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Xbox One external hard drive support won't be ready at launch

The Xbox One will launch with a 500 GB internal, non-interchangeable hard drive. 500 GB would be an awfully confining storage space in the modern age of game installations, and downloadable games, movies, and music. Microsoft’s solution for users who need more storage space is external hard drive support. The Xbox One will support USB 3.0 hard drives, giving users a potentially unlimited (and relatively affordable) amount of storage space.

Unfortunately though, Xbox One users will not be able to take advantage of external storage solutions at launch. Larry Hyrb (Xbox Live’s Major Nelson) quietly dropped the news this weekend on his podcast. Why the delay and how much impact will it have? Read on to find out…

The bombshell

Okay, so it’s more of a hand grenade than a bombshell, but still not what anyone could call good news:

“The Xbox One will ship with the 500 GB hard drive - all of them have that. The future plan is definitely to support external storage much like we do on the Xbox 360. My understanding is that feature will not be there at launch, because the team is working on some other things, but it is definitely on the list. I don't know when it will come in though.”

Delays, delays

Marvin the Martian delays delays

It’s unusual but not unprecedented for features that were announced prior to a console’s launch to be delayed until some point after the system arrives in stores. Last year, the Nintendo Wii U’s TVii video on demand feature, as well as several video on demand apps like Netflix experienced just such a delay.

Still, delaying what should be a relatively simple feature – external drive support – is an odd move. In the absence of an official reason for the delay, we must guess at it. The only possible reason I can imagine for the delay involves digital rights management and encryption.

See, Microsoft knows users need to be able to install and run games from external drives; there’s no debate there. But they REALLY don’t want unscrupulous users (Brazilians… err, just kidding!) to copy those files around. This delay tells us that setting up that encryption is taking longer than expected; hence external drive support will come after launch instead of with it.

Little harm done, most likely

Xbox One front

Is the delay a bad thing? Of course, but probably not that bad. It won’t actually inconvenience most users unless they fill up their hard drives before the update comes along that will enable the feature. Remember, every Xbox One game must be installed to the hard drive. People who buy or play a lot of games (like me) might run into trouble if the update takes too long. Also, anyone who plans to use their external hard drive to transport save files between multiple consoles (which also applies to me) won’t be able to do so right out of the gate. I expect that cloud saving will take care of that problem though.

We can’t fault Microsoft too much for not having external drive support ready for the Xbox One launch. Who knows what technical challenges they face in creating a new and secure encryption method? But the news would sting less if we knew a time frame in which to expect the support to be added. Perhaps Microsoft will say more about that before the system launches.

Meanwhile, no external drive support has been announced for the Playstation 4. However, like the Playstation 3 the internal hard drive will be upgradable by the user. Neither system's storage policy unequivocally wins out; it all comes down to user preference.

