Hard hard drive (Adventures in upgrading PS4 storage)

with tags ps4 failure success -

I should in fact be doing another thing, which is to complete the project that will result in the first technical article to the blog, but today is procrastination day, so let’s. Managed to switch the hard-drive on my PS4 today. I’ve become somewhat apt at it, since I mainly just repeated the process that I did the last time. Which was a couple of weeks back.

So, I’ll just write down what happened so that I can return to this adventure later.

How to upgrade the storage capacity of PS4 in 28 easy steps:

  1. Hear good things about hybrid mechanical + SSD drives, so spend quite a bit of time hunting for one that is known to work with a PS4.

  2. Order it and wait for two months (the estimate for delivery was in fact more or less correct in my case).

  3. Clap hands together in a happy joyful way and google for a tutorial on how to replace the disk. Seems that most people only have one profile on their system or forget to mention that using the system backup utility will back up all profiles at once. Losing save games and data is a biggie, so a lot of time is spent worrying at this point, but bite the bullet and proceed.

  4. Remove all games and applications that you can (to reduce time spent on taking the system backup and restoring it, as well as reducing the space required on the USB storage). I’m assuming that most of your stuff is on physical discs or downloadable from PSN later.

  5. Make sure you have synchronized trophies for all of the profiles to PSN. Unsynchronized trophies might be lost.

  6. Insert an USB stick/storage that can hold the remainder of data (save games and whatnot). Run the System > Backups > Backup system tool which will first go through the files that need to be backed up, then cause the system to boot where the actual backing up process is run. I was using an USB3 flash stick with the explicit assumption that since PS4 has USB 3.0 ports, data transfers should be a breeze, right? Well, no. Or maybe. Backing up 10 GB of data took about an hour, resulting in an abysmal transfer rate of 3 MiB/second. Now, this is well within the data rates of USB 2.0 (one should get closer to 30MiB/sec if everything works). Perhaps using an USB 2.0 flash stick would’ve made the process take 10 times longer. I leave that as a conundrum for later.

  7. Open the chassis (it will open, just apply enough force, although it feels like it won’t) :-D. No seriously, there is stuff on this on the Internet.

  8. Remove the old drive, unscrew from caddy, replace with new drive, re-fix the new disk into place.

  9. Insert an USB-stick with the PS4 firmware version that was running on the system before. Even if you boot without the USB stick at this point, PS4 will inform you which firmware it expects to find on the USB storage, so download it using another host (this is also documented fairly well).

  10. If the new firmware stick was present when PS4 booted (in low definition interlaced graphics mode, do not be alarmed), it will proceed to install the upgraded firmware onto the new and empty disk. This will take some minutes, but isn’t too bad. After all is done, the system boots and you’re greeted with the first-use wizard. I forgot that the home screen has background music and sounds.

  11. Insert your backup USB storage and start the backup restore tool (same menu location as before). Restoring was about one third of time (although didn’t measure it). When restore completes, system will restart.

  12. Login with all profiles to PSN and enter passwords (they don’t seem to be part of the system backup, which perhaps is better this way, since accessing it did not require a passphrase).

  13. Enjoy all your mega-fancy empty space for a weekend and a couple of days and decide to download all the games from the PSN library that you haven’t finished. Yeah, going slightly overboard.

  14. While downloads are going, insert a Bluray disc of a movie (I fail to recall which it was) and observe a complete freeze of the system. Force reboot the system, and observe how it hangs completely when it gets to about 25% of the file system check progress. Oddly this was also the amount of storage that was in use that the “Application storage usage” reported before I started the spree with the downloads.

  15. Restart into fail safe mode, and “rebuild the database”. After waiting for some time (perhaps an hour, this was going on the background), the system will reboot and hang after selecting profile to log in as.

  16. Seeing as I still have relatively fresh backups, go into safe mode again and go nuclear and select factory reinstall.

  17. Bask in the glory of another hang during the file system initialization phase.

  18. Cry yourself to sleep. And come back the next day.

  19. Repeat steps 7 and 8 with the original drive (you kept the original drive, right?)

  20. Clap hands in joy when system actually comes back without issues. You’ll need to select the system as primary PS4 again after this, but otherwise things work. I expected to have to do the full re-install phase at this point.

  21. Take the failed hybrid drive to an USB 3.0 hard drive chassis and ask the disk what it thinks is wrong using smartctl. It thinks that all is fine, except that there are about 1500 sectors that it doesn’t know what to do with. It also wants to make some funny sounds while at it. Sometimes running secure erase at this point might actually resuscitate a drive. Or putting it into a ice-box for a while (true story). But since I had the drive for under 10 days, decided just to play nice and go through the RMA process. I’ve never gone through the RMA process before with this exact vendor, so I was slightly apprehensive.

  22. RMA went better than expected. Sent an email, received another, printed a form on paper (paper forms are important!), took a copy of the receipt (paper copies are important!), lose the copy of the receipt, took the form (which included the original electronic order number) and the drive to the shop during weekend. Luckily their returns department was open during weekend (wasn’t exactly clear on their web site so that things would be interesting in life). RMA was processed by a young guy (they’re all young nowadays, innit?) who said that there’s exactly one drive still in the shop of the exact same model, if I’m quick enough.

  23. Arrive at the designated location of hard drives, and since these are bulk packed drives, it takes some time to go through the shelves to locate the place where the last drive should be. It is not.

  24. Go back to the RMA guy (on the other side of the store, obviously), report this back and ask whether he can just revive the original order so that the replacement drive will be shipped to my home when it arrives. No. Impossible. One just does not simply re-order an order that has been completed. So, instead I have a paper in my hands which looks like it was printed by a laser printer from the 90s (you know the ones where you could switch the font by sending secret handshake PCL commands since you were too cheap for a laser embedded with a Postscript implementation).

  25. Now, with this paper of great power, I could get my money back if I went to the cashiers. I could then take this cash (of all things), go home, reorder the same order again and wait for a month or two and then restart the whole thing.

  26. I remember that next to the one true disk which wasn’t, was a non-hybrid version of the disk, which I run and grab. It is slightly cheaper, so the nice cashier takes the paper of great value I leave with a new drive, without the SSD part, and a Bluetooth audio converter (separate project), and one coin of exactly 2 Euros. I was half expecting the transaction to be rejected because I both received compensation of the RMA and immediately used the compensation to acquire new products simultaneously.

  27. After a couple of days (been busy), repeated steps 4-11 with the new disk.

  28. Selected all the games from PSN that I haven’t finished and started downloading them. And yes, we plan to watch a Bluray tonight.

For the curious: the exact models of devices were Seagate FireCuda 2TB 2.5” hybrid (ST2000LX001) and Seagate FireCuda 2TB 2.5” regular-fit (ST2000LM015). I failed to keep the smartctl-report, but who cares anyway. At least this wasn’t like my first Western Digital Green which failed after one hour of use.

Written by Aleksandr Koltsoff
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