PS4 External Storage Ultimate Guide 
Since Sony released the long-awaited PS4 system software v. 4.5 that supported the use of external storage devices as extended storage solutions, many users made this their favorite option for getting more storage space on PS4. That’s because the PS4 external storage is very a very usable and flexible solution. You only need a PS4 compatible external storage device and less than 5 minutes to get it ready for use. This extreme easiness and usability has persuaded the public to adopt this solution over the internal hard drive upgrade.
Actually, this kind of storage solution has its own pros and cons. And depending on your needs and what type of users you are, you make your decision.
Due to the fact that many PS4 users have heaps of questions about PS4 external storage, I have compiled this guide that addresses the major issues concerned with this topic. In case you couldn’t find a sufficient answer within the lines, please comment below and expect my response very soon.
PS4 External Storage History
PS4 external storage is, as the name indicates, a storage solution you add externally to PS4. The purpose of this solution is either to expand PS4 storage capacity or just for backup. You can’t use the same external storage device for both purposes at the same time on PS4.
The majority of new PS4 users who bought their game console after 03/Feb/2017 didn’t know that PS4 didn’t support external storage devices before that date. Particularly on that date, Sony has released PS4 System Software 4.5 that included a wide-range support for external storage devices. In the past, with PS4 System Software 2.5 (released in 25/Mar/2015) you could use an external storage only for backup purposes. But now the situation changed. You can use a PS4 compatible external storage device either as a storage expansion to the PS4 system storage, or just as a backup storage solution. It’s your choice after all how you want to use it.
Types of PS4 External Storage
There are four types of external storage solution for PS4. Although the most popular one is the classical external hard drive, others have their good share of popularity.
- Classical External Hard Disk Drive (HDD). This is the most popular external storage solution among PS4 users. Its main advantage is the low price and capacious storage space. It comes in two forms:
- USB-Powered (Self-Powered) Portable (laptop) 2.5-inch drive. It doesn’t use any electric cable for powering itself. It gets its supplement of power from the device it connects to. This is the easiest and more flexible storage solution, but it is, at the same time, the slowest and least reliable.
- AC-Powered Stationary (desktop) 3.5-inch drive. This type of external hard drives has a separate power supply beside the USB data cable. Generally, it’s more powerful and reliable than the portable one.
- External Solid State Drive (SSD). This is the fastest and most reliable external storage solution. Its power stems from the use of an SSD that’s known of its high reliability and solid performance. Regardless its high price and limited storage capacity (maximum available on the market is 2tb only), this is the best external storage for serious gamers. Generally, it comes in two forms:
- Portable 2.5-inch. This is the old form of external SSD and it’s almost obsolete and extinct.
- Portable 1.8-inch. This is based on mSATA SSD, a smaller form of the regular 2.5-inch. It’s the most popular of the two due to its so low power consumption and little design.
- USB Flash Drive (USB Stick/USB Thumb). This kind of external storage devices is the smallest in terms of outer shape/design. Additionally, it’s very lightweight and doesn’t need any cable to connect to the USB port. When it comes to the ease of use, this is the best drive to go for. Moreover, since flash memory is the core of this drive, it’s more reliable than classical external hard drives. You want to read more about this drive in the PS4 USB Flash Drive Guide.
- Cloud Storage. PS4 website offers up to 10gb of FREE cloud storage for the PSN members. Yes, it’s too small, but can be useful in some situations.
So, these are the only four external storage device types that work for PS4. And depending on your needs and how you’re going to use the external storage device, you make your decision.
PS4 External Storage Compatibility
Before getting an external storage device for your PS4, you must make sure it’s fully compatible. The compatibility standards are not many neither difficult to conform to. Also, these standards differ depending on how you’re going to use the particular storage device on your PS4. This is what you’ll learn in this section.
Using an external storage device as an extended storage solution for PS4 requires that it meets the following standards:
- USB 3.x Support. Devices that are configured with USB 2.0 or older won’t fit.
- 250gb — 8tb storage capacity range. Any device that goes below or higher than this range is not accepted.
- Direct USB Connection. This standard excludes hub external hard drives from approval. Your external storage device must have a direct USB connection, not via a USB hub, whether it’s a built-in hub or just an add-on, both are rejected.
