PS4 USB External Hard Drive – The Best Options
Two years ago, particularly when PlayStation-4 was not supporting external storage devices, many users complained that they had to replace the internal hard drive of PS4 in order to get more storage space for their game console. Whereas, other game consoles, like xBox, allowed its users to easily employ an external hard drive for their storage needs.
Sony was resisting the escalating number of complaints and appeals, justifying its attitude by claiming that allowing PS4 to use an external storage devices means to open the doors wide for game piracy, and Sony wouldn’t ever allow it.
But it seems that Sony was not strong enough to bear the too heavy pressure of its users, especially when PS4 started to lose its top position in the market. Therefore, the long, waited-for feature was finally supported, and it’s possible now to use an external hard drive on PS4 for two main purposes—Either as a backup storage or an extended storage. Each purpose has its own conditions and limitations that we’ll address throughout this comprehensive guide.
Let’s start first with listing below the best external hard drives for PS4, in order to make it easier for readers who have come here solely to pick an external HDD for their PS4.
Best PS4 External HDD
The external hard drives listed below are the newest drives of their class in the today’s markets. They implement the latest storage technologies in order to enhance user experience and offer better reliability and more solid performance.
Additionally, every drive we recommend here is fully compatible with PS4 and follows high standards in the external storage industry. Moreover, only portable hard drives are listed below, as we don’t support using stationary desktop external hard drives with PS4 unless it’s inevitable (i.e. 6tb and 8tb capacities are only available in stationary form).
PS4 4tb External Hard Drive
The 4tb external storage capacity is usually chosen by enthusiasts or players with special needs, especially those who share their PS4 with other people (i.e. family members) in a situation that every user has their own favorite games. Moreover, a 4tb can store a large number of movies, which makes it preferable for many users who want to watch videos on PS4.
Below are our top recommendations of 4tb external hard drives for PS4:
PS4 2tb External Hard Drive
The 2tb storage capacity is the most popular among PS4 fanboys who seek an external storage extension. To average users, this capacity limit is perfect and meets almost all storage needs for more than a year or two.
The 2tb external hard drive is suitable for PS4 users with mediocre storage demands. It can store up to 40 AAA-grade games and movies that support 4k resolution (based on 50gb-file-size standard factor).
PS4 1tb External Hard Drive
The 1tb external hard drive is suitable for PS4 users with basic storage demands. It can store up to 20 AAA-grade games and movies that support 4k resolution (based on 50gb-file-size standard factor).
To acquire this capacity limit, we recommend the following drives:
PS4 External HDD Compatibility
In order for an external hard drive to be fully compatible with PS4 and accepted by its system, it must conform to the following mandatory standards, otherwise it’ll be rejected.
You must bear in mind that the wide-range PS4 external hard drive support comes with the latest PS4 system software, so make sure to update your system to the latest version.
Note that these standards must be met if you want to use the external hard drive as an extension to the main system storage. Otherwise, using the external hard drive for backup & restore purpose has different standards manifested in the second list.
- Storage capacity ranges from 250gb minimum to 8tb maximum. Any external hard drive out of this range is rejected.
- Support for USB 3.0 connection. Older external hard drives with earlier USB generations won’t be accepted. You can use higher generations though, like USB 3.1 (1st and 2nd gen).
- Must connect directly to USB port. PS4 system doesn’t recognize/support an external hard drive connected to it via a USB hub or any other medium. The external HDD alone must totally engage that port without any partner.
- One external HDD only. PS4 system doesn’t accept connecting multiple external hard drives simultaneously.
- Must be successfully formatted by PS4 system. Once you connect an external hard drive to PS4, it will ask you, by default, to format it with a special utility offered by PS4 system. If the format process fails for any reason (like if the external HDD is locked), the drive won’t be accepted.
You might be interested in reading about how to format and use an external hard drive as an extended storage on PS4.
If you want an external hard drive just for a backup and restore purpose, the standards to follow are different, which are:
- Must support USB connection. The USB generation doesn’t matter here as long as it is a USB.
- The drive must be formatted with FAT file system only (either FAT32 or exFAT). Other file systems like NTFS, HFS, UFS, etc. are rejected.
- Only one partition is allowed. Therefore, if your external hard drive is divided into multiple partitions, you have to to fully format it and make the whole storage space one partition only.
For more information on how to use an external hard drive as a backup storage on PS4, please view this article.
PS4 External HDD not Recognized
For some reasons, PS4 system won’t recognize the external hard drive connected to it. You need first to ensure it fully follows the compatibility standards, then verify it is not a defected drive.
If everything seems fine, try to follow the instructions in this article to resolve this issue.
Using External HDD on PS4
An external hard drive can be used for two different purposes on PS4—Either as an extended storage solution or as a backup & restore storage solution. You cannot use the same drive for both purposes.
