The Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S introduce significant gains in storage, adopting custom solid-state drives (SSDs), poised to cut back loading screens to a minimum. Microsoft positions that high-speed fundamental to its next-generation vision, also introducing changes to storage. With that comes the arrival of a proprietary memory card-style SSD, while USB external hard drives take a backseat for backward compatibility. Here’s what you need to know about your available storage options on Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, and what each entails.
Products used in this guide
Expanding Xbox Series X, Series S storage: The TLDR
When your games library eventually fills the internal drive, Microsoft provides two primary routes to increase your available storage on Xbox Series X, and Xbox Series S. It worked with Seagate on an SSD expansion card, mimicking the internal SSD with identical performance. It also supports USB hard drives like Xbox One consoles, although this time with limitations attributed to slower speeds.
In brief — the list of Xbox Series X and Series S Optimized games needs high-speed storage, and only the internal SSD or official expansion card can deliver. While USB hard drives work fine, they only store those games, and you will need to transfer them to the SSD to play. However, backward compatible titles, including Xbox 360 and original Xbox games, work fine on USB drives. Here’s a handy breakdown of how USB drives compare to the SSD expansion card.
|Internal SSD||Seagate Expansion Card||USB external drive|
|Xbox Series X/S games||✓||✓||Storage only|
|Xbox One games (upgraded)||✓||✓||Storage only|
|Xbox One games (not upgraded)||✓||✓||✓|
|Xbox 360 games||✓||✓||✓|
|Original Xbox games||✓||✓||✓|
Xbox Series X, Series S Seagate Expansion Card
The cards come in only slightly larger than your average USB thumb drive, with a sliding cover for safekeeping. They connect via a dedicated rear port on either console, which hooks up directly to the processor. That provides cutting-edge speeds, but the PCIe 4.0 tech used is also notoriously costly, driving up the RRP. Other third-party manufacturers are also expected to launch expansion cards at a later date, although Seagate delivers the first and only solution that meets this standard in 2020.
The Seagate Storage Expansion Card for Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S targets enthusiasts demanding the best, exactly matching Microsoft’s baked-in solution. It guarantees the best from your titles across internal and external storage, if you can take the hit.
How to use the Xbox Seagate SSD Expansion Card
Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S both feature a dedicated “Expansion Port” to accommodate the Seagate’s official SSD expansion card.Source: Microsoft
Microsoft allows external SSD cards to be inserted with the console turned on, enabling those with multiple expansion cards to hot-swap on the fly. When inserted, the Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S will automatically recognize and configure your external storage. Expect a full step-by-step breakdown once both consoles hit the market.
Where to buy Xbox Series X, Series S Seagate Expansion Card: Price and size
The Seagate Storage Expansion Card for Xbox, as expected, is more than your everyday hard drive. It costs $220 in the U.S. for the 1TB model, which fell in line with our previous predictions, given the average pricing for current PCIe 4.0 SSDs. That translates to £220 in the UK, $300 in Canada, or €270 in Europe. While undeniably a premium device, it’s a result of the bleeding-edge console hardware.
Expand your Xbox
Powerful storage comes in a small package.
Microsoft and Seagate have teamed up on a compact expansion card for Xbox Series X and S consoles. It leverages the same custom SSD technology seen inside both devices, as the only expandable storage solution capable of playing next-generation games.
Does Xbox Series X, Series S support USB external hard drives?
Source: Matt Brown | Windows Central
However, USB drives don’t match Microsoft’s custom SSD speed, imposing significant limitations on their capabilities. Xbox One, Xbox 360, and original Xbox titles all run on an external USB hard drive with Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S. And provided previous-generation software doesn’t receive Xbox Series-geared upgrades, it also runs on USB storage.
But Xbox Series X and Series S titles won’t run on external hard drives due to slow transfer speeds, failing to meet next-generation demands. For upcoming releases or older games updated for Xbox Series X or Series S, the internal SSD or an external expansion card is required.
But with the high price of the SSD expansion card, it’s worth stressing that all Xbox Series X and Series S titles can be offloaded to an external USB hard drive. While some titles may not be playable from the slower storage, it’s still possible to shift data between an SSD where your games can be playable, and a USB for storage. The transfer speeds of your USB hard drive will determine how fast they move back and forth, but it’s a useful way to cycle games from the internal SSD without investing in the $220 expansion card.
How to use a USB external hard drive with Xbox Series X, Series S
The Xbox Series X and Series S both feature USB-A ports, making it important to check an external hard drive uses the correct connector to hook up to the console. The two consoles each feature twin rear-facing USB-A ports, ideal for hiding external hard drives, with an additional port upfront.
When connecting a USB external drive, your Xbox console will automatically detect external storage, with on-screen prompts to ease the setup process. You’ll also need to permit your console to format the drive, losing all data currently stored onboard.
Best Xbox Series X, Series S external hard drives
Source: Richard Devine / Windows Central
The best cheap Xbox One hard drives start as affordable as a video game, with Western Digital offering a range of reliable storage within performance demands. That 1TB expansion can triple your room across some consoles, with backward compatibility guaranteed for the next generation.
Sleek and stylish
High capacity, low price
Need For Speed
Seagate Expansion Card vs. USB: Which is for you?
When your Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S runs low on storage, your decision to expand primarily hinges on whether to invest in the official Seagate Storage Expansion Card for Xbox. With fast storage fundamental to titles designed for the next generation, this external SSD offers a seamless solution, at a high price. The cost may deter some, but reflects the reality of the hardware.
Investing in a USB external hard drive may be more appropriate when looking for an affordable alternative. Connecting USB devices is an easy way to store your games, even if the limitations mean you can’t play without moving them to your internal SSD. It saves redownloading titles, provided you’re happy to cycle them back and forth.
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