How to Expand PS5 Storage


Playing games in the modern era can at times be frustrating. Rushing home with a brand new copy of an anticipated game, only to find out it needs hours to install, plus you have to download the “50GB” day zero patch. 

Gone are the days of having full games on the disk. 

The day zero patch has become an unwelcome visitor who has come to stay, forever. This has to lead to games being fully downloaded onto the hard drive before play. But with the average game taking anywhere from between 50-100 GBs of space, you can start to run out of room on your hard drive quickly. 

So you just need more storage, how hard can it be?

How to expand the ps5 storage? You can expand your PS5 storage by using a hard drive that is compatible. Sony has designed the PS5 with a custom solid-state hard drive (SSD).  This means that you will need to have a hard drive with equivalent specifications to play PS5 games from it. You will need an SSD with an M.2 interface that is certified PCIe 4.0. It will also need to fit within the bay inside your PS5. If your goal is only to store PS4 games then you can plug in a normal external USB hard drive. Then, when you want to play your game, you can copy it over to the SSD for fast loading.

So there is a lot of information to unpack. I have friends that have no idea what an M.2 interface is, Never mind PCI 4.0. 

If you are tech-savvy and know exactly what that means, then you are better informed than I was back in March 2020 when Mark Cerny gave his first look at the PlayStation 5 hardware. I was just wowed by the big numbers. With the hard drive reading 5.5Gbs of data a second! 

So I took some time to research what all the hard drive numbers mean to people like me and you. So let me break it down for you. By the end of this article, you will know exactly what hard drive you will need to expand your PS5 storage. Plus you will be able to impress your friends with your new tech wizardry.

Why you should expand PS5 storage

The PS5 SSD is the pinnacle of game storage. Not even high end gaming PCs can yet come close.

The PlayStation 5 comes with an 825 GB solid-state hard drive. The PlayStation 4 came with a 500 GB magnet mechanical (Slow) hard drive. That doesn’t seem like a very big generational leap. 

Especially with big blockbuster games taking up crazy amounts of space. If you have Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (175GB), Destiny 2 (165GB), and Red Dead Redemption 2 (100GB) installed on your PS4, that would total up to 440GB! 

So the PS5’s 825Gb doesn’t feel that big any more.

Games are only going to get bigger by using higher resolution textures and more detailed models. That doesn’t even take into account the amount of space the Operating System (OS) is going to take.

We don’t even know the size of the PlayStations OS yet. The Xbox Series X for example uses 198 gigabytes out of its 1000Gb (1 terabyte) hard drive just for the operating system alone.

The Digital-only edition of the PlayStation 5 needs room to download the game as well as room to install. 

It looks like expanding the PlayStation 5 storage is going to be inevitable for the average gamer. This is where things get a little bit more complicated because you can’t just use any hard drive!

Why expanding your PS5 storage isn’t simple, yet!

To the average consumer, this sounds very boring. But this new SSD and the way it has been implemented into the PlayStation 5 is key for enabling the magic of the next-gen experience.

Sony isn’t using an off the shelf hard drive as they did in the PlayStation 4. The PS4 used a ‘SATA HDD’ which is the small type of hard drive found in laptops.

The PS5 is using a solid-state hard drive. This is nothing new to the world of hobby PC gaming. I have been using one for the last 8 years. SSD’s are 10 times faster than normal hard drives. In fact, they are so fast that it is usually another component that limits their speed. It’s like having a Ferrari in the garage but never being able to drive more than 30 mph.

The PlayStation 5 has reworked the procession of components in the pipeline so the SSD will get to put its foot to the floor: the Ferrari can be unleashed to its top speed.

It would take the PS4 roughly 1 minute and 40 seconds to load 5.5GB of data. The PS5 will do this in 1 second flat!

Any hard drive that you add in order to play PS5 games will need to work in the same way as the PlayStation 5 SSD. That way the new drive can use all of the features of the PS5’s custom SSD controller chip. This chip speeds up data compression and decompression and access to priority levels when rendering.