- Single-Layer Drive. If you connect a dual-layer external hard drive to PS4, the system will only recognize one layer. Accordingly, this means you’ll lose literally half of the storage capacity your external hard drive features.
- Wired Connection. PS4 system doesn’t accept wireless storage devices.
That’s it. Once your external storage device meets all these standards, it’s fully compatible with PS4 as an extended storage solution. Just take note that you must have PS4 System Software 4.5 or higher installed. Otherwise you cannot enjoy the use of the extended storage feature.
If your intention is to use the external storage device as a backup storage solution for your PS4, the approval standards are fewer and easier.
- USB support. Just any USB generation will work for this purpose. Whether it’s USB 3.0 or USB 2.0, as long as it’s USB.
- FAT32 or exFAT system file format. Your external storage device must be formatted with either FAT32 or exFAT system file before it can operate properly on PS4. Users needed to do the format work on a PC in the past. But now, the format function is available in the latest PS4 system software. So make sure to download it.
- Single Partition. You can’t use a partitioned external storage device on PS4. PS4 system only accepts one partition. Therefore bear in mind that PS4 system will delete all your partitions which means you’ll lose any data storage on them.
- Wired Device. Wireless external storage devices are not accepted on PS4.
- Direct Connection. Hub drives or drives connected to PS4 via USB hubs, both are not accepted.
- Single Layer Drives. PS4 system can only recognize one layer storage. If you use dual layer external hard drive, PS4 will recognize and utilize the first layer only and ignore the second.
Once the external storage device meets these standards, you can immediately use it as a backup storage on PS4.
Eventually, make sure your PS4 System Software is not below version 2.5. In all cases, downloading the latest PS4 System Software is strongly recommended for all PS4 users.
Extended Storage vs Backup Storage
Many users are confused about whether to use their external drive as a backup or extended storage solution. In fact, each solution has its own pros and cons, especially that you can’t use the same external storage device for both purposes. It’s either one of them.
As for the backup storage solution, as its name indicates, is used for taking a precautionary copy of your data in case of emergency. Every savvy knows very well that working with digital data extremely requires having a backup solution. Unless losing these data is not important for you, you can dispense with that.
As for the extended storage solution, it’s an extension/addition to the PS4 system storage. It helps users to move or install their games/apps on this extended storage and play/run them directly from there, which is not possible with the former solution.
This is a quick comparison table between the two solutions. It helps you have an overview on the purposes of each of them.
|Feature||Backup Storage||Extended Storage|
|Purpose of Use||Getting a precautionary copy of existing games and applications installed on the internal hard drive||Cannot have a copy. You can only MOVE your data from the internal HDD or just download your game/app directly to the extended storage. That means it doesn’t fit as a backup solution.|
|Format||Must be pre-formatted with either FAT32 or exFAT file system. (The process must be carried out on a computer before connecting the external HDD to PS4)||No need to pre-format it. PS4 system will recognize it in all cases and format it on automatically.|
|Multi Partitions||Not supported. Only one partition||Not supported. Only one partition|
|Backup & Restore Feature||Eligible for use||Not supported|
|Trophies & game saves||Only game saves can be stored||Neither|
|Playing on another PS4||Not supported. It’s just a backup purpose.||Supported. You can take the extended storage device and connect it to your friend’s PS4 and enjoy playing with your favorite game. Note that you’ll be asked for a license key of the game you want to play on another PS4.|
Furthermore, if you’re looking for more information on this subject, please visit this article.
Using PS4 External Storage
The use of PS4 external storage depends on the purposes you want this storage for. Accordingly, the storage capacity and the type of the external storage device that suits your needs are also determined. For this reason, I have divided this section into two parts. The first part addresses how to use PS4 external storage as an extended storage. As for the second, it addresses how to use it as a backup storage.
Extended Storage Use
Once you get a PS4 compatible external storage device for the purpose of storage extension, you’ve to learn how to set it up properly for this purpose.
