Rocket Yard Guide: Using External Storage with Your Gaming Consoles

xbox_exp_heroOne of the big issues today for console gamers is storage space. The console systems that we love typically come with drives that have a capacity much smaller than the space needed. By having to install our games from discs, download additional content and install games purchased from the online stores, there is a lot of juggling for that default space. One solution to dealing with all the juggling is to increase the storage of the console, either with an internal drive replacement or attaching an external drive through one of the built-in extra USB ports.

The easier of the two is, of course, attaching an external drive to the console. Moving some of the less essential data from the internal drive will give you some much-needed breathing room.

Why use external storage with your console?
There is a lot you can do with an external storage device attached to your gaming system.

You can use an external storage device to playback your media files such as music, video files and photos. Some games even allow you to play your own music in the game instead of listening to the game’s standard soundtrack.

Of course, one of the big advantages to using an external hard drive is to conserve the space on your console’s hard drive for your games and DLC (downloadable content) while still allowing access to the media benefits of the console.

Why use external storage instead of your computer as a media server over the network?
While consoles allow you to connect to an existing computer on the network and play the media found on them, they require the computer be turned on when you want to do so. You would either need to leave your computer powered up all the time so it can be accessed when you want or you would need to go turn the computer on before you begin playing the media found on it.

Most people do not leave their computers on all the time, so it may be inconvenient to start doing so for the sake of occasionally accessing your media on your game console. For convenience, it is easier to simply attach an external drive with your media to the console. This is especially true if your computer is in one corner of the house and your gaming system is setup in another corner – possibly even on different floors.

Another advantage is the amount of power being consumed to run your media files. Compared with the amount of power a full computer system consumes, an external drive has a much lower power draw.

Let’s take a look at using an external drive with your Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4 or PlayStation 3:

Xbox One
For the Xbox One you must have a drive that is 256GB or larger, and it must be compatible with USB 3.0. MacSales.com conveniently offers OWC Xbox One Upgrade kits to provide external storage space to help with increasing your storage.

Related: How to Get More Storage In Your Xbox One with OWC Upgrade Kit

When you first connect to the system it should see the new drive, and it will need to be formatted. It will ask you whether you want to do so. Once that is done you can let the system know you would like to use the newly formatted drive for any future games, apps, and DLC so it will default to the external drive. Of course, you can also move any current information across from the Xbox One to the new drive if you would like to do so.

Alternatively, you can go in the System settings for the Xbox One and format it through there in a more manual fashion. In there you would find the original and new drive so you can select the new drive and prepare it for use with your system following the steps as presented.

The other three consoles we discuss in this article require being formatted on a computer before you can start using the drive with them. Setting up a drive to use with them is a bit more complicated, but it is not a very difficult of a process.

PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360
The PlayStation 4 can take advantage of the USB 3.0 speeds while the older PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 use USB 2.0 for their ports. Before you can use the external drive with these machines, you first need to connect the drive to your computer to format it. Once there you have to format the external drive as FAT32 or EXFAT.

On a PC you can locate the drive in your My Computer area and right click it to format. Then select FAT32 or EXFAT. If those are not options for you, then you may have to locate a third party utility that can help you with formatting.

Formatting the Drive with a Mac
1.) After attaching your drive to your Mac go to Disk Utility. (Applications>Utilities>Disk Utility)
2.) Select your drive on the left.
3.) Click on the Partition tab.
4.) In the Volume Scheme drop-down menu, select “1 partition.”
5.) Give the drive a name and select “MS-DOS” as the Format Type.
6.) Click on the “Options…” button at the bottom.
7.) Select the “Master Boot Record” option on the window that comes up and click “OK”.
8.) Click on the “Partition” button.
9.) You will be prompted with a warning message. To continue with the format, click “Partition.”
10.) After the progress bar is done the drive should mount on your desktop.
11.) Your drive is now ready for you to transfer your media files to it for use with your game console, if using it with an Xbox 360.

Note: For the PlayStation systems you have to go in to the newly formatted drives and add the folders for “GAME”, “SAVEDATA”, “MUSIC”, and “VIDEO” so it can properly access the information. Once those exist, it will be set.

Formatting The Drive With A PC
1.) After attaching your drive to the PC go to your “My Computer” area.
2.) You should find the drive in the list of drives under the area that shows your Removable Storage.
3.) Right click on the disk and select format.
4.) Select the FAT32 or EXFAT format type.
5.) Click OK and confirm the popup about the drive about to be erased.
6.) Once it is done, which should be only a few seconds, it is ready to go for the Xbox 360.

Note: For the PlayStation systems you have to go in to the newly formatted drives and add the folders for “GAME”, “SAVEDATA”, “MUSIC”, and “VIDEO” so it can properly access the information. Once those exist, it will be set.

Moving to the Console
After the drive has been formatted and your files are on the drive, you can connect your external storage device to your console of choice, turn on both units and begin using your media stored on the external drive.

Accessing Media with the Xbox One
Since the system integrates it so easily when formatting it you can access the drive through the system in just about everything you do from that point forward – either for playing your games or accessing your stored files for music, photos, etc.

Accessing Media with the Xbox 360
When you have the drive connected to your Xbox 360, navigate the menu to the row “My Xbox.” When you scroll the options to the right, you will find “Video Library,” “Music Library,” and “Photo Library.” Select the option you want, find the file on your external drive and enjoy the added media benefits.

Accessing Media with the PlayStation 4
Media Player app, which you can get from the PlayStation Store, will let you playback music and videos stored on the external drive. You can also use it as a backup source for your saved game data.

Accessing Media with the PlayStation 3
When you have the drive connected to your PS3 navigate through the cross media bar to the video, photo, or audio tab. Look through the icons in the bar and there should be a square with the label “External.” Find the file on your external drive, and enjoy the added media benefits.

PS4_UpgradeKitInternal Storage
While the Xbox 360 and Xbox One is somewhat prohibited by the proprietary designs of Microsoft (one of the few things I do not like about their design) the PlayStations can have their internal drives upgraded as well if you wanted to do so. MacSales.com offers OWC PS4 upgrade kits available that include everything you need for changing your internal drive.

Additional External Storage Space
Unfortunately, the game systems do support multiple drives attached. So, if you still need more storage space, the OWC Mercury Elite USB 3.0 with+1 Port a great option. It comes in a variety of capacities and will allow you to store music, photos, etc. that you may want access to while using your console.

If you are interested in higher performance for your external drives, the OWC Mercury Elite Pro mini features options with SSDs built in to them. The SSDs can benefit from the USB 3.0 ports the newest of the console systems have and will provide faster access.

Note: The Xbox One has a limitation of up to three drives total attached to it externally and that includes the one that is used for the main system use.

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Need For More Ports
One thing the consoles have in common with most computers is that at some point you may find that you are in need of more ports. If you are looking for external storage as well as some additional ports for your peripherals, you can use the NewerTech miniStack Max (above) for that purpose. They will help provide needed ports for your charging cables, extra drives, or whatever else you wanted to use with your gaming system.

Enjoy your added storage!
Now you can enjoy the additional space benefits using one of the above options. Hopefully – in addition to the added space – it helps save you some headaches and time that normally would be wasted juggling the data with the limited capacities of the systems’ default drives.

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