Ten months after the PlayStation 5 hit store shelves, Sony released a software update that unlocked the console’s storage expansion slot. Originally, the PS5 offered only 667GB of space for storing your games, with no way to increase that. While that was fine for some gamers (like me), others (like my son) were forced to perform a near-daily juggling act that involved frequently deleting and redownloading games due to the console’s low SSD storage space and the apparent need to have constant access to every Call of Duty game.
Now, you can increase your PS5’s available storage by installing a standard PCIe Gen4 x4 M.2 NVMe SSD. If that mess of acronyms has you recoiling, don’t worry, you’ll see that it’s not all that complicated, and if you want to know which are the best SSDs for your PS5, you can skip to the end for our top picks.
How much storage do I need?
The PS5 will accept drives between 250GB and 4TB in capacity. If you already own a PlayStation 5, chances are you have a reasonable idea of how much storage you need for your game library. If you’re buying an SSD with a new PS5, or buying for someone else, though, it’s more difficult to tell.
PS5 games are a little smaller on average than their PS4 equivalents, typically taking up between 30GB and 100GB, with some notable (and very popular) exceptions. If you’re a fan of the Call of Duty series, installing Modern Warfare II and Warzone 2.0 will require more than 200GB. In other words, a full Call of Duty install will take up almost one-third of the PS5’s internal storage. If you’re not a CoD fan, though, chances are you’ll be good to store between six to 10 games on your PS5 internally before running into problems.
One additional thing to consider is your internet speed. If you live in an area with slow broadband, the “you can just download it again” rationale doesn’t really work out. At my old home, a 100GB download took me around eight hours, during which time it was difficult to simultaneously watch Twitch or, say, publish articles about upgrading PS5 SSDs. Keeping games around on the off-chance you’ll want to play them at some point makes sense.
Off the bat, there’s basically no point in going for a 250GB drive. Economically, 250GB drives aren’t that much cheaper than 500GB ones, and practically, that really isn’t a lot of space for modern games to live on. 500GB drives, coming in at around $80 to $140, are a decent bet, but the sweet spot for most is to opt for a 1TB drive, which should run you between $160 and $250. That will more than double the space you have available for games without breaking the bank. (Seagate’s official 1TB Xbox Series expansion card, for comparison, sells for $220.)
If you have the money, 2TB drives sometimes offer marginal savings per gigabyte, and can often be found when other models are out of stock. Unless you’re rolling in cash and want to flex, 4TB models should mostly be avoided, as you’ll end up paying more per gigabyte than you would with a 1TB or 2TB drive.
One final note: While the 825GB PS5 only provides 667GB of storage, that’s largely due to storage being reserved for the operating system and caching. If you install a 1TB SSD, you’ll have, within a margin of error, 1TB of storage available for games.
What about external SSDs?
These come at a much lower price point than the high-end internal SSDs, but there are restrictions on what you can do with them. An external SSD connects to your PS5 via USB, and is only suitable for playing PS4 games, or storing PS5 titles. This is useful if you have anything but the best internet — it’s faster to move a PS5 game out of “cold storage” on an external drive than it is to re-download it — or just want a large number of PS4 games to hand.
Due to the limitations here, you don’t need the highest-performing model, although you should opt for SSDs over HDDs for improved transfer speeds and load times. Any basic portable drive from a reputable brand will do, with the Crucial X6 and Samsung T5 being options we’ve tried and can recommend.
What SSDs are compatible with PS5?
The official answer to this question is an “M.2 Socket 3 (Key M) Gen4 x4 NVME SSD.” But even within that seemingly specific description, there are still more things to consider. The main requirements Sony has laid out for compatibility come down to speed, cooling and physical dimensions.
For speed, Sony says drives should be able to handle sequential reads at 5,500MB/s. Early testing showed that the PS5 would accept drives as slow as 4,800MB/s, and that games that tap into the SSD regularly — such as Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart — would cause no issues. Pretty much the only thing the PS5 will outright reject is one that doesn’t match the Gen4 x4 spec.
In our opinion, though, using a drive slower than the specification is a risk that, if you don’t already have that drive lying around, is not worth taking. Just because we haven’t found issues yet, that doesn’t mean there won’t be games that will be problematic down the line. The price difference between these marginally slower Gen4 drives and the ones that meet Sony’s spec is not huge, and you may as well cover all your bases.
Slightly more complicated than speed is cooling and size. Most bare SSDs are going to be just fine; the PS5 can fit 22mm-wide SSDs of virtually any length (30mm, 42mm, 60mm, 80mm or 110mm, to be precise). The vast majority of drives you find will be 22mm wide and 80mm long, so no problem there.
It should be noted that the system can fit a 25mm-wide drive, but that width must include the cooling solution. Speaking of, Sony says SSDs require “effective heat dissipation with a cooling structure, such as a heatsink.” The maximum height supported by Sony’s slot is 11.25mm, of which only 2.45mm can be “below” the drive. This previously meant some of the most popular heatsinked Gen4 SSDs, including Corsair’s MP600 Pro LPX and Sabrent’s Rocket 4 Plus, would not fit within the PS5’s storage expansion slot. Since Engadget first published this guide in 2021, most NVMe makers, including Samsung, have come out with PlayStation-specific models that take care of those considerations.
That said, if you want to save some money, bare drives are often much cheaper, and it’s trivial to find a cooling solution that will work for the PS5.
