How to back-up Xbox 360 save games

Want to keep your save games safe from hardware failure? Here's how to do so for Microsoft's console.

Craig Simms Special to CNET News
Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.
Craig Simms
3 min read

You've likely amassed a whole heap of unlocked game modes, vehicles, weapons and more in your games; but what happens if your hard drive dies?

The Xbox 360 offers two alternatives for saving your games somewhere other than the console.

Backing up to the cloud

The first is cloud, where your games are saved online and can be downloaded to any console you log in to. Sadly, you need to be a Xbox Live Gold member to use this; that is, you'll need to set up a paid subscription. You'll also need half a gigabyte of storage on your hard drive to act as a local cache.

If you have these things, you can enable cloud storage by signing into your gamer profile, then going to Settings in the dashboard, selecting the System tile and then selecting Storage. Select Cloud Saved Games, then Enable Cloud Saved Games. You can then copy or move save games to the cloud by selecting your Hard Drive or Memory unit, selecting the appropriate game, selecting the game save, choosing Copy or Move, then selecting Cloud Saved Games.

When playing a game, you can also select the cloud as your storage instead of your hard drive — just keep in mind that the game save is not uploaded to the cloud until you've finished playing your game. You can turn the console off if you like, too — the Xbox will enter low power mode and continue transferring the save before it completely powers down.

Backing up to USB storage

If you want to back-up your save games to a USB flash drive you can, but there are a few conditions as it seems Microsoft wants to protect its sales of Xbox hard drives:

  • The drive must be larger than 1GB
  • The drive must be smaller than 16GB
  • The drive must be formatted with FAT32
  • The drive must be empty; the Xbox will wipe all contents before using.

Once you've got something that fits the criteria, it's time to get to work.

Sign into your gamer profile, insert the drive in a USB port on your Xbox 360, and head to Settings in your dashboard. Select the System tile and then Storage. Select USB Storage Device and then Configure Now (or "Customize" if you'd prefer to only use a portion of the drive). Select Yes for the prompt that appears. The Xbox will then set up the USB drive for its own use.

Once done, you will be taken back to the Storage settings. Time to back-up your save games.

Depending on whether your Xbox is using a hard drive or just has a memory module on board, you will need to select Hard Drive or Memory Unit.

Choose Games and Apps, and find the game that you wish to backup the saves for. Select it, and your save games should be visible. Select those, choose Copy and then select your USB flash drive (which will now also be called Memory Unit, but have a flash drive icon).

Congratulations, your save games are now safer from hardware failure.