How to format an Xbox One external hard drive for use with a PC

How to format an Xbox One external hard drive for use with a PC

The storage capacity of Microsoft’s Xbox One console can easily be upgraded with an external hard drive. However, if you don’t need the extra storage anymore, you can’t just plug this drive into your computer and start using it. In fact, your PC won’t even recognize that the drive is plugged in. Fortunately, this article will tell you how to format your Xbox One external hard drive so that it can be used on a PC.

Why can’t a player used for Xbox One be used simultaneously with a PC?

You would think that since Microsoft is developing both Windows and Xbox One, you would be able to swap the drive between machines. This is unfortunately not the case. Once you have formatted a hard drive as external storage for your Xbox One, it will no longer be recognized by a Windows PC.

xbox-one hard drive

All games, whether they are on disc or downloaded, are written to the Xbox One drive. Because modern games are so huge, installing parts or all of the game to the hard drive helps reduce load times. Since most of the game data is stored on the hard drive, Microsoft does not want anyone to be able to access this data on a PC. Hence, the reason Windows does not recognize Xbox One format drives boils down to hacking.

What to do before disconnecting your external drive from your Xbox One

Unless you are planning to sell your Xbox One console, you will probably want to save all game data to your external hard drive. Whether you want to upgrade to a larger external hard drive or just migrate your game data to your Xbox One’s internal hard drive, you should consolidate your data before disconnecting your external drive from your Xbox One.

Xbox SettingsXbox Settings

To migrate your data, press the Xbox button in the center of the controller. This will open the guide menu. Use the left / right buttons on the bumper to scroll to “Profile & System”. Next, highlight “Settings” and press the A button. This will take you to the Settings menu. Here highlight “System” and select the option labeled “Storage”. On the next screen, you will see your Xbox One’s internal drive, as well as your external drive. Select your external drive and press the A button. In the pop-up menu that appears, select “Transfer”.

Xbox transfer gamesXbox transfer games

At this point, you can manually select the game data that you want to transfer to your Xbox One’s internal drive. However, if you want to transfer everything, choose “Select all”. Finally, choose “Move Selected” to begin the transfer process. Depending on the number of games stored on your external hard drive, this process may take a while.

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How to format your Xbox One external hard drive

With all of your game data out of the external drive, you now need to plug it into a Windows PC. You will notice that the external drive does not appear in Windows File Explorer at all. Don’t worry, that’s to be expected. Keep in mind that Microsoft has deliberately disabled Windows’ ability to communicate with an Xbox One formatted drive. However, it is easy to reformat the drive to NTFS for Windows to see and use.

Start Disk Management

To format your Xbox One external hard drive, we need to use a utility called Disk Management.

Xbox Disk ManagementXbox Disk Management

To launch it, just click the Windows button on the taskbar to display the Start menu. Instead of clicking on any of the listed apps, just start typing “disk management”. This should display an option titled “Create and Format Hard Drive Partitions”. Go ahead and click on it to open the Disk Management window.

Initialize the external hard drive

With Disk Management open, you will see two subsections. The top half simply lists all the hard drives connected to your PC. There’s not much you can do here, so pay attention to the bottom half of the Disk Management windows.

Xbox Initialize Disk Windows 10Xbox Initialize Disk Windows 10

Here you will also see all the hard drives connected to your PC. Find the external hard drive you were using with your Xbox One. It will be listed as an unrecognized drive with unallocated space in the disk management tool. Right click on the hard drive name and select “Initialize Disk” from the menu that appears. Then a pop-up will appear and ask you if you want to use Master Boot Record (MBR) or GUID Partition Table (GPT). In Windows 10, GPT will be the default. Most people will want to stick with GPT because it has some significant advantages.

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Create volume and format the drive

Once your external hard drive has been initialized, you now need to create a volume that Windows can read. Right-click on the area labeled “Unallocated”. In the menu that appears, select “New Simple Volume”. This will launch the New Simple Volume wizard. This tool will format your external hard drive so that it can be used with your PC. Simply follow the prompts by clicking the “Next” button.

Xbox New Simple Volume AssistantXbox New Simple Volume Assistant

If you want to make any changes, such as assigning a drive letter or formatting in a file system other than NTFS, you can do so. Finally, complete the formatting operation by clicking on the “Finish” button. You will now have an external hard drive recognized by Windows 10.

If you’re running out of storage space on your Xbox One, check out our guide on using an external hard drive with your Xbox One console.

Image Credit: External drive connected to the computer by DepositPhotos

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