Using USB Flash Memory with the PlayStation 4

Since Sony recently added the ability to download files to USB devices, I’ve been using it regularly to copy recorded videos for later editing. I’ve been using a WD My Passport Edge – it holds 500GB of data and is USB 3. However, I do my video editing during my lunch at work and throwing (although not quite literally) a physical drive into a bag for transport is not my preference – it’s relatively bulky and, naturally, is prone to failure due to the movement.

So, I bought a USB memory stick. And it’s good too – USB 3 and fast speeds. On paper it’s faster than the Passport Edge. However, in use on the PS4 it was abysmal. Copying 8 videos, a total of 2.9GB, took 3 minutes with the Passport Edge. With the USB stick it took 40 minutes – over 13 times longer.

Enquiring on the Sony forums I found something that makes it better – format the USB stick as exFAT. The PS4 doesn’t recognise NTFS so it’s normally recommended to use FAT32. However, I found exFAT worked and the aforementioned transfer now took 11 minutes – still slower than the Passport Edge but now 3.5 times faster than before.

However, using exFAT (in preference to FAT32) on mechanical hard drives doesn’t make a difference with the PS4. Use either format for identical performance.

I also gained detail on how the PS4 copies files, particularly videos. If you hadn’t realised it needs to “remux” (convert the format of) each video as it copies and it does this each video at a time. The PS4 writes a temporary file on the USB drive as it remuxes the video and, once that’s done, it renames and relocates the video clip into the correct folder (and creates the folder if it doesn’t already exist). The PS4 does not copy the file to a new location, it moves the file in the table of contents of the drive.

As for why a memory stick, with benchmarks that show it to be faster, is slower than the Passport Edge, I was told that memory sticks will slow down the longer you use them in one write session. Their flash memory access times all slow down when writing large files and the more files they write to flash memory file storage the slower they will go. Because of the remuxing too, when the PS4 export buffer gets full because the memory stick has not written the data yet the PS4 stops exporting and waits for the memory stick. With the Passport Edge the PS4 will not have to wait.

Unfortunately my knowledge of this is not sufficient to know if this it true or not (wouldn’t the benchmarks have shown this?).

Needless to say, if you want the quickest way to move files off the PS4 it’s best to stick with physical hard drives. If you need to the convenience of a robust memory stick, format it to exFAT!

Posted by David Artiss

Enterprise Happiness Engineer for the WordPress VIP team at Automattic. Gamer, film lover and general fan of all things Marvel, Star Trek and Star Wars. Failed comedian. Writer for The Big Tech Question. World's Greatest Grandma.

8 Replies to “Using USB Flash Memory with the PlayStation 4”

  1. http://t.co/4As3Vyj2Ea Using USB Flash Memory with the PlayStation 4

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  2. I’ve just bought my Passport Ultra WD(1TB) and formatted it to exFat. I tried to copy my video from ps4 (the size is 700mb something) and after 10% it stopped and said that I need free space of 6600 mb something in my storage device, which is weird because i have like 990gb left in my external. Do you know how to fix this ?? 🙁

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    1. No idea, tbh – I’ve not experienced the issue. Have you tried formatting it as FAT32 to see if that works?

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    2. I have the same issue! Except im having the problem with the HDD i removed from the PS4.

      Reply

  3. Hope this is not a totally idiotic question, I do not have an internet connection at home, have to use a dongle with my laptop and I believe this won’t work on my PS4, is there any way I can get any PlayStation DLC games? By downloading onto a memory stick and then transferring to PS4 for example? Or is here any way to get them on a disc? Would appreciate any help as very keen to get any Witcher 3 expansions…. thanks

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    1. No. DLCs are delivered via PSN, so you will need an internet connection to your PS4. Instead of the dongle, have you thought of a MyFi device instead? You put the SIM into that and it then creates a mobile WiFi hotspot which you can connect multiple devices to – you can continue to use it for your laptop but also the PS4.

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  4. Never even heard of that! Sounds great, will get straight on it, really appreciate the help

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  5. Can you tell me exactly what exFAT USB to buy as I am a novice trying to make memory on my childs PS4 just so they can play more games. Apparently we have to delete all the games they’ve played just to play a new one.Thanks.

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