Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Upgrading a PS3 hard drive and avoiding the problems other guides forget about: Firmware 3.55

This is an update on a post I wrote a long time ago, back in April 2009.  I figured that guide could do with a slight overhaul for those people new to upgrading their Playstation hard drives.  My guide uses an original 'fat' PS3 but the processes are largely the same for the 'slim' model.  I've added a video below for  those newer 'slim' models.

This is something I have done three times 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.  My 250gb upgrade lasted close to 2 years, but I can foresee a day when I'll need much more capacity, so it's time to upgrade.

This process should not invalidate the warranty.

What you will need before you start
  • 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 or a blank CD - this will be used to install the Playstation firmware (currently v3.55 as I write this guide which comes in at about 179mb)
  • Phillips head screwdriver - for removing the drive
  • PS3 controller and USB cable
  • Plenty of time and patience 
[EDIT] This just in - it refers to the updated PS3 firmware (3.56), which Sony has messed up.  It applies if you have had problems updating to firmware 3.56 via the automated download service on the PS3. You should read this and act before you do anything:
Before you pull out your old hard drive, go here and download the 3.56 firmware to your computer. Copy it to a USB drive as explained on Sony's site, and update the PS3 via the USB driver on the original hard drive (still in the PS3).  (At this point, refer to Step 4 below) 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.
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 500gb+ Western Digital, Seagate or Samsung drive for around £40 from ebuyer. Larger capacity drives are a little more expensive but still affordable. I bought this 650bg drive from Dabs dues it's very fast speeds (WRITE 83M/s READ 105M/s). -this cost the same price as a 250gb drive I bought 2 years back!
  • 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.
  • 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. Anything with the following dimensions will be fine:  (WxDxH) 7 cm x 10 cm x 9.5 mm
  • 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 synch your trophies (just browse to Friends on the XMB and select your profile) and backup the content on the PS3 to a removable/external 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(a)

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, movies, etc.

You have two options here: a full backup or a partial manual backup. I'm going to lead you through the former.  It tends to take longer, but it backs up everything - which is important for most people.

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.  When I backed up my 250gb drive it took the PS3 just over 5 hours!  Be prepared to do this overnight if needs be.

Step 2(b)

OPTIONAL: at this point it may be worth deactivating the content on your account so that you don't have any problems playing your downloaded games or files on the new hard drive.  Go to Playstation Network on the XMB, select Account Management then System Activation and then PS3 System.  You will be given an option to disable either or both of the Game and Video content you have purchased on your system.  This content is sometimes bundled with DRM that limits the amount of systems it can be played on.  I've had problems with PSN games needing reactivation in the past, so if you want to save yourself a headache and you don't plan on using your old PS3 hard drive, its worth doing this now.

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).

Owners of the slim Playstation model will need to remove a panel on the bottom of their machine, at the front, in order to get to their blue screw and drive caddy.  See the video below for details:

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.
Connect storage media that contains update date of version 3.55 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 v3.55 firmware to the PS3 (refer to the updated EDIT note at the top of this guide). You can't just copy the file over to the USB drive by dragging that file to your 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.
Note: the photo above is quite old now, but you should get something similar referring to firmware 3.55.   Now that you've done that, and followed the onscreen instructions (photo below) to format the new drive (we want to do this - it'll take 2-3 mins) 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. You will likely be asked to hit the PS button  on the controller once again:

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. None of these inputs really matter as you are going to restore your data from the backup we made earlier (including all your settings).

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.

Restoring my 250gb drive to the replacement 650gb drive took 5 hours 30 mins!  Don't say I didn't warn you.

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. Sony removed this functionality around the time they introduced the slim PS3 model. The only way this can happen now is if you hack your PS3 but Sony aren't very happy about this and may respond punitively in future.

In some cases you may have to reactivate your downloaded PSN games and video as I mentioned in Step 2b.  If your PSN games are not working, you will get a system message telling you to reactivate them.  Head over to Playstation Network on the XMB, select Account Management then System Activation and then PS3 System.  In some instances I've had this message even though the system says my games are activated.  Simply deactivating them and then reactivating them fixed the issue for me.

