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SSD Or Hard Drive? Upgrading Your PlayStation 4's Storage

SSD Or Hard Drive? Upgrading Your PlayStation 4's Storage
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Sony's PlayStation 4 features an easy-to-replace 2.5-inch notebook drive. We open the console up and swap its stock disk with an SSD, a hybrid drive, and an old hard drive to see if a storage upgrade might help unlock some additional performance.

As enthusiasts, we have to like that Sony shies away from proprietary storage technologies in its gaming consoles. Instead, the company sticks with standard hard drives, making upgrades quick and easy. Back in the day, its PS2 accommodated 3.5-inch PATA devices, which sound downright ancient now. The PS3 was compatible with 2.5-inch SATA-based storage. Today, the PlayStation 4 includes an easy-to-replace 2.5" disk as well, keeping the tradition going.

From the factory, you get a 500 GB (465 GB formatted) drive that allocates about 57 GB for the operating system and other software. Now that digital downloads and local installations are necessary, though, we anticipate the remaining 408 GB will start disappearing quickly once more content becomes available. Does that make you want to drop in something bigger, even if you're still stuck with a mechanical disk?

On the other hand, an SSD would be cool to try too. You don't necessarily have to take a big capacity hit, either. A 500 GB Samsung 840 EVO runs $325 or so, and if it made a big experiential difference, surely there would be plenty of enthusiasts swapping solid-state repositories into their consoles, just to try them out.

Alright, fair enough. Few of us want to double the console's price by throwing in a massive SSD. So realistically, you're looking at a choice between speed or space. We're going to compare those two extremes using a handful of 2.5" drives, hopefully determining the right balance for you.

Swapping Your PlayStation's Drive

As with any hard drive swap, adding an empty disk into a platform means reinstalling your operating system. Before you begin that process, though, you may want to back up your saved games or make sure they're synced to PSN Plus. Your favorite titles naturally need to be reinstalled as well, and you can do that from discs or PSN. Sony doesn’t limit the number of times you can grab a game from its network, fortunately.

Make sure you have a USB-based flash drive, to which you'll copy the operating system install file. Sony provides this for download; simply grab it and make sure it's in the directory PS4/Update/. Also, take note of the operating system version you're running, since Sony won't let you revert to a previous build.

The console maker posts two software update packages, including a full install that weighs in around 880 MB and a smaller update in the 315 MB range. You want the bigger file for a complete installation.

The physical drive swap is easy. All you need is a small Phillips screwdriver. Sony hides the PlayStation's hard drive under the glossy black accent cover, which slides off with minimal effort. Once you remove it, there's one screw that secures the drive cage. Kudos to Sony for adding the square, circle, triangle, and rectangle controller pattern on the screw.

Four screws lock the factory 2.5-inch drive into place, and they're decoupled from the chassis with rubber grommets. A height limit of 9.5 mm prevents the installation of larger 2 TB repositories. However, there are plenty of large mechanical disks and super-fast SSDs 9.5 mm-tall or less.

With the drive installed, plug in the flash drive and power the platform on. Either hold the power button for seven seconds to access the fail-safe menu, or the the system will automatically boot into safe mode, guiding you to install the operating system from your external storage device.

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  • 12 Hide
    blackmagnum , March 13, 2014 2:44 AM
    If you can wait a few more seconds for the hard-drive to load, then why not keep the hard-drive... but who are we if not ENTHUSIASTS!
Other Comments
  • 5 Hide
    vertexx , March 13, 2014 2:06 AM
    Thanks for the article. I like the trend of the work you guys are doing, although this one really reminds me why I won't be buying one of the new consoles.

    It seems rather shortsighted for Sony to not anticipate users wanting to take advantage of SSD tech. In fact they could have made more $ by offering an upgraded product with an SSD already incorporated (assuming they fixed whataver is causing the negligible difference in performance). Perhaps a few tweaks to the OS through a software update will allow the SSD to make a bigger difference.

    It seems that something will need to be done if they hope to have the longevity of the previous generation of consoles.
  • 12 Hide
    blackmagnum , March 13, 2014 2:44 AM
    If you can wait a few more seconds for the hard-drive to load, then why not keep the hard-drive... but who are we if not ENTHUSIASTS!
  • 0 Hide
    Brad Smithee , March 13, 2014 3:22 AM
    Eventually see 9.5mm 2TB drives? What about the Samsung M9T? Although difficult to find OEM, you can pull it from a Seagate Backup Plus Slim for about $110 (as of writing). Granted some users have had HDMI handshake bootup issues, they seem resolvable by extended power button presses.
  • 1 Hide
    wtfxxxgp , March 13, 2014 4:35 AM
    Interesting concept and nice try Toms. I enjoyed this little read over lunch. I'm not a console fan but I admit that there are times when i wish I could just sit on my couch and play on my TV instead of a piddly little 24". The funny bit is, I only feel this way when I'm actually ON the couch, never when I'm sitting enjoying the beast that blows PS4 away.
  • -2 Hide
    Lasher13 , March 13, 2014 4:44 AM
    Guys no, these Seagate SSHD's are crap. Testing it further, yes it cuts down on load times, the boot cycle, and game installations. But game performance is hindered by a random stutter at random periods during gameplay when the disc refreshes its 8GB's of flash memory. If you don't find a random stutter annoying fine get it. But If you really want performance get an SSD. If you want space stick with a mechanical drive.
  • 2 Hide
    AndrewJacksonZA , March 13, 2014 5:05 AM
    Did you put a SSHD in your PS4 Lasher13?
  • 0 Hide
    AK B , March 13, 2014 5:20 AM
    Interesting article, BUT: laying around ---> lying around.
  • 4 Hide
    CaedenV , March 13, 2014 7:15 AM
    This is why I am sticking with PC gaming. I loved consoles back in the day where you just plugged it in, fed it a disc/cartridge and started playing. But last gen they essentially became crappy computers, so I preferred my nice computer to owning a crappy one. This gen they are still crappy computers with all of the issues that computers have, but without the flexibility or usefulness of one... so again I will stick with my PC.There was a chance that I would pick up a PS4 to get my Final Fantasy fix, but now it looks like they are committed to releasing all titles on the PC, so there went my only real motive to pick up a console.
  • 1 Hide
    tuanies , March 13, 2014 7:50 AM
    Quote:
    Eventually see 9.5mm 2TB drives? What about the Samsung M9T? Although difficult to find OEM, you can pull it from a Seagate Backup Plus Slim for about $110 (as of writing). Granted some users have had HDMI handshake bootup issues, they seem resolvable by extended power button presses.
    I did not know this. Interesting bit of information.
    Quote:
    Interesting article, BUT: laying around ---> lying around.
    Fixed, thanks for spotting the error.
  • 0 Hide
    syrious1 , March 13, 2014 7:54 AM
    This is an interesting concept. You are right sony would have benefitted by adding SSD's as an upgrade, but I have a feeling those console guys are not going to drop added money to make it boot faster, especially since the extra controller, headset, etc cost an additional arm and a leg. PC gaming is where its at, the system runs better, lasts longer, and can be serviced by the user when needed. Also with steambox coming there is really no need to drop money on a console that will be outdated in 2 years.
  • 1 Hide
    user 18 , March 13, 2014 8:06 AM
    Liked the article until the last paragraph, which makes the whole thing feel like a sony ad.
  • 2 Hide
    tuanies , March 13, 2014 8:10 AM
    Quote:
    Liked the article until the last paragraph, which makes the whole thing feel like a sony ad.