Source: Major Nelson'sblog via IGN

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

  • Wow, and I've made it this far with only 60 gigs on my ps3.
  • That seems very hard to do! Especially since many PS3 games require installations.
  • It takes alot of managing. Plus, games like infamous and bf3 i had to buy physical copies for. So it sucks pretty bad.
  • Lol I have the 20gb Xbox 360 and I still have room :) I like the put the disc in and play though.
  • I take it you don't buy XBLA games or DLC? Tsk tsk. Even still, installing disc-based games cuts down on noise, wear and tear, and can reduce load times. It's a handy optional feature on the 360.
  • Nope no dlc cause I don't feel light paying more for a game I've already bought (personal opinion) and I don't do any xblive or online playing. And to fairly honest I don't notice my system noise that much. I understand the loading onto hard drive can save time not against that. Just something that doesn't bother me if I have put the disc in or not.
  • I have a launch 20GB hard drive too, but I also plugged in a 16GB flash drive about 2 years ago to help alleviate some of those storage pains.
    It has been very 'doable' in managing space.  I download DLC and XBLA games from time to time as well.  It has only become  a 'problem' as Microsoft started their free games for gold campaign.  Now I really have to watch out for space.
    The best thing is, that you can always redownload something after you've purchased it.  So I don't mind deleting game files (but keeping save files) in order to make more room...
  • I had an extra 260 HDD laying around after upgrading Laptop to an SSD, that I formatted and stuck in the Xbox.  Made life easier.
  • I bought an original 60GB model and eventually replaced it with a 100GB laptop drive, but that was 7200rpm and I think contributed to heat, so recently I snagged a 128GB SSD and threw that in there. I don't play as much as many people, though, so I don't really feel the space crunch. By far, my largest game is Gran Turismo, but I haven't been able to install the latest updates (which are required for online play) so perhaps it could be gobbling up even more space.
  • How is the ssd on that game I've been thinking on putting in my ps3 for gt5 and skyrim
  • I don't think if really a big deal at launch because of how long it could take to fill a 500g hard drive...
  • They should never have gone back on their initial policies, now they are clearly behind in software development because of it. It has stolen too much time. It will still be the better system, though.
  • Personally I think they were prepared for it. GameStop had been rallying people against it for a while. I believe MS only brought out the One this year, know PS4 was coming. They would have sat another year if they could.
  • They probably developing their proprietary hard drive to charge like $200 for.
  • They're supporting standard USB 3 hard drives AFAIK.
  • Lets see if at the end of the day those so called "standard USB3 hard drives" will be allowed by the greedy MS.. I suppose not.. Dont forget: there are the standards on one side, and there the MS standards on the other side... ;)
  • They allow non proprietary external HDD on the 360, im sure they will here too. And I don't think MSFT is greedy, they even unlocked the SDK for the Kinect to be openly hacked...
  • Ricsip you've whined and complain on like every second comment...take a breath dude its just external harddrive support theres still 500 gigs. Its not the end of the world
  • There won't even be enough games at launch to fill up a 500 gig HD so that probably why its not going to be ready
  • This Xbox One isn't ready for launch. Microsoft is rushing this system out. They need to just postpone it for a year and get everything right instead of having to delay alot of stuff
  • If they did that, it would be ten times harder to compete with the Playstation 4. Xbox One is already at a disadvantage thanks to the price; Microsoft doesn't need to do the Playstation 4 any more favors.
  • Glad i preordered the ps4 in time. To much cons for the X1 :P
  • The "con" applies to the PS4 as well...
  • I don't want to wait, I don't mind external storage, 360 external storage was only available very late in its lifetime.
  • Its been in development since 2010, the setbacks now are due to the collective whining of the internet crybabies who forced their hand at reversing policies, did you honestly think that it was just a flip of a switch?
  • Rushing it after 8 years ? LOL so tell us why its not ready for launch then ?
  • Well if they had to delay any one feature, then it might as well be this one.  I have a strong feeling most users will never need, nor use, an external hard drive.  Out of the users that will need and use it, it will take a while for them to fill up their 500GB internal drive.  So as long as MS doesn't take a crazy long time to finish this feature, there shouldnt be a problem.
  • 500 GB will get you through the first year, so not story worthy....
  • Sorry man - we don't put whether a story is newsworthy or not up to a committee.
  • i think the fact that it was an announced item an now delayed and that some people were planning on this item being available which now wont be is news worthy. maybe not to you but to others it is.
  • And its stuff like this that confirms for me that Microsoft buying Nokia is a mistake. They can't even get their console to launch with features they touted, how will they compete in the ever changing mobile race?
  • Oh stop, you're not going to fill 500gb seriously
  • I know right my computer is a dual boot with 500gb and I'm not even halfways to fill it
  • Hell I have a surface pro 64gb and zero memory probs lol
  • 8 gigs windows phone - zero memory problems :D
