How to Use an External HDD on PS4 the Right Way

Using PS4 External HDD

The limited storage capacity PS4 comes with has incited fanboys to search for a workaround that helps to expand that storage capacity to the limit determined by user. Previously, users were only allowed to add more storage to PS4 by replacing the internal hard drive of PS4 with a larger and, probably faster hard drive. The standard, and most common upgrade size was 2tb, as it was the largest standalone solution for PS4 storage upgrade, because there was no internal hard drive that conformed to the PS4 storage upgrade compatibility standards larger than that. Other companies, though, offered an accessory called Data Bank that allowed users to use 3.5-inch hard drives with more than 2tb of capacity to upgrade PS4 storage to as large as 8tb.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you’re looking for the best external HDD for PS4, you better then view this article instead.

That was history. Now, after more than a year of releasing PS4 System Software v. 4.5, the overwhelming majority of PS4 users who solely look for a storage expansion for their game console would go for the external hard drive solution instead of upgrading the internal hard drive and handling the hassles that may come with it. (You may want to read a quick comparison between upgrading the internal HDD of PS4 or just adding an external HDD instead.)

Can an External HDD Be Used on PS4?

It’s easy to deduce the answer from the foreword of this article. So YES, it’s possible to use an external hard drive on PS4 as long as it’s fully compatible with PS4 system.

You have to know first that there are two purpose of an external hard drive on PS4, which are:

  1. Using it as a backup storage with which you can take a precautionary copy of your games and applications in case of emergency. This solution is dramatically going unpopular in favor of the second purpose.
  2. Using it as a storage extension to the main system storage (i.e. it’s an extension, not a standalone storage). With this solution you can install your games and applications directly on the external hard drive and launch them while they’re placed externally.

Each purpose has its own compatibility standards that we’ll address below in some detail.

Backup Storage Solution

If you’re looking for a backup solution for your PS4 that entitles you to take a precautionary copy of data stored on your PS4, then this is surely your way to go.

There are several advantages of this kind of solution over the other one that’s addressed later in the comparison section in this article.

The external hard drive adopted for this purpose must conform to the following standards:

  • Supports USB connection, no matter what generation of USB it supports. That means thunderbolt and other connections won’t work with PS4 system.
  • Not larger than 8tb, as PS4 system doesn’t recognize larger drives.
  • Formatted with FAT file system only—Either FAT32 or exFAT. (Read more on how to format an external hard drive as a backup storage for PS4)
  • Single-layer external HDD. If it’s dual-layer, the PS4 system will only recognize the first layer and ignores the second, so you’ll get half of the storage capacity that your external hard drive actually offers.
  • Only one partition is supported. PS4 system doesn’t accept partitioned external hard drives, so bear in mind that you have to use a drive with solely one partition.

Once your external hard drive follows these standards, it will be ready to be used as a backup solution. Just make sure your PS4 system software is at least on version 2.5, as earlier versions doesn’t support this feature.

Using an External HDD

Once you have got the right hard drive for this purpose formatted with the relevant file system, you just need then to connect the USB external HDD to your PS4 via the USB port located on the rear, then restart the system and PS4 will automatically recognize it.

Go to System and you’ll see several features listed. Just pick the “Back Up and Restore” feature, and follow the easy instructions.

Using an external HDD for backup and restore

You can also watch the following video if you need better illustration:

Extended Storage Solution

The extended storage goes in cahoots with the main system storage and it’s NOT a standalone storage solution. It’s currently the most popular purpose for why PS4 fanboys get an external hard drive.

There are several advantages of going for this kind of solution over using the external hard drive as a mere backup storage. Please have a look at the comparison section in this article to educate yourself more on this issue.

The external hard drive adopted for this purpose must conform to the following standards:

  • The support for USB 3.0 connection. If your external hard drive isn’t configured with the third generation of USB or above, then it cannot be used for this purpose.
  • The storage capacity must range from 250gb minimum to 8tb maximum. Any external drive falls outside this range is NOT accepted.
  • Only single-layer external hard drives are supported. If it happens that you use a dual-layer drive, PS4 will only recognize the first layer and ignores the second, which results in losing half of the storage space the external hard drive actually offers.
  • Connecting directly to PS4 USB port without any third-party connection medium, such as a USB hub. Otherwise PS4 won’t recognize the new external HDD.

Once you have the right drive for this purpose, make sure to have the latest PS4 System Software installed on your console before connecting the external hard drive to it. Generally, PS4 System software 4.5 is sufficient for this goal, but Sony has released many fixes and patches after that version that promote more stability an consistency of the overall system performance. Therefore we highly recommend that you stay up-to-date with PS4 System Software.

Now, which is the best solution for you? Is it the backup storage or extended storage? This is what we will discuss in the following section.

Using an External HDD

Now, once you confirm that the external HDD you own is compatible with PS4 system and is suitable for use as an extended storage, you just need to connect it to PS4 via the USB port located on the rear side. You have to connect it DIRECTLY without the use of any connection medium such as a USB hub.

Now, restart your PS4 to help it recognize the new connected drive. Then follow the instructions illustrated in the following video:

Backup Storage vs Extended Storage

The purposes for which you can use an external hard drive on PS4 may confuse some users not knowing which route to follow in this regard. In fact, both are an appealing choice, but, unfortunately, you cannot use the same external hard drive for both purposes simultaneously. You need to determine your needs and decide which purpose to go for.

To make it easier for you, we have conducted a comparison table between the two options, so as to get the picture clearer in your mind that eventually helps making the right decision.

FeatureBackup StorageExtended Storage
Purpose of UseGetting a precautionary copy of existing games and applications installed on the internal hard driveCannot 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.
Compatibility Standards
  • USB Specs Support (No matter what generation).
  • Capacity: Ranges from any size up to 8tb Max.
  • USB 3.x Specs Support (Earlier generations not accepted)
  • Capacity: Ranges from 250gb min to 8tb Max.
FormatMust 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 PartitionsNot supported. Only one partitionNot supported. Only one partition
Backup & Restore FeatureEligible for useNot supported
Trophies & game savesOnly game saves can be storedNeither
Playing on another PS4Not 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.

Unfortunately, you can’t get all the advantages in one solution. That’s why we keep telling PS4 fanboys that if they don’t need more than 2tb of storage capacity, they better upgrade PS4 internal HDD and use an external HDD as a backup solution.

Or you can read this article and see more options to expand PS4 storage and pick the one that suits you best.

Conclusion

It’s easy to use an external hard drive on PS4 as long as you get a compatible one with the purpose you want it for. Whether your goal is to use the external hard drive as a backup storage or an extended storage, you have, in all cases, to look for the compatibility standards before taking the next step.

Although we recommend that you first try to upgrade the internal hard drive of PS4 due to its low quality (read more) you can still use an external hard drive if your main concern is to expand the storage capacity of PS4 without a major interest in the performance boost the internal HDD upgrade offers.

After all it’s all you choice. Adding an external HDD to PS4 is a very popular solution nowadays due to its easiness of use.

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