Few serious gamers are unfamiliar with the PlayStation 4. After all, PS4 is a much-improved version of Sony’s first three video game consoles that brings a modern gaming experience to the fans of the previous models. Loyal PlayStation fans appreciate not only the most notable features of the PS4, like the improved graphics and design, but also the smaller, more practical improvements from the older consoles. One such feature is the ability to easily add external storage.
Despite PS4’s numerous exciting features, most gamers find its insufficient storage capacity a serious flaw. The first line of PlayStation 4 only had a 500GB internal hard drive, which is certainly not enough to store all the games and content an average user might use. Even with following storage updates that gave the PS4 a 1TB storage, the default storage space is still not enough for avid gamers. This is where external hard drives come in, as they allow you to very easily add extra storage.
Increasing PS4 Hard Drive Storage Capacity
Although the default PS4 storage is quite limited, there are a couple simple ways of increasing it – with either an internal PS4 hard drive, an external hard drive, or a combination of both. As the headline suggests, in this article, we’ll only mention the internal HDD option and will focus more on tips and recommendations for an external storage drive.
Upgrade the internal hard drive of your PS4
This is the best option if you prefer to keep all of your games and movies in one place. The process of changing the stock drive is rather easy, just remember to keep your save files backed up on a separate USB stick or external hard drive while you change the internal drive. The only real downside is being limited to only 2.5-inch hard drives, which are generally slower and a bit more expensive (per capacity) than a larger desktop drive you might get in an external enclosure.
Meanwhile, SSDs of the same form factor don’t seem to provide enough of a performance boost to justify the high price difference, possibly due to various bottlenecks in the PS4’s systems. If you consider upgrading your PS4 internal hard drive we recommend you to see our Best PS4 Hard Drives article.
Get an external hard drive for PS4
If you want an easy PS4 storage upgrade, get an external hard drive. After System Software Update 4.5, you can install your games on a PS4 external HDD and run them from this drive as well. An external hard drive of any kind allows you to move a bunch of games between different PS4 consoles. Portable hard drives are the best for this, as most of them basically fit in the palm of your hand.
Meanwhile, stationary desktop external HDDs are not as mobile (though you can still easily unplug and carefully carry them around in a backpack) but most of them will provide better performance via 3.5-inch drives that are generally faster and often slightly cheaper than their smaller, 2.5-inch counterparts. The only noteworthy downside of this is that you’ll use up one of your USB hubs to plug in the PS4 external HDD.
Whichever method you use, it’s always a good idea to have an additional external hard drive for backups. This hard drive should be formatted in FAT or exFAT, meaning you’ll still be able to use its free space on other systems. This will keep your user data and save files secure even if either the PS4’s internal system drive or your preferred external drive fails.
Top 3 Desktop External Hard Drives for PS4
If you don’t need to bring your game files with you every day and have enough space for another “box” next to your PS4, you can choose a desktop external hard drive. All of the following drives feature a USB 3.0 connection and will utilize a separate power cable and adapter for power.
PS4 Desktop External HDD Comparison Table
Top 4 Portable External Hard Drives for PS4
A portable external hard drive is perfect for people with an active lifestyle. Since it is very lightweight, it is easy to carry with you in a bag. A portable PS4 HDD might be less useful for backups, but is a very good addition to your system if you often play on your friend’s console, for example. Another major plus of portable PS4 external hard drives is that they don’t require an additional power cable, reducing the clutter around your console even more.
Best PS4 Portable HDD Comparison Table
*The Seagate PS4 Game Drive is used primarily only with consoles, so very few PC benchmarks of it exist for a concrete, reliable comparison with the other HDDs. The drive is still fast, just take the numbers with a grain of salt.
Choosing an External Hard Drive for PS4
There are two types of external hard drives available for PlayStation 4 – desktop (unportable, 3.5-inch drives inside) external hard drives and portable (2.5-inch drives inside) external hard drives. Desktop HDDs are designed to remain in one place for long periods of time and therefore are heavier and bigger in size. This, in turn, allows them to deliver higher capacity and performance.
Portable HDDs, on the other hand, are best used to store files that you need on the go because they are quite convenient to carry around due to their small size. The downsides with these drives are their top capacity limitations (you can only fit so much data in a device that size) as well as speed limitations since due to their size and construction, 2.5-inch drives will generally be noticeably slower than their desktop counterparts.
Of course, using either version comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. To help you decide on the best external hard drive for your PS4, check out the list below:
Portable External Hard Drives for PS4
PS4 Desktop External Hard Drive
Uses of PS4 External Hard Drives
Once you decide on which external hard drive to get for your PS4, you can now start the actual file transfer. External HDDs can be used in the following ways:
- As a drive to install your games and apps
- To set up your external hard drive, connect your hard drive to the USB port of your PlayStation 4. Both desktop and portable HDDs have a USB 3.0 connectivity interface, which is compatible with PS4 and other game consoles.
