Saturday, August 09, 2008

How To PS3 Hard Drive Upgrade, My Epic Journey from 80 to 320

Ok, so there’re plenty of PS3 Hard Drive Upgrade how to guides on the tubes. Just Google it, or check out CNET's coverage, that's a pretty definitive guide, and great photos. However, I’m going to let you in on a little secret that I couldn’t find ANYWHERE ON THE NET...keep reading! As there is a lot of incorrect information out there, I will try and debunk some myths and share some helpful facts as we go.

A few weeks ago, I decided it was high time to upgrade my “user-serviceable” PS3 hard drive. With the average game demo weighing in at 1.5GB, an annual subscription to Qore, arrival of the PSN Video Store (assuming it comes to Canada) and more and more games supporting Custom Soundtracks, I’m gonna want more room on this baby.

Fact 1: Upgrading the PS3 Hard Drive DOES NOT void the warranty.

So, I ordered up this giant 2.5“ drive from NCIX. Took a couple weeks to get it in stock, but it finally arrived Wednesday.

Segate Momentus

Fact 2: Not just any 2.5” drive will has to be 9.5mm tall, and not 12mm, as some models are. However, speed and cache can be whatever you like. You can even throw a solid state flash drive in there, if your name is Richie Rich.

There is plenty of debate about 5400rpm vs 7200rpm. I went with 7200rpm...if there is a speed upgrade to be had, even small, I want in. And the heat doesn’t worry me...I believe at worst it’s a few degrees hotter. The one I got also has 16MB of cache, which should help I guess, I’m not an expert, but I play one on my blog. But to each his own, buy what you can afford, then you’ll be happy with it. I’m sure someone will throw a 10k rpm drive in there soon enough...

But, before you can install the new drive, what about the precious data on your current drive? Well, there’re a couple options:

New Hard Drive Found

1) Forget about your data, install the new drive, and simply start over in MGS4, GTA, Pixel Junk Monsters and Uncharted! You can at least re-download your PSN content for free. I didn’t say it was a good option!

2) Copy each game save one at a time to a flash memory card (if your PS3 has the card reader slots, or if you have a USB card reader, etc). HOWEVER, some games have COPY-PROTECTED, I’m not kidding! Rock Band, for example, does not let you copy the save...they’re worried about you unlocking songs for your friends I guess? So, this option is out. I want ALL my data, please!

3) Sony has conveniently included a “Backup Utility” in the PS3 menus. This option allows you to Backup your PS3 hard drive onto external storage (USB drive, etc). I recommend you use it often, depending on how much gaming and content you chew through.

So you’re maybe asking, what good is a Backup without a Restore function? No good, Zero Good, in fact. A backup is not a backup if the restore process doesn’t work...that's Page One of the Little Golden Book of I.T.! Page Two says if it's not backed up twice, it's not backed up!

So, the PS3 Backup Utility includes a Restore function. Or, does it? Well, yeah it does, DEPENDING on what USB drive you’re restoring from!

Yes, that’s right dear reader, based on my first-hand experience, the PS3 appears to be somewhat finicky when it comes to Restoring Backups. Oh, it’s all well and good during the Backup process, but it’s only during the Restore process that you find out if You’re in Business or not.

Anyway, after the hour or longer process of backing up the PS3 hard drive, I popped the current drive out (more on this later!), and popped the new one in.

Start the Restore function. It allows me to browse to my external USB drive, and select the backup folder I want to Restore. Then, it waits for a couple minutes, apparently counting the size of the backup data. stops cold. There is no backup data found, it says!

I was horrified. However, I still had my current drive, so I hadn’t lost anything. Time to hit Google up for some easy answers. After searching about 40% of the Entire Internet, I found maybe 1 or 2 people having the same Sony’s credit, I’d say 99% of people are having no issues with this feature of the PS3. That’s good for them.

To those other 1%, I offer this information (this is the secret I hinted to): TRY RESTORING FROM A DIFFERENT USB DRIVE.

As luck would have it, I was able to borrow 4 USB drives from my work. Over a few hours, I copied my PS3 Data from the backup drive that doesn’t work, to the 4 borrowed ones. Then I randomly picked one, and tried the Restore option once again...

PS3 System Information

SUCCESS! 90 minutes later, my new 320GB drive is happily storing my previous drive’s hard-earned content, and has hundreds of fresh GBs to spare.

Fact 3: ALL my data was restored. This includes demos, PSN purchased games, saves (including COPY-PROTECTED saves), videos, music, pictures (with folder thumbnails), and even my PS2 saves. Outstanding! This is exactly what I was hoping for, and precisely what I would have expected from a Utility called “Backup Utility”...

Fact 4: The USB drive that DID NOT work is this one: MacAlly G-S350SUA - This is a fine enclosure otherwise though, I use it to backup my Mac regularly.

Fact 5: The USB drive I borrowed that DOES work is this one: IOGEAR Tri-Select Ion Drive

I don’t know why one works and the other doesn’t, even though they both work for the backup part of the backup process. I’d hazard a guess of something to do with the various USB controller card chipsets in the enclosures, but that’s as far as my knowledge of such things goes. Anyway, as long as you can find one that works, you’re golden! I was interested in testing the other 3 enclosures, but would have had to restore over my fresh drive, or my old one (if I put it back in) interest in wasting that kind of time, sorry. I’m all set, so that’s as far as I’m going with it.

Other stuff worth mentioning:

Fact 6: With the blank 320GB drive installed, my PS3 System Information page shows 263GB of 298GB free. So, just be aware, due to whatever FAT (file allocation table, or method of drive formatting) the PS3 uses, you’re left with less drive space than you thought you were getting, much less in this case! All computers do this, so don’t freak out about it.

Fact 7: I don’t have any Trophies, so I can’t tell you first hand if they are backed up and restored. However, Sony themselves have the goods on this one. When you earn trophies, sign in to the PSN and check your "Trophy Collection". This will “sync” your trophies to your profile online, and then when you install a new HD, you can simply fire up a trophy-supporting game, and the PSN will then sync them back down to you. w00ty.

Lousy Screws

Fact 8: The screws used to hold the stock PS3 hard drive in its metal cage thingy, are horrifyingly impossible to remove. I stripped 3 out of 4, not a good percentage. Most of the forums I researched said the same, soft screws, can’t get drive out, stripped screws, can I drill the hard drive free, etc. Anyway, use a good set of pliers by gripping the edge of the screws, and hopefully you can get them out. Some people have got replacement screws from Sony, FWIW, YMMV. If you have the exact right size screwdriver in the first place, perhaps you'll have no problem.

Ok so that's all I know of it. Good luck, and may all your enclosures be PS3 Restore-function compatible. Click here to see the entire photoset on Flickr, since I just learned how to do that.