How to Connect a Portable Hard Drive to an Xbox

by Jason Artman

The earliest models of the Xbox 360 game console have as little as 20 GB of built-in storage. Some models have no internal storage at all and rely on USB thumb drives for storage. If you have used much of the storage on your Xbox 360 for saved games and content downloaded from the Xbox Live Marketplace, limited space may remain for other content such as videos and music. Add additional storage space to your Xbox 360 by connecting a portable hard drive.

Connect the portable hard drive to your computer. Open the Start menu and select "Computer." Right-click the icon for the portable hard drive and select "Properties." In the window that appears, confirm that "FAT32" is displayed next to "File System." If the window displays "FAT32," the hard drive is compatible with the Xbox 360. Skip to Step 4. If the window displays a different file system, record the letter assignment displayed next to the hard drive's icon, such as "E:", and continue.

Set up a file folder on your computer. Select all the files on the portable hard drive and transfer them to your computer for safe keeping. You must re-format the hard drive using the FAT32 file system for compatibility with the Xbox 360, but doing so deletes its contents.

Open the Start menu and type "cmd" in the search area at the bottom. When the "Command Prompt" icon appears on the result list, right-click it and select "Run as Administrator" on the context menu. Windows displays the Command Prompt. Type "format /fs:fat32 E:" -- substituting "E:" for the letter assignment you recorded in Step 1 -- and press "Enter." Press "Y" to confirm and then press "Enter" again to format the hard drive. Transfer the contents of the portable hard drive back to the hard drive when this process is complete.

Remove the portable hard drive from your computer and connect it to one of the USB ports on the front or back of your Xbox 360. If the hard drive has a separate power connection, connect the power cable to an outlet before connecting the hard drive to the Xbox 360. The Xbox 360 detects the hard drive as a portable storage device.

Push the bumper buttons on the Xbox 360 controller to highlight the type of media you want to play from the portable hard drive, such as "Music."

Push down on the thumb stick to select the player for the media type you have selected, such as "My Music Apps." Push the "A" button. Select "Music Player" and push "A" again. The Xbox 360 prompts you to select the source from which to play media.

Push down on the thumb stick to highlight "Portable Device" and push the "A" button. The Xbox 360 displays a list of the files detected on the hard drive. Select the file you want to play and push the "A" button.


  • Microsoft released a system software update in 2010 adding support for external USB hard drives. If you have not connected to Xbox Live or played a new game since 2010, your Xbox 360 may not have the update installed. Insert a recent game disc and install the update when prompted, or connect the Xbox 360 to the Internet and sign in to Xbox Live.
  • If your Xbox 360 fails to detect the portable hard drive when you connect it, shut the Xbox 360 down, remove the hard drive, connect it to a different USB port and turn the Xbox 360 back on.


  • You cannot use a portable hard drive to store content downloaded from the Xbox Live Marketplace unless you have configured it using the "Configure USB Device" menu option. This formats the hard drive and creates a 16 GB partition dedicated to Xbox storage. Do not allow the Xbox 360 to format the hard drive unless you have removed all files you wish to keep. The remaining space on the hard drive can be used as a second partition for computer file storage.
  • The Xbox 360 may not detect all of the files stored on a hard drive if the drive has multiple partitions. To circumvent this problem, move the files that you want to read on the Xbox 360 to the hard drive's first partition or use the Disk Management utility in Windows to remove the existing partitions and create a single partition utilizing all of the hard drive's space. Back up all data on the hard drive before doing this.

Items you will need

  • USB hard drive or flash drive

About the Author

Jason Artman has been a technical writer since entering the field in 1999 while attending Michigan State University. Artman has published numerous articles for various websites, covering a diverse array of computer-related topics including hardware, software, games and gadgets.

Photo Credits

  • David Becker/Getty Images News/Getty Images