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Seven years is a very long time in the tech world. You probably wouldn’t keep the same phone for seven years, or the same laptop. But if you bought a new Xbox One or PlayStation 4 in 2013, when those consoles originally went on sale, it’ll be seven years old later this year. (I’m still using my launch PS4, which works fine.)
This fall is also when the next-generation consoles — the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5 — are launching (plus there are already rumors of new Nintendo Switch hardware). With prices expected to be around $400 to $600 and with likely limited availability due to coronavirus supply chain disruptions, there are more than a few reasons to hold off on being an early adopter.
PlayStation 4 stacked on top of an Xbox One.
That said, the PS5 is getting a digital-only edition, which removes the optical drive. That should cut down on cost and remove a mechanically complex component, and the Xbox Series X may be getting a less expensive variation as well. And the Xbox Series X may be getting a less expensive Series S variant.
Just as we told you how to extend the life of your laptop, these are some tips to keep your current-gen game console running smoothly. Consoles can be fickle: They’re mostly sealed boxes, they generate a lot of heat (while often sitting in enclosed living room media centers) and most still have spinning hard disks and optical drives — both of which can be a point of failure. You might recall that the original run of the Xbox 360 had a high lifetime failure rate, indicated by the dreaded Red Ring of Death.
While there are many generations of the current consoles, including the more recent PS4 Pro and Xbox One X , these tips are primarily aimed at earlier hardware, which is the most likely to need a little help.
Keep it cool
Are the fans on your console running like wind turbines? If your game machine is stuck on a little shelf under your TV, I’m not surprised. These boxes have gaming-PC-level CPUs and GPUs inside, which can run hot. And they’re based on technology that’s more than seven years old, which means they’ve missed out on the last several generations of efficiency and performance tweaks. Why else do you think the Xbox One has a power brick the size of a pound cake?
Heat is the enemy of home electronics. Here are some basic tips for keeping things cool and breezy.
- Don’t keep your console in a closed glass or wood cabinet, especially when it’s running.
- Don’t stack other devices — a cable box or another console, for example — on top of your console.
- Consider getting a riser or 3D-printing a set of feet to get the console up off the ground and provide better airflow.
- Use a can of compressed air regularly to blow dust and debris away, especially from fan vents.
Upgrade the hard drive to SSD
Every mechanical hard drive has a MTBF rating, for “mean time between failures.” And for these old-school drives, the first failure is also the last. If a hard drive has a spinning platter, like the ones found in the Xbox One or PS4, it’s eventually going to die. Also, it’s kinda slow compared to newer solid state drives. (I know, I know: A circa-2013 5,400 rpm drive can’t compete with a modern SSD. Shocking!) Newer models, even the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro, still ship with HDD drives, but the PS5 and Xbox Series X are finally going full SSD.
Fortunately, replacing or upgrading the storage is one of the easiest and most effective ways to give your Xbox or PlayStation a boost.
Here’s a step-by-step guide for adding storage to the PS4, including both internal and external storage options, along with some inexpensive new SSD drives.
The Xbox One is a little harder to get into, but also possible. This iFixit guide is comprehensive and outlines some extra tools you’ll need, including a spudger.
Fortunately, both consoles now support external drives, so it may be easier to just hook one up for additional (and faster) storage. No tools required.
Replace the optical drive
I thought keeping optical drives in game consoles was insane back in 2013. It’s even more insane now. It’s hard to think of another common consumer electronics device that still comes with a DVD or Blu-ray drive. Laptops ? Almost never. Home entertainment setups? Nope. There’s already a digital-only version of the upcoming PS5, and Microsoft currently offers a no-optical-drive Xbox One S.
So many gamers use digital downloads now that you might not even notice if your console’s optical drive isn’t working. Unless you have a must-play game on a physical disc, I might not bother, as it’s a more complex task than replacing a storage drive: You’ll need to source a new drive that’s supported by the PS4 motherboard. Or in the case of the Xbox One, swap an internal circuit board from the old optical drive to the new one.
Fix software and OS problems
When in doubt, reboot it. That’s the most universally accepted axiom of tech support, and it’s true of game consoles, too. Almost every freeze or software issue I’ve had on a console was fixed by rebooting. But, that’s not always the case.
The next step is by no means a cure-all, but just as the best way to freshen up a sluggish laptop is to restore it to factory settings, the same can apply to a game console.
Since all your games are presumably in the cloud, as are your game saves, all you have to do after resetting is redownload any current games you’re playing. That should clear a lot of old junk off your console hard drive as well.
If you’re having trouble, first try a hard restart, which is different than just putting the system to sleep and waking it up again (also called low-power mode). You can do that by pressing and holding the power button for 10 seconds.
Head into the settings menu and navigate to All settings > System > Console Info > Reset Console. There will be an option to keep your games and apps installed, which will just reset the console’s firmware. The “reset and remove everything” option will do a full factory wipe and give you that fresh-out-of-the-box feeling.
Similar instructions here. From the settings menu, navigate to PlayStation Network/Account Management > Activate as Your Primary PS4 > Change this option to Deactivate if it is currently active > Go back out to Settings > Initialization > Choose either Restore Default Settings, which keeps your game installs and saves, or Initialize PS4, which is the full wipe.
The above advice also works for when you’re selling or giving away your console and need to get your personal account information off it.