Now you should have a spare internal hard drive left over.  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...

Let me know if you have any trouble following the guide.

One last thing...

One thing that might strike you when you complete your upgrade is that you won't ever get the total hard drive capacity offered on the label.  I found this post over on eBuyer which might help explain why a chunk of your capacity is missing:
I bought this drive for my sons PS3 going from a 60Gb drive up to 500Gb.
 With his 60Gb drive he had used around 40Gb so after I had backed it up and restored it on to the 500Gb drive, I was expecting around 420Gb free however the PS3 reported 373 / 465Gb.
I know all about the way drives are worked out with the capacity so was expecting from the 500Gb drive:

  • 465Gb available space
40Gb from the previous back up
425Gb free
However the PS3 was saying I now had:
  • 465Gb after formatting

  • 373Gb left after restoring from previous back up
So in effect it was now using 92Gb from my previous back up yet my previous drive was only 60Gb!!!

I couldn't get my head around it at all and formatted it again and reloaded but it was exactly the same.
So I searched the net and have found that out of a 500Gb drive, 465Gb is available (which is correct and would be the same on Windows) but the PS3 also makes a % available for its operating system and other things which on a 500Gb drive is around 52Gb
I found this reply from a user who contacted Sony direct asking about the issue: 
"The percentage of space that is allocated for system administration varies from model to model and is between 16% and 20% of the hard drive space. This space is reserved for system administration functions and for future updates or developments. This space is not reserved for "Other OS" functions."

Most folk are reporting 413Gb/465Gb from their PS3 after doing a clean install with a 500Gb drive.

 I hope this helps others who were wondering where the extra Gb was going.


Anonymous said...

Nice guide, thanks.
Do you think it would be possible to use my old PS3 HDD as the back up, using a sata to usb adapter?

Anonymous said...

i'm stuck on step 5, hitting the ps button but all my controller doing is showing all the red lights on but none thing is happening.

Anonymous said...

i had same problem at step5 just turn off power and back on again and it starts installing update.

Anonymous said...

help i upgraded my hdd and my blu ray player wont work what do i need to do to get this back up and going it was working fine before the upgrade any help would be great i upgraded to 3.70 if that helps

Rob said...

@Anonymous 10th Sept 2011

I'm not convinced that a HDD upgrade will have an impact on the Blu Ray player. It's more likely that the firmware is responsible. It sounds like you upgraded the firmware at the same time? You might be able to try installing an older version of the firmware?

You aren't the only one having Blu Ray problems since 3.70:

The firmware does have some impact on how the machine handles BD-Java:

Anonymous said...

just put in a WD scorpio blue 500gig, when I turn on the system the screen reads " cannot start. Correct hard drive not found." If I put the original 40 gig drive back in all is fine again. why won't the PS3 recognize the new drive, my system is an older 40 gig fat. do you have any ideas on what to do? thanks.

Anonymous said...

<< thats exactly what happened to mine. help!

Anonymous said...

Same thing happend to me! Except my scorpio blue is 250 gig, plz email me at

Anonymous said...

Alright!! I turned in the hd scorpio blue for another scorpio blue 250 gig, and it works after starting system with 3 beeps

Anonymous said...

Thought I'd add - at step 4 keep only the UPDATE file in the PS3 folder otherwise the update doesn't work. I dragged the backup data out of the PS3 folder on the USB hard drive then back in when it eventually updated. Thanks a lot for the guide - I can't believe the amount of guides that tell you how easy it is - it's only took me 5 days to complete this including buying a new set of screwdrivers and a new cradle!

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.

Anonymous said...

can you still use the old hdd ,any time you want??

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Ive got to say thanks, Upgraded my fat 60gb and thanks to your guide it now works, all others (as mentioned) omit the /ps3/upgrade/ folder process.

Now i'm just left with reinstalling all the gt5 game data and updates.

Merry Xmas!

Anonymous said...

