PlayStation 3 HDD Upgrade

I recently got Gran Turismo 5 for my PS3 and it helpfully offered to install bits of itself to the hard disk to speed things up. I think it claimed about 10GB was needed and at the time I just accepted it. Then I got thinking, along with this I’ve blindly installed a fair bit of downloadable content for GTA IV and Dragon Age: Origins and so far nothing has told me the hard disk is full but I wondered how close I was.

A quick spot of archaeology found the box and apparently I had been a tight-arse and only purchased the 40GB model and the system settings indicated I had just over 3GB left so the next decent-sized DLC would’ve bitten me.

Thankfully I had recently upgraded my MacBook Pro with a whopping 750GB hard disk so I had the original 160GB gathering dust, plenty big enough. Sony make it really easy to upgrade the hard disk with clear instructions, all I needed to do first was perform a full backup to some external USB storage prior to swapping the hard disks over. I warn you now, this takes ages. The backup process claimed to back up 27GB (where’s my other 10GB gone?) and that took around an hour. Maybe I’m just expecting too much out of USB2?

Most of this is obvious stuff, but I remembered there was some brouhaha about some content such as game save data being non-transferable and I knew Dragon Age was one such game. I assume this is to prevent trading save games to unlock trophies as part of some sort of willy waving contest but this has the knock on effect of being unable to transfer the data if you replace your PS3 for some reason. While I was waiting for the backup to finish I considered what might be happening:

  • Does the process skip non-transferable data?
  • Does it back it up and then not restore it?
  • Does it back it up, restore it and then prevent you from loading it within the game?
  • Does a PS3 with a different hard disk count as a different system?

I assumed it wouldn’t be so silly to include the hard disk in the system profile but upon restoring the first thing I would do is check which save game data was restored and if it still worked or not, keeping the original 40GB hard disk safe so I could always downgrade again and reconsider.

Upon swapping the hardware, the PS3 correctly reformatted the hard disk which still had the OS X partitioning present and then I started the restore process which took even longer than the initial backup, I think it took about an hour and a half.

The process seems to have worked and restored everything, my Dragon Age game saves still seem to load with no problems. Weirdly the PS3 now reports that I’ve used 47GB on the new hard disk, whereas I had only used around 34GB on the old one accounting for the stupid capacity rounding hard disk manufacturers love to use, so either there’s quite the rounding error going on or the PS3 reserves a percentage of the disk for its own purposes.

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2 Responses to “PlayStation 3 HDD Upgrade”

  1. Alex B says:

    Re. USB2 hard discs; I’ve used PATA discs (which benchmark at 60MiB/s at the rim decreasing to 30MiB/s at the hub) attached to Prolific USB/PATA bridges. When connected in this way, they only get 30MiB/s when attached to an NEC USB2 controller, or 20MiB/s when connected to an Intel USB2 controller. I think a good chunk of the blame rests on the bridge chipsets, but a certain amount rests with the USB controller chipsets and their drivers.

    As for the disc space usage; is the filesystem something like FAT16 with a stupidly large “cluster size”, perhaps? Or perhaps some kind of reserved space attached to each file allowing for trivial (small) append operations and lower levels of fragmentation?

    • matt says:

      A back of an envelope calculation suggests I was averaging a measly 7MiB/s on the backup, less on the restore. I’m using one of these which works quite well as a sort of swiss army knife for PATA/SATA disks.

      I used it on my MacBook Pro to do a thorough test of its new 750GB disk prior to installing and that went at a reasonable speed, but I’ve also noticed this lack of performance when I tried to back up my Time Capsule, that estimated it would take 20+ hours to back up about 500GB which is about the same rate so maybe both lack a quirk for this particular chip or they both go slow and steady to be more accommodating of sub-standard hardware.

      As for the old hard disk, there doesn’t seem to be any sort of partition table that OS X or Linux can detect.

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