Project Destiny: Upgrading the 20GB PlayStation 3 Phat HD


With the recent XB360 and TiVo debacles, and burning brain cycles evaluating the validity of a Haswell-E upgrade, I was definitely feeling a bit of hardware burnout this week.  Luckily it just so happens that this week Bungie decided to release the long awaited sci-fi console MMO Destiny on PS3, PS4, XBox360 and XBone.  Not only that, but they basically created a “twofer” scenario whereby if you buy the legacy system version, you get the next gen for free.  Now as background it’s worth noting that I am an unapologetic absolute MMO junkie and I find console MMOs particularly interesting since they are such a rare and strange breed.  Add to that the fact that I love sci-fi and sci-fi MMOs are few and far between and you have a perfect storm of gaming uberness.  Since I do own a PlayStation 4, and I don’t own an XBone, the PS3 edition was the one to get.  Controller in hand, I powered up the old Phat girl, which has chugged along dutifully since day one of the PS3 release, and prepared for some stress free gaming fun (leaving aside of course the inevitable endless download, but I digress).

The first great thing was that the PS3 did in fact boot.  Hey, with modern consoles you never know!  Of course it needed an update.  Today literally everything always needs an update all the time.  Phones, tablets, PCs (of course) and now consoles and probably refrigerators are endlessly downloading and updating their firmware, OS, apps, drivers and on and on.  That’s cool though.  Great time to grab a snack.  The latest system update went off without a hitch so I dove right into the PlayStation Store.  After realizing that I hadn’t updated my credit card info in 6 months, I hopped over to the PC to add a new card (too bad you can’t seem to do this on the console) and added the required funds.  Anticipation was building.  I knew I was now only a “god knows how big” download away from MMO nirvana!  The first 15 minutes of an MMO are the greatest thing.  Of course the rest is normally downhill, but that’s ok.  Adding the big bad uber edition to my cart because hey, why pay $60 for a game when you can pay $90 for a game, I dove right into Checkout.  And… Was told that I don’t have anywhere near enough space to even think about this.  Well that sucks.  OK I figure, that’s cool.  I can probably kill my old game data as most of it isn’t so important.  Back into the store and still a no go.  Odd.  OK I figure, let’s just reformat the data volume.  Yeah.  No dice.  Basically a bare 20GB PS3 out of the box doesn’t have enough space to play Destiny!  Now that sucked!

I figured I had two options.  Both eerily familiar and horribly depressing.  First, I could buy more brand new antiquated hardware and replace the Phat.  Unlike with the 360 situation though, in this case it wasn’t broke, so why fix it?  Plus, I consider my old 20GB original PS3 with its awesome hardware PS2 compatibility and sleek gloss black finish a full blown collectors item (no laughing). Plus, I ran around like a lunatic to get the damn thing 100 years ago when it came out!  The other issue is that the new Super Slim is possibly a step backwards aesthetically.  With the Xbox, the current design improves a lot on the old one in terms of presenting a home theater ready face.  The PS3 came out of the gate as a handsome home theater component and has sort of stepped backwards a bit.  Ok, enough of that, a new PS3 wasn’t on the agenda.  So what else could be done?  Well luckily, the PS3 continues to really be one of the greatest consoles to date.  Sony, shockingly, actually included hard disk upgradeability in the original design.  And I’m not talking “upgradeability” TiVo style either, I’m talking full self service.  Let’s take a look.  First up, a PS3 selfie:

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Still a true beauty. First step in performing this particular surgery is to locate the “HDD” door. It’s not hard, just look on the side of the PS3!:

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Getting this door open is effortless. There is a small notch, just insert a small flathead screwdriver and gently pop it out, then remove it:

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Inside is a really nice hard drive bay design. You can see a little arrow pointing directly at the screw we will need to remove (which is also helpfully painted blue), and a small lever that we will obviously be pulling later:

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Unscrew the blue screw with a Philips, then pull the level and the disk carrier will pop out easily:

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As with all disk carriers, the hard drive is held in place by four Philips screws (2 per side). Unscrew them to free the drive and pop it out:

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With the old (tiny) drive out of the way, we can slide the new big boy right in place (hey, get your mind out of the gutter!):

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With the new hard drive mounted in the carrier, slide the carrier back into the PS3. You will see that the screw holes do not line up. The arrow comes to the rescue again!  Slide the drive to the left to reconnect the SATA data and power connectors:

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The screw holes will line up when the connection is good. Return the blue screw to its home to secure the drive:

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Booting up the PS3 for the first time after installing the new hard disk, we see this screen (a great sign):

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Go ahead and allow it. There’s no turning back after this, so hopefully there was no useful data on there!:

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The format is very quick and will let you know when it’s done:

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Head over to System Settings and System Info to verify that it worked. And… it did! Wow! A 750GB PS3! Note, 750GB becomes 698GiB formatted capacity of which 620GiB is usable after prep, so something is eating a fairly large chunk of this drive, which is odd considering we’re coming from a 20GB. Not sure what’s up with that, but I’ll look into it and report back if there is anything interesting here. In the meantime, Destiny awaits!

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