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.


Anonymous said...

I read a lot about people stripping their screws, so I was really worried about it... but apparently I had the right screwdrivers for the job, because I had no problems. I have a set of small Stanley screwdrivers, and I used the largest one in the set.

Steven said...

I got the "no backup data found" today. The problem was that when the PS3 turned off or rebooted it stopped recognizing my external hdd. My solution was to quickly turn off and unUSB my external as the PS3 rebooted after formating the new internal, and then even more quickly turn the external back on and plug in its USB before the PS3 began the countdown. It recognized it, and has 1.5 hours left before 250gig goodness right now!

Thank you for your help!

Stu said...

Did you see any performance increase from the new drive ?

As for the backing up, would you recommend an external hard drive instead of internal ?

OddyOh said...

Hi Stu - As far as performance, I can't say the 7200rpm makes any difference over a 5400rpm drive. Things don't seem any faster than with the original drive...but I have a hell of a lot more storage space. :)

I'm not sure what you mean in your second external hard drive is necessary to run the PS3's Backup Utility.

Thanks for the comments, hope this helps!

OddyOh said...

Hi Steven - glad you got it working! It seems the PS3 can be pretty picky about what drives it deals with.

I have another USB enclosure I tried using, and sometimes it'll show up, and other times I just have to turn it off and on, and then it works fine. A little annoying, but oh well.

scratchh said...

I sure am glad you posted on this OddyOh. I was freaking out, but found your post here with some searching. I too have the macally G-S350SUA and was having the same "no backup data" problem.

steven has the right idea, and I had an inkling of it from the noises the drive makes with regards to mounting/unmounting during the process.

I think the drive somehow gets unmounted during the ps3 restarting process after the format of the internal drive. figuring out exactly when to turn it off and back on (i didn't bother to unplug it, you dont need to) took a little trial and error.

i turned it off after the reformat of the internal drive, and then turned it back on just before the "press the PS button" showed up. but i think you would be fine if you just turned it back on when that showed up, and gave it time enough to get spun up and fully mounted before you push the PS button.

hope this helps any others out there having this problem. and thanks again OddyOh! looking forward to my "320 GB" 7200 RPM PS3!

OddyOh said...

Hey scratchh...thanks for the comment. My setup seems to be working well now, still using the MacAlly enclosure. Once in a while I turn the drive on and the PS3 can't see it, but usually rebooting the PS3 and the drive fixes it.

Now if Sony would just add "incremental" backups to their software, that'd be pretty slick. However, I usually just run it at night, it finishes after a few hours, and then the PS3 auto powers off, so I'm happy with that.

Anonymous said...

the external hard drive you used is a 160gb hdd right?
i have read that only fat32 formatted hdd are recognised by the ps3, im just wondering how you got the ps3 to recgonise 160gb

Anonymous said...

thanks alot for this ive been trying to upgrade my ps3 to a 500gb Hdd roday,i had the same problem but have now got it all working.

cheers :)

Sean said...

@Anonymous: A 160GB drive CAN be formatted FAT32 using a Win98 or WinME installation CD. WinXP can only create a 32GB partition.

I have an 80GB drive formatted as FAT32--lucky that WD provided a FAT32 formatter application.

Kanawati said...

Thats it, i QUIT! I just can't make my PS3 recognize the backup data!!

I know it's there, I see it. Why this RESTORE UTILITY is so lame?

I've tried everything, I quickly turn off and on my external drive dozen times but it keeps saying "There is no backup data".

Please..anyone... help me! I've got more than 30 GB to restore...

OddyOh said...

Hi Kanawati...I know it's frustrating! If you have access to another USB drive or drive enclosure, I would suggest trying to either copy your PS3 backup data folder to another drive, or putting your drive with the data into another enclosure. It can literally be pure luck getting this to work.

I tried 3 or 4 different enclosures before I got one that worked. This blog is more than a year old, I'm currently using a StarTech SATADOCK. Here's the link, it was $40 at my local computer store:

Good luck!

Kanawati said...

Thanks, OddyOh. This is really a pain! I've tried again with another external HDD (Western Digital this time) but got the same result.

But i've noticed something odd: I started another backup (just for the fun of it...LOL) and the new folder got an archive.dat. My PS3 can see this new backup in RESTORE option.

