Xbox Series X or S owners who need more storage space for current-gen software may be lucky if they have a spare SSD, depending on a modder’s experience.
Writing in a step by step article on Chinese video sharing site Bilibili, one user discovered that it is potentially possible to use any high speed SSD in Xbox Series X and S by using an adapter to convert player storage interface – instead of forcing users who want to expand installation space for new “Velocity Architecture” games to purchase proprietary X / S series memory cards. (The previous generation software on the X / S series can be installed on older, slower storage options connected through USB ports.)
The modder learned via a teardown video that the Xbox Series S uses two PCIe 4.0 ports to house its NVMe SSD and external expansion, and most importantly, that the console’s external expansion card uses the CFExpress protocol, which uses also an NVMe interface. (Asian video sharing sites like Bilibili generally work like YouTube, except users can often post blog-style entries as well as videos, hence the tutorial.)
A very simple workaround … if it works
As for the theoretical mods, this one is pretty straightforward due to how the Xbox hardware works. Since the console expansion card – Seagate’s exclusive and expensive add-on designated as the only usable external storage solution for the latest Xbox platforms – uses a separate storage interface, the modder extrapolated that all Standard compatible PCIe 4.0 SSD could be converted to a CFExpress. , thus fooling the Xbox hardware into believing it was running the Seagate card.
Armed with this knowledge, the modder used a PCIe-4.0 to CFExpress adapter to plug a cheaper standard CH SN530 m.2 2230 SSD (the same internal storage used in the X and S series) into the expansion slot of an S series, with the hardware sticking out like a DIY dongle memory card – no need for complicated disassembly. The intuition paid off, as the Xbox recognized the SSD as a “storage expansion card”, adding over 800GB.
A few caveats about this story: First, the modder pointed out that the workaround has only been tested with the CH SN530 m.2 2230 SSD used as internal storage in newer Xboxes. Second, the modder wrote that another modder had tried the trick using a CFexpress Type B PCIe 3.0 card used for cameras, and it was not recognized as compatible. If this method of bypassing the Seagate card proves to be viable with other SSDs, it looks like PCIe 4.0 is a requirement.
Microsoft could push a firmware update to plug the hole, rendering this supposed hack void. Sony has taken a similar approach over the years to stop the efforts of the Vita modding community to open up this material.
On Sony’s side, the PlayStation 5’s storage compatibility options are already available to users of the firmware beta and are expected to open soon, allowing gamers to use their own PCIe 4.0 m.2 drives.