Thursday, 16 April 2009

Upgrading a PS3 hard drive and avoiding the problems other guides forget about

#NB: an updated version of this guide covering firmware 3.55 can be found here

This is something I have done twice now and I thought I'd share my experiences. There are lots of other guides to doing this online and they are pretty good - it's how I managed to do it the first time - but they often omit a couple of bits of information which might pose problems if you don't quite know how to handle them.

Upgrading the PS3 hard drive brings with it a number of benefits, especially if you own a lot of games, and also if you use your Playstation as a media centre for photos, movies and music. Don't forget that you can partition the drive and install Linux on the Playstation too. My original 40gb drive was almost full after 6 months and the 80gb replacement I first installed was full within 12 months.

This process should not invalidate the warranty.

What you will need
  • New internal hard drive - this will be the drive that you are going to put in the PS3
  • External hard drive - this will be the drive that you use to backup the original hard drive (game data, saves, media files, etc)
  • USB flash drive - this will be used to install the Playstation firmware (currently v2.70 as I write this guide which comes in at 142.5mb)
  • Phillips head screwdriver - for removing the drive
  • PS3 controller and USB cable
Sourcing a replacement drive

This is quite important but shouldn't pose too many problems. Not every drive will fit in the PS3 so make sure you check the following:
  • SATA - the drive must have a Serial ATA interface, not the older IDE or ATA formats. You should be able to pick-up a good quality 250gb Western Digital or Seagate drive for around £45 from ebuyer. Larger capacity drives are a little more expensive but still affordable.
  • 2.5" - the drive should be 2.5" in width, typical for laptops. If you have an old laptop drive then you could use this (I pulled a 250gb drive out of my Macbook to dump in the PS3)
  • 9.5mm - this is the correct height for the PS3 and also is typical. However, there are some thinner and larger drives on the market so watch out.
  • 5400 RPM - there are drives that spin slightly faster at 7200 RPM but they are more expensive and I've seen rumours online that they may overheat for the tiny speed advantage you may get. I can't vouch for that rumour as I've never installed a 7200 RPM drive.
Step 1

Now that you have sourced a new drive and have all the material listed above, the first thing you need to do is backup the content on the PS3 to a removable USB hard drive. I've found that it helps if you the drive you are using as backup is already formatted in the FAT32 file format and that it has enough free space to take the contents of the internal PS3 drive. You can convert your drive using Disk Utility (Mac) or Disk Management (Windows), or even just create a partition on the external drive large enough to accommodate the PS3 content.

Once you are sure you have you FAT32 formatted drive ready, connect the USB hard drive to the PS3 and the system software will automatically recognize the external USB hard drive, allowing you to copy the contents.

Step 2

Unlike Microsoft's Xbox 360, Sony have made it very easy for PS3 owners to upgrade their drives cheaply without having to buy official products. You can get twice the space for about half the cost. They've also included some useful software to accommodate the migration process. Your system settings and your PSN info are stored in the PS3's internal flash memory so all we need to consider are the games, games saves, photos, trailers, music, etc.

You have two options here: a full backup or a partial manual backup. I'm going to lead you through the former.

On the XMB (Cross Media Bar) select System Settings, then Backup Utility. Choose the Backup option when asked and finally select your external drive. If you already have a large internal drive of, say 80gb, then this might take a while - my PS3 told me it would take 1 hour 39 minutes.

Step 3

Now that the data is backed up we are going to need to open the PS3 to take the hard drive out. First of all you will need to completely power down the PS3 and disconnect all connections (HDMI, power cable, USB, etc) so that no charge remains. It is advisable to wait about 10 minutes to let the machine cool down too. Take the machine to a flat clean work surface and stand it on the side with the cooling vent (with the stand by switch) so that you can see the hard drive access panel (it should have a sticker on it). Pop this panel off with your fingernails or a screwdriver. The Playstation owners manual even contains details about this process.

Unscrew the blue screw. Pull the metal handle and the drive tray will pop out. Now, there are four small screws keeping the hard drive in the tray. Now these are cheap and will strip if you force them with an inappropriate screwdriver so use the right tool. Sony will send you a new tray and screws if you do this but your old drive will be stuck (ideally you want to be able to get the old drive and make a portable drive out of it).

Swap the old drive for your new hard drive (label side up) and screw everything back in and plug the PS3 back in.

Step 4

When you turn the power on you will be asked to connect a controller using a USB cable and press the PS button. At this point you will get a message saying the following:
The system software cannot be run correctly. Press the PS button to try to restart the system.