I have one enormous problem!!! I have everything!!! The software everything is FAT32 but when I start the PS3 (the new HDD in the PS3) it says "Cannot start. The incorrect hard disk is inserted." or something like that. I have no idea what I've done/am doing wrong!!!! Please help

TLib19 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? I have already gone through the process just like the 3.55 error and it still won't go beyond 99%. Btw, the current firmware is 4.0.

Anonymous said...

I am getting the same error as was posted by the guy on Dec 30th is there a way around this?

Anonymous said...

FYI guy/gal from Dec 30th post. Solution to your issue before turning the system on with your new hard drive installed. Download the update from PS website to a thumb drive. Need to have a folder labeled PS3 then in that Folder labeled UPDATE and within that place the firmware update. (I used 4.00) Once you have that place that thumb drive in hte PS3 USB slot then turn the system on. Hold the power button down until unit turns on then back off, do this agaiin and when it turns on hold until you hear 2 beeps. When you hear that you will have to hit the PS button on the controller and a menu will pop up. Select Firmware update and then follow the prompts. It will begin the process and then prompt you for formating the hard drive. This is the only difference in all the other info out there on updating the hard drive. Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

If you have multiman installed on the other HDD and what to use it as a backup is it possible to swap HDDs and be able to play stored games on the old one using mutliman and visa versa using the new firmware..Cheers

Kjay Chambers said...

do i have to use a new hdd or can i use my old laptop hdd?

Anonymous said...

This drove me mad. That is until I found this page. I would suggest though - to make this complete - that there is a small section on how to format a drive to FAT32 in Windows Vista or 7.

But thank you, thank you, thank you, Rob. I have upgraded my 160GB to 500GB (as a matter of interest, it says I have a total of 465GB).

Anonymous said...

I'v done all the steps correctly but i keep hooking at the point where it says 99%, during formatting, and it just stays there like that. I cant go further or backwards, its really frustrating. i'm upgrading to a 500gb hdd, and i'm using firmware 4.11 to upgrade


Anonymous said...

Would be neat if it were possible to copy the data from the old drive directly without an additional drive as intermediary, using a sata to usb connection, but I suppose that would be too easy? Also, I have put off replacing my drive because of the warning that some things might not be copied. Is that something to worry about?

cusman said...

I have done the PS3 hard-drive upgrade twice before and with my 500GB drive nearly full it was time for another upgrade (this time going for 750GB 7200rpm Solid State Hybrid Drive from Seagate from Amazon for $130ish).

Decided to search online again to see if the process is any easier than last time and it still the same slow grind it used to be. This is by far the best guide on the topic.

1. Get latest Firmware from and put that on a USB stick. You need ~200-250MB.
2. Backup to USB HDD with more free space than your current PS3 HDD usage.
3. Deactivate your PS3 for Game and Video.
4. Shutdown, Power Switch off, disconnect all cables
5. Do the easiest step of physically swapping the drives.
6. Boot up the PS3 with new HHD, plug in the USB stick and one controller via USB.
7. After your controller is working, on the screen that wants you to press PS button to restart. Press and hold both Start & Select.
8. Tell it to format the new drive. Go through the motions until new Firmware is installed and PS3 is working again landing you on the Cross-Media bar UI.
9. Unplug the USB stick, and plug in your USB HDD that you made backup to.
10. Go to System Settings, Backup Utility, and initiate the restore. Note how long it estimates it will take and give yourself an extra hour before you check back on it.
11. Once done you should be back on Cross-Media bar UI, sign-in with your PSN account, activate the GAME and VIDEO for the machine if needed.
12. Enjoy the additional free space.

For anybody wondering, my 750GB marketing size gives me ~605GB useable storage. The PS3 reserved for itself ~50GB and the marketing label misrepresents by another ~50GB.

cusman said...

It might be because PS3 is now at firmware 4.25 while this guide was written for 3.55, but I think the instruction to Deactivate the PSN Account for Game/Video may not be best choice if you will be restoring back to the same PS3.

I think it is good advice if you will be restoring to a different PS3.

