Update: To SSD or not to SSD? That is the question. We've updated our guide with a little more information to help you decide whether you spend extra on a faster hard drive.
Original guide continues below...
With every PlayStation game now available to download in addition to purchasing it on a disc our hard drive requirements have shot through the roof.
Thankfully it's an easy enough process to upgrade the PS4's hard drive so you can make the most of our digital download future.
If upgrading your console's internal hard drive sounds like too much of a hassle then, thanks to the PS4's 4.50 firmware update you're now able to install games to an external drive, which should prove to be a much cheaper way of accessing lots and lots of storage.
If that's an option that sounds appealing to you you can check out our picks of the best external hard drives available. Just make sure it's USB 3.0!
If you'd rather go the internal route, though, we're going to take you through the process, step-by-step, as we upgrade the hard drive of our house PS4. Set aside 40 minutes and you can easily double or quadruple your console's storage.
Along with this step-by-step guide, we've also produced a video that will show you everything you need to know about upgrading your PS4's hard drive.
Want to upgrade your PS3's HDD? We've done the same with Sony's older console, the PS3. And if you own both you can even use your PS4's old HDD in its daddy.
If you've upgraded your original PS4's hard drive but now you want to move it over to your brand new PS4 Pro, you can absolutely do this. Just be aware that the system will format the drive so make sure you back all your saved data up to either the PS Plus Cloud or an external hard drive before you do anything else to keep it safe.
The best hard drive upgrades for PS4
Before taking your PS4 apart, check out our selection of the best hard drives for your PS4. No matter what your needs, we have a hard drive that will give your PS4 a boost, and they're all compatible with Sony's console.
The best all-round hard drive upgrade for the PS4
Seagate 1TB SSHD
If you want a hard drive that offers capacity and speed without costing a fortune, then you're going to want a hybrid SSHD.
This combines some of the best technology from SSD (Solid State Drives) and standard hard drive, and by installing the Seagate 1TB SSHD your PS4 will get a speed boost - so games load faster - while also getting plenty of space thanks to its 1TB capacity.
The best SSD upgrade for PS4
Solid state drives, or SSDs for short, have fast become one of the most cost-effective upgrades you can make to a PC, and to a certain extent that’s true of the PS4 as well.
SSDs are much faster than conventional mechanical hard drives, and as such they have the potential to massively reduce load times in games, meaning you can jump into the action as quickly as possible.
They do, however, have a couple of downsides.
First is the fact that SSDs are significantly more expensive than their mechanical equivalents. After all, fast loading doesn’t come cheap.
Second is that although SSDs have a much more limited impact on load times on PS4 as they do on PC. They certainly speed things up a little, but it’s a case of reducing a load time by ten seconds or so rather than making games load instantaneously.
A Digital Foundry analysis of load times across the PS4 and PS4 Pro found that SSDs offered load time advantages of between 0.9 seconds on Project Cars and 26.4 seconds for Fallout 4 on the stock PS4. An improvement certainly, but not the biggest one in the world.
An SSD upgrade is slightly more beneficial on the PS4 Pro, which boasts a higher bandwidth SATA 3 interface, but even then the difference made to Just Cause three was minimal.
Personally we think these results mean that an SSD upgrade isn't essential, but this does, however, means that you don’t have to opt for the fastest performing SSD if you do want to make the upgrade. Our choice if you a hard drive that’s decent without breaking the bank is Crucial’s MX300. Opt for a 1TB version if you want to keep your PS4’s storage the same, and a 2TB version is also available at a hefty premium.
Best budget hard drive upgrade for PS4
HGST 1TB Travelstar 7K1000
If you want to stick to a budget when upgrading your PS4's hard drive,, then that doesn't mean you have to skimp on capacity.
The HGST 1TB Travelstar 7K1000 features a large 1TB capacity, and it spins at 7,200RPM, which is faster than the stock PS4 hard drive, which only spins at 5,400RPM. That means you'll see a modest performance increase with this hard drive as well.
What you need:
- 1x PS4
- 1x Phillips screwdriver
- 1x 2.5-inch SATA HDD
- 1x USB stick (8GB preferred) or 1x FAT32 USB HDD
- 1x laptop or PC with internet
- 1x PS4 controller
- 1x microUSB cable
- Step one: Buying the HDD
Step one: find the right replacement
The first thing to do is to buy your replacement hard drive. The PS4 uses a 2.5-inch SATA hard drive, the kind generally used in laptops or super-slim external drives rather than desktop computers.
It also needs to be under 9.5mm tall thanks to the size of the caddy that lives inside the PS4, which protects the drive and keeping it in place. This does prove to be a little limiting as, at the time of writing at least, lots of 2TB hard drives are a shade too chunky.
To stick on the safe side, we used a Western Digital 1TB drive, which gets you double the storage of the standard 500GB hard drive without busting any seams. This is also the budget buyer's choice, as you'll find suitable 1TB hard drives for around £45-50 (about US$69-77, AU$88-98) while 2TB ones, funnily enough, cost almost double the price.
You'll also see an 'rpm' figure when shopping for hard drives. This stands for revolutions per minute and is a rough guideline of a drive's speed. Most models out there are 5400rpm, just like the standard PS4 hard drive.
If you want to see real improvement in load speeds you need to look for a 7200rpm drive. These tend to cost a bit more.
Want to go all-out? For even better performance, you can install an SSD. However, it's an extremely expensive upgrade: you'll pay around £175 (about US$269, AU$175) just to match the 500GB standard storage. Ouch.
Step two: Back-up your PS4
Got the hard drive? The next step is to backup anything you definitely don't want to lose on your PS4. The bad news is that you can't backup game installs. Your home internet will just have to take a beating to reinstall the lot.
