PlayStation 3 Hard Drive Upgrade

Unlike the PS4, I do have a decent amount of digital games for the PS3. This, mainly because of some great Humble Bundle PlayStation bundles I’ve bought through out the years where PS3 is the platform with the most digital games in the bundle.

My PS3 originally came with just 120 GB drive, so I opted to upgrade it to a 500 GB (PS3 games are fairly small), and I must say, upgrading the hard drive on a PS4 was a significant easier process than a PS3.

Replacing the physical drive was extremely simple process as shown on this video:


However most of my problems were trying to install the PS3 software into the new drive. At a high level, the install process is identical to that of the PS4,—hardware/system-software/updating-the-playstation-3-system-software-using-the-safe-mode-m/. Only major caveat is that the PS3 only supports USB 2.0 drives. I have plenty of USB 2.0 drives so I initially thought this was going to be a quick 10 minute project, and boy was I mistaken.

PS3 Not Detecting UPDATE Software:

Label Drive as MBR

The major problem I encountered was the PS3 safe mode prompt not detecting the PS3 Update on the USB drive. While, the documentation states that the USB drive should be formatted as FAT16 or FAT32, it does not state what label should the hard drive have. A couple of forum posts suggest setting the USB drive with an MBR label, which I had to do since my drive was set as GPT.

Create 2GB Primary Partition on the USB Drive

After labeling the drive as MBR and reformatting it to FAT32 numerous times. The PS3 safe mode prompt still wasn’t detecting and loading the software. I even tried different USB 2.0 drives, just to verify the drive wasn’t faulty, and it still failed. I knew FAT32 has some limitations such as only supporting up 32GB partitions, however all of USB drives were 8GB so I thought this wasn’t the problem. Well I was mistaken, I partitioned my 8GB USB drive to have a single 2GB primary partition and just left the other space unallocated. Then I once again reformatted the drive as FAT32, and copied the UPDATE software to it, and lo and behold; the PS3 safe mode prompt was able to successfully load and install the PS3 OS Update software onto the new 500GB upgraded drive.

It took me about 3 hours to troubleshoot and fix the problem, but the most infuriating thing is that fact that this is not mentioned in the Sony PlayStation documentation!


Final steps:

  1. Label drive as MBR.
  2. Create a primary partition 2GB or smaller.
  3. Format primary partition as FAT32.
  4. Copy PS3 software to USB 2.0 drive



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