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Expanding PS5 storage is mostly a breeze

Adding extra space for games is easy, but don't get tripped up by weird rules on what works and what doesn't.

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The PlayStation 5 is a great modern game console, even if it's still nearly impossible to find in stores. But once you do manage to get one, there's a problem you can run into very quickly. 

As shipped, the PS5 has just under 700GB of available SSD space. Most PS5 games will take up between 40GB and 80GB, with a few blowing past the 100GB mark. It's not a PS5-only problem -- Microsoft games like Flight Simulator can take up even more room. 

Read more: PS5 Review: Exclusive games power Sony's space-age console

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This 500GB drive can hold around 10 to 15 games, depending on file size. 

Dan Ackerman/CNET

Usually, that means to add new games, you might have to delete old ones. And to play those older games again, you'll have to download them again, which is a pain and can eat up a lot of bandwidth. 

The obvious solution is to plug in an external SSD via USB. People have been doing that for years on other consoles. The good news is that it's easy to do and works great. The bad news is that there are some serious limits on what you can do with that external drive. 

Read more: 5 fixes PS5 still needs

The first step is to get an SSD drive. I picked up a Samsung 500GB drive for around $80. Sony says it has to be at least 250GB or up to 8TB, and must support USB 3 or higher. 

The setup is dead simple. Plug in the drive. On the PS5, go to Settings > Storage > USB Extended Storage and select Format as USB Extended Storage. It just takes a few minutes. 

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Be sure to check off the "always install PS4 games to USB external storage" option. 

Dan Ackerman/CNET

There's an option for "Always install PS4 games to USB extended storage." Make sure to select that, because the main advantage of external storage on your PS5 is installing and playing older PS4 games from it. 

That's the big catch. You can't play PS5 games from an external SSD right now. So you'll want to put your PS4 content, from Ghost of Tsushima to Final Fantasy VII Remake, on the external drive. 

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The PS5 can only store a handful of big games at once. 

Dan Ackerman/CNET

There was one big change earlier this year, however. A system update allowed you to store PS5 games on your external drive. You can't download them directly there, or play them from there, but you can shuffle PS5 games on and off external storage to clear up room on the console itself. Is that especially useful? Could be, but it's also a hassle to think about shuffling games from one hard drive to another. 

Ironically, the PS5 has a perfectly good extra slot inside for a second super-fast M.2 SSD. But it's currently deactivated. Sony says it's going to do something with that storage slot at some point, but there's no firm date on that. It would be great if you could just add your own off-the-shelf M.2 drive, but it's more likely you'll have to buy a proprietary drive, similar to the Seagate drive for the Xbox Series X