How to manage and expand Xbox storage space

Tom West - August 15th 2021

Running out of room is a very real problem now. It was getting difficult once the digital age of gaming began to blossom with the Xbox One, and now it's being exacerbated by huge file sizes for optimised Xbox Series X|S titles and the growing catalogue of Xbox Game Pass games. The base drives in our consoles are crammed full of games we've started, need to start, and will never start, but the thought of deleting any of them is too much to bear. Well, your only other option is to purchase an expandable storage system so you can continue on your merry way of game collecting, and luckily, adding more storage to your console is a pretty simple affair.

When it comes to looking after the storage space on your Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One consoles, you have two options: organise the content you currently have stored, or purchase an external/expanded memory solution. We'll cover both here to help you quickly get your drives under control and get back to gaming.

Good storage practices

When your hard drive is filling up, it's not always down to the number of games you have downloaded. Other factors can also affect the space you have left, such as leftover DLC from uninstalled games and gameplay clips. Here are some good habits to get into when taming the hard drive beast.

Leftover DLC and add-ons

When uninstalling a game from your hard drive, it gives you an option to 'Uninstall all,' which will remove the game and all installed DLC. Make sure that you double-check that there isn't any DLC installed on your drives for unused games because some items can be left over.

Delete local save files

Your game files are saved to both the cloud and your internal drive, even for Xbox 360 titles you play via backwards compatibility. They're only saved locally for offline play, so if your Xbox is always connected to the internet then there is no reason to be giving up valuable drive space to store them. Ensure that you're regularly purging the local saves by heading to Settings, System, Storage devices, and clicking on Clear local saved games/Clear local Xbox 360 storage. To reiterate, all save files are backed up in the cloud so deleting the local versions will not affect your games, as long as your console is always connected to the internet.

Ensure games are saved to one drive

This may sound pretty obvious but it's extremely easy to end up with a game saved on multiple drives, especially when moving games between the internal and external/expanded storage. When checking your storage contents, make sure you're looking out for duplicate game files.

Moving is faster than installing

This is one that's mostly aimed towards owners of the Xbox Series X|S consoles. Although you can only play Xbox Series X|S games from the console's internal or expanded memory drives, you can still download them to an external drive for easy access later. If you've purchased a new game that you won't be playing right away, but then decide to have a go on a whim a week later, you'll be able to play the title much quicker if you've already downloaded and stored it on a cheaper/larger external drive. All you need to do is move it to your internal drive, which takes a fraction of the time to do compared to downloading it. Plus, you'll still be able to play games on your console during the move without slowing down the transfer speeds.

Managing your storage

The first thing you're going to want to do is to keep an eye on the storage you have left on your drives. That way, you (hopefully) won't be caught out by a full drive. To do this, head to Settings, System and locate Storage devices. This will bring up the Storage Devices screen and show you a graphic for each drive connected to your system, showing how much space is left on each drive and the percentage used — if you are yet to connect any external/expanded drives to your console, there will only be one graphic.

This is the screen you need to keep full control of the storage on your system. By selecting the drive you'd like to manage you'll be able to do the following:

Internal

  • View contents: See what games and apps are installed on the drive, and also uninstall unwanted content.
  • Move or copy: This will allow you to move already installed items between your internal and external/expanded drives.
  • Uninstall things: Use this to be taken to the Free up space page where you'll be able to uninstall your games, add-ons, and apps in bulk.
  • Install here by default: Pick which drives your installs will automatically download to, providing you have an external/expanded drive attached.

External

  • Rename: Rename the drive to easily decern which drive you're looking at (especially helpful when using multiple external/expanded drives).
  • Format: To use an external drive for game installations you'll need to format it as a media drive. Once a drive is formatted, though, it'll only be able to be used to store games, apps, and personal media like pictures and videos — you can reverse this by connecting the drive to a PC and reformatting to NTFS. All contents currently on the drive will be deleted in the process.
  • Set as capture location: Using an external drive as your default capture location requires the drive to remain formatted as NTFS. Drives formatted for Xbox game installs will not work.

Xbox Series X|S owners please note: Games that have been optimised for Xbox Series X|S can only be played from the console's internal memory (SSD) or the Seagate Storage Expansion Card for Xbox Series X|S — we'll cover more on that below.

External & expanded storage

Additional storage on your console can be achieved by adding either an external drive to your console (such as the Seagate Game Drive for Xbox (4TB)) or by purchasing the new (and not cheap) Seagate Storage Expansion Card for Xbox Series X|S. Both solutions are extremely easy to connect to your console and we'll go over everything you need to do here.

External storage

When it comes to adding an external hard disk drive (HDD) or solid state drive (SSD) to your console, there's a huge selection to choose from, along with a varying degree of prices — depending on drive size, type of drive, and of course, the brand. As a general rule of thumb, most drives will work as additional storage on your Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One as long as it can hold a minimum of 128GB worth of games and has USB 3.0/3.1 connectivity.

Once you've purchased your new drive, connect it to your Xbox Series X|S or Xbox One via an available USB port. You'll be prompted to format this new drive, which will require you to follow the on-screen prompts— it will format the drive to hold games, apps, and personal screenshots and videos only, and delete all currently stored files. If, for whatever reason you cancel out of the formatting process, you can head to Settings, System, Storage, and select the drive to format on this screen.

Expanded storage

The only currently available expandable storage solution is the Seagate Storage Expansion Card for Xbox Series X|S — Xbox One does not support expanded memory solutions — and although it's a lot of money to purchase when compared to the external memory drives, you certainly get your money's worth. Unlike external drives, the Seagate Storage Expansion Card slots into a dedicated port on the back of your Xbox Series X|S and uses the exact same hardware as the SSD inside the console. This means you can double the available amount of storage for Xbox Series X|S optimised titles, due to it acting as a second internal drive.

If you've decided to purchase yourself the Expansion Card, connecting it to your console is as simple as removing it from the packaging and slotting it into the port in the back of the console. Head to your My game & apps to ensure that it registered correctly and that your storage has enlarged by a terabyte.

One cool thing about the Seagate Storage Expansion Card is that it acts just like the memory cards of old, so you can have multiple and just switch them out as and when you want to access the games on them, if you so choose. An expensive option, sure, but a neat one!