One question we get asked quite a lot is what type of hard drives would be suitable for various games consoles, so we’ve put together this quick guide covering all the common systems along with links to suitable drives.
The Xbox 360 comes in three different models. The original, larger model has an externally mounted hard drive that clips onto the top or right hand side of the system, depending on orientation. The two smaller versions of the machine, the Xbox 360 S and E, both have the drive fitted internally, with a removable cover allowing the drive to be removed and replaced.
If moving from an older 360 to a new one the hard drives are not directly compatible as the new models don’t have the external connector. The drive inside the casing can easily be removed however and mounted into a third party caddy to be used with the newer systems – a word of warning though, this will void any warranty on the drive.
Despite the hard drive inside the casing being a standard 2.5 inch SATA drive, these cannot be replaced with any commercially available units. The Xbox 360 drives have specific firmware and formatting, any drives not matching these will not be recognised by the system.
You can connect external media to the system. USB sticks up to 16GB in size can be fitted and can be formatted by the Xbox to store games and data. Up to two sticks can be used by the console at a time, and USB 2 or 3.0 sticks will work but there is no speed benefit to USB 3.0 on the system. I’ve been using the 16B Kingston SE9 drives in my system for a couple of years now with good results, though some games do require installation to an actual hard drive. USB sticks being used for game storage will be formatted by the Xbox to be used, otherwise FAT 32 formatted sticks will allow you to playback media.
External hard drives will also connect. Previously, you were only able to use hard drives as read only storage to play back media content, but as of the April 2015 dashboard update the Xbox 360 now supports external hard drives up to 2TB in size for game storage.
Like the Xbox 360, the PlayStation 3 also comes in three models. Unlike the 360, these all take the same kind of hard drives. Any standard 2.5 inch hard drive up to 9.5mm in height will work just fine with the system. Most drives under 1TB should be ok, but do make sure you check the height of the drive before purchasing.
5400Rpm drives were the standard when the PlayStation 3 was developed and so games are designed to be read from the drive at that speed. There is no real speed benefit to at 7200Rpm or SSHD drive.
As with the Xbox, you can’t install games to an external hard drive but you can connect one for media playback. Again, this needs to be formatted in FAT 32. USB sticks can't be used for storage either, but again these can be used for media playback.
On release the Wii U was available in Basic and Premium configurations, with 8GB or 32GB internal flash memory respectively. This cannot be expanded or replaced.
The system can however use USB hard drives for game storage. Nintendo recommend using an externally powered drive for best performance, but any external drive should work fine. The drive is formatted by the Wii U and locked for use on that system, so you can’t move games between systems.
The initial version of the Xbox One shipped with a preinstalled 500GB hard drive, and the newer S model now comes with 500GB, 1TB and 2TB hard drive options. Regardless of the model or hard drive size it is not user replaceable. Any Xbox One running software later than June 2014 will have full support for external hard drives. These need to be USB 3.0 drives of 256GB+.
Like its predecessor, the PlayStation 4 will take any standard 2.5 inch hard drive up to 9.5mm in height. As with the PS3, most drives under 1TB (and even some larger) will be suitable, but it’s still worth checking the height before you buy.
Unlike the PS3, the PlayStation 4 does see some speed increase from an SSD or SSHD Hybrid drive being used in the system as it uses a faster SATA controller. There is no limit to the maximum capacity of drive, though currently most higher capacity drives are too tall to fit into the system.
The PlayStation 4 currently does not support external storage, except as a backup solution or for playing media files. All games must be installed to and run from the internal hard drive.