Gaming Console 101

Can You Play PS5 Games From an External Hard Drive?

As incredible as the PS5 is, its storage capacity might leave some gamers scratching their heads, particularly given the fact that the majority of the games take up more storage space than a hoarder’s garage.

That’s where external hard drives come in handy, offering the promise of extra storage and potentially saving you from the dreaded task of choosing which beloved games to delete.

However, when it comes to the question of whether can you play PS5 games from an external hard drive directly, the answer can be quite anti-climactic.

So Can You Play PS5 Games From an External Hard Drive?

Unfortunately, it’s a no-go. Sony’s official stance has made it clear that you can’t play PS5 games from an external hard drive, and there’s a good reason for that (more on that below).

PS5 and It Storage Requirements

To understand WHY PS5 does NOT support playing games directly off the external hard drive, you have to understand its storage requirements first.

InterfacePCI-Express Gen4x4 supported M.2 NVMe SSD (Key M)
Storage250 GB – 4 TB
Supported sizes2230, 2242, 2260, 2280, 22110
Size including
heat-dissipation mechanism
Width: up to 25 mm
Length: 30/40/60/80/110 mm
Thickness: up to 11.25 mm (up to 8.0 mm
from above the board,
up to 2.45 mm from below the board)
Sequential Read Speed5,500MB/s or faster is recommended
Socket typeSocket 3 (Key M)

The requirements above are for the INTERNAL storage requirement. PS5 has an extra M.2 slot for additional internal storage which can be populated. Games can be played directly from the extra internal storage. 

The most important point to note above is that PS5 storage needs to be a Gen 4 NVMe SSD with a sequential read speed of 5500 MB/s.

PS5 games are designed to take advantage of the console’s custom NVMe SSD. The benefit of SSDs manifests itself in-game through faster installation and load times. 

Now the speeds of 5500 MB/s are crucial for ensuring smooth gameplay and quick load times, but external hard drives just can’t keep up.

The following table compares the speeds of different storage mediums.

Max Speeds
HDD~120-200 MB/s
Gen 3 NVMe SSD3500 MB/s
Gen 4 NVMe SSD7000 MB/s

You can see above that an HDD, which was the storage technology used by PS4 and older gen consoles, has a maximum transfer speed of 200 MB/s.

Now PS5 has come far in terms of transfer speed and it will certainly not settle for anything less.

Storage Speeds of External Drives Can’t Keep Up with the 5500 MB/s Requirement

External Hard Drives have a maximum speed of about 100 MB/s (if HDD) or 500 MB/s (if SSD).

So playing games on PS5 from the external hard drives and expecting them to deliver fast load times would be like asking a sloth to compete in a 100-meter sprint against Usain Bolt – it’s just not going to work.

This means, that EVEN if you were to get your hands on the expensive external SSDs, they are still about 10 times slower than the minimum 5500 MB/s transfer speed requirement of PS5.

External hard drives simply can’t deliver the performance PS5 games demand, which is why Sony has put the brakes on using them for PS5 titles.

You CAN SAVE Games On an External Hard Drive

Now, before you go and toss your external hard drive out the window in frustration, there is a silver lining to this storage dilemma.

While PS5 may NOT allow you to play games directly off the external hard drives, it DOES allow you to save games onto them.

You can transfer files and games onto the external hard drive by visiting Settings > Storage > Console Storage > Games and Apps and then heading over to the “Item You Can Move” tab.

Can You Play PS5 Games From an External Hard Drive

(Image credit: Sony)

This can allow you to free up space on your internal SSD so that you can install newer games. The older games that you do not want to delete can be archived onto the external hard drive.

PS4 Games Can Be Played on PS5 Through the External Hard Drive

The discussion above was related to the newer PS5 titles. Meaning, the titles released for PS5 CANNOT be played directly via the external hard dive.

HOWEVER, that restriction DOES NOT relate to the PS4 games on an external hard drive.

You see, PS4 had no restrictions or constraints with regard to the transfer speed as the PS5 does.

As such, you can use an external hard drive for your PS4 games on the PS5. So, if you’re still holding onto your PS4 library like a nostalgic collector then you should be delighted.

PS4 Games Will Take a Performance Hit

But there is a small caveat, when it comes to performance, playing PS4 games from an external hard drive on your PS5 won’t be as fast as playing them from the internal SSD.

It’s like riding a bike with training wheels – you might not be as speedy as the other kids, but you can still have a good time.

But if you are migrating from a PS4, you should be quite used to long loading times anyways.

Final Words

TL:DR: The verdict on playing PS5 games from an external hard drive is a resounding “nope.”

While this may sound unfair on the surface,  the truth is that there are solid technical reasons for this limitation.

For those of you who are desperate to expand your PS5’s storage, remember that there are other options, like installing extra internal storage. You can install up to an extra 4 TB SSD!

Atif Qazi

Atif Qazi is the founder of and a huge gaming nerd. Thanks to the vast gaming experience under his belt, you can often find him writing detailed pieces of content on gaming hardware and console. But in all honesty, nothing gives him more pleasure than 'one-shotting' everyone as a stealth archer in ESO: Skyrim.

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