PS Plus subscribers don't need to worry too much about game saves either, as they will automatically be saved to the cloud. However, if you want to be extra-safe, you can back them up to a USB stick or external hard drive.
Just insert the drive, then in the PS4 menu go to settings > application saved data management > saved data in system storage. Here you'll see an option to copy your saves to a USB drive. You need to select the files game-by-game so you might want to leave out any titles you're never going to play again.
Step three: uncovering the hard drive
Once you are happy you're not about to wipe out your gaming history, make sure there's no disc in the drive and turn the PS4 off completely (not standby). If your PS4 heads to standby as standard, hold down on the PS button until the power menu pops-up then select turn off PS4. Next, unplug all the PS4's cables (that's the HDMI lead and power cable most likely).
Set the PS4 on a steady surface, put a hand on the shiny top plate and move it to the side a little. This is actually a simple plastic HDD cover that's not held in place with screws but a basic clip.
Once it's free of its moorings, you'll be able to lift the cover off revealing part of the PS4's metal skeleton. There's not much damage you can do here, though, as it's more-or-less just the hard drive on show.
To uncover the hard drive with the PS4 Slim, unclip the plastic cover by hand. This clip can be found on the left-hand corner of the PS4 Slim at the rear of the console.
With the plastic clip removed you'll see the hard drive caddy of the PS4 Slim secured with a single screw.
To uncover your PS4 Pro's hard drive, simply place the system upside down on a flat surface and locate the small plastic panel on its rear. Use the little tab beside the Ethernet port to pop the panel off.
With this cover removed you'll see the hard drive caddy and the single screw holding it in place.
Step four: freeing-up the caddy
On the regular PS4 you'll notice the hard drive is not yet in full view. There's one screw we need to unscrew to release the frame that holds the hard drive, using a Phillips screwdriver.
It's the largest one on the metal surface you'll see, and is inlaid with the classic PlayStation button icons.
Once the screw is removed, you can just pull the drive caddy out horizontally from the PS4's body.
To replace the hard drive in the PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro, you'll just need to unscew the single screw that holds the caddy in place.
You will then be able to slide out the hard drive caddy.
Step five: releasing the hard drive
There are four more screws that hold the hard drive to the metal frame it sits in. These sit on its sides, and can be released using the same Phillips screwdriver you used to free the HDD frame.
It's just the screws we need to take off, though. You'll also notice some rubbery bits the screws rest against to absorb any shocks to the HDD: leave those there.
This is pretty much the same process for replacing the hard drive of the PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro.
Step six: Swap the hard drives and replace
Once you've freed up the hard drive, it's simply a case of putting your new one in there, then reversing the process you've just performed. So put those four screws in the sides, get the caddy back in the PS4, fasten it in place with the large screw and put the shiny plastic HDD cover back on the PS4.
If you have the PS4 Slim or PS4 Pro, the process will be the same. Place the hard drive into the caddy, secure, then slot it back into the Slim or Pro console, screw it in, and replace the plastic cover.
If the hard drive doesn't fit, are you sure you checked it was a 9.5mm-tall or less 2.5-inch SATA drive before buying?
Should the process go as swimmingly as it went with us, you should be done within 15 minutes.
Step seven: download the PS4 software
Now you have a PS4 with a completely blank memory. The console's OS is stored on the hard drive you just removed, and the one inside your console is completely blank.
You need to download the software in standalone form, using another computer. You'll find it over at thePlayStation website, and it takes up around a gigabyte at present.
External HDD Support
With the PS4 4.5 firmware update, you'll have another way to expand your console's memory – using an external hard drive.
To use this method, make sure you have an external hard drive of no more than 8 TB with a USB 3.0 connector.
Then simply connect the drive to your console and you'll be able to download, save and install games, apps and add-ons directly onto it. You can also move any files you've previously saved onto the console's internal hard drive over to the external drive to stay organised.
When you connect your external drive, it'll be accessible from the PS4 home screen just like your internal drive so finding everything is a straightforward process.
The best external hard drive for your PS4
Western Digital My Passport 4TB
The newest Western Digital My Passport range of external hard drives is here and it's available in sizes 1TB to 4TB. It features cloud storage and 256-AES encryption, along with WD's own backup software.
Even better, it performs very well when it comes to data transfer speeds, beating many of its competitors. It's not quite at the same speed levels SSDs are capable of, but for an external drive based on a traditional HDD this is your best option.
Seagate 5TB Expansion
This is older than our previous suggestion but it also boasts more storage for the price you pay – perfect if you really want to take advantage of that generous 8 TB limit. In fact, you can expect to shell out just under £20 per TB if you're in the UK or a little less than $24 in the US.
The Seagate 5TB Expansion has 64MB of cache and demands an external power supply unit to get it going.
This drive is ideal for gamers as it complements quite nicely the internal storage of gaming consoles like the PS4.
For even more external hard drive suggestions don't forget to check out our full list.
Is upgrading your PS4 hard drive with doing? Absolutely. It's easy, takes less than half an hour if you're quick (plus a little time to reinstall games) and isn't really that expensive: around the price of a brand new game. It doesn't even invalidate your warranty. Sony is almost willing you to do it.
The only question as of the arrival of the 4.50 firmware is whether to opt to upgrade the internal hard drive or go external.
Larger external hard drives are certainly cheaper, but you'll need to find space for them and remember to take them with you whenever you move your console.
However, whichever decision you make - you'll be happy with the expanded space.
For enthusiast gamers, it'll avoid you having to delete your installed games anywhere near as soon. Just think about it: The Order: 1886 takes up 30GB itself, and that's when you're running of the disc, not a digital download. With 500GB you just can't store that many games.
Upgrade to an SSD or high-speed HDD and you'll also see significant improvements in load times and, in some titles, texture pop-in during the game itself. It's a no-brainer.