Compression and decompression is such a big feature, to really appreciate the impact we can look at the PS4. Sony released new patches for ‘The Last of Us: Remastered’ and ‘Until Dawn’ late in the life of the PS4 using the compression techniques being implemented for the PS5. This has nearly eliminated the loading times in both games on the PS4. 

Now imagine how crucial a role this is going to be for the high demands of the PlayStation 5.

What type of hard drives can you use?

The type of hard drive you need all depends on what you want to do with it.

This is going to be broken down into two main types:

  1. More storage to play PS5 games straight from the hard drive.
  2. More storage to play PS4 games straight from the hard drive.

Hard drives to store and play PS5 games.

To play a PS5 game directly from a new hard drive it will need to, in terms of speed, match or exceed the default one that comes in the box. Games are being designed with the speed of the hard drive in mind. So you will not be able to use a standard hard drive that you have laying around.

You will need to use an ‘NVMe M.2 SSD with PCIe 4.0’ and it will also need to fit into the bay inside the PlayStation 5. So it will be an internal hard drive. Let’s break that down into English.

NVMe – This is a type of solid-state hard drive. There are two many types, the one the PlayStation 5 uses is NVMe, which means ‘non-volatile memory express’ This means that data isn’t deleted when the computer is restarted. The Xbox Series X will also use NVMe. The older type is SATA HHD which has slower speeds.

M.2 – This is the type of port that the hard drive needs to be physically plugged into. This means that it will have to be an internal hard drive. You will not be able to just plug it into one of the USBs.

SSD – This just stands for ‘solid-state hard drive’, which works a bit like RAM in a computer in that there are no moving parts. Unlike the HDD that is in all the last-gen consoles which have moving mechanical parts.

PCIe 4.0 – This refers to how the data travels from the hard drive to the console. PCIe which stands for, ‘peripheral component interconnect express’, the name alone makes me want to fall asleep. This is where the speed is coming from. The data on the old PCIe 3.0 was like driving on a single carriageway on 4th July trying to get to the beach, it would max out at 3.5 GB per Second. Where PCIe 4.0 is like cruising down a 4 lane interstate at up to 7GB per second. The PlayStation 5 requires this type of interface so that there are no traffic jams when it comes to reading data. 

So now it is starting to look a bit easier to find a compatible hard drive. But unfortunately, there are still a few more things to be aware of. 

When you buy an M.2 SSD, they come with their own mini-computer built in to help make sure the right bits of data are going to the right place, this is the I/O (input/output). To stick with the driving metaphor, think of the I/O as the signs on the road. They tell you which junctions are coming up and which exits to take.

Well, the PlayStation 5 has its own I/O that the new hard drive needs to work with. To make both hard drives compatible the new storage needs a little bit more power and faster speed than the native hard drive.

This is because of the priority system Sony’s hard drive has in place. Sony’s hard drive supports 6 lanes of priorities where the early M.2 PCIe 4.0 used 2 lanes of priorities. This means that the PlayStation 5 is having to guess the priority. This could lead to small issues. So the M.2 will need more speed to compensate for these issues.

Sony has said that it has started to test and experiment with compatible hard drives to see which ones work better.

If you just want to store your PS5 games then you can just use an external hard drive. But beware that you would need to transfer it back to the SSD in order to play the game.

Hard drives to store and play PS4 games.

This is more straightforward. If you want to just store PS4 games you have downloaded you can just use any current hard drive on the market as long as it can plug in with a USB. 

While you can play PS4 games straight for the external hard drive you might experience some minor issues. For the best game experience, it is still best to transfer the game to the internal SSD. Remember that not all PS4 games are supported at launch.

You have a few options where to plug in your external hard drive.

On the front, you have a USB C port, superspeed USB 10Gbps

The front of the PS5.

The PlayStation 5 has two USB Type-A ports (superspeed USB 10Gbps) on the rear of the console. This is probably going to be your go-to solution because it will allow you to keep the hard drive out of sight for a nice clean look. 

