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How to use an external hard drive on PS5

The PlayStation 5 is a remarkable system, but it doesn’t come with much storage space. Breaking from the 1TB the Xbox Series X offers, the PS5 only offers 825GB. Worse, after accounting for the storage space the PS5 takes up by default, users are left with just over 650GB of space. Thankfully, you can use external storage to expand your space, and in this guide, we’re going to show you how to use an external hard drive on PS5.

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How to use an external HDD or SSD on PS5

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Before you can use an external hard drive on PS5, you need to make sure it’s compatible. It doesn’t matter if your external drive is a hard disk drive (HDD) or solid-state drive (SSD), you can use it on PS5 as long as it uses USB 3.0 or later. USB 2.0 external hard drives won’t work. Because they won’t work, you’ll need to connect your external hard drive to one of the two USB-A ports on the back of the PS5. The USB-A port on the front is only rated for USB 2.0, so it won’t work. Also, plug the drive directly into a console (don’t use a USB hub or extension cable).

The only other requirement is that your external hard drive is between 250GB and 8TB. If you’re still shopping for one, check out our guide to the best external hard drives.

If you’re using the same external hard drive on your PS5 that you used on your PS4, the process is simple. Plug in your external hard drive, follow the prompts, and you’re set. Games that you already installed on your external hard drive on your PS4 will show up on your PS5. If this is your first time, plug in the drive and select Format as Extended Storage when the prompt comes up. This will remove all data from the external hard drive, so make sure to offload any data if you’re repurposing another drive.

Once the drive is plugged in and formatted, head to the Settings menu. There, follow Storage > Extended Storage, and make sure the Always Install PS4 Games to Extended Storage option is checked. In this menu, you can also select Safely Remove from PS5 to eject your external hard drive (the PS5, like the PS4, will throw a mechanical tantrum if you remove the drive without using this option).

That’s it. Your PS5 will automatically install all new PS4 games to your external hard drive. If you’ve been getting by with internal storage, read on to learn how to transfer your PS4 games to an external hard drive.

How to transfer your PS4 games to an external hard drive on PS5

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If you already have games PS4 games installed on your PS5, you can easily transfer them to external storage. Follow Settings > Storage > Console Storage > Games and Apps to see all of the games and applications you have installed on your PS5’s internal storage. Switch to the Items You Can Move tab and select the games and/or applications you want to move to external storage. If you want to move everything, just press Select All. 

Once you have everything you want to move, select Move and wait. Although we’ve tested transferring apps to external storage and didn’t run into issues, some are reporting that large transfers may inexplicably fail. If that’s the case, try breaking up your transfer into smaller chunks (say one 50GB game and a few apps) and see if that solves your issues.

What you can store on a PS5 external hard drive

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The way the PS5 splits up external storage is a little weird. Following the instructions above, your external hard drive will be set to store and play PS4 games. That’s all it can do, however. Unlike to PS4, you can’t save screenshots or save data to the same external hard drive that you save games to. By default, your PS5 will save all screenshots, video captures, and save data to the internal storage. Thankfully, there’s a way around this limitation.

If you want to store your captures on an external hard drive, simply plug in the hard drive and don’t format it. Then, head to your Library and find Media Gallery. Once you’ve found the captures you want, you can offload them by selecting them and choosing Copy to USB Drive. Similarly, you can back up your data to external storage by following Settings > System > System Software > Back Up and Restore. Even though you can copy captures to external storage, you can’t do it while PS4 games are installed on external storage. You have to choose one or the other.

As for games, you can only install backward-compatible PS4 games to external storage. PS5 games require the console’s internal storage. Some PS4 games will benefit from faster loading times on the PS5’s internal storage. However, if you install the game to external storage, load times will be limited by the external drive’s speed.

As mentioned, you have to use your external hard drive on one of the two USB-A ports on the back of the console, but you can’t use both of them. The PS5 can only accept one external games storage device at once, so you can’t hook up two external hard drives for even more storage. We have, however, used an external SSD on the USB-C port on the front of the console for captures while using another external hard drive for games in the back.

Expanding the PS5’s internal storage

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As with the PS4, Sony promised the PS5 would have expandable internal storage. And it does, but not right now. There’s a slot under one of the PS5’s faceplates for an M.2 SSD, and although you can purchase M.2 SSDs right now, they won’t work with PS5. According to Sony, the feature will come “in the future” through a software update. We imagine Sony will provide guidance on compatible M.2 SSDs, too.

You’ll need that guidance, too. We know M.2 support is coming, but you shouldn’t buy a drive now. Not only will it not work in your PS5 as of late 2020, it may not be compatible once Sony issues the correct patch. We don’t know the exact M.2 requirements, though we know the drive will need to match the speed of the PS5’s internal storage. Many of the M.2 SSDs available today don’t match the PS5’s speed, so it’s best to wait on picking one up until Sony officially supports them on PS5.

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Jacob Roach
Senior Staff Writer, Computing
Jacob Roach is a writer covering computing and gaming at Digital Trends. After realizing Crysis wouldn't run on a laptop, he…
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