How to add an external HDD to Sony PS4 (plus video)

Update lets you expand storage capacity, make games more portable

Keith Shaw PS4 external HDD how-to
Network World

Sony has finally released an update to its PS4 system software that lets you add an external hard drive to the console to help extend storage capacity on the gaming console. On behalf of the millions of PS4 owners who have been performing data management surgery on their console every time they wanted to play a new game, let me say “Hallelujah!”.

Before you email me, I know that storage capacity improvement could be done with the PS4 before this update. But this involved grabbing a screwdriver and cracking open the case to install a higher capacity internal hard disk drive. This approach involved too much time needed for my limited-free-time-available lifestyle. This from a guy who likes tech – for other parents and PS4 owners with limited time and experience with hardware, the external HDD approach makes more sense than messing around with screws and slots and such.

The Sony update lets you attach an external hard drive for the purposes of creating an “extended drive.” This means that applications and games can be moved from the internal drive to this extended partition. Other data, such as video capture clips, photos and save game data has to remain on the internal drive.

So let’s get cracking. Here are the steps to do this, along with some analysis/commentary from yours truly. Feel free to watch the video (above) as well.

Seagate Backup Plus Slim Seagate

The Seagate Backup Plus Slim line of external storage drives are a perfect choice for expanding storage on your Sony PS4. Colorful too!

Step 1: Get an external HDD. If you want to expand from the original 500GB, it makes sense to grab a 2TB drive or higher, depending on your budget. Sure, you could do this with a 1TB drive, but then you’d only be adding about 500GB once you transfer the games/apps from the internal drive over to the external drive. We picked a 2TB drive (the Seagate Backup Plus Slim, pictured above) for a couple of reasons. First, the drive is under $100, which feels right for such a project. If you want to spend more, go for it. Whatever drive you choose, make sure it supports USB 3.0 (and the cable) – you could try to do this with older drives, but make sure your cable is a USB 3.0 or you could end up with some issues.

Step 2: Attach the new drive to the USB port on the PS4. You can probably do this while the system is powered on, but I’d recommend shutting the system down, attaching the drive and then powering up. Once it’s attached, the system should prompt you to format the drive to the PS4 specifications – if not, check the “Storage” area in the "Settings" menu. Important safety tip/reminder – data stored previously on the drive will be erased during a reformat – another reason I recommend getting a new drive specifically for this purpose.

Step 3: Once the drive is formatted, checking the “Storage” menu in the “Settings” area will reveal both your original drive and the Extended drive. Any new games or applications you install will go to the external drive (if it’s attached). You’ll want to then move at least some of the applications over to the external drive, if only to free up space on the internal drive for new content (like video clips, save data, etc.). To do this, go to the internal drive via the “Storage” settings, choose “Applications” to see the list of games/apps installed on the drive, then click the “Options” key on your PS4 controller to choose the “Move to Extended Storage” option. You can then select one or several games/apps to move to the extended/external drive. Remember – this is a “move” command, not a “copy”, so it will delete the data from the internal drive.

In addition, keep in mind that when moving data between the internal drive and the external drive, large file sizes of these games will take some time. My version of Destiny, for example, topped 50GB of data (original game plus 2-3 expansions). This took about 20 minutes of data transfer time. Be patient if you’re transferring everything over.

Bonus benefit: With the games/applications stored on the external drive, this means you can take the drive with you and play games/apps on another PS4 system (like, say, your friend Logan’s house). However, there are some important points to remember here:

  1. If you are bringing over a game that you’ve installed off a game disc, you still need to bring the disc to your friend’s house in order to authenticate/play the game. For digital games, there’s no such requirement (since the game is digital to begin with).

  2. You need to remember your PS4 username and password in order to access purchased games (both on-disc and digital) on a friend’s system, because you need to sign in as a user on their PS4.

  3. Saved game data doesn’t transfer to the extended drive (remember, it stays on your internal drive). However, you might be able to transfer saved game data from the cloud to the friend’s PS4 if you set this up on your own PS4. I haven’t tried this yet – in our video, when we loaded up the game we had transferred, it started us at the beginning without our saved game data. But I believe that if I’m signed in on a friend’s PS4, that I could also download my saved data from the cloud.

That’s all you need to do – no screwdrivers, no fuss, no muss!

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