Skip to main content

How to format an external hard drive for PS4

Formatting your external hard disk for PS4 use is simple – we show you how

How to format an external hard drive for PS4
(Image: © Peter Kotoff / Shutterstock.com)

It’s never been easier or more affordable to add an external HDD or SSD to your PS4, PS4 Slim or PS4 Pro, and there are good reasons to add storage to your console – you can use an external drive as an extended hard disk if you need more space to store games, and you could use a hard disk or SSD to create a backup in order to preserve your data. 

Happily, both of these useful methods are easy to implement and easy to live with, and you can deploy a wide range of external hard disk and external SSD products – ideal if you’re working to a budget or if you’d like to prioritize space or speed when expanding your PS4, PS4 Slim or PS4 Pro.

As ever, there are some technical considerations to bear in mind. One of the most important things is to make sure that your external hard drive or SSD is formatted properly, because neither method will work without this step.

The good news is that Sony makes it easy to handle this part of the process, and it’s simple to do on Windows and Mac OS X too. No matter what machine you’d like to use, this guide will show you how – so you’ll quickly be enhancing your console.

Format your external HDD or SSD on your PS4

How to format an external hard drive for PS4

(Image credit: Sony)

If you want to use an external drive as extended storage on your PS4 then the format process couldn’t be much simpler. This is because the PS4 uses its own encrypted file system when using a hard drive or SSD as extended storage.

All you’ve got to do is plug your drive into the console, head to the Settings menu, open Devices, and then USB Storage Devices. Pick the option to Format the drive as extended storage, and the console will take care of the whole process.

As ever, you do need to remember to use a USB 3.0 product with a capacity between 250GB and 8TB, otherwise the process won’t work. But that’s it.

If you want to use an external drive to store console backups the process is only a little more complex. This is because the PS4 doesn’t encrypt and format the entire drive when making backups – it leaves your hard disk or SSD free to be used for other tasks if you’ve got the space.

You’ll need to make sure your hard disk, SSD or USB drive is formatted using the FAT32 or exFAT file systems – the PS4 doesn’t support the NTFS file system. We recommend exFAT, because it supports files that are over 4GB in size.

How to format an external hard drive for PS4

(Image credit: Sony)

If your external hard disk or SSD is already using an appropriate file system then you can plug it into the PS4, head to the System menu, open the Back Up and Restore section and choose what you’d like to preserve. If you need to format the drive, you can do that on the PS4 too – head to Settings, Devices and USB Storage Devices, choose your drive, and then click the Options button. This will reveal a menu where you can format the drive as exFAT so it can be used for backups. 

How to format an external hard drive for PS4

(Image credit: Sony)

If you don’t want to use your PS4 or if your drive is already plugged into another machine, then it’s also possible to format it using your Windows or Mac OS X machine. 

Format your external HDD or SSD on your Windows PC or laptop

How to format an external hard drive for PS4

(Image credit: Microsoft)

There are a couple of easy methods for drive formatting on Windows, and they don’t change much – these instructions are for Windows 10, but they should be applicable for the last few versions of Microsoft’s operating system.

How to format an external hard drive for PS4

(Image credit: Microsoft)

The easiest method involves plugging the drive into your PC or laptop and opening the File Explorer – the screen where you can navigate recent files and key folders. If you click on the This PC shortcut, you’ll hopefully see your external drive connected as a hard disk, right alongside your system’s main hard drive or SSD. If you see it, right-click, select Format, and then choose the exFAT option and start the process. That’s the only thing you’ll need to really change unless you want to rename the drive, and using the Quick Format setting is fine. 

How to format an external hard drive for PS4

(Image credit: Microsoft)

If you don’t see your external drive in the File Explorer, it’s likely using a file system that the PC can’t read – like the PS4’s own, encrypted Extended Storage system. If this is the case, keep the drive plugged in, right click on the This PC shortcut in the File Manager and click Manage. Once this new window has opened, head to the Disk Management section. 

How to format an external hard drive for PS4

(Image credit: Microsoft)

You should see your drive at the bottom of the window – it’ll be the one in black, rather than navy blue, and it’ll be described as Unallocated. Right-click it, choose the option to Initialise the drive, and click through the box that appears. You don’t have to change anything. 

How to format an external hard drive for PS4

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Once that’s done, right-click the striped area and select New Simple Volume. This launches more dialogue boxes – you can click through until you see an option for File System. Pick exFAT, click Next, and then click Finish. Your drive will now be ready for your PS4. 

Bear in mind that sometimes you will be able to right-click the drive and select the New Simple Volume option straight away. If the drive lets you, do that – you’ll be safe skipping the Initialise portion of the process. 

Format your external HDD or SSD on your OS X machine

How to format an external hard drive for PS4

(Image credit: Apple)

If you need to use an OS X machine to format your external drive, head to Disk Utility. You can find this by opening a Finder window, heading to Applications, and then the Utilities section.

How to format an external hard drive for PS4

(Image credit: Apple)

In Disk Utility, select your external drive from the list on the left-hand side and click on the Erase option along the top of the Disk Utility window. In the new window that appears, simply choose exFAT as your file format and click the Erase button. 

How to format an external hard drive for PS4

(Image credit: Apple)

You can also rename the drive here if you’d like. If a window appears and asks if you’d like to use the new volume with Time Machine, click Don’t Use. And that’s it – your external drive is ready for your PS4.