If your PS3 is not activated for Game/Video at time of restore, then those Games and Videos might not get restored even though they were backed up.

So in my recent upgrade from 500GB to 750GB, only the Game Saves (all?), Music, Pictures, and I assume Themes (not sure?) were restored. Once it was all done (took 15+ hours), my PS3 showed 620GB out of 698GB free.

750GB marketing label is 698GB usable, and with PS3 system reserving some percentage and those Save/Music/Picture files using up rest, I had 620GB still free after full restore. Since I had nearly 400GB worth of actual use, this tells me lots of stuff is missing and when I look, sure enough all Game Data, Game Installs, DRM Video (free trailers restored fine), and even Video Applications except Netflix are missing.

So now I am going to try a restore again, after signing in with my PSN account and activating the PS3 for Game/Video. I am hoping a restore onto an activated system will pull everything from the backup so I don't have to re-download those things from the Download List.

Anonymous said...

I'm having trouble with my install, I had previously upgraded from a 80GB to 500GB, worked wonders the first time. Then I needed to return back to the 80GB hard drive for a little while, which also worked fine. Now when I try and install the 500GB HD again the PS3 simply beeps twice and won't go any further after being turned on. Has any body else had this problem, and if show did they manage to find away around it?

Seren Esp said...

Thanks for this brilliant guide. I have now been able to upgrade my PS3 to a 1TB drive.
I had no problems at all following the guide and as mentioned by other people, no other guide seemed to mention the firmware update bit (now using version 4.31) - I double checked I had copied the files correctly by scrolling to the system update section on the xmb bar and asked it to update using external media- when it told me it was the same as the current version, I knew it could read the USB.

I'm using the Samsung 1TB drive (£54.97 on Amazon) and it seems much quieter than the old one. I also brought a Freelogix SATA 2.5" external drive enclosure case (£3.90 from Amazon) to put the old drive into once I had removed it. This case came with a little screwdriver that perfectly fit the screws in the PS3 hard drive caddy which was an unexpected bonus.
It took roughly 4 hours to back up and then restore the PS3 data onto a FAT32 formatted drive, but only about 10 minutes to change the drives.
I had a slight moment of panic when I couldn't access my downloaded games but then I remembered to reactivate my account (There was no need to deactivate it before changing the drives) and all was fine - If you have several accounts like I do, you need to remember to reactivate them all.

As an extra bit of information before I restored by data onto the new drive it was showing 828GB/931GB free space

Thanks for the brilliant guide :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks and very good guide.
I want to share my experience as I was having all kind of problem when it got to the stage that PS3 format the new drive. It returned an error code 8002F271 after 23%.

I searched the whole of internet and couldnt find an appropriate answer. I was completely stumped.

Until I have a Eureka moment. The drive was a 500GB drive I took out of my Dell laptop. I have used a password to protect the hard drive. And this password is causing the problem. A quick install back to the laptop and removed the password. And voila. All ok. :-) Just want to share in case I can help others.

Thomas from Sydney


Well I had a crisis averted! Put in an old 500gb I had laying around worked perfect and formatted good when i hooked it up to the PC via sata-usb.

So it was last Saturday I tried it in the ps3 got stuck in that darn 99% loop. Didn't wanna work when i put the original 40gig back in. So I ordered a half tb drive from newegg and voila Tuesday night I was all good money.

Put the old drive back in to backup deleted all the utilities and things I could just redownload and it only took around 2 hours to complete tht whole process of restoring too :)

Thank the gods I love this Gunmetal PS3 almost feared I lost her.

brutaldeluxe09 said...

good work, just done this today and this is the best guide by far. Only thing I discovered is that should you be upgrading from the 12gb super slim, it will copy EVERYTHING across for for you automatically from the flash drive after installing the new HDD. Unaware of this I followed your instructions anyway and it made no noticeable difference, I just wasted half an hour or so. Thanks

Anonymous said...

dont work none of it useless wont find the backup usb hdd nor the boot usb stck.. Grrrrrr

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