If the system cannot be restarted, the system partition of the hard disk must be reformatted and you must reinstall the system software.
Insert storage media that contains update date of version 2.70 or later, and then press the START and SELECT buttons as the same time.
For information on how to obtain update data, refer to the SCE Web site for your region.
NOTE: Most sites offering upgrade advise skip this section, hence my post so pay heed to the following section

If you do press the PS button you will end up in a feedback look unless you connect a USB drive with the v2.70 firmware to the PS3. You can't just copy the file over to the USB drive. That would be too easy. No, you must create a folder on the USB stick called PS3 and then another folder in that called UPDATE and place the firmware file in there in order for the PS3 to read it. Do this now and press START and SELECT.

If you don't create the USB directory exactly like that, you will get the following message:
No applicable update data was found.
Insert storage media that contains update data of version 2.70 or later, and then press the START and SELECT buttons at the same time.
Now that you've done that, and followed the onscreen instructions to format the new drive (we want to do this) we can start the next long part of the process.

Step 5

Most likely your PS3 asked you to agree to installing the new firmware, and then it automatically restarted itself when you agreed to the terms and conditions. Select your language of choice. If you have an HDMI connection the PS3 will detect it automatically and ask you to switch to the optimal settings - agree to this.

Select a time zone; set the date and time; add your preferred user name before entering the Internet Connection Settings. Work your way through the configuration screens. Eventually you will be able to get to the XMB. Plug-in your external drive with the back-up data, then head over to System Settings, then Backup Utility. Choose Restore when asked and finally select the device you backed everything up to. This is the second major time killer moment as the data gets restored. Restoring my 80gb drive worth of data took 1 hour 39 minutes.

Step 6

After all that, your PS3 should be ready for business. You can even go on to install Linux if you want but I'm not going to cover that in this post. I might do that later, but it requires another reformat and a bit of time. If you want to do this then make sure you backup your new install first or keep that drive you copied somewhere safe. You could even use the old drive as a backup resource. However, you will need to ensure all game saves or new data are copied manually.

All should be well. Most guides advise you to keep your old drive somewhere safe in case you have any problems in the future. You can do that but if you are out of the warranty you could always buy a hard drive caddy and turn your old drive into a portable drive. Caddies are cheap at about the £6 mark from most computer shops.

The original 40gb drive I took out of my PS3 was a Seagate drive and it stated on the sticker that you shouldn't put the drive in another laptop. It doesn't say anything about caddies.


Anonymous said...

Oh my god you are a life saver! Searched all over the net for information regarding my HD upgrade issue. Issue being the need to download the update 2.70! No where did I read the need to do this and setup folders! Thanks for the write up, I am up and running!!
Thanks again!!

Anonymous said...

thank you SO MUCH for this guide. I don't know WHY the other guides would overlook something as crucial as having the firmware on a USB drive! Thanks again!

Rob Jewitt said...

The firmware step was always the one which caught me out - even the second time I upgraded the drive, hence the tutorial. Glad ii was of assistance

Anonymous said...

Is it possible for the ps3 to be restored from the new hard drive being inserted? I have backed up on to an external drive and then im planning to put this into the ps3 and restore - dont want to if it wont recognise the backup data Thanks

Anonymous said...

Awesome guide and you are correct. Every other guides leaves this super important info out.

Dave said...

This was very informative.I was going crazy thinking my new hard drive was DOA or something.I followed your instructions and now I upgraded my hard drive to a 320GB from a 160GB.Thank You!

Anonymous said...

Took me ages to find your advice I was about to send my new drive back, so much for the PS website help! Thanks for the help.

Anonymous said...

thanks alot ....very good tutorial for 40gb ps3, tryed to install new hardrive but got stuck at the firmware update screen this tutorial solved the problem......
ps: you should make a youtube video with these steps ..

mullah said...

Fantastic guide. Tried several before this and all others was a complete waste of time.

Nicky said...

Thank you so much for this guide!!! No where else does it mention about the firmware having to be on a drive! I thought I bricked my PS3 but thankfully I didn't! Waiting for my backup to restore now.... 1h 11m to go!

Thanks again!

Dan said...

awesome job on the walkthrough. i greatly appreciate your thoroughness and your attention to detail, as well as touching on the issues that none of the other guides mention. thank god google brought this one up cuz I was frustrated.

KingArkon said...

I don't think the usb stick for firmware is needed with the original 60GB model hence the reason some guide omit this fact. It seems only the newer models need this feature!