    It isn't. Just seems silly to drop $100 on an HDD upgrade instead of getting PSN, which is necessary for online gaming. But I've enjoyed remote play. It's simple, works, and lets me run a couple races of NFS before going to bed. I'm still waiting for the Vita TV to get updated with US PSN account support so I can play it on my bedroom TV too.
  • -6 Hide
    syrious1 , March 13, 2014 8:27 AM
    Quote:
    Guys no, these Seagate SSHD's are crap. But If you really want performance get an SSD. If you want space stick with a mechanical drive.
    SSHD's are total crap, still a point of failure having a half mechanical drive, go SSD or go home.
  • -1 Hide
    StarBound , March 13, 2014 8:30 AM
    I've had a Crucial M500 960GB SSD waiting 2 weeks prior to my PS4 delivery. The swapping was extremely easy to do with a youtube vid or 2 just to make sure everything goes right. Ofcoarse now I am sitting with a system that cost less than the drive in it and all tests shows it is just slightly faster. I suppose the best if only thing I can take away from this is that the heat generation is taken away.
  • 4 Hide
    syrious1 , March 13, 2014 8:35 AM
    from the benchmarks boot time is good, but load times are still slow, maybe that's due to the OS not being optimized for SSD performance?
  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , March 13, 2014 8:36 AM
    Quote:
    I've had a Crucial M500 960GB SSD waiting 2 weeks prior to my PS4 delivery. The swapping was extremely easy to do with a youtube vid or 2 just to make sure everything goes right. Ofcoarse now I am sitting with a system that cost less than the drive in it and all tests shows it is just slightly faster. I suppose the best if only thing I can take away from this is that the heat generation is taken away.


    Yea it technically loads faster, but not enough to justify the cost. The gains aren't as massive as on PC. You're also stuck waiting for the developer logo splash screens and the read speed of the Blu-ray drive too, which just nullifies most speed gains anyways.
  • 1 Hide
    vmem , March 13, 2014 9:01 AM
    love the article... but given the size of modern games... you'd be spending as much on a 500GB to 1TB SSD as you spent on the PS4 itself lol
  • -1 Hide
    Emerald , March 13, 2014 9:35 AM
    Interesting article. The one questions I have is why would you compare an Seagate drive that spins at 7200rpm to a WD Blue and a Samsung M8 which both spin at 5400rpm? They should have tested a WD Black and a Samsung MP4 which run at 7200rpm for better comparison.
  • 2 Hide
    tuanies , March 13, 2014 9:38 AM
    Quote:
    Interesting article. The one questions I have is why would you compare an Seagate drive that spins at 7200rpm to a WD Blue and a Samsung M8 which both spin at 5400rpm? They should have tested a WD Black and a Samsung MP4 which run at 7200rpm for better comparison.


    The Samsung M8 is the stock drive in the PS4. The WD Scorpio Blue was a drive I had sitting in a drawer. We were comparing the difference between HDD vs. SSD. Also, there isn't a Scorpio Black 1TB, they top out at 750GB. SSHDs seem to be the future and newer 5400RPM drives are just as fast as older 7200RPM drives.
  • 1 Hide
    groundhogdaze , March 13, 2014 9:45 AM
    Why is the WD blue drive so slow? Isn't it a 7200rpm drive, why would it be slower than the stock PS4 drive? Interestingly enough, I added a 750gb WD blue drive to my PS3 and the PS3 format took 30 minutes or so. When I replaced it with a 500gb Seagate Momentus XT SSHD, the format only took 5 minutes, I'm not sure why there's such a huge time discrepancy. Maybe Sony will release an update that will allow the PS4 to better take advantage of faster discs but I wouldn't hold my breath. Meanwhile I'll save money by not buying one and buying more games on Steam. I've got an HTPC with a Radeon 7950 in it so that should keep me happy for a while. I only use my PS3 when playing blurays & games exclusive to that platform like Colossus and Wrath of the White Witch; otherwise I prefer to play on the HTPC and avoid the hassle of shuffling discs.
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