Feature Article

Xbox Series X: Best Solution For Storage Expansion (SSD, Expansion Card, Or Hard Drive)

The Xbox Series X's 1TB drive can fill up fast, so you might look for external storage drives. We looked at some options and how they perform.

The Xbox Series X's 1TB internal SSD is really fast, loading up some games in a matter of seconds--I tested this out in several games in my full console review (and earlier previews) and got impressive results. But with 802GB actually free to use on the internal drive, you can fill it up quickly with the size of games today (and don't forget the Xbox Series S only comes with a 512GB drive that comes out to 364GB of free space). So, what are some good solutions to expand your storage on the new Xbox consoles and how do they perform in comparison?

I used three different drives for the purposes of my tests: the 1TB Seagate SSD expansion card, a Samsung T5 portable SSD (500GB), and a Western Digital My Passport external hard drive (4TB). This covers the different tiers of storage options available for the Xbox Series systems. To test and compare speeds, I used Final Fantasy XV and The Outer Worlds for transferring whole games and recording load times. Results in this article are based on using an Xbox Series X, though these findings apply to the Series S since both use the same storage hardware and architecture. You can check the results in the video and text below.

1TB Seagate Expansion Card

Let's start with the proprietary Seagate 1TB expansion card, built specifically for the Series X and Series S. This is the drive that plugs directly into the back of the console. You just insert it, and it's immediately ready to use.

It interfaces with the Xbox hardware and takes full advantage of that Velocity architecture Microsoft has been flexing. In terms of speed, it's technically the best solution since it works identically to the internal SSD. There's virtually no difference in load times in the games I tested. However, it carries a hefty price tag at $220 USD (and when combined with the Series S at $300, pairing it with this drive is more expensive than a Series X console).

The Xbox Series expansion card works just as fast as internal storage.
The Xbox Series expansion card works just as fast as internal storage.

Before Getting Into USB Drives

An important thing to note is USB-based storage devices cannot play Series X- or S-specific games off the drive itself--that's where this expansion card comes in clutch, especially once we start seeing more Series X/S-only games. USB external drives can store those games, but they would have to be transferred to the internal drive or expansion card in order to be played (at least transfer speeds are pretty fast, as you'll see later in our results).

These conditions can also apply to certain Xbox One games that have received Series X optimizations, as was the case for me with Gears 5 and Gears Tactics. Otherwise, you can play Xbox One and previous gen backwards compatible games straight off the USB drive using a USB 3.0 cable (or better), and they'll still use the Quick Resume game-swapping feature without a hitch.

Series X/S games will need to be on internal or expansion card storage in order to be played (message at the bottom right).
Series X/S games will need to be on internal or expansion card storage in order to be played (message at the bottom right).

Samsung T5 External USB SSD

For an external SSD, I used a 500GB Samsung T5 with a USB-C to USB 3.1 cable. In terms of moving around data and loading games, the results were quite impressive.

The Outer Worlds, which is a 45GB game, took 2:54 to transfer onto the external SSD, and 2:05 to transfer back to the internal drive. When loading into the same save I used for our previous tests, it only took 13 seconds off the external SSD which is very close to the internal drive that took 11 seconds to load.

For Final Fantasy XV, an 84GB file, it took 5:50 to transfer onto the external SSD and just 3:56 to move back to internal storage. And the load time results were great as well, just taking 15 seconds compared to the 13 seconds of the internal drive.

Both Final Fantasy XV and The Outer Worlds are Xbox One games without Series X optimizations, so the results between the internal and external SSD are due to the fact the games are simply working with the raw speed of those drives.

There are other external SSDs out there, but the Samsung T5 in particular usually goes for around $110 for 500GB and $140 for 1TB.

The Samsung T5 SSD (top right) and the WD My Passport HDD (bottom right).
The Samsung T5 SSD (top right) and the WD My Passport HDD (bottom right).

WD My Passport External USB Hard Drive

Moving onto a traditional hard drive, I used my WD My Passport external drive with a USB 3.0 cable. Things start to slow down of course, but it's not all that bad.

To transfer The Outer Worlds from internal storage onto the external hard drive, it took longer: about 7:35. Transferring back to the internal drive took 7 minutes. However, in-game load times remained decent, taking 26 seconds to load up that same save I previously used.

With Final Fantasy XV, the transfer speed took longer as well, coming in at around 14:24 to move to the hard drive, and 12:55 to get back onto internal storage. Loading up save data remained reasonable though, taking 52 seconds for the same save file I used before.

It's no surprise that a hard drive is going to be slower compared to an SSD, but these results aren't bad at all. They're actually faster than current-gen consoles, too: The Outer Worlds took 43 seconds and Final Fantasy XV took 1:11 to load saves when using the Xbox One X.

Considering that you get more space for cheaper with an external hard drive, this would be the cost-effective route for bulk storage or playing backwards compatible games if you don't mind the slower load times. A Western Digital Passport goes for just $80 for 2TB and $110 for a whopping 4TB.

Summary Of Results

Data Transfer Speeds

Storage Drive (and scenario)Final Fantasy XV (84GB)The Outer Worlds (45GB)
Samsung T5 SSD (transfer from internal)5:502:54
Samsung T5 SSD (transfer to internal)3:562:05
WD Passport HDD (transfer from internal)14:247:35
WD Passport HDD (transfer to internal)12:557:00

Load Times

Storage DriveFinal Fantasy XVThe Outer Worlds
Xbox Series X (internal/expansion card)13 seconds11 seconds
Xbox Series X (Samsung T5 + USB 3.1)15 seconds13 seconds
Xbox Series X (WD Passport + USB 3.0)52 seconds26 seconds
Xbox One X (internal)1 minute, 11 seconds43 seconds

Which Storage Drive To Go With

So, what's the best solution? Of course, it depends. For backwards compatible games, an external SSD would be ideal since you still get quick load speeds. And transferring data is quite fast, which is ideal if you're frequently moving Series X-specific games back and forth.

If cheaper mass storage is more of a priority, an external hard drive is the way to go. Load times for backwards compatible games are still better than current-gen systems, though you will miss out on those sweet SSD speeds. Transferring data takes markedly longer, but the importance of the difference between 6 minutes and 14 minutes to move an 85GB file, well, that's up to you.

The 1TB Seagate expansion card sure is nice, and $220 is a fair price when compared to other NVMe SSDs for PC, but that's still pretty steep when looking at other solutions for the Series X and Series S.

Please use a html5 video capable browser to watch videos.
This video has an invalid file format.
00:00:00
Sorry, but you can't access this content!
Please enter your date of birth to view this video

By clicking 'enter', you agree to GameSpot's
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

These are things you'll have to consider, especially if you plan on getting the Xbox Series S since you have to work with a lot less internal drive space. Microsoft has said that smaller install sizes will be available for games loaded on Series S consoles (letting developers chop out unnecessary 4K assets), which helps tidy things up bit. In terms of examples we've seen so far, Sea of Thieves is 17GB as opposed to 46GB, Gears 5 is 55GB down from 72GB, and Forza Horizon 4 is 72GB from 85GB--as you can tell, size differences will vary. Either way, space is still a premium even on the Series X. Regardless of your choice for expanded storage, it'll be snappier than redownloading entire games.

For more on Microsoft's brand-new consoles, be sure to read my full Xbox Series X review and Xbox Series S review, both of which dive into performance, graphics, load times, value, and more. You can also check out our wealth of coverage and content on the new generation of Xbox consoles.

The products discussed here were independently chosen by our editors. GameSpot may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.

Please use a html5 video capable browser to watch videos.
This video has an invalid file format.
00:00:00
Sorry, but you can't access this content!
Please enter your date of birth to view this video

By clicking 'enter', you agree to GameSpot's
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

Now Playing: The Best Xbox Series X/S External Storage Solutions

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

highammichael

Michael Higham

Associate Editor at GameSpot. Southeast San Diego to the Bay. Salamat sa iyong suporta!

Back To Top
18 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for jenovaschilld
jenovaschilld

3452

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

The machine comes out this week, just take a breathe .... there is not enough exclusives or any real reason to worry about added storage for a while yet. And the 99% of the average user will get by just fine without additional storage and can live through a redownload if needed.

Besides the over arching curve of the M.2 4th gen SSDs have them halving in prices each year. When 4th gen started out last year at over $300 it now down to $179, by this time next year below a hundred or hopefully in the future our Lizard Alien Overlords will just inject it directly into our brains.

Save your money, do not panic .... just yet, and purchase storage if you really need it, not because the internet tells you , you must.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for deviltaz35
DEVILTAZ35

8275

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

Edited By DEVILTAZ35

I just got 2 of the Seagate expansion cards. It's great they are hot swappable too.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Bloodwolf_19
Bloodwolf_19

148

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 0

Are they still going to be offering the interchangeable skins for Xbox series x? The ones they showed Xbox series X with gears of war, halo, football teams, etc. looked pretty cool

Upvote • 
Avatar image for santinegrete
santinegrete

4776

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 45

User Lists: 0

In every comment I see a plan to get on of these suggested items. For anyone that can't or won't purchase anything, badly enginnered huge updates could make a game and customer suffer. Like CoD MW updates :O

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Ice-Cube
Ice-Cube

2285

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 0

Edited By Ice-Cube

Wait why is the Internal drive slower than the expansion card? Is it because the internal has to deal with the Xbox OS and running the game where as the expansion pass is exclusively to load games?

