Allow me to start this piece by saying:
It could not be easier to upgrade your PS4’s HDD and to prove it, I’ve popped a step-by-step guide at the bottom of this review – It takes about 5 minutes and if I can do it, you can do it! There’s no need to worry, either as Sony approve of this and so it will not void any guarantees (provided you do it correctly).
The PS4 is a beast of a machine, of that there can be no question. It bolsters its impressive performance by opting to, in most cases, fully install games you bought on a physical disc onto the internal hard-drive as well as any downloaded titles, of course. This allows the console to read the information quicker than it would if it was spinning the game disc around for all the data it needs, which affords you a faster load time and a quieter console. Genius!
The trouble with this is that as we have benefited from larger worlds, better graphics, more missions and a plethora of other advantages gifted to us by those super-smart guys at Sony & Microsoft, the install sizes of games have increased accordingly to where they are now, so pretty much 10-fold. Grand Theft Auto V, for example, with its various updates and patches, now clocks in at a whopping 60GB compared to GTA IV‘s relatively small 6GB (though at the time, this was considered equally large).
This means that the 500GB HDD you most likely had included with your machine (or 1TB if you adopted this generation a little later – if so, welcome!) is now struggling to accommodate your game collection. Once you’ve gotten GTAV, MGSV, Far Cry, inFamous a couple of Assassins Creed titles and DriveClub on there, it’s going to be critically short on space and then when you buy your next game, you’ll have to decide which data to delete. You won’t lose your save data, but if you delete DriveClub and then suddenly fancy a quick race, you’ll face a lengthy wait for the game to reinstall, which is a far cry (no pun intended – OK, maybe a little) from what we expected from the new generation.
To combat this and to an extent, to future-proof your machine, you need to upgrade.
When you are looking to upgrade, you have lots of options. Firstly, there are 2 types of disk drive you can look for:
A standard Hard-Disk Drive HDD uses a spinning disc inside a casing to write data to and then read it from. Think of it as a vinyl record spinning on a record player (or DJ deck for you whippersnappers). The difference being that as the disc spins, the needle has to move across the disc several times to pick up all the data that it needs, this is what takes the small amount of time and noise.
The more “premium” option would be a Solid-State Drive or SSD. The advantage of an SSD is that the newer technology works like a tablet device or a mobile phone where there are no moving parts. Crucially, this means they load quicker (though not instantly), run silently and are more resistant to movement whilst in use (if someone knocked your console or the shelf collapsed, for instance). For more information on them, the clever guys at ExtremeTech explain it all here. Unfortunately, as they are newer technology they have yet to drop in price like standard HDDs have, meaning you’ll be looking at double the price of a huge 2TB HDD for just a 500GB SDD.
What you need to watch out for is that whatever drive you use must be a 2.5″ (inch) SATA drive. SATA refers to the connection type between the disk drive and the PS4, anything other than an SATA connection will not work. Don’t worry too much, though, as most laptops use 2.5″ SATA connections so there are plenty around.
You can buy an adapter to allow cheaper 3.5″ HDDs to be fitted, though, in my experience, it will cost the same for a 2.5″ one as it will for a 3.5″ drive and the ugly adapter which will stick out like a sore thumb from the top of your otherwise sleek PS4.
When the time came for me, I went for the Samsung M9T 2.5″ 2TB HDD which I bought here: Amazon.co.uk for £72 (the equivalent for the USA is available here Amazon.com for $92 but it’s a Seagate drive, not Samsung – identical in all but name)
It works like a charm. Once you’ve installed it (again, guide available below) you’ll find yourself with 1.77TB of usable storage but don’t worry, computers (and consoles) read things in binary, whereas we foolish humans use full numbers, so the difference is about 200GB and the rest is reserved for system space. In a nutshell, we are taught that 1 MB = 1,000,000 (1 million) Bytes, but computers think 1 MB = 1,048,576 Bytes and as this difference adds up over vast numbers, we lose about 2 – 5% of the space we expected to see (Tweak And Trick explain it better here)
So far, I’ve installed my entire games collection, both physical and downloadable, as well as every single title available for PlayStation Plus since the PS4 launched back in 2013. That’s a lot of games and I currently have 1.2TB left (more than double my original HDD size) to use.
It runs quietly and is, if anything, quieter than the manufacturer supplied drive. This goes for load times, too. It certainly hasn’t adversely affected them and if anything, it’s improved them.
I would have gone for a larger HDD if I could, but the PS4 currently only allows disks up to 2TB to be used and will for the foreseeable future, so 2TB made sense.
There are some negative issues with these drives around on various websites, but before the PS4 received one of its regular updates, the HDD wasn’t being supplied with enough power to support the larger size. This resulted in some people suffering power loss when they booted up their consoles but this issue has now been fixed so you can enjoy having your games collection conveniently available in an instant, with no worries.
As promised, here is your guide to upgrading your HDD (based on using the Samsung M9T 2.5″ 2TB HDD which I just reviewed)
What you need:
USB Memory Stick (Minimum 1GB) PlayStation Plus (or your memory stick will need to be up to 10GB)
Play & Charge Cable for your controller
Just be aware that downloading the system software, save data, updates, and any games you own from the PS Store will use plenty of internet – Only relevant if you have a capped allowance.
Head to the official PlayStation website and download the PS4 system software which is a .PUP file around 800MB (not just the update file of about 200MB)
Save the file (ending in .PUP) in a folder called “UPDATE” and save that folder in one called “PS4”
Preserve your saved games/data by either:
- Uploading all of the saves that you want to keep to the cloud via PlayStation Plus
- or back them all up to a large USB drive (or multiple drives)
Switch off your console in the usual way, then switch it off at the mains and remove all the cables from the back. Place your PS4 onto a flat, protected surface (ideally a hard table or floor with a mat underneath to protect the surface)
Firmly slide the black plastic that is left of the power indicator bar (that glows when the console is in use) away from the system – to the left if you are looking at the machine front-on. It is attached by clips along the width of the machine, so put your hands evenly spaced.
Undo the screw decorated with the PlayStation symbols and slide the metal cradle out – take care not to lose any screws.
Carefully unscrew the HDD from the cradle and remove it.
Insert the new HDD and tighten the screws to hold it securely in place.
Re-attach the cradle and insert it back into the console before securing it back in place with the PlayStation screw.
Put the cables back into the console and put it back where it was to begin with, then turn on the plug at the wall.
Insert the USB with the System Software on it and power on the console by holding the power button for about 7 seconds.
When given a list of options, attach the controller using the Play & Charge cable and choose Option 7 ” Initialise PS4 (Reinstall System Software)” – Be sure to choose this option as there are two which are similarly worded.
The system software will reinstall and all you need to do is download those saves from the PlayStation Plus cloud or copy them from your USB drive. Then, at your leisure, head to the “Library” on your PS4 to find all of your downloaded content to re-download as you please.