Final thoughts on my PlayStation 3 HDD backup and recovery adventure.

Over the last few weeks I have written a number of articles about my trials and tribulations with backing up my HDD. I was looking at the site statistics over the last week and noticed that I get a lot of searches and referrals to folks looking for info on backup up their PS3. I thought it would be useful to put together a “What did I learn?” type article. Enjoy!

HDD upgrades are easy
Upgrading your HDD is very easy. You follow a few simple steps to remove your original PS3 HDD, and replace it with a 5400 RPM SATA drive and you are almost back in business.

Follow the steps in the link for the replacement activates and then restore your backup to your new HDD and you are back in the game.

HDD backup is easy
The actual HDD backup process is easy. The PS3 has a system tool that will allow you to plug in a cheap portable USB HDD and backup the entire PS3 HDD. My 60GB HDD took about 120 minute to be fully backed up, and the restore to the new 250GB HDD also took about 120 minutes.

Proprietary HDD format
If you plug in your portable USB HDD into your computer and attempt to read the contents of the PS3 system backup you will notice that the backup contains a series of files. The assumption I am going to make is that Sony uses some sort of proprietary compression format and encryption techniques. You cannot take the files in the full system backup and open them on your computer to play videos, view images, look at the contents of saved data, etc.

Failed backup
Full system HDD backups are not compatible across different PS3. This is where I ran into a lot of pain and suffering. My PS3 shows the same model and serial number information before and after the Sony repair service, however when I put my 250GB HDD back into the PS3, and attempted to restore my backup, I was told that the backup came from a different PS3.

Full system backup contents
In case of a system repair, what can be recovered from a full system backup? My full system backup restored my videos, images, themes, and user data, but the user data was under a generic name (i.e. user1). My previous reports said that I lost all my PS3 game profiles (i.e. high scores, time played, unlocked goodies, etc), but that was actually incorrect. I renamed the generic profile to be jcalvert and started exploring the contents – all of my game info was present.

Because my PS3 failed to realize that my backup was from the same system, or perhaps because Sony swapped out the guts of my system, only leaving me with the original outer shell, everything was not restored. System settings, PSN downloads (games and Qore episodes), game data (different from the game profile info), and PSX and PS2 memory cards failed to be recovered.

File-by-file backup
If I had it to do all over again, in addition to the full system backup, I would have spent the time to do a file-by-file backup of my memory cards and PSN downloads. Of course this process is an absolute pain if you have a large number of files to individually backup.

While the downloaded games and Qore episodes were easy to recover, it was time consuming. PSN downloads have never exactly been fast for me, so it took a while to go into the PSN store, select my previous downloads from the download menu, and then download all the stuff a second time.

I am still bitter over losing years and years of PSX and PS2 saved data. That one really hurt.

Sony should make this process easier
Sony should either allow you to key in your PSN user account and password info as part of the save and recovery process, or Sony should create a third backup and restore option that lets you select what you want to backup from a menu.

The former would prevent their fears over piracy, which I assume is why Sony will not allow you to transfer a HDD to a different PS3 system. In the end I was penalized for something that was not my fault. I thought I followed the backup and recovery instructions to the letter; it was only after I received my PS3 back from repairs that I realized that I was completely screwed.

The latter would be much simpler than spending time to backup individual files.


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