How to use media cards with the Xbox One

Apparently I’m the first person to try this.

After being unable to get my Subsonic DLNA server to show up reliably in my Xbox One S’ Media Player, I decided to use external storage for video playback instead. I was about to drop $50 on a 128 GB USB stick when I remembered I had a 64 GB Kingston Class 10 UHS-1 microSD card laying around. Buying a USB media card reader seemed like a more efficient solution, so I started looking into doing so.

Apparently – nearly 3 years after Xbox One’s release – no one’s bothered to try this. Or at least they never bothered to write about it, because my Google searches and forum posts turned up nothing definitive.

I wound up having to get a couple readers and try them out myself, and both of them worked. This leads me to conclude that the Xbox One does in fact support media cards via USB readers. That said, you definitely want to get the fasest reader, and the crown for that goes to the Kingston MobileLite G4. This is the only reader I found with USB 3.0 and UHS-II support, which should future-proof you for ultra high bitrate (e.g. 4K) playback given a correspondingly fast microSD card. The G4’s only downfall is it supports SD and microSD only, but when’s the last time you saw any other media card in use in the wild?

You can pick the G4 up for as little as $8.95 online, which is much less than the $50 I mentioned earlier.

A local option is the Insignia NS-CR2021 USB 2.0 SD/MMC Memory Card Reader which, as its name suggests, also supports MMC and MMC+ cards. Unfortunately it’s limited to USB 2.0 only and there’s no mention of UHS support anywhere.

How to properly format an SD card on a PC or Mac

Your options are SD Card Formatter or death.

Not an day (or even hour, perhaps) goes by without someone posting about microSD/SD card (henceforth referred to as simply “SD card”) formatting problems in a support forum. Almost always they formatted the card on their desktop using the OS’ built-in utility. And almost always this causes the card to work poorly in the (usually Android) mobile device it’s intended for.

Never format any SD card on a PC or Mac using anything other than SD Card Formatter.

That happens because desktop OS’ built-in formatting utilities often format the cards incorrectly, whereas the SD Association’s SD Card Formatter utility for PCs and Macs formats them correctly. Per the SD Association:

The SD Formatter was created specifically for memory cards using the SD/SDHC/SDXC standards. It is strongly recommended to use the SD Formatter instead of formatting utilities provided with operating systems that format various types of storage media. Using generic formatting utilities may result in less than optimal performance for your memory cards.

The SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards have a “Protected Area” on the card for the SD standard’s security function. The SD Formatter does not format the “Protected Area”. Please use appropriate application software or SD-compatible device that provides SD security function to format the “Protected Area” in the memory card.

The instructions for using SD Card Formatter are found here. It can be used to resurrect “dead” (read: incorrectly formatted) SD cards and should be the first software tool you use should formatting the card on the mobile device fail or the card be unreadable.

Other tips for handling SD cards:

  • As I said above, never format any SD card on a PC or Mac using anything other than SD Card Formatter. From the Association:

    the card may not be recognized correctly and a message to prompt formatting may appear. In this case, do not format the SDXC memory card. It may erase the data on the SDXC memory card and format the card for a different file system, making it incompatible with SDXC devices.

  • Always format new SD cards on your mobile device first before doing so anywhere else.
  • Generally speaking, avoid placing your mobile device’s SD card in your PC at all unless you absolutely have to.
  • If you do need to transfer files between cards using your PC, use this method.


How to safely move your apps and files to a new microSD card on Android

Need to upgrade your microSD card but don’t want corrupted files? Do this.

There are quite a few horror stories floating around about corrupted files after switching microSD cards, so I wrote this guide so others could avoid that problem. The phone used in this post in the Verizon Samsung Galaxy S5 (SM-G900V), and the PC OS is Windows 8.1. This method will transfer everything (data and apps) from the old card to the new one:

  1. Dismount the old SD card from your phone. (If that doesn’t work, turn the device off completely and remove the card).
  2. Mount the microSD card on your PC.* You’ll probably have to use a microSD adapter for this as most PCs lack native microSD support. DO NOT AT ANY TIME FORMAT ANY microSD CARD THAT YOU INTEND TO USE IN AN ANDROID DEVICE ON YOUR PC.
  3. In File Explorer, click the View tab.
  4. Check the Hidden Items box.
  5. Using File Explorer, copy the contents of the old SD card into a temporary folder on your PC.
  6. Eject the old SD card from your PC.
  7. Mount the new SD card on your Android device.
  8. Format the new SD card on your Android device.
  9. Dismount the new SD card from your Android device.
  10. Mount the new card on your PC as in Step 2.
  11. Copy the contents of the old SD card from the temporary folder in Step 5 to the new card. If you get file path length errors, ignore them for now.
  12. Eject the new SD card from your PC.
  13. Mount the new card on your Android device and ensure it’s working properly.**
  14. If you got file path length errors in Step 11, use BitTorrent Sync to sync the troublesome folders with the full file paths. You can also use FTP for that purpose.

(Optionally, but a good idea for data security) wipe the old SD card by formatting it in your Android device

  1. (Optionally, but a good idea for data security) wipe the old SD card by formatting it in your Android device. Dismount the new card from your Android device.
  2. Remove the new card from your Android device.
  3. Mount the old card on your Android device.
  4. Format the old card on your Android device.
  5. Dismount the old card from your Android device. Note that the card hasn’t been absolutely securely wiped, but this will prevent your files from accidentally showing up on someone else’s device if you give it to them.
  6. Mount the new card on your Android device.

* TouchWiz uses the exFAT file system for microSD cards. I assume this is the case for most Android ROMs as exFAT is the only advanced (read: FAT32+) file system with out of the box read/write support on all major OSes. ** Credit to DopeShow for this method.