  • You meant there is already zero memory AVAILABLE.. right? :D
  • Super silly comment, Vigor. Xbox One disc-based games require installation and will vary between 6-50 Gigbytes EACH. Install ten 50 gigabyte games or more likely twenty 25 Gig games and the hard drive is full.
  • Perhaps im basing this too much on my own gaming habits but I highly doubt anybody will have played or kept installed 10 bought/rent games over one years time. But you're prob right. I just think it'd be very few ppl...
  • There are casual users and hardcore users. Hardcore players easily buy 10 or more games a year. Not always at full price, mind you - it's easy to get games on sale or clearance for way less than $60. Something like 30% of the population sells their games off after playing them, but a significant portion keeps and/or collects games too.
  • This deserves an "ermehgerd!!!!" Its not the end of the world...
  • I don't think anyone is really going to notice, other than people who do nothing but sit on the couch day in and day out.
  • It still works out a better storage option than the PS4 when you think about it. Being truly portable via USB 3.0 rather than having to open up your machine and replace a hard drive.
  • When is the damn thing out?? Give us a release date already.
  • Im sure this feature will be available when more games are released and then people finally fill up the 500gb space (thinking it like if people never uninstalled any game even though they didnt touch it in weeks or ever again)
  • 500GB is tiny these days, they should have gone for 1TB atleast.
  • And that would have added more to the cost, thus making even more people moan!
    I like they've supported USB3.0, at least now I can use my 1TB HDD I have for everything with that also
  • I too blame the Brazilians
  • This is only bad news to those who have no semblance of a self-management gene in their bodies...
    500gb is plenty for the first year. PLENTY, especially if you're saving game saves on the cloud.
  • Agreed this is a non-issue in the first year.  Furthremore, I think the USB 3.0 is a better option than changing the HD.
  • Save games aren't really the issue; they take up next to nothing compared to game installations. And there are also movie and app downloads, etc. to contribute to hard disk usage.
  • And no doubt you'll only be able to use M$'s own external drives which will be 4x the cost of a standard one.
  • Likely NOT the case here, they will allow 3rd party external's.
  • Any proof of that?  It would certainly be a (welcome) departure from past business practices.
  • No proof, just based off the fact that the current 360 allows for it... Microsoft isn't into proprietary as much as other companies like apple. So I don't know what past business practices your referring to.
  • You're confusing two different things here.  You can stick anyones flash drive in the X360 but it will only support up to 32GB of space, even if the USB drive is larger. For hard drives you are supposed to buy M$'s vastly overpriced efforts {although of course the tech savvy are able to overcome this using the correct WD drives and unofficial tools such as HDDHackr).  The ethos that I mentioned above is still there however. If M$ could block third party drives from the X360 then I'm sure it would.
  • All I know is I use my old 80gb Toshiba HDD, all I use it for is media, maybe your trying to use is as a second partition, im merely trying to dedicate my internal for games and DLC. All I had to do was format it to FAT32, or XFAT and it worked for what I wanted... That's all I see myself needing an external for. If your looking to make it a second partition that is hot swappable but part of the OS primary read/write for game installs, than im sure that's a different story.
  • Don't be this guy:
  • Not really a big deal, PS4 won't support it either
  • Who needs 500 GB anyway? I think I have a 250 gb harddrive on my ps3 and not even close to filling it after a couple of years..
  • The key differences: While some Playstation 3 games require hard drive installation, many do not. All Xbox One games require full installation. Most PS3 games are multiplatform and must be designed around the Xbox 360's DVD media. Hence, they don't tend to go that much beyond 9 GB since the 360 doesn't have Blu-ray. Both Xbox One and Playstation 4 will use Blu-ray media and thus can take advantage of the full 50 GB that media offers without negatively impacting either version.
  • If the Wii U was able to support external hard drives right out if the box, it is disappointing that the Xbox One cannot.
  • I wonder if I will i be able to play personal files with this now?  One of my most used features of the PS3 is plugging external hd in, and playing personal media.  Possible that files can be transferred via network share (it will be running WinRT, and therefore would connect to workgroup, or windows media server). 
  • Didn't the 360 initially not support external hard drives? I remember trying to connect my external and it not being supported then a few months later it was...
  • Even now it doesn't fully support them - you can only access 32 GB of space on an external drive no matter how large the drive actually is. But yes, that feature was added later in the system's life. It's a more pressing concernw ith the Xbox One because games come on Blu-Ray discs (up to 50 GB) and will all require installation to the hard drive.
  • My theory is maybe there setting up an encryption method that works with XboxOne and Windows 8.1 update for file sharing things like apps and games now that the xbox can handle both, so you don't have to constantly keep downloading the same things and hog up bandwidth
  • Just in launch titles alone I expect to half fill the xbox one hard drive.
  • Seriously! Won't be that hard.