Additionally, you have to bear in mind that this is not a backup storage solution. It’s a PS4 storage extension. Therefore, the system file of the external hard drive will be modified to abide by the “rules” of PS4 operating system. As a result, you can’t use this external storage device on other than PS4 system. Thus, make sure to pick a drive that you want to fully and solely dedicate for PS4, not any other different system.
The Set-up Process
So, here are the steps you have to follow in order to get your external storage device ready for use. It won’t take more than 5 minutes to complete the whole process.
First, you need to format the drive to make it compatible with PS4 storage. Plug in your HDD then head to Settings > Devices > USB Storage Devices and select it. Choose the Format as Extended Storage option and follow the prompts to prepare it for use.
Once formatted, the external hard drive will become the default install location for any future downloads, as well as any games you install from disc. Note that only games and apps can be stored on the external drive, with saved data and captures remaining on the system storage.
For further details on this subject, please watch the video below:
Backup Storage Use
If the external storage device you’ve chosen is intended to be a backup solution for PS4, you need also to format it before use. Therefore, you have two options here. Either format it on a PC using exFAT file system, or just plug it into PS4 and once recognized press the “Options Menu” button and click “Format as exFAT“. See image below:
To learn how to use this new backup external storage solution on PS4, please watch the following video.
External vs Internal Storage Solution
A wide variety of users wonder about what’s best for their gaming experience. Is it to upgrade the internal hard drive of PS4 with a larger drive? Or just expand the original PS4 storage limit by adding an external storage solution to PS4.
There’re several articles on our website that answer this question with some details (This one for example). Therefore, what I’ll do here is just provide a summarized comparison between the two solutions in terms of expanding PS4 storage space.
PS4 Internal Storage Upgrade
As for the PS4 internal storage upgrade, it happens when you replace the stock hard drive of PS4 with a newer drive that offers more and better capabilities.
The main advantage of this method is to get rid of the obsolete, low-performance PS4 stock hard drive (HDD) and replace it with a more powerful drive. Consequently this means an observable enhancement in the gaming experience on PS4 in terms of performance and storage capacity together. Remember, you’ll get more space and good performance improvement.
As for the main disadvantage of this method, it stems from the the steps of this process. First off, you have to backup your data externally. Afterwards, you put in the new hard drive and install PS4 System Software from scratch. Finally restore your backed up data on the new hard drive. Although this process is easy and doesn’t require a savvy to carry it out, it takes up to 2 hours for completion.
Besides, if you own PS4 Slim or PS4 Pro, you can’t go beyond 2tb of internal storage capacity (read this article). Although the deficiency of storage can be compensated with an external storage addition.
PS4 External Storage Expansion
With this method you’ll get extra storage on PS4 without having to touch the internal hard drive. This method has its appealing advantages, but also the disadvantages may hold some users off.
The main advantage of this method is that you avoid the disadvantages of the internal storage upgrade method. Therefore, if you just care about additional storage for your PS4 and performance improvement is not of your concerns, this is your best option to go for. It only takes you up to 5 minutes to get the external hard drive ready for use on PS4 as an extended storage. I have briefly explained that in the previous sections in this guide.
As for the disadvantages, they are basically that you will miss the performance improvement that the former method offers. Furthermore, connecting an external hard drive to PS4 makes it more vulnerable to electric shocks that might impact its functionality. But if you have picked an external SSD instead, you’ll be safe in this regard. That’s because SSDs aren’t harmed in general by electric shocks.
Additionally, the USB cable that connects the external hard drive to PS4 can fail anytime for no obvious reason. This contributes to the disadvantages of PS4 external storage solution.
If you ask me about expanding PS4 storage capacity, I’ll definitely tell you to prioritize upgrading the internal HDD. This won’t only give you additional storage space on PS4, but also improve the overall performance of your gaming console. Afterwards, once you’ve got rid of the stock HDD, you can think now about getting an external storage solution.
Probably you’re confused on how to upgrade PS4 hard drive and what drive you should pick. Rest assured that all these issues are covered on our website. You can visit our PS4 hard drive upgrade guide for more details.
But if you’re content with what the PS4 stock hard drive offers, you can go directly to the external storage add-on. Just pick a PS4 compatible external storage device and connect it to your PS4 and enjoy.