Each purpose has its different setting-up method, own pros and cons, and unique compatibility standards. All that will be addressed briefly in this section, and you’ll be referred to more detailed articles for additional elaborations.
Extended Storage Solution
Since Sony released PS4 System Software 4.5 with its wide-range support for external storage devices, users were allowed to use an external hard drive as an extended storage solution to expand the storage capacity of PS4 without the need to upgrade the internal hard drive.
This step from Sony was long-awaited by the overwhelming majority of users, for the extreme easiness and flexibility it offers compared to the process of upgrading the internal HDD.
This solution enables users to:
- Expand PS4 storage capacity in less than 5 minutes. Just plugin the external hard drive, let PS4 system format it, and you’re done without any additional steps.
- Download and install games and apps directly on the extended storage, which mitigates the burden on the internal hard drive that had to handle everything before.
- Better organize/manage your games and applications for having two storage portions instead of one.
- Have more privacy if your PS4 console is shared with others as well. Just unplug the external hard drive and take it with you, and your partner won’t know what you have done on PS4.
- Share your favorite games/apps on other PS4 consoles without the need to re-download them. Note that you can’t copy your games to other consoles, rather you can only play them. Make sure to have a valid license key with you for each game to be able to do that.
These benefits you’ll gain seem cool and appealing, but you might re-think about it if you get to know the disadvantages of this solution, especially when comparing it with internal hard drive upgrade solution that offers significant performance boost which you don’t get with the extended storage solution.
We have composed a detailed article that includes almost everything you need to know about this solution and its pros & cons and more—View it here.
How to use the extended storage
After successfully formatting and setting up the extended storage portion on PS4 as outlined here, you can use it to either move the files of currently installed games and apps from the internal hard drive, or just directly download and install these games/apps to the new extended storage.
As for moving files from the internal HDD to the extended storage, you need to do the following:
Select System Storage > Applications followed by pressing Options then Move to Extended Storage. Tick everything you want to transfer then hit the Move button and they’ll be copied over. Once completed, you can seamlessly launch those items as normal but they’ll now be running from your external hard drive. You can also use this method to transfer games between PS4s.
With the games now stored on the external hard drive, you can take it and plug it into a different PS4, where the games should appear on the home menu screen. As long as you’re logged in on the PSN account which owns the games and are signed in online, you can then launch them and start playing immediately. In a nutshell, this means that you can store a game on your external drive, then take it over to a friend’s house and play it on their console without having to download it all over again – very handy for those 50GB+ installs.
Backup & Restore Storage Solution
Sony supported this solution long time ago with its PS4 System Software 2.5 offering a complete backup & restore solution for users who need to upgrade their internal hard drive, or just want to take a precautionary copy of their data.
The use of this solution is declining among users, particularly after the support for the first solution. You can read more about it in details here.
The external hard drive here just works as a backup solution for emergency or for replacing the internal hard drive with a new one. It’s very helpful when a disaster occurs to the internal hard drive, like a serious failure that stops it from working entirely.
Overall, it is a wise option for those who need to take another copy of their games, apps and movies and keep it in a safe place until it’s needed. And, whereas the extended storage solution does NOT allow you to store game saves (but not trophies) on it, this solution does.
Another good thing about this solution is that the external hard drive doesn’t have to follow the strict standards of its successor. Just any USB hard drive can do the job perfectly.
How to use the backup storage
To get the ball rolling, you’ll need to plug in your external drive over USB. It needs to be formatted using FAT32 or exFAT, and if you want to back up a full drive, the external drive should have at least the same capacity as the internal drive.
Launch the Settings app from the PS4’s main menu. Select the System option, go down to Back Up and Restore, and then go into the Back Up PS4 sub-menu.
At this point, you may be notified that your trophies can’t be backed up. Of course, trophies sync over PSN, so that’s not a problem. If you’re sure that everything is already synced, just select “OK.” If you want to make sure that all of your trophies are properly synced, you should back out, launch the Trophies app, and make sure that everything is copacetic before continuing.
PS4 External Storage Device Types
If you’re a computer savvy, you are certainly aware of the existence of different types of external storage devices that support USB 3.x connection. Theoretically, all these types would work properly without any issue with all models of PS4, including PS4 PRO.
Portable Classical External Hard Drive
This type of external storage has the top popularity among consumers, thus it’s the most common in the market. In a nutshell, it’s a classical hard drive in 2.5-inch form factor put inside an enclosure with SATA-to-USB bridge adapter and doesn’t require a power cable to operate, it just takes its required electrical power from the USB port it’s connected to.
There’re two options come with this type:
- Single Drive. It’s the standard option with this type.
- Dual-drive with RAID-0 configuration. It offers double the speed of the first option. So far, only 4tb capacity is available.
