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Sony’s PlayStation 3 is part of the video game industry’s seventh iteration of home gaming systems. It succeeded the PlayStation 2, and the developers at Sony made improvements for the third model by incorporating better processors and hardware to render more complex graphics for games. Although the PlayStation 2 could include some online features, it needed a dedicated network card, and players had to use a wired connection to facilitate it.

In contrast, the PS3 included a Wi-Fi adapter at launch, allowing gamers to connect the console to an access point for wireless online gaming. Furthermore, this third model in Sony’s home entertainment products featured a large hard drive that could store multiple games and gaming data digitally.

Although official production of the PlayStation 3 stopped slowly over the years, ending entirely once Japan stopped producing the console in 2017, it still has a strong following.

Some people still own or use PlayStation 3 consoles wonder if they can boot up and run them even when the hard disk drives are inactive inside the cases. This is the topic we explore in more detail below.

Once we dig in, we’ll talk about what can happen to the console if you do remove the drive itself, whether you can swap drives from one unit to another, and if increasing the overall storage size of your drive can also have a positive influence on the console’s ability to run games.

Can You Use a PS3 Without Hard Drive?

For the most part, no, you cannot use the PS3 without a hard drive present in it. This is because, in addition to game storage and other things, the operating system that helps the PS3 run needs the hard drive to boot itself up. Without the drive present, the PlayStation 3 would not detect what it needs to start, and this is due to how the system stores its memory.

The memory may include game files and data, but it also helps the console track the data the system needs. When you turn on and use a PlayStation 3, the system loads files that allow you to see the display.

This includes menus, how the controllers interact with objects on the screen for selection purposes, and more. Some details that relate to your PlayStation Network member account store data in the firmware.

However, much of the other information the system needs in order to send instructions to the hardware on how it should function will be in the drive itself.

There is one exception to this rule for the different versions of the PlayStation 3 that you might purchase. Sony produced a version of their Super Slim PlayStation 3 that included 12 gigabytes of flash memory as internal storage.

For this device, one could boot up and use the console without a hard disk drive present in it first.

However, the relatively limited flash memory space meant that the console’s functionality and data capacity could have quite a few limitations. Even so, it is one model that allowed players to use the console without needing a hard drive first.

What Happens if I Remove My PS3 Hard Drive?

What can happen when you take out the hard drive for your PlayStation 3 depends on what you would like to do with it.

For example, if you need to take the hard drive out because you would like to clean it or the console, you can put it back in the device, hook things up again, and keep everything going as you normally would.

In part, this is because the hard disk drive for the PS3 formats itself to work with the specific PS3 console you put in when you first start using it.

When you remove the drive, no data makes any changes, additions, or deletions that the unit would save while not in the PlayStation 3. However, changes could occur if you decide to swap drives, but we will get to that in our next section.

AdobeStock_46289785 Hard Disk Drive isolated on white background

Can You Move a PS3 Hard Drive to Another PS3?

It is possible to move one drive to another PlayStation 3 unit. However, you cannot do this instantaneously. Each PS3 console codes the hard drive that is in it to itself.

This means you can’t take it out, put it in a different console, and then boot up the second console to view and access all the content on the drive. However, swapping drives between home gaming systems is still possible.

To get somewhat deeper into the topic, you can put one drive in another console the way you might swap drives in a computer. However, it is unlikely that all the data on the drive would transfer to the new unit successfully.

Part of this has to do with how the format of the drive to the specific consoles that use them originally. If you would like to swap drives successfully, there are a few steps that you should take:

1. You should use a secondary storage device to back up the data on the drive that you would like to swap. This should not be necessary for the swap itself, but it is a good precaution.

2. If necessary, update the firmware on both PS3 devices to the latest version available.

3. Once you do this, you should have access to the Backup Utility feature that is available within the settings for the device.

4. Use this utility to make sure you can put all the data from the primary drive to the secondary one you will use as a media server.

5. Once you ensure things are backed up, you can remove the original drive from your PS3 console.

You would do these steps if you wanted to move a drive from one console to another. If you want to upgrade a drive while keeping its data, you would want to perform the above steps again.

However, you would also need to add some steps to the list. We will cover upgrading the drive size as part of the information in the next section.

Does a Hard Drive Upgrade Increase Performance on PS3?

Yes and no. Sony designed the PlayStation 3 console to work with 2.5-inch SATA hard drives 9.5 millimeters in height. In fact, the hard disk drive for a PS3 could work with any device that shares the same interface.

However, some other operating systems may be unable to read or even see PS3 drives.

An upgrade of the original hard drive might give you some gains in load times for levels or heat output, and there could be some minor benefits for power consumption as well.

That said, you probably won’t notice significant improvements during actual gameplay when using a different, better hard drive in the PS3.

However, you may still wish to upgrade things to a new level. If you do, you should start by following the steps in our earlier section for removing and swapping drives in a PS3.

Once you’ve done those steps, you can add a couple of things to the list to complete the upgrade process.

First, take your backup and put all of its data on your new, upgraded drive. This will bring the new drive current to the data and specs of the one you had in the system already, but you’ll now have all that data on a better drive.

After that, you’ll want to make sure that the new drive formatted itself properly and is running well. If so, you can use the Backup Utility on the original console to bring the new drive current.

One action ensures the new drive can format to the console itself, and the other moves the data you would have stored on your old hard drive. You now have a new hard drive with all the old information, but more room to grow and save games.

What Is the Max HDD Size That Works on a PS3?

For official numbers, Sony says that the PlayStation 3 should support hard drives with spaces of up to one terabyte of storage. This is the hard number that Son gives out as the one they can guarantee, but it may be possible to go higher.

If so, you would need to use an external hard drive greater than a terabyte. Although this may work, you could also run into some processing or game saving issues.


In most cases, the hard drive is an integral part of almost every PlayStation 3 you can get. You can still remove it without worry, but the console will not boot up until you replace it.

Additionally, it is possible to swap storage drives, but you must go through a whole process in order to do so, and the same is true for upgrading the size of the drive you use in your PS3.