- Format your external hard drive through the console by going to >Settings>Devices>USB Storage Devices>Your external HDD.
- Now just click Format as Extended Storage and follow the steps.
- You are done! Now you can install your games and apps directly on your external HDD.
- As a backup for the games in your console.
- To start the backup process, connect your hard drive to the USB port of your PlayStation 4. Both desktop and portable HDDs have a USB 3.0 connectivity interface, which is compatible with PS4 and other game consoles.
- Go to Settings and open the System folder. Click on Backup and Restore and then select Back Up PS4.
- Select which items you want to back up and click Next.
- Click the Back-Up button and wait for the system to restart. This should take only a few seconds. The backup will initiate once the system restarts. Make sure you don’t turn off your PS4 during backup as this may cause the backup files to become corrupted.
- As a media file player.
- Download the PS4 Media Player from the PlayStation online store and install it in your console.
- Connect your external HDD to your game console and load up the PS4 Media Player.
- A Media Player menu will pop up on screen, and from there you can select which media file you want to access.
Also, make sure you have downloaded and installed the latest PS4 firmware update!
Other Tips for Buying the Best External PS4 HDD
Other than the major guidelines, there are a couple extra tips that may save you some money and/or headaches in the future.
Avoid special features (hubs, RAID)!
Although devices these days become more and more compatible with one another, there are still many issues to run into, even with some of the newest gaming consoles. PlayStation 4 consoles only relatively recently (since update 4.5) have begun supporting external hard drives for game storage and having full access to those games. However, the console itself wasn’t built with the intent to support external storage in such way, so it’s actually quite picky about what is compatible and what isn’t.
For example, drives with additional USB hubs. These might seem like a “two birds, one stone” solution to external PS4 storage but they’re actually not a solution to any of your external PS4 storage demands. It seems like most such drives, like the Seagate Backup Plus Hub, first run the USB 3.0 connection through the integrated USB hub, as opposed to directly connecting to the SATA drive which causes the PS4 to not recognize the drive itself.
It’s a similar story with RAID and similar multi-drive systems, like the My Book Duo. RAID is quite a complex system that allows for multiple drives to be used as one, in order to achieve increased data security or transfer speeds. Needless to say, if computers need to be configured specifically to run this feature, your PS4 will reject it right away.
The SSD bottleneck
If you have at least some basic knowledge about storage drives, you’ll know that Solid-State Drives (SSDs) are a completely different type of storage medium to hard disk drives. In short, SSDs are fully electronic and are therefore much faster than HDDs (around 4-5 times faster for SATA drives), though much more expensive as well (~$60 for a 1TB HDD vs ~320 for a 1TB SSD). Many PS4 users will have the funds to get an SSD, though it might not be the most optimum solution.
Although there isn’t much consensus on what does this, the massive HDD-SSD speed difference that you’d see on PCs is heavily bottlenecked by the PS4. Most PS4 SSD users are usually left only with double the speed of an HDD (as opposed to the aforementioned 4-5 times on PCs). This still means that an SSD will be unquestionably faster than a hard drive, but the value proposition goes down the toilet with such speeds. This is why we recommend getting an external SSD for PS4-specific usage only if you have plenty of money to afford wasting it on bottlenecked (unusable) speed.
Summary of PS4 External Hard Drives
Upgrading your PS4’s internal HDD to a bigger storage capacity has its advantages, but so does buying an extra PS4 external hard drive. It is up to you to decide which option fits your needs better. After system software update 4.5 you can install and play your games from an external hard drive, which makes external drives even more useful and appealing.
If you don’t intend to move games between PS4 consoles and have a power socket to spare near your console, get a desktop hard drive. They’re a bit cheaper and a bit faster than their portable counterparts. If you move a lot and need your PS4 games, backup, or any other data on the fly, a portable external HDD is the way to go. You give up some speed and pay a little bit more but you gain a lot more mobility with portable PS4 HDDs.
As for specific recommendations, the differences between various hard drives, both among desktop and portable HDDs, are quite small. Basically, any drive on both of our lists will work great with your PlayStation so you may as well go for the one that has a noteworthy discount (if one actually does).
If you’re not looking for a specific brand or model, WD’s My Book would be the most reliable option among desktop external drives, while their My Passport would be the same for the portable variety. Seagate drives are also worth mentioning here since both Backup Plus Desktop and PS4 Game Drive are the fastest in their respective “weight class”.
Whether used for backups or as a designated game storage, external hard drives are a great addition to your PS4 gaming system. Not only that, any of these drives can be used on most other USB 3.0 computer devices, though, in most cases, this would require reformatting the drive, thus deleting all of the games on it. Still, the versatility is useful, as is the simple installation of such drives, and their limited or full-on portability. At least for backups, we would recommend everyone to get upwards of a terabyte of external storage.