Upgrade your PS3 HDD

So, here it is the definitive guide to swapping your bundled HDD for a huge new one. Well, not definitive; in fact not even as good as the other guides you can easily find with a bit of googling. This one is ours though and by virtue of being ours it’s best.

Anyway, on with the guide.

First and most importantly read this list. This is what you need before you even start to think about popping that little black cover on the side of your PS3.


1) A new 2.5 inch (laptop) SATA hard disk. It can be any speed, mine is 5400rpm because that is what the original disc spins at and they are generally cheaper.

2) The latest firmware update downloaded to your PC. You need this when you boot up to your newly installed hard disk, otherwise the PS3 isn’t going to play nice. More on this later.

3) A Philips-head screwdriver that fits *exactly* the little hdd screws in the hdd caddy. I wish I could tell you the correct size but the best I can do is say “small”.

4) An external USB hard disk big enough to back up your PS3 system. The backup process zips your data up a bit but you’ll still need something with a few GB to get it all on.

5) A duster. I wish I’d had one of these but as you will see from the images, I didn’t.

Now, getting started.

Switch on your PS3 and navigate to the backup utility in your system settings.

backup utility

Plug in your external USB HDD and select the backup.

NOTE: Playstation 3 only likes FAT32 file format, most likely your external hdd is NTFS format so it might need to be reformatted. Vista (and I think XP) will not format in FAT32 over 38GB which is not likely to be enough. The solution is here

backup confirm
Confirm the backup.

backup progress
Running smoothly…

backup complete
All done!

Now, remove your External USB HDD and put it on your PC, you need the latest update software on there.

Go here

Download the latest system software to your PC, at time of writing it was 2.5 and the file was 137MB.

Now you need to put that file on your external USB HDD but here’s the trick, it doesn’t just go on the drive. Oh no, that would be too easy and logical and lead to screens like this:panic!

When you get your PS3 HDD swapped and booted up for the first time. It causes sudden relaxation of the anal muscles.

No, you need to place the system software file (PS3UPDAT.PUP) in a folder called “UPDATE” which is, in turn in a folder called “PS3″ so it goes like this: PS3>UPDATE>PS3UPDAT.PUP You could put this on a USB stick if you’d prefer but be totally sure that the file structure is as above or you will get the laxative screen.

Now, on with the guide.

Switch off and unplug your PS3, disconnect everything from it and move it to a clean, clear, dust-free environment. Or you PC desk if you’re like me.

Pop off the little black cover on the right hand side of the PS3 with the help of a straight-edge screwdriver if you need it. Be gentle, you’re waving tools around near your shiny black baby.

hdd cover

I know, a little bit of dusting wouldn’t go amiss but it really looks worse than it is, damn camera shows up everything.

When you have the cover off you are faced with a little blue screw. It almost smiles at you. Now, some guides I’ve read say that this screw is difficult to remove. Mine wasn’t, it was easy. Apply a decent amount of pressure and pop the screw, it spins off and out without too much hassle but don’t get complacent, this moon-faced grinning blue screw is merely a warm up act for the four evil little silver blighters inside.

blue screw

Look at it, smiling at you!

Slide your straight-edge screwdriver (or thumbnail) under the little bit of metal that the blue screw was holding down and pull upwards. The HDD caddy should come away from the PS3 without too much fuss. Lift it out, remove your PS3 from the scene and prepare for the battle you’re about to have with four little silver nuggets of evil.

evil silver screw
I’m not joking, this screw is evil. It would gladly make itself a little rucksack from your scrotum if you give it half a chance. Get the right equipment for the job. If you put your screwdriver in one of these screws and it doesn’t fit *exactly* then use a different screwdriver. Take the whole HDD caddy to B&Q with you and buy a whole new screwdriver set if you have to but be warned: This screw will not come out without exactly the right screwdriver.

hdd size and slide

When you have all four evil silver screws out remove the old and place your new HDD in the caddy. You did make sure you bought a 2.5inch SATA drive didn’t you? If you got a 3.5inch or an IDE drive please post here so I can laugh at you. Replace those evil screws; you don’t need to put them back in as tight as they were when you took them out.

drives swapped!

Put the drive back into the PS3 exactly the same way as you removed it. Except in reverse. It should require a little pressure to get it back on to its pins inside the PS3. Replace the smiley blue screw and pop the HDD cover back on.

Now, you have everything in place for a successful reinstallation and restore of your software. Plug everything back in to your PS3, including the controller, it needs to be connected via a USB cable for the first little while.

Make sure your external USB HDD is plugged in to one of the PS3’s USB sockets (you did make sure the file structure was correct didn’t you?) and power up. You should get this screen:

start the formatting progress
Hold down your select and start buttons on the USB connected controller and the PS3 will format the new hard disk.

format progress indicator
This doesn’t take very long.

system software installed

Installation of your system software should begin when the hdd has finished formatting. It doesn’t take too long and when it finishes you’re greeted with a lovely screen displaying your new statistics.

Now, you will have to go through the setting time and date, internet connection settings crap that you have to do when you wipe everything from the system but when you’ve done all that (it’s self-explanatory) go back to your backup utility in system settings (NOT THE RESTORE OPTION) and select it. This time we’re going to restore a previous backup, the one you took earlier. Make sure your external USB HDD is plugged in and select the option to restore a previous backup. Select the one from your USB HDD and set it going. It will take a while so be prepared to wait. You could use this time for dusting.

restoring progress

When this completes you are all done, your system should be back to how it was when you started except now you have bags of free space to start filling up!

Good luck, if anybody needs any help I’m sure those of us that have already taken the plunge will do what we can.

P.S. The war with the silver screws is over, the physical scars will fade but the emotional scars will be with me forever.