Anonymous said...

mate, pure and simple. i love u lol. i have been trying for hours b4 i came across this from u and well to say the least im well chuffed. unlike other people that xplain about the pen drive trick u actually explain about the sub folders. once again. thanks :) Sam

Tex93 said...

Thanks for the guide! I'm about to upgrade (from 80Gb to 500Gb) but have a question on backing up.... I have several files on my original drive which are larger than 4Gb (hd movies), which I don't believe will transfer to a FAT32 external drive (FAT32 having a 4Gb max file size). Can I restore from my original 80Gb drive (mounted in a USB caddy) once the new 500Gb drive is installed? I have read on one forum that the PS3 won't recognise it's own drive format as an external drive.... Any advice appreciated. Thanks

Anonymous said...

You are the bomb!
Thank the lord for Google and thank the lord for YOU especially. Like everyone else on here I was caught out by the firmware issue and its a major one its amazing its not mentioned elsewhere.
Thanks Heaps ;-)

Anonymous said...

Tnx, dude!

Your information about creating subfolders on my USB stick did the trick.

Without your fantastic tutorial, I would still be stuck with un unworking PS3.


jake said...


Tim Swan said...

Thanks, first guide I found mentioning the need for the PS3UPDAT.PUP on the USB stick. good job!

Anonymous said...

Not that others haven't said this before, but thank you so much! WTF is up with the other install guides? Hope all is well.

Anonymous said...

Thanks man, this guide was awesome

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. I was getting extremely frustrated trying to upgrade the hdd. That little helper withe the two folders made all the difference. And that's not something I would have done on my own. So thanks again for the help. happy gaming!

Anonymous said...


coolguy said...

hi after replacing the HDD , its asking for firmware 3.41 and i created a folder as u said but after reading 52% of the firmware its displaying the same msg about firmware upgrade. plz guide me

jskrill said...

My ps3 wont install firmware 3.4
from usb drive wtf??????

Anonymous said...

There is a problem when upgrading a PS3 hard disk that already uses firmware version 3.41. If you are facing this problem (on the middle of the formating process, the message that there is no upgrade available) please check this how to:
This helped me.
Thank you all!

Benga said...

Exactly what I've been looking for, thanks.
However, you make a point of highlighting the firmware USB issue but don't say where get the firmware update from or how to get it onto the flash drive (tho no one else is mentioning this, am i missing someting?)
This is what i need more than anything. everything else is pretty straight forward even without instructions.

Tim said...

One of the better guides I have found, thanks. One thing didn't work. I have tried the USB thumb drive and a CD with the update burned on it and neither has worked. I get up to the end of step 4 and when it restarts, it is back at the "f the system cannot be restarted, the system partition of the hard disk must be reformatted and you must reinstall the system software..." screen. Is the drive I bought not compatible do you think? It is a Seagate Momentus 320 GB, SATA 3.0...but I did not think that would matter. Any advice?

Indrid cold said...

Holy crap!!! You are the man...... Took me a min to find this walkthrough of walkthroughs but def worth the time spent... Nice work buddy

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. Just one question, when I upgrade the hard drive, will it change my firmware version? I have just upgraded to 3.50 and now my third party controller will not work!!!! So if I put a new HD in, will I be able to have another firmware version? Thanks

Rob said...


Is the drive readable by the PS3? It needs to be formatted as FAT32 wich you can do with Disk Utility (Apple) or the equivalent Windows method. Tehn you need to make sure the firmware is in the appropriately titled folder. ANy deviation from this and the PS3 OS will not read the drive. I've never tried it with a CD I'm afraid. I've always used a USB drive


When you upgrade the hard drive you will be required to install the most recent firmware (currently 3.50) especially if you want to be able to connect to the PSN and play online games. I'm afraid this will impact on those 3rd party controllers mentioned in the relevant Sony press release (eg MadCatz). My advice is to contact the device manufacturers in case they have a work around - lame, I know, but I'm guessing Sony will be slower to react

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for putting this guide together. Great help!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks For Everything Dude ,You Really Helped Me Out :)

Anonymous said...

This really helped me out when i was banging my head on the floor in frustration. Serious thanks for the folder info , missed out by so many other rubbish websites. I also used a brilliant FAT32 formatter that ran under a windows gui. So the 250 GB drive that was in my wife's laptop when her onboard graphics blew up is now in my PS3 and i have 1 hr and 57 minutes to go ( fingers crossed )

Anonymous said...

USB External Hard Drive/Disk Storage Device Filled with 128 PS3 Games- Black (1.5TB)

Anonymous said...

