In less than one month (from the time of this writing), console gamers will have officially entered the “next generation” – with the release of the PS4 on November 15th, followed closely behind by the Xbox One on November 22nd. While certain gamers have kept busy flaming the impending “console war,” both systems are set to sell big numbers and introduce players to all-new game experiences – with pros and cons to which system a prospective consumer selects (if not both).

Nevertheless, storage remains one subject that has flown (mostly) under the radar throughout the build-up between announcement of the two consoles to their impending launch. Throughout their life cycles the PS3 and Xbox 360 have allowed for a variety of hard drive capacities – providing consumers the opportunity to decide which console option (and HD size) is the best option for their personal situation, relative to price. Yet, considering the PS4 and Xbox One are not launching with more than one SKU – are release day gamers going to be stuck with too little storage in this next-gen?

Given the expanding size of game files (example: Killzone: Shadow Fall is a 40GB digital install) and HD video content, among other considerations, the 500GB hard drives that come standard in both the PS4 and Xbox One are already looking pretty small. Any player that purchases Shadow Fall at launch, will face a mandatory install that will take close to 1/10th of their entire hard drive – on day one. Of course, save files will be much smaller, and any massive 40GB cache installs can be deleted off either machine (with the ability to reinstall later) once a player has moved on to a new game – but there’s no doubt that certain gamers will likely have to manage their PS4 and Xbox One hard drive files a little more closely this round.

Killzone Shadow Fall Artwork

That said, just like with the PS3, Sony fans will still be able to upgrade their PS4 hard drive after the fact – though, they’ll (obviously) have to purchase the separate (and compatible) HD on their own dime. From the official PS4 FAQ on the PlayStation Blog:

Will users be able to replace PS4’s stock 500GB hard drive? What hard drive sizes are supported?

PS4 owners will be able to replace PS4’s standard hard drive. PS4’s hard drive is used to store downloaded game and video content, game save files, gameplay movies and images, and more.

What type of hard drive does PS4 use?

PS4 is equipped with a 5400 RPM SATA II hard drive. Users can choose to install a new hard drive so long as it complies with these standards, is no thicker than 9.5mm, and is larger than 160GB.

At this point Sony has not made it clear whether there is a maximum HD size or any third-party suppliers that are not compatible – though the FAQ seems to suggest that as long as a 5400 RPM SATA II hard drive physically fits into the machine (and is bigger than 160GB), it should work. The upgrade process on the PS3 was relatively simple – especially if players had backed-up their system to an external hard drive. Considering external HD support has been dropped from the PS4, it’s unknown how the self-replacement process works this round. Expect more information on hard drive upgrading closer to launch (or shortly after), once consumers get their hands on the hardware.

Unfortunately, the storage solution dilemma will not be so simple for Xbox One players – as Microsoft’s console does not allow for swapping or replacing hard drives. That said, the Xbox One will, unlike the PS4, support external hard drives – meaning that gamers should be able to shift some of their bulkier files and videos off their console to free up space. Note: Per Major Nelson, external storage support will not be available at launch and will arrive in a future Xbox One update.

Xbox One Xbone

Gamers will likely be split on which post-launch storage option is better – given that PS4 players who upgrade their stock HD won’t have to spend as much time micromanaging storage and Xbox One gamers who utilize an external HD will have slightly more flexibility in moving files off of their system. Still, while Sony could, in theory, add external HD support down the line through a software patch to compete with Microsoft, don’t expect the Xbox One, in its current form, to allow for manual hard drive upgrading.


The PS4 is set to release on November 15, 2013. The Xbox One is set to release on November 22, 2013.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick.

Sources: PlayStation BlogMicrosoft, and Kotaku