How to Add More Storage to Your PlayStation 4, Xbox One, or Wii U

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Consoles have come a long way from cartridges. Today, they’re practically just gaming PCs and include built-in storage for save files, game updates, and digital-download games.

There’s a good chance you’ll want more storage than what your console includes, and all consoles allow you to get more space. How you’ll do it depends on your console of choice.

PlayStation 4

Sony’s PlayStation 4 includes a 500 GB internal drive. Unlike other consoles, Sony doesn’t allow you to connect an external drive to your PlayStation 4 via a USB cable. However, you can actually upgrade the internal drive. This involves removing the internal 500 GB drive and installing a new drive in its place. Sony uses standard 2.5-inch (laptop-size) SATA drives for this.

You can pick up a standard mechanical drive and swap it out to get terabytes of storage. You could also pick up a solid-state drive instead, paying more for the privilege of speeding up disk access and loading times on your PlayStation 4. But this isn’t as good an idea as it may seem — Tom’s Hardware found only small performance boosts from using an SSD and recommended against getting one.

Sony provides official instructions for upgrading a PlayStation 4’s hard drive. Buy a larger drive (make sure it’s the correct physical size!) and follow the official instructions to get more storage on your PS4.

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Xbox One

The Xbox One also includes a 500 GB internal drive. You can’t upgrade the internal drive, but you can now connect an external drive thanks to an update that arrived June 3, 2014.

The Xbox One uses a fairly slow SATA II internal drive, which means that getting a fast USB 3 external drive can reportedly speed up your game load times. Yes, that external drive may be faster than your console’s internal one!

Any external drive you connect must support USB 3.0, and must be over 256 GB in size. You can connect up to two external drives at once. Buy an appropriately high-capacity USB 3.0 external drive, plug it in via USB, and your Xbox will help you set everything else up.

If you connect an external hard drive that only supports USB 2, or that is under 256 GB in size, your Xbox won’t allow you to install games onto it. However, you will be able to access music and video files stored on the drive.

Xbox One

Wii U

Nintendo’s Wii U ships with even less internal storage. The “Basic” Wii U offers 8 GB of internal storage, while the “Deluxe” Wii U includes 32 GB. This small amount of storage is used for game save data, downloaded game updates, and games you purchase and download from Nintendo’s eShop.

You can connect an external hard drive to your Wii U via a USB cable, but it’s more limited than an Xbox One is when it comes to accessing that internal storage. A Wii U only supports USB 2.0 speeds — but you can connect a USB 3 drive, as they’re backward compatible. It also only supports drives of up to 2 TB in size. If you get a larger hard drive, it can only access the first 2 TB of that drive.

Nintendo recommends you use an external drive with its own power source — in other words, one that connects to a power outlet via its own power cable — for maximum robustness. They also recommend using a mechanical drive and not a solid-state drive.

Get yourself a 2 TB drive (USB 3 or USB 2) with its own power cable and connect it to your Wii U. You shouldn’t have storage problems after that.

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If you have a PlayStation 3, you can swap out its internal drive and upgrade it — just as you would on a PlayStation 4.

If you have an Xbox 360, you can insert a USB flash drive. However, the Xbox 360 can only use up to 32 GB of that external drive’s space.

If you have an original Wii, you can expand its storage with an SD card of up to 32 GB in size. This also allows you to upgrade a Wii U’s storage for original Wii games that run in “Wii mode.”

Image Credit: Roman Soto on Flickr, Jon Fingas on Flickr, Holek at Wikimedia Commons, Nebulous81 at Wikimedia Commons

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.