Dude you are a life-saver. NOWHERE ELSE on the internet have I found step 4 and I was stuck exactly there! I thought there was something wrong with my HDD. I will try this when I go home but I'm sure it will work.

You rule!

Brett Wilkins said...

Thanks a million; your information is fantastic.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking the time to post this. I was also stuck at Step 4.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. I probably would have thought I'd broken my PS3 if I hadn't have read this first

Anonymous said...

where can i find the file for the firmware version? im stuck at this part. please help

Anonymous said...

First before you pull out your old hard drive, goto Download the 3.56 firmware to your computer. Copy to a USB drive as explained on their site, update via USB driver on old hard drive still in ps3. Once updated, pull out your old hard drive, replace with new hard drive, and update again with same USB drive 3.56 firmware. If you don't do this way, it will not work. Sony screwed up the firmware update making hard to upgrade you hard drive. This is the way I had to do it to make it work.

Anonymous said...

the goddamn problem is your gamesaves /music / videos /pictures etc. well be lost in the process? i cant risk my 250gb for such stupid attempt

Rob said...

@ Anonymous 2 March 20:04

As stated in Step 2, the guide is for a FULL back up. This includes everything. I've upgraded my hdd 3 times now with no problems or data loss

Anonymous said...

thanks for step 4... the folder in a folder thing had me! :)

Anonymous said...

You say Sony will send you a new case and screws. I was told by sony they do not carry PS3 parts and they would email the specs to make a new hard drive tray and the type of screws to buy. Basically they were no help and we have a tray with broken screws

Rob said...

@Anonymous 9 April 19:59

I'm sorry to hear that - they *did* send replacement trays in the past, but I guess they don't now? This post is 2 years old so things may have changed.

From you post, it sounds like all you need to do is email them with the model of the PS3 (ie 40gb 'fat' or 120gb 'slim') as they use different trays for different models. Then you buy some screws for £/$/€3. From your post, it sounds like Sony told you waht you had to do to fix the problem and offered to send you a tray?

In the mean time, if you have stripped your screws you still have options.

1 - you should be able to drill the screw heads off with hand drill. Make sure you use a small enough drill head, preferably one suited to working on metal

2 - you can then remove the old harddrive from the tray to put your new one in. You'll need to pick up some replacement screws from your local hardware or computer store. These are standard sizes though so should be easy to find (try this for info:

3 - the old drive can still be used as an external if you fit it into a standard caddy


raygomez said...

Thanks for this post it was truly a life saver as alot of other tutorials don't even go into getting the Update or putting it into a folder so that they file can be read by the system. Thanks again as I'm up and running.

Anonymous said...

Many thanks for the info - having looked at some of the video guides on the web it all looked so simple, the biggest challenge perceived was converting a certain amount of space on my external hard drive to FAT32 via partition. However, when I got to Step 4 I was taken by suprise! Everything worked as per your guide after that. I note you have to input settings before the full Restore e.g. time, date, network settings, user name etc. Does the Restore override this initial setting process? Anyway, I upgraded from 40GB to 320GB.

Anonymous said...

After hard drive upgrade- my psn movies will not play. It says something to the effect of having to renew my license and gives an option to log into psn and repurchase the movie!!! I have tried everything-
1. Deactivated new HD
2. Reinstall old HD to Reactivate old HD.
3. Back up movies on a USB drive.
4. Deactivate old HD
5. Reinstall new HD, then deactivated new HD
6. Restored movies but still get the same msg.
7. I checked user name and Psn info matches.
8. Called Sony and they said (politely) in so many words- too bad but so sad- movies purchased on psn before ps3 HD upgrade cannot be played unless repurchased.

Any suggestions???

Glenn said...

Glenn Saya..

Thank you.. All the sites I have visited said it was as easy as A,B,C.. And all I got were the same problems as yourself had.. Thank you, thank you.. Glenn, Cornwall

Anonymous said...

Just upgraded and your posting was valuable. Thanks for the hard work

Anonymous said...

I found this guide at the point of needing to install the firmware, but I wish I'd had it for the earlier steps too. Well done and thank you for producing what may be the only comprehensive guide to upgrading a PS3 (40GB Fat) HDD!

sheila said...

I don't get past turning on. I get cannot start. correct hard disk was not found. Any suggestions?? I've tried all the "sony" suggestions regarding holding buttons down, beep beep etc. So frustrated.....