The rear of the PS5.

What drives has Sony approved?

There is currently no officially approved internal or external hard drive that can play PlayStation 5 games. The only way to play a PS5 game to have it installed on the default hard drive your PlayStation 5 comes with.

Sony has confirmed that they will release a list of compatible M.2 PCIe 4.0 SSD’s.  Unfortunately, this might not happen until mid to late 2021. 

At least Sony has made it so third party manufacturers can produce hard drives. Unlike Microsoft’s strategy of only having the option of a proprietary hard drive with a fixed cost. 

Hard drive manufacturers will need time to make drives that are compatible with the specifications and size requirements for the internal hard drives. This should lead to cheaper storage for the PlayStation 5 in the long run as components become cheaper with time. 

Don’t fear, this is going to be a huge market so I can assure you that they will be working as fast as they can to mass-produce compatible hard drives. 

The downside to using the latest technology is that it is going to be expensive when they do hit the market.

After all, the reason Sony’s hard drive is only 825 gigabytes is primarily to keep the cost down. This has allowed them to price the PS5 at $499.99 which keeps it competitive compared to the Xbox Series X.

This article will be updated the second Sony approves an M.2 PCIe 4.0 Solid-state hard drive.

What drives should you buy?

For an internal drive, you will have to wait.

But if you just want an external drive for ps4 games only or just to store them when not in use. Maybe you don’t have the best internet connection and can’t delete and download them quickly. Then I would recommend;

WD 2TB Elements Portable External Hard Drive, USB 3.0

This is a workhorse of a hard drive that comes in many sizes, but 2 Terabytes should be enough for most people. The two-year warranty and excellent customer service are just the icings on the cake. Unless you are a power user who hates to delete games, the PlayStation’s default hard drive should be enough to get you started. There is no need to rush out and buy an external hard drive on day one.

You can and should ideally copy an external PS4 game to your PlayStation 5 SSD prior to playing to take true advantage of the hardware. 

How to install your internal hard drive

So where do you actually install the internal hard drive? To do this you have to open up the PlayStation 5. This is where Sony has taken a different approach by making it easy to remove the side panels. 

It is almost as if they want to sell you custom plates in the future! Or make it easy to have 100’s of special editions with different designs.

To open up the PlayStation 5 you will need to remove the right-side panel if you have your console orientated in the vertical (standing) position. If you have your PS5 laying down then it is the bottom side. The side with the disk drive if you have the standard edition.

Slide the panel down toward the feet of the PlayStation. This will release the panel. The hard drive bay has a metal cover attached by one screw. This also has the benefit of keeping your SSD dust-free.

You can then simply unscrew to reveal the internal hard drive bay.

If you use one of Sony’s approved drives from their compatibility list then you should just be able to plug it in and screw it back together and you will be ready to go.

Conclusion

The PlayStation 5 is a powerful piece of kit, but that power comes with a stringent set of specifications for compatible hard drives. Requiring an NVIe M.2 PCIe 4.0 SSD and even then there could be some issues because of how the I/O interprets data priorities. It is going to be best to wait until Sony releases a list of compatible internal hard drives.

What’s next

Is the PlayStation 5 backward compatible? The PlayStation 5 has taken a software approach to backward compatibility. This means that not all games are compatible with the PlayStation 5. At launch, Sony has said that the top 100 PlayStation 4 games will be backward compatible, with more to come. The PlayStation 5 cannot read PlayStation 3 or PlayStation 2 discs. 

Does the DualShock 4 work on the PlayStation 5? Sony has made the decision to not allow the DualShock 4 to work with any PlayStation 5 games. This is to make sure developers will make the most out of the new DualSense controller. You can however use the DualShock 4 to play PlayStation 4 games on the PlayStation 5.

Ian Malsbury

Since being introduced to the Amstrad, Ian has been hooked on gaming. Motivated by a love of worldbuilding and story-driven gaming experiences, Ian now has a place to write about his passion.

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