Sony Play Station 3 Hard Drive Upgrade

Back in 2008, I purchased a Sony PS3 along with my 40" Samsung TV. I was lucky to get a model that is able to play PSX and PS2 games so I definitely want to hold on to this for as long as I can. Unfortunately, the 80GB hard drive has become rather limited and would like to free myself of that constraint. Over the years I have accumulated various computer parts and one of them was a 256GB OCZ Agility 4 SSD, so I decided to put it to use.

Create a Backup Drive

The first and obvious thing to do is BACKUP YOUR DATA. The easiest way to do that is use a flash drive that will hold all the data, 128GB flash drive should be big enough. Alternatively, you can use an external hard drive. In either case the drive needs to be formatted as FAT32. It isn't true that maximum volume size for FAT32 is 32GB, which isn't true. It's actually 16TB but Microsoft put the 32GB limit in place to promote NTFS. There are a number of ways to get around this.


format /FS:FAT32 /Q X:
format /FS:FAT32 X:


With the dosfstools package installed run the following command:
mkfs.vfat -F 32 /dev/sdc1
WARNING Be sure to replace sdc1 with device that corresponds to the drive that you want to format.
With the drive formatted as FAT32, you can now plug it into one of the USB ports on the console and use the Backup Utility to back your data up.
IMPORTANT Not all data is able to be backed up such as copyrighted content and even some game saves.
Now you can remove the drive that is in the console. Sony has a directions on their web site here, if you need them.
NOTE When using an external hard drive and keep getting an error during the backup process there are a few things you can try.
  • Use a different drive and/or enclosure
  • Use a flash drive
  • Swap out the cable
My personal experience, I was not able to create a backup using the utility no matter what I did. What ended up working was cloning the drive, installing it, and then creating a backup using the Backup Utility. Why I had to do this while other people didn't have any problems is beyond me.

Clone the Drive

You can either clone the drive or create an image then write it to the new drive. I recommend using the dd because it does a dumb-copy opposed to cloning/imaging tools such as partclone or imageclone. The rason is if there is something wrong with the file system or drive, yet it is still usable, a cloning tool might make things worse and render the clone unusable.

Linux or MacOS

dd if=/dev/sdc of=ps3.img conv=sync,noerror
dd if=ps3.img of=/dev/sdc conv=sync,noerror
dd if=/dev/sdc of=/dev/sdd conv=sync,noerror
WARNING Make sure you specify the correct device in the of= parameter.
NOTE If you notice that dd is only writing at ~20MB/s when using a SSD, then append the following to you kernel command line.


I would advise against using Windows to clone the disk and download a live DVD of Fedora or Ubuntu. The reason for this is disk cloning tools for Windows can be a dangerous as in the instance of Acronis, where using the Add a new disk option may corrupt the data on the drive. If you cannot or feel comfortable using Linux, here are some free disk cloning tools for Windows.
WARNING I have not tried any of the above and cannot be certain that they will work. If any of the above programs allow you to do a sector-by-sector copy, it should work in theory. Also, if an incorrect option is selected it could damage the data on the original drive.

If Cloning doesn't Work

  1. If you haven't done so already, make a backup.
  2. Install the new drive into the console.
  3. Download the latest firmware version onto a USB flash drive in the PS3\UPDATE folder.
  4. Plug the external drive or flash drive into the console and turn on the system. You will get a message that says The system software cannot be run correctly. Press the PS button to try to restart the system. If the system cannot be restarted, the system partition of the hard disk must be reformated and you must reinstall the system software. Connect storage media that contains update data of version 4.82 or later, and then press the START and SELECT buttons at the same time. For information on how to obtain update data, refer to the SCE Web site for your region. Press START and SELECT to install the firmware.
  5. After the firmware has been installed, restore your data from the backup.

Installing the New Drive

If the clone was successful, then the console should start up as it did with the old drive. Since the drive was cloned, the partition will only be as big as it was on the old drive. To rectify this, plug in the external drive or flash drive with the backup on it and use the Backup Utility to restore the system from the backup you made. This will format the drive and copy the backup data back onto the console. Once it's finished, you will be able to use the entire disk.
NOTE This is only necessary if you are installing a bigger drive.