If you're a gamer then you have probably found the best deals on games are there when you buy digital copies. Along with that, services like Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation Plus guarantee you a couple of free games you can download each month. But with current generation games clocking in at 50GB or more, the 500GB hard drive in your Xbox One or PlayStation 4 starts to fill up really quickly.
You're a little better off with a PlayStation 3 or an Xbox 360, where games will usually be under the 10GB mark, but the hard drives on those consoles were also smaller, so it's still a problem. Since you can keep music and movies on the consoles as well, they fill up really quickly.
Luckily, gamers can just plug an external HDD into the console's USB port and use that make room on the internal drive. One thing you need to remember is that the hard drive needs to be formatted to use - this means that every single thing on the drive will be deleted before you can use it.
If there is any important data on the drive, make sure you save it before going ahead with any of the steps below. Formatting a drive is an irreversible step and it can take hours, depending on the size of the drive, so make any backups as needed, and then start the process only when you know you have the time.
The Xbox 360 will work with external storage of up to 32GB, in the FAT32 file system. For this reason, we would recommend using a USB thumb drive, instead of an external hard drive with your Xbox 360. While 32GB does not sound like much, this will allow you to save at least three full games, along with their save data, on one pen drive. If you're a fan of indie games, then you will probably be able to fit a lot more in there.
The one thing you'll need to do is make sure the thumb drive you're using is on the FAT 32 file system - some guides suggest that you can go directly to Step 7 and the Xbox 360 will format the drive for you, but we tried this with a couple of different thumb drives and that was not always the case. So, you could try step 7 first, but if your thumb drive is not detected, then start with Step 1.
1. Connect the thumb drive to your Windows PC, and go to My Computer.
2. Right click on the drive's icon, and click on Properties. Under the name of the drive, it should state the file type. If it's FAT32, then you can jump to step 7. Otherwise, you need to format the drive. This will delete everything on the drive, so back up any data you need to keep.
3. The fastest way to convert it to FAT32 is to use the command prompt. First, press the Windows Key + R to show the run dialogue box.
4. Type cmd, and click on OK.
5. In the window that pops up, type in the following text, leaving out the quote marks: "format /FS:FAT32 X:". You'll need to change X: to the name of the drive.
You can see the name of the drive in the My Computer window - do not accidentally type in the wrong letter because once you confirm this command, the process is not reversible.
6. You're given a prompt to press enter when you run the program. Just to be safe, double check the name of the drive you entered in the command before pressing the enter Key. This finishes the process, and you can check the filesytem of the drive as described in Step 2 to confirm.
7. To use the thumb drive, you can now eject it from your computer, and connect it to the Xbox 360.
8. Go to System settings > Memory > USB Storage > Configure Now. This process took a minute, and after that, we could store games, demos, save games to this drive.
You can also follow steps 1-6 to format an external HDD to FAT32, which can then be used with your Xbox 360. You can save movies and music to the HDD and play them from your Xbox 360 automatically, so this is useful if you are using the console as a music player. However, you won't be able to use more than 32GB for saving games.
Unlike the Xbox 360, you can't save PS3 games to the external drive, so here, we'd suggest using an external HDD to keep all the music, movies and TV shows you want to watch while the games stay on the internal HDD on your console.
The PS3 also only recognises FAT32 drives, so you'll need to follow steps 1-6 described above first. After that, you'll have to do one more thing to use it with your console.
1. After you've converted the drive to FAT32, go back to My Computer and open the drive.
2. Create the following folders: MUSIC, PHOTO, GAME and VIDEO. You can now fill up all the folders (except GAME) with the media content you want to access on your PS3.
While you can't play games from the external HDD, you can back up your downloaded games to the HDD; this means that if you delete a game, you don't have to waste data to redownload it. To back up a game:
1. After you've connected the HDD to the PS3, go to Settings > System Settings > Backup Utility > Backup.
2. Select Confirm and then select USB Drive, and your entire PS3 will be backed up on to the HDD. This process will take some time. Once this is done, you still can't play games from the external HDD, but if you need to make space, you can delete old games from the PS3, and transfer them back on later.
3. To recover games from the backup, start the PS3, then go to Game > Saved Data Utility
4. Select the external HDD. Scroll through the list to find the game you want to import. Press the triangle button on your controller, and then select Copy. This will copy the backup to the PS3 and you can use it again.
The newer consoles are a lot more like computers, and using an external hard drive is also relatively simpler. With the Xbox One, there is only one caveat - the HDD has to support USB 3.0, and has to be at least 256GB in size. If you're just looking at the external HDD to store your media and not your games, then there isn't a minimum storage limit or a requirement for USB 3.0 either.
1. To use it, just connect the HDD to your Xbox One. You will be asked if you want to format the HDD.
2. You have to choose Yes to use the HDD. This process is automatic and will take a little time. That's it - once you do this, it'll automatically be used to save games and other content.
The PS4 does not allow you to save games to the external HDD. You can simply plug an external HDD into the PS4, and use it to store all your movies and TV shows. You can copy videos from the PS4 to the HDD, so you can save all your gameplay footage without worrying about filling up the console's storage. However, you can't save games to the external drive with the PS4. Since the PS4 supports USB 3.0, if you use an external HDD with USB 3.0 then you'll obviously get much faster data transfer speeds - but it is compatible with older HDDs as well.
We hope this guide helped you with a space crunch on your console. If you have any console tips and tricks to share with our other readers, let us know via the comments.