Every PlayStation 4 owner runs out of disk space sooner or later. Fortunately, it's really easy to put a new hard drive into your PS4, and much cheaper than getting a whole new console. Here's how to upgrade your PS4's storage at home, without breaking either it or your budget.

How to Upgrade Your PlayStation 4 Hard Drive at Home Safely

While this does involve cracking open your PS4, Sony has its own official guide on the subject, so this has the company's implicit seal of approval. Installing an aftermarket hard drive in your PS4 specifically doesn't void your warranty, and the part of this where you actually yank out and replace hardware has been made as easy and painless a process as possible. It's not without its weird quirks, but it's about as simple as you could hope for.

Here's what you'll need before you start:

  • A PlayStation 4, with a controller and a TV to hook it up to
  • A compatible replacement hard drive: an internal SATA II drive that's 2.5 inches (9.5mm) thick
  • A nearby computer with a free USB slot and Internet access
  • An external storage device (using FAT32 or exFAT file systems; see below)
  • A flash drive with at least 1 GB of space
  • A Phillips-head precision screwdriver

The standard drive in a normal PlayStation 4 is a 5400 RPM 500GB SATA II. You can replace it with any off-the-shelf 2.5-inch internal drive that's 160GB or larger. It may be tempting to pick up something state-of-the-art here, on the time-honored "go hard or go home" principle, but the best you can do is install a 7200 RPM SATA II drive. Anything newer will be throttled back to that level by the PS4 hardware, so there's no real point in spending the extra money. You can get a slight but measurable decrease in load times if you go with an SSD over a mechanical drive, but it's a fairly marginal difference. I'm using a 1TB Samsung 860 EVO SSD for this project, 'cause I'm living that quarantine life--all the local electronics stores have been picked clean by bored tech nerds over the course of the last two months--and it was the first compatible drive I could find.

Notably, if you're trying to use any external drives you already own for the purpose of backing up your saved games and other local files, the PS4 isn't compatible with NTFS file systems. In other words, if your backup drive is already formatted to work with Windows 10, your PS4 can't read it. You're better off picking up a cheap 32+GB flash drive (or one of the handful of officially PS4-branded external drives) for the purposes of backing up your local files, as most of them come formatted for FAT32. You'll also want a second flash drive with at least 1 GB of free space for reinstalling your PS4's system software. Once you've got everything you need and you're ready to start, hook your PS4 up to the TV to start the file backup process.

1) Open your Trophies menu from the Home screen and press Options. Pick Sync with PlayStation Network to save your Trophy progress, which otherwise won't get backed up with the rest of your data.

2) Insert your external storage device into one of the PS4's front two USB ports.

3) Select Settings > System > Back Up and Restore, then select the files you want to keep. Your basic settings and custom theme will require about 1 GB of space overall, while save files on a well-used PS4 can easily add up to 5 GB or more. If you want to back up your games to save yourself the trouble of reinstalling them, count on that taking up a couple of hundred more GB and pick your storage device appropriately. Once you've selected all the files you want to keep, click Next. Your PS4 will restart and back up your files, which can take roughly 15-20 minutes.

Alternatively, PlayStation Plus subscribers can back up their files to cloud storage. Go to Settings > Application Saved Data Management > Saved Data in System Storage and select Upload to Onlne Storage.

4) Plug your second drive into one of your computer's USB slots and visit Sony's official System Updates page. Download PS4update.pup as directed, which is just over 1 GB; note that you want the complete system software file that's found further down the page, and not just the 450 MB update. In the event that this link goes dead at some point in the future, you may have to look around a bit on Sony's website, but it always has its most recent system software available for download from someplace official.

In order for your PS4 to be able to read the update file, it needs to be in a folder called UPDATE, inside a folder called PS4 in your drive's base directory. The filepath should look like this: USB Drive > PS4 > UPDATE.

5) Turn off your PS4 entirely (not rest mode, power down), unplug it, and remove all the cords from the back. There are several distinct models of PS4 and PS4 Pro with slightly different internal architecture, but with all of them, you can remove the cover over the hard drive enclosure surprisingly easily. Simply put both hands on the top left part of your PS4 and gently pull on it until it detaches. There's actually nothing holding the cover on besides the teeth on the edge of the lid, which is surprising.

6) Use your precision Phillips-head screwdriver to remove the PlayStation-branded screw that's holding the hard drive inside the enclosure. This may take some effort.

7) Gently pull on the small handle on the end of the mounting bracket to remove your PS4's hard drive. (My primary takeaway from much of this project is that I have owned many machines that were much more firmly sealed than the PlayStation 4 is. Now that I've taken one apart, it's like half the PS4 is held together by wishes and dreams.)

8) Use your precision screwdriver to remove the four black screws from the sides of the hard drive's mounting bracket. The rubber inserts should stay roughly where they are. Remove the original hard drive.

9) Remove the old hard drive from the mounting bracket and set it aside. Insert your new hard drive in the mounting bracket and replace the four screws.

10) Slide the mounted hard drive back into the enclosure inside your PS4. It should simply click into place, at which point you can replace the PlayStation screw and close your unit back up.

11) Plug your PS4 back in and hook it back up to your TV. Hold down the power button on the front of your PS4 until you hear a second beep. Your TV screen will stay black for just long enough to make you feel as if you've done something terribly wrong here, but then it will boot into Safe Mode.

12) Select Initialize PS4 (Install System Software) and plug in your thumb drive with the system software on it when prompted. If you get an "The update file cannot be used" error in response, then you have the system update rather than the complete system software file; you'll have to go back to the PlayStation site and grab the latter.

13) If it goes correctly, you'll be informed that the PS4 will be initialized. Pick Yes. This is a remarkably fast-moving process once it starts and you should be done before you know it. Your PS4 will automatically reboot a couple of times over the process of installing the system on the new hard drive.

14) You'll know it's done when it enters a fresh boot process, just as if you were turning it on for the first time. Skip past your setup process, and from the Home screen, select Settings > System > Back Up and Restore > Restore PS4. It should automatically detect your backup files and begin the restoration process; if not, double-check the folder structure on your backup drive to make sure nothing's gone wrong.

15) Enjoy your new, enhanced PS4. Get ready to fill it back up again surprisingly quickly.

While you're here, check out some of our other articles, guides, and news items, including:

The PlayStation 4 is surprisingly easy to upgrade, at least like this. I may be biased here, though, as I made a couple of attempts back in the day to mod a PS2, and "disaster" doesn't quite convey the scope of what occurred. Share your own stories of hardware mayhem with us via our official Twitter, @PrimaGames.