I must be reading it wrong..

Upvote • 
Avatar image for maxxdiamond
MaxxDiamond

163

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

@Ice-Cube said:

Wait why is the Internal drive slower than the expansion card? Is it because the internal has to deal with the Xbox OS and running the game where as the expansion pass is exclusively to load games?

I must be reading it wrong..

Do you guys even read the articles? Nowhere does it say that the internal drive is slower. It says they are virtually identical when referring to the Seagate expansion drive.

2 • 
Avatar image for Pyrosa
Pyrosa

8182

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 44

User Lists: 0

@Ice-Cube: Yep,same as any PC. You have your OS on the main disk (incl drivers, voice overlay apps, game stream recording, and swap/caching),and your "games-only disk" on a 2nd drive to avoid contention.

While I absolutely hate that they went backward with an expensive propietary interface despite getting everything else right, I went ahead and bought one for Day 1. Just too many games to install that already have add'l textures in the first 2 months.

2 • 
Avatar image for pillarrocks
pillarrocks

1938

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 41

User Lists: 0

I would probably invest in a 4TB or 5TB hard drive for backwards compatible Xbox games. I have a 1TB Seagate external hard drive and not big enough to transfer all my games.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Pyrosa
Pyrosa

8182

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 44

User Lists: 0

Edited By Pyrosa

@pillarrocks: The 4GB externally-powered WD is actually what I use on my X1X, and I'm torn between moving it to the XSeX, or just moving it to the office w/the system it's already on. Lots of Co-Op gaming in this house!

Upvote • 
Avatar image for jesterofbass
JesterOfBass

346

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 5

Great to hear considering I already own a Samsung T5, currently in use with the One X. I'm curious if it will be plug and play with the Series X or if it needs to be reformatted. Either way, nice to know I have an extra 500GB cushion for my back compat stuff (400-ish GB usable I believe)

2 • 
Avatar image for naydazng7
Naydazng7

52

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

PS5 drives are already cheaper https://www.amazon.com/s?k=ps5+ssd&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Upvote • 
Avatar image for ikcizokm
ikcizokm

137

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@naydazng7: Not an apples to apples comparison, tho. PS5's internal expansion utilizes PCIe Gen4, and your link is to mostly Gen3's, which are considerably slower. Also, I don't think Sony has released an official compatibility list yet, so recommending any internal expansion storage for PS5 is premature.

Bottom line: on either of the next gen consoles, if you want 1TB of expanded storage operating at the fastest possible speed the console is capable of, expect to pay around $220. Any trade-off on price is going to come at a sacrifice of speed.

2 • 
Avatar image for maxxdiamond
MaxxDiamond

163

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

@naydazng7: Maybe, you didn’t read the article or the topic?

2 • 
Avatar image for fitzy_2812
Fitzy_2812

667

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

A very long article to basically summarise:

Best Performance: Xbox SSD add-on.

Runner up: Gen 4 NVMe and 3.2 Adapter/

Best Price/Performance: Sata SSD (Maybe a good cheap 3rd gen NVMe if you can find one around similar price).

Budget or Best Price/Capacity: HDD.

2 • 
Avatar image for gonrb8
gonrb8

39

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

I picked up the Samsung T7 and I'm having issues with it. The T7 causes game audio to cutoff while playing any game stored on the SSD. I wonder why the T5 doesn't have this problem, and yet the T7 does...

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Pyrosa
Pyrosa

8182

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 44

User Lists: 0

@gonrb8: sounds like bad buffer coding IMO... Either the producer (disk driver / storage subsystems) or consumer (game engine itself). File a Bug report from the main menu just after running it.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for able_to_think
able_to_think

51

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 0

I got a 2TB Western Digital SATA SSD on Prime Day for $175 and a SATA to USB 3.1 adapter for $15. That's for backwards compatibility stuff as since it loads just as fast off the USB SSD as the internal memory due to not using velocity. I'm planning on getting the official memory card eventually (hopefully by then there's a bigger size) and a standard HDD for storage of games I don't plan on playing for a while. For now though I think I'll be able to make do with just the USB SSD.

2 • 
Avatar image for blakepro_
blakepro_

54

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

When using a USB external drive, do you still get all of the other enhancements (minus fast load times) that you get when using the internal storage? Things like improved resolution, better frame rate, HDR enhancements, etc?

Upvote •