You have to give console manufacturers credit when it comes to making a decision on hard drive capacity. They try to give us something that is both affordable and practical for the average player’s needs.
The problem is that, as time ticks forward, data storage tech gets better, hard drive prices get cheaper, and games get larger. A lot larger. Eventually, that PlayStation 4’s 2.5-inch, 500GB internal hard drive, which was once seen as massive, is going to be too small for the job. For someone like me, that scenario is coming much sooner than later.
I can go out and purchase a larger replacement hard drive, but 3.5-inch drives have a slight market advantage right now. An 3.5-inch, 2TB 7200RPM drive is much cheaper than its 2.5-inch counterpart. It’s also easier to locate in stores, with many more options and manufacturers to choose from.
Nyko saw the need to expand the PlayStation 4’s space on a budget, so it produced the Databank, which is essentially a case expansion that enables 3.5-inch hard drive to run in the machine’s 2.5-inch mount. The company sent GamesBeat a unit to check out, so I figured I’d let my PlayStation 4 be the guinea pig for this product and, hopefully, boost its data capacity fourfold.
What you’ll need
A PlayStation 4 console
An internal 3.5-inch SATA compatible hard drive (2TB 7200RPM recommended)
A FAT32 format USB stick (2GB recommended)
A storage solution to safely preserve the original PlayStation 4 hard drive and cover
When it comes to picking a hard drive, I highly recommend going with the quicker 7200RPM drives. They cost between $20 to $50 more compared to 5400RPM kits, but the cost is worth the speed.
For this review, I went with a 3TB 7200RPM Seagate SATA hard drive, which cost me around $100. This is contrary to Nyko’s recommendation of using a drive no larger than 2 terabytes. I’ll explain why I decided to ignore this recommendation later, and the pros and cons associated with that decision.
The USB stick is being used to both transfer the PlayStation 4 system update and your game saves to the new hard drive. Nyko recommends 2 gigabytes, which should be good for most set ups, unless you’ve been saving games like a mad man.
Let’s install this thing
The first thing is to set up the USB stick. I plugged it into my computer and created a root directory on the drive called PS4 (all caps). Then I created two directories under the PS4 folder: UPDATE and SAVEDATA.
Gaming is in its golden age, and big and small players alike are maneuvering like kings and queens in A Game of Thrones. Register now for our GamesBeat 2015 event, Oct. 12-Oct.13, where we’ll explore strategies in the new world of gaming.
Next, I slapped the USB stick into my PlayStation 4 and began backing up all of my game saves. All I had to do was go to Settings > Application Save Data Management > Saved Data in System Storage > Copy to USB Storage Device. Then one at a time, I copied the game saves over to the USB stick.
With that done, it was time to power the console down and crack it open.
All I had to do was slide the shiny plastic portion of the case open. No screws here, but the removable portion of the case held on the console pretty tight (and for a second I thought I was going to break the machine). With enough pressure and persistence it eventually came loose.
Once inside I had to undo the screw holding the factory PlayStation 4 hard drive. It’s the biggest, most obvious screw on the machine, so there was no chance I was going to undo the wrong one. Nyko even provided a small screwdriver that fit the screw perfectly. Once undone, I simply slid the hard drive out and stored it away.
At this point it was simply a matter of pushing the cover off of the DataBank unit and sliding the hard drive into position. I had to wiggle the drive around a little bit to make sure it was making a secure connection with the SATA connector in the back.
Once the drive was in position, and I had close the DataBank, I slid its SATA connector (the black unit shaped just like the PlayStation 4’s hard drive) inside the PlayStation 4’s 2.5-inch hard drive dock. Then I slid the entire DataBank unit onto the PlayStation 4, where the factory hard drive and cover were originally installed. It was a little tricky getting the unit to line up correctly and then sit tight, but after a few attempts I was able to get it to fit snuggly. I plugged the DataBank case’s SATA plug into the DataBank’s SATA connector (the thing we slid into the 2.5” hard drive bay) and I was all set. The hard stuff is done.
I reconnected the console, plugged the USB stick in, and held the PlayStation 4 power button down until I heard two beeps, which sends the unit into safe mode. Chose Initialize PS4 (Reinstall System Software) from the Safe Mode boot menu, allowed the PlayStation 4 to do its thing, and then resigned into the console as if it were a brand new machine.
