Why PS3 backup and restore system needs an overhaul

Updated January 2009

You can think of this as part 2 of my previous post, ‘An insight into how faulty PS3s are dealt with‘.  That article dealt with the straightforward replacement of a faulty console and the issues surrounding warranties.  This article deals with backing up the data of your PS3, and when things go wrong…

My story

As I knew my PS3 would probably be replaced, I took the wise step of backing up all of my data using the ‘backup and restore’ feature to safeguard my settings and game saves etc.  When I got my replacement PS3, I attempted to restore all of the data using the same method, but I’m told that there is ‘no backup data present’.

I have subsequently found out that whilst the backup and restore feature works really well if your PS3’s hard drive has become corrupted or you’re upgrading to a bigger hard drive, but it doesn’t work transferring data across two PS3s.  I assume this is to prevent piracy etc.  See January 2009 update below.

Apparently, if you want to transfer game saves etc from an old PS3 to a new one, you need to manually copy each file by selecting each one individually, and copying it to an external storage device.  This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.

Any reasonable person would assume that if you make a backup, you can restore it.  No mention was made during this process that the backup couldn’t be restored on a new PS3.  Forget videos, music, or games downloaded from the PlayStation Store- game saves are your most valuable files on the system.  So I’m wondering:

  1. Why doesn’t the PS3 system throw up a warning that the backup file will only work on the same PS3, and will not transfer to a new system?
  2. Why is there not a universal backup system for backing up game saves to any PS3 system that is straightforward and automated?  Selecting and copying each individual file is farcical.

January 2009 update: I was so incensed by this that I contacted the Sony care line and talked to them about this issue.  Apparently the backup will work on any PS3, but my problem might be to do with the format of my memory stick.  The memory stick is correctly formatted to FAT32 and the files are actually there, but I’ve been told that the files may need to be copied to my computer, and the memory stick may need further reformatting.

This concludes the January 2009 update, but the following content from the original article below still stands.  Feel free to comment if you want to voice any opinions about this.  I’ll continue to amend this article as and when further developments happen.

A 360 solution

As far as I’m concerned, Microsoft seems to have it right.  As the Xbox 360’s hard disk is an attachment that clips onto the outside of the console, you can simply keep the hard drive and slot it onto the replacement.  You can’t get much simpler than that!

Also, Microsoft offer a Data Transfer Kit for free if you upgrade a core/premium 360 to an elite.  I won’t go into the details, but it shows that Microsoft have some sort of system in place.  So why have Sony made it so hard to quickly and easily backup game saves?

Note: Xbox 360 guidance and explanation kindly provided by Rockers Delight 🙂

The big issue

Why is this such a problem?  The backup and restore feature forces you to back everything up.  You can pick and choose what you want to backup, it has to be absolutely everything.  Not exactly a piece of cake if you’ve got a 40GB PS3 or higher that’s full as not everyone has an external hard disk.

Also, for any external storage that is big enough for the task and you want the PS3 to recognise it, the file system has to be FAT32.  This is the file system that the PS3’s OS runs on.  Even if you’ve made it this far,  if you’re transferring data from one PS3 to another using this method, you will be shafted (as explained above).

If however, you want to use the totally convoluted method for just backing up game saves, you’ve got to select each file individually and copy it to an external storage medium.  Fair enough if you’ve just got a few files, but what if you’ve got a year or two’s worth of game saves?

Personally, I’ve lost about a year’s worth of game saves and to be honest with you here, I’m devastated.  The backup system that I chose betrayed me.  I’ve emailed the Sony care team to see if there’s anything they can do for me, but I doubt it.  My only other option is to see if I can get PS3 save files off the internet, but it just doesn’t feel right.

A ticking time bomb

Ok, maybe just a touch melodramatic, but think of all the PS3s out there, all with their many GBs of data.  If something were to go wrong with their PS3s like mine, and they use the backup feature their game saves won’t be recoverable.

That’s why I believe Sony need to overhaul the backup and restore system with more options for flexibility, and clearer guidance.

2 thoughts on “Why PS3 backup and restore system needs an overhaul”

  1. All I can say is, good job it’s Microsoft that have the shitty hardware and not Sony! On a serious note, though, I’d be gutted if this happened to me, so no wonder you’re upset. I’m sure starting Grand Theft Auto IV all over again doesn’t seem appealing. Hopefully this is something Sony has addressed by the time I (maybe) get a PS3, not that hardware failures are anywhere near as regular as the 360’s.

  2. Yea, you can’t fault Sony on hardware reliability, but if anything does go wrong, the whole process for protecting your most valuable data: games saves, isn’t crystal clear, or really that ideal either.

    I might lobby Sony on this, as I do feel it is a weakness they need to address.

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