Anonymous said...

after my ps3 formats my drive it goes to reset but nothing on screen i tried the power button thing and the power button followed by eject nothing i have to keep taking the hard drive out to format with my computer then it will just do the same thing again having no luck please help also i tried two different hard drives same thing happens

Anonymous said...

help please i upgraded the hard drive in my ps3 and i got it to except it . i can go to the main sony ps3 selection page but .... when i put any dvd or game disc in there nothing happenes you hear the player start spinning and then stops . to me its like a pc with out drivers for blu ray player any help would be great.i upgraded to 3.70 firware

Rob said...

@ Anonymous 10 September 2011

There are a number of problems with the 3.70 firmware judging by a quick Google. You might be best of trying to rollback the update to 3.65 or 3.66. The 3.70 update adds extra functionality based on the BD-Java and this has resulted in several people complaining about discs being read twice or not at all

Rob said...

@ Anonymous 8 September 2011

I'm a bit alarmed by the mentioning of you having to reformat your hard drive with your computer. This PS3 *should* do the reformatting for you. Can you use your original hard drive in the PS3? BTW, what Step did you get to before the problem materialised? Did you follow the instructions here or on the updated post (link at top of page)?

Anonymous said...

Actually, the reformatting of the HDD on the PC is only for the external (backup) drive, and then only if the external HDD is formatted as NTFS. If you already have a sufficiently sized external HDD and it is formatted as FAT32, you can skip that requirement.

Yes, the internal HDD for the PS3 will be formatted by the PS3 itself. I would like to add that I never got the FW screen, it seems my particular model doesn't have this requirement. Oh, I'm on 3.72 right now.

John said...

The best tutorial on the internet.
Thank you.

TermMenafor said...

damn man... today i just bought my new 500GB to upgrade my PS3... then that firmware thing happened... i searched and searched and finally found out about this blog... and guess what dude... IT HELPED ME F***ING A LOT... THX AGAIN... !!!

Anonymous said...

Great Post. Biggest nuisance for me was the work to reformat the external HDD to FAT32 at a size over 32GB. It took quite a while to figure that out.

Had no problem with screws holding HDD to tray, but killed the blue screw that holds the tray in place. one of the four HDD/tray screws worked fine as a replacement.

I'm on 3.72 and had no issues with the firmware. Didn't need to do the step of saving firmware to a thumbdrive.

Anonymous said...

i got some problem. after i change the new HD and turn it on. the screen shows (Connect the controller using a USB cable, and then press the PS button. But nothing happen when i do this instruction. Any idea about this problem?

Anonymous said...

THANKYOU, THANKYOU, THANKYOU! Fantastic Post I followed it exactly although before I started I updated the system software to latest (now 3.73) & had it ready on my USB Flash Drive as well. Put in new 250GB drive & auto installed the software from flash drive then restarted & signed me straight in! Now restoring from External Hard Drive with 7 mins remaining! So again - Thankyou! Oh and whilst on here search google for fat32 formatter its free & did my Seagate 1TB external hard drive in about 4hrs (just left it overnight) & now I can play all 1TB of movies straight from it as PS3 recognises it as soon as I plug in. The PS3 will do this for all flash drives & external hard drives as long as been formatted FAT32.

Tara said...

Thanks you a million for this COMPLETE guide to upgrading. However, I am having a problem... I followed everything to the letter, but when my system got to the formatting the new HDD, it got stuck at 99%. I waited for over an hour and then turned the whole thing off since I wouldn't lose any data (there isn't any on it.)
When I tried to restart the process, it is now getting stuck on 99% at the firmware installation from the USB drive. I put the firmware in the exact right folder on the USB drive so that isn't the problem... Any suggestion? Btw, the current firmware is 4.0.

Anonymous said...

Just what I was looking for. Thank you. All others missing the important step. I was stuck as well.

Anonymous said...

so far so good fingers crossed

Anonymous said...

You are leet!

Thank you so much for this website!

- Micah

Anonymous said...

That is a brilliant tutorial, mate! No bullshit, easy to follow; a great help. Many thanks!!

Anonymous said...

Fantastic, thanks a lot, works great :)

Anonymous said...

Hello I have PS3 the fat one 2 years ago I went called PlayStation and ask them can I upgrade to a bigger hard drive told me big as you want that I remove 40 gig sata went pick up 500 gig installed the drive so easy just put plash drive in save the games you want and Rockland you not able save. took out the hard drive put new one in hit button and it setup so easy. Time get 2 terabyte seta hard drive or more put in. If you have a games that freeze on PS3 time up grade to a bigger hard drive. I done that and found no more freezing problem ran out space time upgrade drive Thanks for your time.

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