What you’ll like
Installation is really easy
As you can see, installing the DataBank isn’t difficult. It took me around 30 minutes to set everything up on the USB drive and another 15 minutes to install the hardware component. That was with some goofing around on social media and drinking beer in between steps as well.
The only tricky part was sliding off the damned PlayStation 4 case, which took a lot persuasion to convince it to let go of the machine. It has only one screw to deal with and Nyko even throws in the perfect screwdriver to handle it. So I didn’t even need to dig out my toolbox.
A lot more space (duh!)
Obviously, 3TB is a lot more room to stretch out with than the cramped constraints of 500GB. I have three full PlayStation 4 games installed from the PSN store, and about 8 other disc based games set up in the console’s library, and I am maybe threatening to reach the 250GB range. If Sony ever establishes downloadable PlayStation and PlayStation 2 games for the PlayStation 4, I’m going to be grateful for this upgrade.
Nice design ideas
Visually, the DataBank’s features are harmonious with the PlayStation 4 case. Yes, it adds an extra platform to the silhouette of the machine, but I don’t find it awkward. The DataBank also doesn’t impede the console from functioning horizontally or vertically.
If you’re worried about your new hard drive being incompatible with the PlayStation 4’s upright stance, which turns the disc on its side, all research I have read shows that’s mostly BS. Unless you’re using an ancient hard drive, it shouldn’t matter. So stand her up if you want. Just make sure the DataBank is on the bottom, otherwise the unit will be top-heavy.
What you won’t like
Above: “You’re installing the DataBank? I’ll just go wait in the closet with your original PlayStation 4 hard drive”
Image Credit: Konami
Your game saves are the only things that transfer to the new drive
This isn’t going to be a big deal for the vast majority of content that resides on the typical PlayStation 4. You can reinstall games and download DLC again. As long as the save files are intact and you’re logging in with the same account, most users aren’t losing anything off the original hard drive that can’t be replaced.
That doesn’t mean that there isn’t at least some content that you risk losing forever in the transfer. I’m especially talking to those of us that have a copy of P.T, Konami’s lost Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del ToroSilent Hill collaboration, installed on our factory hard drive. This isn’t a strike against the DataBank, since Nyko can’t help it if companies like Konami want to burn their fans by yanking anticipated games off the marketplace. But I still need to note this.
So if you have something rare on the original hard drive that is not retrievable off the marketplace again, like the P.T demo, just be aware that you can’t bring it over to the new drive.
The good news is that P.T is not completely lost after installing the DataBank, either. I was able to remove the DataBank and reinstall the factory hard drive, which allowed me to play P.T as if nothing had happened. Now that I have the DataBank reinstalled on my console, I just have to find a safe way to store the original, and P.T.-valuable, PlayStation 4 hard drive.
Nyko recommends going with hard drives that are 2TB or smaller. But as I stated before, I went with a 3TB drive. So what’s the problem here?
Sony, unfortunately, is the problem.
The publisher hasn’t updated the PlayStation 4 firmware so that it can handle drives larger than 2TB. So far, the only feature that suffers is sleep mode. The PlayStation 4 did not appreciate being put to sleep with the 3TB drive and required a hard boot to wake up. Once woken up, it had to do a data check and accused me of shutting it off improperly. It’s just best for everyone involved to power the machine off when not in use.
So until Sony pushes their coders to raise the storage capacity ceiling in the software, I have to decide on which luxury is better fit for me: more storage or less waiting for game updates to install when I get home?
Even if I stay within the 2TB recommendation, I think the Nyko DataBank is a great upgrade for the PlayStation 4. Like last generation, I thought the 360’s initial hard drive offering would be more than enough. Yet by the halfway mark of that platform’s life, I was desperate for more space. It’s inevitable that I will run into the same problem with the PlayStation 4, so what does it hurt to spend the $140 now (about $100 for the hard drive, and $40 for the Nyko DataBank)?
The only big faults I could find with the unit is related to other companies, specifically Sony. If they raise the storage ceiling in the firmware, and allow larger drives to enter sleep mode, I haven’t run into any reason not to recommend this upgrade.
Unless you really love playing your copy of P.T. that’s locked on the factory drive.
Nyko provided GamesBeat with a retail release of the PlayStation 4 DataBank for review purposes. Stephen is suddenly desperate to download every little free demo, app, and DLC PSN offers in order to take advantage of the new found space.