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A closer look at the Xbox One’s usable hard drive space: Is 360GB really acceptable?

Gamers hoping to upgrade to an all-digital lifestyle were met with disappointment when the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 were revealed to only have a hard drive storage capacity of 500GB. Soon after its US release, the PS4 was revealed to reserve 92GB of that space, making the effective available space of the HDD 408GB. The Xbox One hides how much HDD space is made available, but that number has now been revealed as 362GB, with Microsoft’s console sequestering a total of 138GB from the user.

Unlike Sony’s PlayStation 4, Microsoft did not intentionally make the hard drive in its new console upgradeable. On the PS4, you can simply pop off a top panel, detach the stock hard drive, and slip in a new one with a larger capacity (for full instructions, see our guide to replacing your PlayStation 4’s hard drive). The only difficult part of the process is, perhaps, coming to terms with spending money on a new piece of hardware for your brand new console.

The Xbox One, though, doesn’t allow you to upgrade. Technically, if you feel confident in your ability to tear down Microsoft’s console, you can remove the 500GB hard drive and replace it with your own. The process is not for the average user, but it is possible.

What makes that potentially harmful process more appealing is the fact that the Xbox One reserves 138GB of that already meagre 500GB, limiting your console to just seven full dual-layer Blu-ray game installs, or 14 full single-layer Blu-ray games.

In comparison, the PlayStation 4 isn’t that much better. Its 408GB of available space allows eight full dual-layer Blu-ray game installs, or 16 full single-layer Blu-ray games.

Whereas the PS4 simply displays the available hard drive capacity, the Xbox One makes it difficult to suss out. The folks over at IGN went the tedious route, and installed games onto the hard drive until it ran out of space. The hard drive reached capacity at just 362GB. Microsoft has confirmed that 138GB of storage capacity is reserved for the operating system (or maybe all three) and first-party apps, and likely for updates as well.

Now, over a short period of time, seven-to-fourteen games is an acceptable amount. However, if last-gen is any indication, this current generation of consoles is intended to last around seven-to-ten years – a time period during which you’re likely to accrue more than a handful of games. You can take to hard drive management and begin uninstalling games once you’re done with them, but it’ll be inconvenient in a generation where a large swathe of games will have persistent online features. It’s similar to how you haven’t played some MMO in months or perhaps even years, yet it’s still installed on your computer just in case. As we saw in our side-by-side speed testing of the two consoles (see the video below), you would waste a lot of time if you had to re-install games regularly.

Long before release, it was known that both the Xbox One and PS4 were arriving with a relatively meagre storage capacity, but the revelation that both actually have 100GB (or more in the Xbox’s case) missing has been very disappointing.

The bright side, at least, is that Microsoft and Sony are sure to release future revisions of their consoles with an increased storage capacity. If you’d like to tackle upgrading the PS4’s hard drive on your own, a hybrid hard drive is your best bet for an increase in capacity and speed.

For more on the new consoles, check out our Xbox One versus PlayStation 4 speed showdown that poses the question: Which is the fastest console?