November 21, 2013, 6:00 AM —
It didn't take me very long at all to see that the 500 GB drive in my Playstation 4 was going to be woefully inadequate for a digital download aficionado like myself. By Sunday morning I was already down to 300 GB of free space, so I decided I may as well upgrade the drive and get it over with. The sooner I upgraded, the less stuff I'd have to re-download, right?
There's a lot of videos on how to do this but I wanted to go over the process step by step and be as specific as possible.
You'll need a new hard drive, of course. On Sony's official support page they say it has to be a 2.5" internal drive using Serial ATA. In other places they've said it has to be less than 9.5 MM tall. My research told me that meant nothing bigger than a 1.5 TB drive. The one I finally purchased was the "HGST Travelstar 5K1500 1.5TB 2.5-Inch Mobile 5400 RPM 9.5mm Internal Bare Hard Disk Drive 0J28001" which I bought from Amazon for $119.70. I don't have any previous experience with this particular brand or this drive and I just did the upgrade today, but I can at least say it works. I do urge you to do your own research though; I'm not making any claims about the reliability (or lack thereof) of this drive. I just wanted to share the hardware I chose.
I considered going for a 7200 RPM drive to try to get more speed out of the system but a) I couldn't find one that was 1.5 TB and 9.5 MM and b) someone asked me if I was worried about additional heat build-up. I hadn't considered that but once I was asked, it made me paranoid! Also I honestly have not been bothered by load times on the PS4 so didn't feel a burning need for additional speed.
You'll also need a USB thumb drive formatted as FAT32. The one I had laying around happened to be a SanDisk and it came formatted as FAT32. If yours isn't, pop it into a PC and re-format it. Then create a directory called PS4 (in all caps) and inside that, a directory called UPDATE (again, all caps). Head to playstation.com and download the PS4UPDATE.PUP file you're going to need (the link is in Step 2 on that page). It'll be about 880 MB. At the time of this writing the most current version is 1.5.1. Once you've downloaded it, copy it to your thumb drive in the PS4/UPDATE directory.
Lastly you'll need a small phillips-head screwdriver.
The first thing you want to do is back up all your game's save and profile data files. If you're a Playstation Plus member your data is probably already saved in online storage. To be sure, go to Settings -> Application Saved Data Management -> Saved Data in System Storage. From there you can copy your data either to online storage (PS+ members) or to a USB device.
Unfortunately there is no way (that I've found) to archive games you've downloaded; you're going to have to re-download those when your drive upgrade is complete.
OK so now you want to turn off the PS4 (all the way, not just to standby mode) and detach the cables. Place the PS4 horizontally on a table so the glossy part of the top (that section is actually the hard drive cover) is farthest from you. Place the heels of both hands on that glossy part and grip the edge with your fingers and carefully push the cover horizontally away from you until it separates from the PS4.
This is probably the trickiest part of the entire operation (or maybe replacing it is). Just be firm but gentle. For me, the left side hung up and I had to jiggle it a bit to get it free.
Once the cover is off, you'll see a screw with some Playstation branding on it on the far left corner (assuming you haven't re-oriented the machine since removing the cover). Remove that screw and the hard drive will pull out to the left. The drive is in a metal caddie or frame and is held in by 4 more screws. Remove those, then remove the hard drive, and replace it with your new drive, being careful to keep the orientation the same. Replace the 4 screws, slide the drive back into its compartment, and replace the Playstation-branded screw.
To replace the cover lower it directly onto the unit with about a half an inch gap between its edge and the edge of the rest of the casing. When you get it in just the right spot it'll drop all the way down and then you can just pull it closed. Don't try to slide it on from the edge.
You're almost done! Plug your prepared USB drive into the PS4, reconnect all your cables and turn the PS4 on by holding the power button down for 7 seconds. You want the system to boot into "Safe Mode" which gives you a text menu on your TV screen. Honestly I'm not sure you need to hold the button down for 7 seconds when there's no system software installed. I felt like I fumbled this step and I still got the Safe Mode menu. 7 seconds is a sure thing though.
Once you get to the the menu choose Initialize PS4 (Reinstall System Software) and follow the prompts. It takes a little while for the PS4 to read the USB so don't panic if you just have a spinning circle on-screen for 3 or 4 minutes. Eventually the process will start and you'll be warned that doing this is going to erase all data and profiles from the system. Of course you're going to say that's OK because there is no date or profiles on this disk. You'll also have to Accept a EULA at one point. Finally the ugrade will really start and over the course of the installation the PS4 will eventually reboot and come up as if it was a brand new system.
You'll have to set up your profile again, and re-do any of the various settings you may have fiddled with. You can go to the Playstation Store and re-download all your digital games and apps. Once a game is re-installed go back to Settings -> Application Saved Data Management and restore your saved files and profiles. Note that you can't do this until the corresponding game is installed. So for example I purchased Need For Speed Rivals on disk. Until I popped the disk in and established the existence of NFS Rivals on that PS4, I couldn't restore my save game and profile.
And that's pretty much everything. Using the drive listed above I had a little over 1.3 TB of storage space available after the swap. I don't plan to purchase any more games on disc if I can help it, and this extra elbow room should help me stick to that plan. Of course now I have to download another 100 GBs or so of data (games!) again, and hope my ISP doesn't decide to blacklist me for cranking through 200 GB+ of download bandwidth in the course of a week!
Final disclaimer: This process worked for me but if something goes horribly wrong for you, I can't be held responsible. Sony does support user upgrades of the hard drives on the PS4 (and the PS4 before it) so this isn't some kind of crazy 'hack' or anything, but I'm just a gamer like you trying to share some useful info. I don't run a hardware lab or anything.
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.