PS5 is missing this key feature at launch — and its good news for Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The PS5's 825GB of internal storage has been the only real drawback on an otherwise impressive piece of hardware. Not in terms of performance, where its lightning fast speeds have attracted glowing reviews around the world, but in capacity. With just 667GB of usable space, that might not go too far when PS5 launch titles are tipping the scales at 50-100GB each.

One positive, however, was the understanding that external SSDs could be used as a kind of overspill for content. You couldn’t play PS5 games directly off it, but most people believed that you’d be able to move content to the drive when not in use to save you having to download/install it all over again. That’s how it works on Xbox Series X, so it wouldn’t be surprising for Sony to follow suit. 

However, at launch, it doesn’t work that way. Digital Foundry has confirmed that while PS4 games installed on the PS5 can be moved off to an external SSD, PS5 games can’t. The site performed the unenviable task of filling the PS5’s internal storage with games, before trying to install a new PS5 title. The PS5 OS politely informed the tester that they would need to free up space, but PS5 games could only be deleted rather than archived to an SSD.

The site also found that the PS5 treats saved game data in a different way too. While the console lets you restore PS4 saved game data via USB, it’s not an option for PS5 saves. Digital Foundry speculates that this is a direct response to how saved games were hacked on PS4, allowing for cheats to be imported. Those worried about their saved games being lost in the event of a drive failure can relax a little, though: the PS5 automatically backs up saves to the cloud.

Both these data management quirks could be changed via a software patch, of course, but at launch your options are somewhat limited. While you’d struggle to fill up the internal storage with PS5 games even if you bought every available title on launch day, you’re probably best off keeping PS4 games on an external drive, even if it means slightly longer loading times (with SSD, they’ll still be faster than on your PS4’s internal hard drive, anyway.)

But in the long run, it’s a bit of a concern — especially as Sony isn’t currently allowing users to upgrade the internal storage. While there is an SSD expansion slot inside the PS5 that will support M.2 SSD sticks, the slot is currently disabled to the paucity of drives that will actually work. The PS5 has very specific requirements when it comes to drives that will work here: they have to deliver over 5.5GB/sec of bandwidth over a PCIe Gen4 connection while still being thin enough to fit in the physical space, so it’s wise to hold off until Sony officially signs off on some compatible models, at any rate.

This is where Microsoft’s Xbox Series X and Series S have an advantage. Not only is expandable storage available (albeit, expensive), but games which aren’t in use can be backed up to an external SSD. With that in mind, there’s no real reason why Sony can’t do the same in the upcoming months. Fingers crossed. 

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.