It cannot be disputed that the new generation of gaming has been an outstanding success, with more consoles shifted than ever before and more games in the first couple of years after launch than many could have dreamed of. However, there is one issue we've had with our current gen machines that we're sure many others will also have experienced already; neither has a big enough hard drive.
In an age where digital downloads are replacing disc media and even physical games require installation to the hard drive by default, 500GB - the size of the HDD on both the standard Xbox One and PS4 consoles - is just not enough. You could opt for a 1TB version or even the 2TB Xbox One S that's now available, but considering that some games are around 46GB to 58GB (yep, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, we're looking at you), you will fill up even that internal drive eventually. And, with games of that size taking an absolute age to download over broadband, even with a 100Mbps connection or more, it's not ideal to have to delete games to make room for new ones.
There is a solution though. You can always add to or replace the hard drive. And on the Xbox One or Xbox One S that's a doddle. It doesn't even require a screwdriver.
Unlike the PS4, which can only be upgraded by removing and replacing the original drive, since an update earlier this year the Xbox One recognises external hard drives, as long as they have a USB 3.0 connection. And once installed they can be used in exactly the same way as the existing internal HDD.
We've done it ourselves in fact, expanding our own Xbox One hard drive by a further 2TB, which is enough for anywhere up to an estimated 100 games (on an average of 20 - 25GB per game). And what's more, it runs as smoothly, if not faster than the internal drive that came with the machine. Here's how...
First choice you need to make is which external drive you will use. We chose the WD My Passport Ultra 2TB Metal Edition. It's USB 3.0, doesn't require an external power source so doesn't take up an additional socket under our AV cabinet, and its aluminium finish suits the decals on the Xbox One well (even though it will mainly be out of sight in our case). At around £85 for 2TB it's also good value. Even better value is the conventional version of the WD My Passport Ultra 2TB external drive, which is currently £80 on Amazon.co.uk.
You can pay a bit more and opt for a 7200 RPM drive instead (the My Passport Ultra is 5400 RPM) but we've gone for convenience, no noise and price. And after all, the Xbox One internal drive is 5400 RPM too, so the performance will at least match it.
You can also opt for a lager capacity drive. We're not sure if there's a maximum (just a minimum of 256GB) but suspect not. Of course, it all boils down to price in that case. Alternatively, you could add multiple drives - after all there are three USB 3.0 ports on the Xbox One. You can't daisy chain additional drives though as the console will only accept up to three external drives in total.
Once you have your drive to hand, set-up is simple. Plug it into one of the three USB 3.0 ports (two on the rear, one on the side) when the Xbox One is on. A message will pop up on screen to show it recognises that the drive has been connected.
You can either go to the settings through interaction with the pop-up or head there manually and enter the "System" settings.
In there you will see the "storage" icon. Select it and the next page will show your existing external hard drive alongside the new one.
In all likelihood the drive will need to be formatted before it can be used for anything other than storing video, picture and music files, especially if it's come straight out of the packaging. The Xbox One needs to do that itself. So choose the new drive and scroll down to the option "Format". Select "Format storage device" and a new screen will pop up with a keyboard to select the drive's name.
We kept the default name "External" and chose to install new games and apps to the new drive when asked.
Formatting the drive takes no more than five or six seconds and you're good to go.
On your main games and apps screen you will now see that the entire storage available, both internally and externally, is accumulated into one statistic.
We also recommend you completely shut down your Xbox One and reboot. We did and the drive worked very well straight after.
Moving games and performance
In our primary tests we found a slight difference in in-game performance between games stored on the external WD drive and the internal one, specifically in initial loading speeds which seemed a touch faster.
As USB 3.0 is capable of shifting data at speeds of up to 5Gbps, that's much faster than broadband speeds so you'll notice no difference in download times in comparison to the Xbox One normally. But it's considerably faster than SATA II, the connection the Xbox One has with the internal drive, so that might even prove decisive in data transmission for games stored on the external drive.
We also decided to move a few across from drive to drive to see how long it takes and discovered that to move Halo: The Master Chief Collection's mammoth 58GB took just over 40 minutes in total.
One benefit of moving games from the internal to the external drive is that you will be able to play your downloaded titles on a friend's Xbox One by just connecting the hard drive to his or her console and signing into your profile. You don't then need to redownload any games you wish to play. That's another good reason for opting for a more portable USB 3.0 drive like the WD My Passport Ultra.