January 29, 2011

New PS3 firmware foils HDD upgrades, bricks my console

One of the best aspects of the PlayStation 3 is Sony's unusually considerate policy of letting users upgrade the built-in hard drive themselves, using any compatible third-party notebook drive. That means you can head over to Amazon, pick up a massive 500GB HDD for $60 or so, bust out a screwdriver, swap in the new drive, format it, transfer your data, and you're set — no need to shell out, say, $130 for a proprietary 250GB hard drive. (Looking at you, Microsoft!)

Seeing as my old 40GB PS3 hard drive had been getting pretty cramped lately, I figured it was high time to trade up. So I watched a few how-to videos, got my 500GB Western Digital HDD from the UPS guy, unplugged my PS3, and warmed up my screwdriver. Should be smooth sailing, right?

Well, not quite. Sony just released a new PS3 firmware upgrade (version 3.56, to be exact) that seems to trip up the console the first time your fire it up with a new hard drive installed. Instead of identifying the drive and asking whether you want to format it, my PS3 curtly informed me that … well, see for yourself:

Hmmm … a little worrisome, but no reason to panic just yet. After all, I had a fresh backup of my PS3 data — including my music, purchased games, and god knows how many game saves — loaded onto an external hard drive, and I still had the original 40GB PS3 drive sitting on my desk.

I went to the PlayStation Support site, downloaded the 3.56 firmware to a USB stick, inserted said stick into one of the PS3’s USB ports, and pressed the Start and Select buttons simultaneously, as instructed.

And then … this happened:


Of course, it didn’t take long to discover that I wasn’t the only one having trouble swapping in a new hard drive in the wake of Sony’s latest PS3 firmware upgrade — and indeed, it turns out this isn’t the first time a firmware update has thwarted would-be HDD swappers.

Anyway, I resigned myself to waiting for Sony to issue a fix before installing my spiffy new 500GB hard drive. Oh well. (By the way, I've notified SCEA PR about the issue and am awaiting an official comment.) In the meantime, I'd just swap my old PS3 HDD back in, and return to my regularly scheduled gaming.

Well ... can you guess what happened next? Yep — my PS3 refused to recognize the old hard drive, too. So basically, I've now got a bricked console (and no Blu-ray player) until a new firmware update arrives ... at some undetermined point in the future.

Suddenly, Microsoft's outrageously overpriced Xbox 360 hard drives weren't looking like such a bad deal — after all, at least they work.

I'll post an update once I get some answers from Sony. Meanwhile ... time to fire up the old Xbox.

Update [2/1/11]: Sony has issued a fix, but has yet to make an official announcement or even change the version number of the firmware.

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