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Microsoft confirms, dates Xbox 360 USB storage

Microsoft is bringing USB mass storage capabilities to the Xbox 360 in an update coming in a week and a half.

Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Good news for Xbox 360 owners: Microsoft's Major Nelson has confirmed last week's reports of USB storage coming to the Xbox 360. And it's coming soon.

The software update that will make it happen is due April 6, giving gamers only a week and a half more of having to rely on Microsoft's proprietary memory cards and hard drives for system storage expansion--at least if they're happy with 32GB.

One detail that was confirmed from last week's leak--and that gamers might find disappointing--is the size limits on storage formatting are relatively quaint. As mentioned before, users can only have between 1GB and 16GB per USB storage device, and only two can be attached at once, maxing out external memory at 32GB. This also means you won't be able to re-purpose one of your old USB sticks as a memory device if they're smaller than 1GB, and that you can't utilize a large and cheap external hard disk drive as an alternative to Microsoft's existing hard drive options. Still, it's a step in the right direction for a console that will celebrate its fifth birthday this fall.

Nelson (whose real name is Larry Hryb and who is the director of programming for Xbox Live) also announced that Microsoft would soon be releasing Xbox-branded SanDisk USB sticks that come ready to be used right out of the box. Otherwise, to use the new storage feature on their own USB keys or external hard drives, gamers need to run a small formatting utility through the Xbox 360 dashboard. The SanDisk sticks are set to be released in May, though Hryb could not offer capacities or pricing.

This is, presumably, the only new feature that's going into April's system update. In the past, Microsoft has released periodic updates mid-year and near the holidays that add a handful of features. The last big one to go out was in November of last year, when Microsoft added apps for Twitter,, and Facebook. It also completely overhauled its video store. In this case, fewer features could just be the result of the close proximity to E3, where Microsoft is set to unveil more details about its Project Natal motion-sensing technology and possibly even unveil a new iteration of the Xbox 360 hardware.

After the break, you can see some screens of the new memory management tools, which match up with the screenshots gaming blog Joystiq grabbed a hold of last week: