Xbox 360 Forbidden Characters , + ? /

For the last year or so I’ve been using Connect360 to stream video from my MacBook, whenever I wanted to watch it on the big screen via either Mike or my lady friend’s Xbox 360s.

However, I keep all my films and TV shows on a 500GB external hard drive, that has both FireWire and USB 2.0 ports:


It seemed silly to always have to plug that into my MacBook, and then plug my MacBook into the mains and so on… Why not just plug the hard drive directly into the Xbox 360?

Luckily, though I originally formatted it with a GUID Partition Table (all the better for Intel Macs, only not really…), a year or so ago I copied all its contents elsewhere and reformatted it with an Apple Partition Map. My reasoning being that if I ever wanted to boot my old iBook, GUID would not be my friend.

However, surely a HFS+ formatted drive would not work with an Xbox 360, I thought to myself, only FAT32 or NTFS. Nay! FAT32, sure, but instead of NTFS, Microsoft decided to support HFS+ instead. All part of that happy iPod halo effect; when I went to a presentation in 2005, Jonathan Hayes was excited to show how the Xbox 360 could read the contents of an iPod plugged into one of its USB ports and allow you to listen to the music.

Because I used my iPod shuffle to test it, for some reason I had in the back of my mind that it would be fine with FAT32 but not HFS+… But it would have been pretty odd to go to the effort of writing the software to crawl an iPod’s contents and then limit that to only iPods for Windows…

So, anyway, the Xbox 360 can read HFS+ drives (so long as they have an Apple Partition Map, not GUID) and it can even play back pretty much any video files you choose to throw at it (the only ones that did not appear were 10 really old MPGs, and the few ASF, RealMedia and MKV files I have too).

There was just one problem; a whole bunch of videos were not showing up in the Xbox 360′s interface and I couldn’t work out why. Some were ones I had just added to the drive, so maybe there was a cache that wasn’t being updated? But wait, a whole bunch of old videos that I knew were on there weren’t showing up either…

In the end, I had a brain wave; the videos that weren’t showing up were the ones I had named with “, The” at the end… For example, in all my anally retentive glory, I name video files like so:

Sarah Silverman Program, The – 106 – Batteries

That they all might appear in alphabetical order, in both the Finder and when streamed to the Xbox 360 in the past. And all such files would obviously be in a folder named “Sarah Silverman Program, The”…

So, does the Xbox 360 just want to punish me for my foolish ways? Nope, it just can’t handle any of the following four characters in the name of a file or folder:





Using any of those will simply make the file or folder invisible to the Xbox 360, and that’s the end of it. I had used commas in the aforementioned “, The” technique, but plusses, question marks and forward slashes? I guess I like my episode titles to be grammatically correct…

Anyway, so, right, I removed the +s, ?s and /s from the filenames but how would I get around the “, The” issue? Happily the Xbox 360 is totally fine with parentheses, and so I simply renamed things like so:

Sarah Silverman Program (The) – 106 – Batteries

And all is well. Yay.

One final comment; this is one of the most niche, specialist situations, ever, I realise. Most people’s drives are probably FAT32, most people probably don’t rename their video files in such a way as to include any of the above characters and most people probably aren’t even plugging hard drives directly into Xbox 360s, are likely streaming instead. Anyway.