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.

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!

Using exFAT on mechanical hard drives

I’ve now tested whether using exFAT (in preference to FAT32) on mechanical hard drives makes a difference with the PS4 – it doesn’t. Use either format for identical performance.

Darkstorm40
About Darkstorm40
Relatively recent convert to Battlefield but now hooked. Not the best aim or sharpest reflexes but good team player. Hates people complaining unnecessarily and believes you should always offer solutions - yes, I'm looking at all the Battlefield 4 haters. General IT bod during the day and all-round geek at all other times. Owner of bfmedic.com.

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