The only component in an NVMe SSD that really requires cooling is the controller, which without a heatsink will happily sear a (very small) steak. Most SSDs have chips on only one side, but even on double-sided SSDs, the controller is likely to be on top, as manufacturers know it needs to be positioned there to better dissipate heat. So, head to your PC component seller of choice, and pick up basically anything that meets the recommended dimensions. A good search term is “laptop NVME heatsink,” as these will be designed to fit in the confines of gaming laptops, which are even more restrictive than a PS5. They’re also typically cheaper than the ones labeled as “PS5 heatsinks.”
One recommendation is this $7 copper heatsink, which attaches to the SSD with sticky thermal interface material. It works just fine, and really, performing stress tests on a PC, we couldn’t find anything metal that didn’t keep temperatures under control. When you’re searching, just make sure the solution you go for measures no more than 25mm wide or 8mm tall including the thermal interface material and has a simple method of installation that’s not going to cause any headaches.
Now, if all of that was very boring, here are some ready-to-go recommendations:
Best PS5 SSD: Corsair MP600 Pro LPX
The Corsair MP600 Pro LPX makes it to the top of our list for checking all the boxes. It’s fast, offering read speeds of up to 7,100MB/s and comes with a pre-installed heatsink. It also ships with a five-year warranty. Best of all, the MP600 is affordable. In recent months, the 1TB variant has sold for less than $100 (although it typically comes in at $185), while the 2TB model will set you back about $210.
Best affordable PS5 SSD: Crucial P5 Plus
If you want to save a bit of money by installing your own heatsink, a Crucial P5 Plus NVMe is the way to go. With read speeds of up to 6,600MB/s, the P5 Plus is only marginally slower than our top pick, and you can frequently find the 1TB model for as little as $80 when it’s on sale. Expect the 2TB variant to set you back about $180 when on discount.
Other great options
Samsung 980 Pro
If you’re not familiar with companies like Crucial or Corsair and want to go with a more recognizable brand, there’s no bigger player in the NVMe space than Samsung. The company recently began selling a heatsinked version of its highly-regarded 980 Pro SSD. It’s more expensive than some of the other NVMe drives on this list, but not dramatically so. You can expect to pay about $230 for the 1TB model (or around $110 when it’s on sale) and $200 for the 2TB version.
Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus
Of all the SSDs on this list, the Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus is the most interesting. It comes with a unique heatsink that you install in place of the storage expansion slot’s metal cover. Sabrent claims this design improves cooling performance. Pricing falls in line with Samsung’s offering, with the 1TB variant coming in at around $160 and the 2TB model costing $300.
If Sabrent’s design is appealing to you but you can’t find the Rocket 4 Plus for a decent price when you go looking for one, PNY offers a similar cooling solution with the PS5 version of its XLR8 NVMe. You can find the 1TB model for about $107. Expect the 2TB model to set you back about $190.
WD Black SN850
The SN850 is another plug-and-play option for the PS5, offering sequential read speeds in excess of the console’s compatibility requirements and a pre-installed heatsink. Western Digital sells a Sony-licensed model of the SN850 that comes in 1TB and 2TB variants. The former should set you back about $180135, while the latter costs about $300.
How to install an SSD in a PS5
Before attempting to add more storage to your PS5, ensure that you have Sony’s latest software installed. Once you’re up-to-date, installation of a PS5 SSD is fairly straightforward. Sony recommends a #1 Phillips or crosshead screwdriver, but this isn’t rocket science. Any crossed screwdriver of a similar size will do fine.
Begin by powering down your PS5, unplugging everything, removing the stand and flipping it over to its underside. If you have the regular PS5, that’s the side with the disc drive; if you have the Digital Edition, it’s the side without the PlayStation logo cutout.
Sony has a video guide to popping off the outside cover here, but the gist is you gently lift up the opposing corners and slide the panel toward the flat end of the console. There’s a knack to this, and it requires very little effort or strength. If you’re not getting it, rather than force it just readjust your grip and try again. A member of our video team managed to break one of the tabs on our review unit doing this in the past so… yeah, don’t force it.
Once you’ve got everything open, you’ll see a rectangular piece of metal with a screw holding it in place. Remove that screw, and you’ll be able to access the drive bay.
You’ll see five holes inside, each numbered corresponding to the standard SSD drive lengths I mentioned earlier. The one numbered 110 will have a metal insert and screw inside. You need to unscrew the screw with a screwdriver, and then unscrew the insert with your fingers and move it to the relevant hole. Your eyes should tell you which is the right one for your drive, but it’s most likely going to be 80.
Then take your SSD — mine is a 980 Pro I bought on Prime Day with a $2 piece of aluminum attached to the top — and slot it in. The slot is at the edge closest to the number “30,” and SSDs are keyed to only fit in one way, so again, no force is required. If it’s not sliding in, don’t force it. You’ll notice the SSD doesn’t sit flat — that’s fine, and is as intended.
Once the SSD is seated, take the screw you removed from the insert, line it up with the little notch at the end of your SSD, and push down so it meets the insert. Give the screw a few turns — it doesn’t need to be very tight — and you’re done.
Replace the metal cover and screw it down, and then slide the plastic outer shell back on. When you first turn on the PS5, it’ll prompt you to format the drive. Do that! You have now successfully expanded your console’s storage, and can set about downloading and moving games to it. Personally, I moved all of the PS4 games I had to the new drive, along with all of my clips and screenshots. The PS5’s built-in SSD is always going to be the most compliant, so I’m keeping my important stuff there.
We’ll be updating this guide as more SSDs come to market and onto our test bench, so feel free to bookmark it for when you need it.
This story originally appeared on Engadget