My primary backup (the real one, with all my stuff) doesn't have this file. It's starts with archive_00.dat and then goes on with archive2_00.dat, archive2_01.dat until archive2_07.dat.

Seems like I have a bad backup here...

OddyOh said...

Hi again...hmmm, you might be on to something there. And that's one of the major gripes I have with this PS3 Backup Utility, there doesn't seem to be any sort of 'verify' step in the process! What good is a backup if it's not really a backup?? Sony has a lot of work to do in this area.

And a person can't tell if their backup is good or not until they go to restore it! Which you can't do until you install another hard drive in the PS3, unless you want to overwrite your own data...argh, it's very annoying.

What I do these days is keep two most recent one, and the previous one. But even still, there's no way to verify that they are any good. Brutal.

Buy hdd dock online said...

Considering speed upgrade, I would also prefer 7200rpm. Thanks for sharing such a nice article.

Robert said...

Hi OddyOh just thought id let you know about my hard drive problems. I bought a 7200rpm "ps3 recommended" HDD from ebuyer which I used to back up my ps3, copyied it to pc, swapped HDD in ps3 and used the original ps3 60gb seagate to restore ps3.... guess what, no backup data.

So I found your website where you mentioned trying different drives and thought I would try my old WD 500gb My Book which I have lost the power cable for, ripped it open and connected it up to ps3 with the back up data and once again, FAIL.

Here is the weird bit I used to have a 320gb in my ps3 before but I took it out and replaced it with the original for reasons I cannot remember but when I did the back up I used the 500gb My Book for both the back up and restore without a single problem, now it doesn't work???

I know the ps3 can be awkward when it comes to drives but considering I have successfully used the WD drive before I dont really want to buy more.

ps. im glad to hear your method is helping so many other people, nice work.

OddyOh said...

Thanks for the comments Robert...This blog post is two years old now, but I'm still getting views!

My original PS3 actually died in January 2010, and I replaced it with a new slim model. I'm now simply using a Western Digital 640GB SATA drive in a StarTech SATA to USB dock, no issues. Keeping multiple backups on it just in case of corruption. Again, no way to know if these backups are good (thanks Sony), but here's hoping. :)

GetofFenris said...

Hi I have a problem with my new drive. I put the new drive in and I get a message to connect the conteroler and push the ps button. Then it says to push the start and slect button at the same time and hold. I do this and then I get an error message that there is no back up device. The USB stick I'm using works on my ps3 when the old drive is in my ps3 and the ps3 is on. I have backed up just what I want to keep and the update for the ps3. Please can you help me??? Luke

Anonymous said...

Had the same issue on restoring my backup data where my backup data wasn't found after the system reboots and looks for the data again (after doing a quick format). It was the same issue Steven had. The USB hard drive seemed to park itself when the PS3 rebooted and since it wasn't actively running (but still powered on) the PS3 is not able to detect it for some reason. I just powered the usb drive off for a second, then powered it on and it was recognized again - you can only tell that it is because you can hear it seeking and because the ps3 actually finds the backup data.

Anonymous said...

i know this is a old thread but just letting you all know,that the turning off your usb devise before pressing the ps button really works!!!,before i found the infomation i had tried backing up twice and was about to buy another external usb hard drive to back up to, thankyou so much guys said...

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Mike Ungerman said...

Even though it's an old post, Google does bring it up when you search on PS3 Hard Drive Restore Fails and similar searches. It's still very timely, as my restore failed, even though the PS3 saw the external hard drive, it kept saying there wasn't any data on it. I re-installed the old hard drive and did a second backup, then put the new hard drive in and tried the restore again, but this time removing and re-plugging in the external USB drive before pressing the PS button. That seemed to do it, as the backup was recognized this time.

Anonymous said...

Steven - YOU ARE THE MAN! I had the exact same issue and corrected it in the exact same manner. Thank you very much for sharing the information! I GREATLY APPRECIATE IT!

Jason Steen said...

once again an ancient internet post saves my ass.

infact, it took many, many tries to get my enclosure to be recongnised. in the end flicking the power on the enclosure quickly off and on again between the PS shutting down and restarting was what did it. well, at least it hopefully has. i've now at least to got to having an actual timer on the screen, 0%, 5hrs 19mins to go.

thanks for the assistance