Xbox 2TB – In the case of memory expansions via USB connectors, they do not need to have any special “configuration” or specific design to use them.

It should also be noted that if you already had a solid state drive or a hard drive on your Xbox One (or on your PC) – and the one in the image, was launched in the previous generation for more example -, you can use without problems on the new Series X and Series S. It is only necessary to look at which USB 3.0, or preferably USB 3.1, and we could use any (even the custom versions “for” or with PS5 motifs that also have this same brand, for example). Any type of label or tagline “specially designed”, “for Xbox” or similar, is merely aesthetic since the compatibility is universal … But undoubtedly it will not be as attractive or touch our “heart” gamer as any of these.

The case of Storage Expansion Cards is very different. It’s about a Unique and proprietary NVMA drive design. And at the moment, the only official ones are those of Seagate that you can see portrayed in this report. Although information has emerged and there are brands preparing the odd product, currently there is no other option if you want to add more GB to Microsoft consoles with the same properties as the internal SSD.

It is a closed ecosystem compared to the PS5 that will use conventional units and has an expansion port to which, a priori, any SSD with the NVMA format can be fitted – you can see it in the image -. What is the problem? That until Sony does not enable the functionality, the port is adorned. Right now, beyond the external drives by cable (and in the case of the Sony console you have to add a USB-C port), in the Japanese machine you cannot expand the capacity of the internal SSD in the same way as yes you can on the xbox.

NVMA SSD port Sony PS5 video game console

How external storage is managed on Xbox

The use is quite simple and straightforward. It is almost a bit absurd – but in case some absent-minded or very novice in these conflicts arrives – to say that you only have to connect the cards in the rear port and the disks or SSD in any USB, something of logic and that is usually called “Plug & Play”.

Regarding the format, the Storage Expansion Cards are prepared to be used from the first moment and that the expanded space appears on the screen. For its part, and it is already something that is the case in most, hard drives or SSDs have to be formatted in NTFS (you will only have problems if you use a disk formatted for MacOS for example). But even so, the console would take care of deleting them and leaving them ready to use.

How many units can we have connected? Then as many as the ports of the machines allow us, that is, an expansion card and 3 drives in the respective USBs. The sum of the space that we have accumulated between all of them is shown to us when we access, for example, the games manager that we have installed, in the lower left corner.

interfax Xbox on silver tv with games installed

Now, as we have commented before, this is a “false” reality since the console does not use that space in a unitary way. If we go to the configuration settings and enter the option of “Manage storage devices”, we can check the space that we have occupied in each one of them and with what elements.

manage storage space interface xbox series s on screen

There is only one detail to take into account and that is that the games are always saved by default in the main storage – if we do not change anything – and, in the case that we want to free space, we will have to move them manually to the secondary one, either this card or to an SSD or hard drive. This option can be customized from this same screen, indicating as destination any of the media that we have connected. You just have to press button «A» on the remote control on the desired unit, and choose the option «Install here by default».

managing the installation destination on xbox series s

If we want to transfer the games from one to another, they also give us information about the capacity of the source unit, and it gives us information about the free space in which we have externally connected. We just have to select the elements we want, and choose if we want copy or move them to any of the available destinations.

interface transfer games external storage xbox series s on screen

In which console is it most necessary to expand the memory? In the S Series or the X Series?

Internally, as we have advanced, the new Xbox have an “official” internal capacity, but in reality, the real and usable free space in each case is less:

  • Xbox Series X: available space 910 GB (approx.), Actual capacity for about 22/23 games (average 40GB)
  • Xbox Series S: available space 364GB (approx.), Actual capacity for about 9/10 games (average 40GB)

Although in the Series X, due to the amount of free space in its storage, the expansion of its memory is not so necessary, for the Series S it is highly recommended – and almost mandatory -, when we talk about that the average of the games with a certain shaft already exceeds 40 GB and some, like the Gears 5, is close to 100 GB with all the additions. And it is a trend that is not expected to change. If we are users of Xbox Gamepass Ultimate, Microsoft’s subscription service that offers an extensive catalog of more than 400 games for download, it is likely that we will fill it quickly.

Xbox One S memory expansion card and SSD disk with Halo Master Chief

The price difference between the two consoles is 200 euros (Series X – 599 euros vs Series S – 299 euros). But, when buying less capacity and power, it is likely that we will have to consider that we will almost certainly have to invest in an expansion of memory, which will bring the price of both closer together to have the same capacities. As mentioned before, a Storage Expansion Card costs 239 euros to have a total capacity (internal + card) of just over 1.2 GB (30 games approx) vs the 910 GB offered by the X Series without add-ons.

It is true that until the launch of truly exclusive games of the new generation, that is, that are no longer compatible with Xbox One and earlier, there will be no “real” need to opt for the cards. It will be from 2022 when the card becomes more necessary than the SSD, which is when it will be necessary to “park” more on the SSD and transfer them to the internal storage to play them since they cannot be launched from the external one.

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