The PS5's hard drive is proving key to how Sony is delivering its next-generation vision.
At the core is an SSD (solid state drive, which where game downloads will be installed) in every console, and this combined with custom hardware that makes the most of this proprietary drive will deliver loading times and access to game data many, many times quicker than what's possible on PS4 and other platforms.
As well as this, Sony has confirmed PS5 storage expansions and upgrades are possible with off-the-shelf solutions - though not every hard drive out there is created equal for the console's purposes.
This page explains which SSDs will be supported with PS5, how the built-in PS5 hard drive works for faster speeds, as well as the PS5 hard drive's size so you know what you're getting at launch.
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How does PlayStation 5's SSD work, and what are the benefits over the PS4 HDD?
One of the biggest selling points of the PlayStation 5 is how much faster the system accesses game data, leading to much faster load times and other benefits.
The SSD is a major part of that, as well as a series of custom hardware solution to ease bottlenecks of how data is handled and processed.
At a glance, here's what you can expect from the PlayStation 5's new hard drive solution:
- The ability to access 5.5GB (raw) or a typical 8-9GB (compressed) of data per second. This is around 100 times faster than what's possible on PS4 currently - which has an IO throughput of around 50-100MB/s, which is dependent on data location on HDD.
- Sony believes this results in significantly faster loading times - with games teased to boot within a second from the dashboard, and a near eradication of loading times.
- Much faster loading means expanded design freedom for game developers making worlds. For example, those twisting passages or elevator rides used to hide loading in open world games could be a thing of the past.
- Using an SSD means developers don't need to duplicate the same files over and over throughout a HDD or Blu-ray disc to compensate for slower loading - meaning more of what you download are actually relevant game files.
- You know how PS4 patches often require just as much free space to download and install? With the PS5, this will be a thing of the past.
To provide extra context, here's Digital Foundry's John Linneman the PS5's SSD solution:
The craziest thing about PS5 is the speed of the SSD. 5.5 GB/s is just part of the story - there is a lot of custom silicon in there to ensure that the system isn't bottlenecked in other areas. It's *REALLY* fast on paper - a lot faster than Xbox Series X even.— John Linneman (@dark1x) March 18, 2020
How does it do this? Digital Foundry's deep dive into the first PS5 tech reveal discusses it in extensive detail, but the long and short of it is - a standard hard drive as seen in the PS4 right now accesses and loads data in all kinds of inefficient ways.
A standard HDD on the PS4 has to 'seek' the data it needs across the drive, and game developers has many tricks to work around this, resulting in all kinds of knock on effects.
For example, games currently must load individual areas one at a time - such as a city block in an open world game such as Spider-Man - and because of this, there is a duplication of common objects within the world - such as a mailbox.
Game sizes are bigger than they should be as a result because, as Mark Cerny explains, there are hundreds of duplicate 'mailboxes' throughout the game package, which your PS4 can then easily access regardless of the area that's been loaded from the hard drive.
By having an SSD by default, as well as a custom hardware solutions with the PS5, these tricks and other bottlenecks are a thing of the past. You can expect much faster loading, and much more efficient game storage, as a result.
If you want to know how effective this custom hardware is - using a SSD on PS4 right now should offer 10x faster speeds, but it's only 2x in reality. The PS5, meanwhile, looks to offer a 100x increase in speed:
How big is the PS5's hard drive storage in GB?
The PS5 will come with a custom 825GB SSD hard drive at launch.
Not only is it much, much faster than any PS4 hard drive (even your own installed SSD), it's bigger than the launch model's hard drive size - which came in at 500GB.
Again, here's Digital Foundry with a comparison of what the PS4 offers at a glance:
|PlayStation 5||PlayStation 4|
|Internal Storage||Custom 825GB SSD||500GB HDD|
|IO Throughput||5.5GB/s (Raw), Typical 8-9GB/s (Compressed)||Approx 50-100MB/s (dependent on data location on HDD)|
|Expandable Storage||NVMe SSD Slot||Replaceable internal HDD|
|External Storage||USB HDD Support||USB HDD Support|
As you can see, it's possible to expand your storage is 825GB isn't enough. But how does this work exactly?
With the PlayStation 5 on its way, we’ve written guides on everything we currently know about PS5 specs, the PS5 controller and upcoming PS5 games you’ll be able to play. Until then, for existing PS4 owners, find out the PlayStation Plus games for this month.
How you can expand and upgrade PS5 hard drive storage
There are two PS5 expanded storage options for the PS5:
- Replacing the internal drive within the PS5 with a Sony-certified, off-the-shelf SSD
- Plugging in an external hard drive
Though Sony doesn't have to supply these options, there are caveats to what you can use or what you can use them for.
Replacing the internal SSD with a larger drive
The internal SSD can be replaced with a bigger hard drive with an off-the-shelf drive - meaning NVMe PC drives will work on your console.
However, it's not as straightforward as picking a larger sized hard drive and expecting the same benefits as what comes with the PS5, as many SSDs on the market today don't have the same bandwidth specifications.
Again, Digital Foundry explains the technical reasons behind this in closer detail, but the long and short of it is - though today's SSDs will physically fit, they won't get as much out of the PS5's dedicated hardware in the same way.
However, Sony will be validating hard drives which do offer similar or improved speed capabilities as its own proprietary drives over time - but this might not be possible at launch.
To quote Digital Foundry's Rich Leadbetter: "In the short term at least, the advice is simple: don't buy an NVMe drive without Sony validation if you plan to use it in PlayStation 5. Also remember that extreme bandwidth PCIe 4.0 NVMe drives are likely to be very expensive - in the short term, at least.
"This is cutting-edge technology, after all. Obviously though, the outlook should improve significantly as the next generation progresses - and prices do tend to drop significantly over time."
So - though you're likely stuck with your 825GB of super fast storage at launch, the good news is the industry will catch up to offer suitable replacements which can replace your internal PS5 drive.
Using an external hard drive
As with the PS4, you can plug in an external hard drive to download games. This won't be nearly as fast as the PS5's internal SSD solution (and though not explicitly said, likely won't support PS5 games) it's perfect if you want to store your existing PS4 library (which the PS5 backwards compatible with) to free up that fast internal SSD.
That said, you can install PS4 games on the internal SSD if you want to - which is suggested to provide similar fast loading benefits.