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Details you need to know about upgrading storage in the PS5

Out of the box, new PS5 consoles come equipped with a 825GB hard drive, of which 667GB is usable, due to space taken by its operating system and other necessary data. The PS5 version of Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is a whopping 133GB, not yet accounting for future patches and updates, which means that the base game alone takes up just under 20% of the console's usable hard-drive space.

PS5 owners who ultimately want to own more than five similarly-sized AAA titles will therefore need to add additional storage to their system. While storing games somewhere other than the console's built-in hard drive on a PS4 is as easy as plugging in an external USB device, the upgraded specs of the PS5's built-in hard drive mean that the process is currently much more difficult on Sony's newest hardware.

One of the PS5's key next-gen features is its short time to load large amounts of data, which is possible due to its cutting edge hard drive. Any additional storage devices are required to match, at the very least, the same capabilities of its on board drive.

The PS5's hard drive is so advanced, alternatives don't exist yet

The PS5 utilizes what's called an NVMe drive. NVMe stands for non-volatile memory express. "Non-volatile" refers to the drive's ability to retain data when the system reboots, and "express" to its connection to the system's motherboard. The latter detail is the key to the PS5's capability for rapid load times.

While an NVMe drive is a type of solid-state drive, the kind of SSD used by the PS5 makes use of an interface called SATA (short for Serial Advance Technology Attachment), which refers to an additional controller through which data travels. The "express" nature of NVMe drives means they skirt the need for such a controller and communicate with the motherboard more directly.

NVMe drives are essentially a brand new technology. While there are NVMe drives on the market, the highest performers generally max out at around 3.5 GB/s in bandwidth. The PS5, meanwhile, requires around 5.5 GB/s of bandwidth to match its games' performance requirements. Consumers are currently unable to purchase an external NVMe drive compatible with the PS5. That will soon change, as hard drives capable of storing and running PS5 games are in development.

Additional storage will eventually slot directly into the PS5 console

Once the new storage devices these are available, they can be plugged into a slot located behind one of the PS5's removable side panels. 

Currently, storage capacity of NVMe drives ranges from 250GB to 1TB. However, NVMe drives are considerably more expensive relative to their storage capacity than solid-state drive using SATA technology. Even if compatible external hard drives were currently available, the external hard drive slot is unusable out of the box. A future update to the console's firmware will render the expansion slot useable once Sony-approved drives are available.

In the meantime, the PS5 is capable of communicating with an external SSD, though only PS4 games can be moved onto such a device. Furthermore, PS4 games booted from a standard SSD lack the increased performance from which they benefit if stored on the console's built-in hard drive.

In short, meaningfully upgrading the storage capacity of a launch PS5 console is impossible, but it will soon be as simple as buying and plugging in a compatible storage device. However, that functionality may end up coming at a steep price.

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