Microsoft may be late adding USB storage support to the Xbox 360--Sony's PlayStation 3 supported it off the block--but it's finally live, for all you aspiring archivists. All you need to do is log into Xbox LIVE, pull down the latest update, and presto, you can dump data from your 360 to any external drive or memory key.
Well, almost any. Microsoft's list of "gotchas" turns out to range from annoying to deflating, once you've read the fine print.
Your storage device has to exceed 1GB to be recognized, for starters. That's a shame, since the best reason to pair an external storage device with the 360 is probably to manage game saves and miscellaneous dashboard bling, which aggregate well under 1GB. All those antiquated 64, 128, 256, and 512MB memory keys piling in cable boxes and desk drawers? Keep 'em in mothballs, because they're dead to the Xbox 360.
You're also limited to a maximum of 16GB per storage device. I'm not sure why 16GB, but I have my theories. Like: Microsoft doesn't want you getting better than they're planning to give by way of third-party peripheral sweetheart deals.
It just so happens Microsoft's partnered with SanDisk to sell official 8GB and 16GB USB sticks, priced at $40 and $70 respectively. That, you hardly need me to tell you, is criminally expensive, compared with the average price for analogous parts.
Why would anyone buy these? Perhaps because, like me, they hate partioning drives to support disparate file systems. That, and you can only use up to two ad hoc USB devices for a maximum of 32GB of storage (I'm assuming you can use as many SanDisk USB sticks as you like.) I guess we're supposed to cheer or something. After all, the company still charges $100 for a USB WLAN part commonly available for half as much. Who says paying more for less can't win consumers over en masse?
"Why does Xbox 360 only support 16GB of storage, even though I have a much larger device?" asks Microsoft in its USB storage FAQ.
Because "[s]upporting USB storage devices up to 16GB in size is a huge increase in storage over any solid state memory storage solutions currently available for Xbox 360," reads the answer.
An increase, yes. But huge? Hardly. Not when I can pick up a 1 terabyte drive for $100--$30 less than Microsoft's current topline 250GB Xbox 360 hard drive.
My strategy: Figure out how to live at or under 32GB with a pair of cheap 16GB memory sticks. I'm through paying boutique prices for average, ordinary merchandise.