The bad news here is that if you opt for the dual-drive hard drive, you won’t get the full advantage of it, because PS4 system will only recognize one drive
Stationary Desktop External Hard Drive
This type of external hard drives needs an additional power cable to operate, so it cannot be portable like the first type. It’s a 3.5-inch desktop hard drive collected inside an enclosure and connects via USB. They are faster than portable hard drives that sacrificed some of its performance for the sake of portability and compactness. The difference in performance is not too big though and can be neglected. They are known also to be more reliable than portable drives, but it’s again not a big issue as long as you don’t treat your portable HDD like a maraca when you’re transferring files.
As far as PS4 is concerned, this type of external storage doesn’t seem to please the majority of users, due to its power and room-space requirements. If you’re fine with that and want to gain the little performance advantage, you can then go with it.
External Solid State Drive (SSD)
The external SSD is, as its name indicates, an SSD used for external storage purposes. Just like external hard drives, it’s put inside an enclosure that offers SATA-USB adapter to help the SSD connects via USB ports.
An external SSD is a much faster and safer external storage option that can offer up to 10 times the speed of a regular external hard drive. On the other hand, it is a very expensive option (1tb external SSD costs around $300 whereas the same capacity of external HDD costs around $50). For this significant reason we don’t recommend using an external SSD for PS4.
Additionally, it’s worth to mention that PS4 won’t fully benefit from the high data transfer rate an external SSD provides, due to the fact that PS4 processor is not as powerful as that of a computer and it’s not designed to handle that much of heavy data workloads per second. Therefore, the performance of an external SSD on PS4 will be noticeably hindered and limited.
USB Flash Memory Thumb Drive
This type of external storage devices is too compact and small in the outer physical size to the extent that it can be even smaller than your thumb, offering the best portability option among all other devices.
They are too limited in storage space, and they are not worth to use with PS4 PRO as a permanent external storage unless your storage needs are too low and just want the USB flash drive to store your game saves. If this is your intention, then yes, a USB thumb drive is the best option for you.
Choosing the Best PS4 External HDD
In order to choose the best external hard drive for PS4 you need to take the following points into consideration:
- Compatibility All of the external hard drive in our list are compatible with PS4 operating system. They are interfaced with USB 3.0 and can be formatted to work seamlessly with PS4 without any single issue.
- Brand name. Always go for prominent and well-reputed hard drive manufacturer, such as Seagate, Western Digital (WD), Hitachi and Toshiba.
- Year of manufacturing. Usually newer models are more improved and optimized than older ones. Just don’t go for an external hard drive released before 2013.
- Capacity. Gauge your needs and think about the near future and do your own calculations to find the right answer concerning this matter. Bear in mind that you can get a portable hard drive ranging from 1TB to 4TB, and unportable external hard drive ranging up to 12TB.
- Speed & Reliability. Usually you cannot determine that by just reading the official product specification sheet. The short route is to skim buyers’ reviews on online retail stores like Amazon.com. That will not take you 5 minutes of time! Or if you need more precise knowledge, go read the reviews of IT professional on the particular drive in which you’re interested.
- Warranty. Don’t buy a drive that has less than 2-year limited warranty, which is the standard term now in all brands.
- Encryption. It’s not too important if you’re not going to store personal data on the drive.
- Portability. This is not a big issue if you want to exclusively use the external hard drive for backing up your files from PS4. If you have enough space for a desktop external hard drive, I would only recommend it to you, as it’s more reliable and faster than laptop/portable drives. Otherwise, a portable hard drive should be fine with you, as the “more reliability” of external desktop hard drives doesn’t make the portable ones bad or unreliable. It’s just a relative matter.
That’s it. If you have find an external hard drive that follows these standards, make sure it is one of the best drives you can pick for your PS4.
External HDD vs Internal HDD
In this article we have already made a deep comparison between the extended storage solution and the internal hard drive upgrade solution, and we concluded that replacing the stock hard drive of PS4 is mandatory if performance boost is a priority to you (check the best PS4 hard drive for this purpose). You will get rid of the old and obsolete hard drive PS4 is utilizing, and get more stable and faster drive that will have very good impact on your gaming experience with PS4.
On the other hand, adding an extended storage is also an appealing option for the advantages the internal hard drive upgrade option doesn’t offer. Therefore we see that the best thing to do is to go for both options. Get an external hard drive as an extended storage, and upgrade PS4 internal hard drive.
After Sony released its wide-range support for USB external storage devices allowing them to be used to expand the system storage of PS4, now users have an alternative option to have more storage space for their console other than going through the relatively-long process of replacing the internal hard drive.
Adding an external hard drive to PS4 and setting it up as an extended storage is a very quick and easy operation that won’t take you more than 5 minutes, and that what makes this option so appealing for average users who don’t wish to go through the hassle of hardware tweaks. But, on the other hand, external hard drives don’t offer any noticeable performance boost to your game console, unlike internal hard drives.
Therefore, if you want to gain both advantages of external and internal hard drives, just go for both of them then.