Is the Xbox Expansion Card Worth It? (And Cheaper Alternatives)

So you have an Xbox Series console and you noticed your internal drive is already full of games. Now you’re looking for the best value Xbox storage options.

Naturally, the Xbox expansion card is one of the first to be recommended. But it costs almost as much as an entire Xbox Series S. Is the Xbox expansion card worth it? Or are there better alternatives?

I tried the Xbox expansion card, external hard drives, and external solid-state drives, and there are some things you need to know.

Is Xbox Expansion Card Worth It?

xbox expansion card drive

Xbox expansion card is worth it because it’s the fastest external drive, it can run Xbox Series games, and there’s no need to worry about transferring games. 

The Xbox expansion card performs about the same as the internal drive. It offers the fastest transfer speeds and load times, very close to the internal drive.

Granted, the Xbox expansion card is a bit expensive. It costs almost the same as an Xbox Series S console! It might hurt to fork over that cash.

However, once you slide it into the expansion slot on your console, you will wonder why you didn’t buy it sooner.

I personally recommend the 1 TB Seagate Xbox Expansion card. It’s a must-have.

Especially for people who own the Xbox Series S because that console only has 312 GB of usable storage.


If that’s out of your budget, don’t worry. I get it, I’m not swimming in cash either. I have some alternative Xbox storage options for you.

Also, occasionally these expansion cards go on sale, and you really don’t want to miss your chance to grab one.

Hopefully, in the near future, the prices will go down a little bit.

Keep an eye out for Black Friday deals!

Speaking of deals, want to know how to get Xbox GamePass with a massive discount?

Budget-Friendly External USB Storage Options for Xbox

Most people install Xbox Series-optimized games on an external USB hard drive and then move them from the external to internal storage in order to play them.

It can be a little annoying having to wait for the files to transfer. Nevertheless, most people only play a few games at a time, so it’s not that big of a deal.

It’s always faster to copy or move files between drives than it is to download the game all over again (unless you have particularly fast internet).

Now when it comes to external USB drives for the Xbox, you have two options: Hard Disk Drive (HDD) or Solid State Drive (SSD).

Xbox External HDD (Slow transfer speeds, best for bulk storage)

Need cheap and bulk storage? An external HDD (Hard Disk Drive) is your best bet.

You can store games on an external HDD and you can even run all of the last-gen (Xbox One) games directly from it too.

External HDDs are budget-friendly options. I like Seagate’s 4 TB external HDD. 

Battlefield V, Assassin’s Creed Origins, and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, to name a few, can run directly from an external HDD.

Not to mention Halo Masterchief Collection and the Battlefields (up to Battlefield V).

Here’s the thing:

Basically, almost all Xbox One games can run off of an external HDD – and there are a lot of great games from that generation!

The downsides are external HDDs are a bit slow. It takes a bit longer for games to load, although it’s similar to Xbox One load times.

More importantly, the transfer speed from the external drive (for games that require a faster drive to run) to the internal drive takes awhile.

For example, transferring 50 GBs from an external HDD to an Xbox Series internal drive will take about 20 minutes.

Most HDDs can copy files at around 120 Mb/s.  (800 Mbps)

Xbox Series-optimized games can’t run from an external HDD.

Xbox External SSD (Fast transfer speed, more expensive)

Another option is an external SSD (Solid State Drive). These drives are much faster than HDDs but they do cost a bit more.

To give you an idea, the average data transfer speed for an external SSD is around 500 mb/s (4000 Mbps)

That’s so much faster than an HDD! Games running directly from the external will also load much faster.

If you’re looking for a solid external SSD for your Xbox, I recommend the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD V2.

You can transfer 50 GBs in less than 10 minutes. Xbox Series-optimized games can’t run from an external SSD.

Xbox Expansion Card (Fastest, most expensive)

As we already mentioned, the Xbox expansion card offers the fastest external drive speeds, much faster than an external SSD.

The plus side is Xbox Series games can run directly from the expansion card, so there’s no need to worry about moving game installations, ever.

Yeah, it’s expensive, but it’s one of those set-and-forget things!

Bonus Xbox Game Installation Tip!

Copy games, don’t move them!

If you need to use external storage, set your external USB drive as your Xbox’s default installation drive.

You can install Xbox Series-optimized games on your external drive, and when you want to play them, copy them from the external to the internal drive.

Remember, if you copy the game, you don’t have to move it back to the external drive later, you can just uninstall the game from the internal drive, and leave a copy on the external.


How Xbox Series X/S Optimized Games Work

There’s some confusion about how Xbox Series X/S games work on the new next-gen consoles.

As you know, most of the games optimized for the Series X/S consoles can only be played from internal storage or an expansion card.

The reason for that is features like Quick Resume require the fastest possible storage. These games can’t be played from external USB drives.

So if you see a game that has the Xbox Series X|S icon, it likely won’t launch from external storage.

xbox series optimized icon

Here’s the thing:

While you can’t run Xbox Series optimized games from an external USB drive, you can store them on a USB drive.

You can set the external storage as the default installation location and then copy games away from it later.

Another fun fact is not all the games that have the above logo are unplayable on external drives.

For example, Halo Masterchief Collection has the Series Optimized logo but you can play it from an external drive.

The only way to find out if a game can’t run from an external drive is to try downloading it.

If a notice appears saying “Newer games need faster storage” that means it will only run from the internal drive.

You can also see which games will run from the external by browsing the games already installed on the external drive take note of a transfer icon.

That icon means the games need to be moved to internal storage in order to run.


To summarize, I think the Xbox expansion card is worth it because it’s extremely fast and it can directly run every game in your library.

No need to worry about moving X/S-optimized games around. Just jam it in and forget about it.

If money is an issue, keep an eye out for special deals.

What do you think? Have you tried the Xbox expansion card? What’s your preferred storage option for Xbox?


  • Timothy Gagnon is the owner of My Portable Office. As a kid, he's always had a fascination with electronics and never passed on the chance to disassemble and reassemble them. When he's not taking a hammer to his electronics, he can be found playing with his cats or writing about his latest discoveries on My Portable Office.