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Using External Storage with Your Gaming Consoles
by OWC Duane

Gaming Plus External Storage
As the years have gone by, both computers and gaming consoles have developed going through their various evolutions. They have slowly been closing a gap where the game consoles are able to do things that originally would have been reserved only for the computer. The last generation machines added USB ports on them so you could connect peripherals including various gaming items as well as a keyboard. The consoles also started allowing players to use the internet to play games with other gamers in cooperation or competition. The newest generation of systems, Microsoft's XBox 360 and Sony's PlayStation 3, have integrated means of using external storage devices, such as the NewerTech miniStack or the OWC Mercury series of drives.

Why use external storage with your console?

While you still are unable to use an external storage device to store your game saves or Downloaded Content (DLC), there is a lot you can do with an external storage device when attached to your gaming system.

You can use an external storage device to play back your media files such as music, video files, and photos. Some games will even allow you to play your own music in game instead of listening to the game’s soundtrack.

One big advantage of using an external hard drive is to conserve the space on your console’s hard drive for your games and DLC while still allowing you access to using the media benefits the console can grant you.


Share with your friends and save energy while doing it! Use a bus-powered drive!

an On-the-GoBus-powered USB drives, such as the OWC Mercury On-The-Go series, allow even greater savings, as they only draw energy when the game console is powering the USB ports.

In addition, they're easily portable, so you can bring all your media files with you if you go to a friend's house.


Why use external storage instead of using your home computer as a media server over the network?

While both consoles do allow you to connect to an existing computer on the network and play the media found on them, it requires the computer be on when you want to do so. You would either need to leave your computer on all the time so it can be accessed when you want or you would need to go turn the computer on before you begin playing the media found on it. Most people do not leave their computers on all the time, so it may be inconvenient to start doing so for the sake of accessing your media on your game console only from time to time. For convenience, it is easier to simply attach an external drive with your media to the console. This is especially true if your computer is in one corner of the house and your gaming is setup in another corner, possibly even on different floors.

Another advantage is the amount of power being consumed to run your media files. Compared to the amount of power a full computer system consumes, an external drive has a much lower power draw.

Formatting the drive for use with your gaming console

To be able to use your external hard drive with your gaming console, it will need to be formatted with a Master Boot Record (MBR) partition mapping and formatted with MS-DOS/FAT32 for the format type. This process must be done using a Mac or PC to make sure it is formatted appropriately for use.

Formatting the Drive with a Mac

  1. After attaching your drive to your Mac go to Disk Utility. (Applications>Utilities>Disk Utility)
  2. Select your drive on the left.
  3. Click on the Partition tab.
  4. In the Volume Scheme drop-down menu, select “1 partition.”
  5. Give the drive a name and select “MS-DOS” as the Format Type.
  6. Click on the “Options…” button at the bottom.
  7. Select the “Master Boot Record” option on the window that comes up and click “OK”.
  8. Click on the “Partition” button.
  9. You will be prompted with a warning message. To continue with the format, click “Partition.”
  10. After the progress bar is done the drive should mount on your desktop.
  11. Your drive is now ready for you to transfer your media files to it for use with your game console.

Formatting the Drive with a PC
Note: Unless you are formatting a drive 32GB or less, you are unable to format them with FAT32 format using XP or Vista. The following information assumes you are using one of these versions of Windows and you are using a drive larger than 32GB.

Before starting, you will want to download the Fat32Formatter utility, which can be found here. We recommend unzipping it to the desktop to make it easy to find. Full information and instructions for using the utility can be found at the program's web site.

Below is the quick version of using the utility.

  1. Right click “My Computer.”
  2. Click “Manage.”
  3. Click on “Storage.”
  4. Click on “Disk Management.”
  5. Note drive letter of the external drive you want to format and continue to step 13. If the drive letter is not present continue with steps 6-12.
  6. To create a new partition, right-click unallocated space on the basic disk where you want to create the partition, and then click “New Partition.”
  7. When the Partition Wizard comes up, just click “Next” on the intro screen.
  8. Select “Primary Partition.”
  9. Enter the maximum size for the Partition Size.
  10. Choose “assign a drive letter” and pick a letter for your drive.
  11. Select “Do not Format this partition.”
  12. The last screen will be the summary screen. Click “Finish.”
  13. Go to where you unzipped your fat32format application and right click on it.
  14. Select “Properties.”
  15. Note the Location of your program. (Click here for an example of where the Location is listed)
  16. Click on your “Windows” start button.
  17. For Windows XP, click on Run and type Cmd. For Windows Vista, type Cmd in the search bar.
  18. Hit Enter.
  19. At the prompt type in cd followed by the location of your fat32format application which you found in step 15.
  20. Next, type in fat32format followed by the drive letter found back in step 5 or the letter you assigned the drive. For example the command if the drive letter was “H:” like the one being used inthis example, you would type fat32format h:
  21. You will get the message, “Warning ALL data on drive 'h' will be lost irretrievably, are you sure (y/n) :”. To continue, type Y on the keyboard and press enter. WARNING: IF YOU TYPE “Y” AND HIT ENTER, ANY DATA ON THE DRIVE YOU TELL IT TO FORMAT WILL Be ERASED. MAKE SURE YOU WANT TO CONTINUE AND THAT YOU HAVE SELECTED THE CORRECT DRIVE.
  22. The utility will format the drive quickly. You will get a message when it has finished. In the end, your command window should look similar to the picture below.
    command line
  23. Your drive is now ready for you to transfer your media files to for use with your game console.

Moving to the Console

After the drive has been formatted and your files are on the drive, you can connect your external storage device to your console of choice, turn on both units and begin using your media stored on the external drive.

Accessing Media With The XBox 360
When you have the drive connected to your Xbox 360, navigate the menu to the row “My Xbox.” When you scroll the options to the right, you will find “Video Library,” “Music Library,” and “Photo Library.” Select the option you want, find the file on your external drive, and enjoy the added media benefits.

Accessing Media with the PS3
When you have the drive connected to your PS3 navigate through the cross media bar to the video, photo, or audio tab. Look through the icons in the bar and there should be a square with the label “External.” Find the file on your external drive, and enjoy the added media benefits.

Supported File Types

Audio XBox 360 Playstation 3
MPEG-1/2 Audio Layer3  
MP3 Surround  
Photo XBox 360 Playstation 3
Video XBox 360 Playstation 3
RealPlayer Video    
Video TS    

Charge and Multiply.

In addition to the storage benefits you would get from any USB drive, the Newer Technology miniStack also adds a powered USB hub to the mix. This allows you to:

  • a miniStackAdd a keyboard & mouse
  • Charge your wireless controllers
  • Daisy-chain additional storage
  • Split out all of your Rock Band instruments
  • Get a little more range out of your controllers by acting as an "extension" to the built-in USB ports.