Whether you’ve just unwrapped a brand new PS4 or you’ve had one since launch day in November 2013, you probably haven’t explored everything Sony’s powerhouse console has to offer—no doubt you’ve been too busy gaming. Join us on a tour of 10 of our favorite PS4 tips, from upgrading its internals to streaming games to your laptop.
1) Hook up a keyboard and mouse
Using a keyboard and mouse with your PS4 is as easy as plugging them into the front of your console. Okay, you might not want to use them to go on the rampage in GTA V, but if you’re doing some form-filling or web browsing then it’s a lot easier than fiddling around with the DualShock 4. Most devices will work with no extra configuration required.
You can even use wireless Bluetooth kit if you want to lounge back on your sofa while typing, and after just a few seconds you should be in business (head to Devices in Settings to pair them). Some games support mouse and keyboard controls, but most don’t, lest you gain an unfair advantage over other online players with standard controllers.
2) Use the PlayStation app for messaging
Sony has a couple of PlayStation apps available for Android and iOS that let you use your mobile as a handy second screen for your console. One of the best features of these apps is the messaging component. You can use it to chat to fellow gamers without having to switch from gameplay on the PS4 or even have your console switched on at all.
Some games support the use of the mobile app as a second screen, and you can also use it as a remote control for your PS4 as well. With both phone and console on the same network, choose Settings, PlayStation App Connection Settings and Add Device on your PS4, then Connect to PS4 and Second Screen from inside the mobile app.
3) Turn on voice commands
Thanks to Siri, Google Now, the Amazon Echo et al, we’re all much more used to barking instructions at our electronics these days, and the PS4 doesn’t necessarily have to be left out of the party. If you want to be able to control the console using your voice, you need a headset with a microphone, or you can use the microphone in the PlayStation Camera.
Go to Settings then System and ensure the Operate PS4 with Voice option is enabled on the Voice Operation Settings menu. From the same screen you can get help with using the feature as well as see a full list of supported commands: it lets you breeze through menus, take screenshots, launch apps and menus, turn off the PS4 and more besides.
4) Save games to USB
If you’re upgrading your PS4's hard drive, playing on someone else’s machine, or planning to backup your precious gaming achievements, it’s easy enough to transfer your saved game data to a connected USB drive or external hard drive. Importing data back the other way (on a new machine for example) is equally straightforward.
From Settings choose Application Saved Data Management and you get the options to move data between the local PS4, your connected USB drive, and the PlayStation Plus online locker. You can also transfer screenshots to a USB device by choosing Capture Gallery from the main PS4 menu, browsing to the images and hitting Options.
5) Play all of your media files
If you can get a USB stick or external drive hooked up to your PS4, then you can play media files off it. Just make sure the drive in question is FAT32 formatted (rather than NTFS), that your files are stored in folders, and that they’re saved with the correct codecs. The likes of MKV, AVI, MP4, JPEG, BMP, MP3, and AAC are all supported, Sony says.
It’s not the only option for getting your media files on your Sony gaming console. The ever-wonderful Plex app is one way of getting content from your computer to your PS4 (and it’s free), but if you want a slightly more complex route then you can set up a DLNA server and use this to beam music, video and photos over to the PlayStation box.
6) Install an SSD for faster load times
Fixing a solid-state drive inside your PlayStation 4 isn’t going to give it any extra processing oomph, but it can do wonders for game loading times. It’s especially effective for those games that insist on having enormous saves (we’re looking at you, Witcher 3). The process isn’t difficult and only takes a few minutes from start to finish.
You’ll find plenty of step-by-step guides on the web. Our friends at Lifehacker have one of the most comprehensive guides out there, though as we say it’s not a hugely complex process. Just make sure you back up all of your save games, screenshots and other bits of personal data to an external hard drive before you swap out the main one in the system.
7) Keep your kids safe
If you want to put a limit on what your kids can and can’t do on the PS4 then Sony has you covered. You can set up accounts for your little ones, block games and movies rated too old for your children, restrict access to the web browser and keep an watchful eye on their activities. It’s pretty much like setting up separate accounts for your kids on Windows.
From Settings go to Parental Controls then Restrict Use of PS4 Features to get this configured in the way you want. You can’t set individual permissions for individual accounts, which means this is a bit more tricky to make use of if you’ve got two children of very different ages. You can set up sub accounts from the same Parental Controls screen.
8) Play games on Mac or Windows
You can finally play PlayStation 4 games remotely on a Mac or Windows machine, if you have a strong enough wifi signal. (Sony recommends 12Mbps upload and download speeds for best results.) Head to the PS4 Remote Play page to grab the necessary software for your machine of choice, then follow the instructions to get it set up.
On your PS4, go to Settings, then Remote Play Connection Settings and check the box marked Enable Remote Play. Activate the console as your primary system via the PlayStation Network/Account Management screen and enable remote play in rest mode (if you want) via Set Features Available in Rest Mode under Power Save Settings.
9) Dim your DualShock 4
You can’t turn the light on the back of the DualShock 4 controller completely off (it’s required to spot you on the PlayStation Camera for one thing). But you can dim it down a little, if it’s ruining your carefully lit gaming experience. Hold down the PlayStation button on the controller and select Adjust Sound and Devices when the menu appears.
Pick Brightness of DualShock 4 Light Bar from the list of options on screen and you get three more settings to choose from: Bright (Standard), Medium and Dim. Make your choice and the DualShock 4 light adjusts instantly. Apparently the light emitted by the controller is also going to be utilized by Sony’s upcoming virtual reality headset too.
10) Take faster screenshots
By default, pressing the Share button on the top of the DualShock 4 controller brings up the Display menu, but you can change this behavior if necessary. Press Options on the Share menu, choose Sharing and Broadcast Settings, then pick Share Button Control Type. Here you can change the way the Share button works when you briefly tap it.
Choose Easy Screenshots and a quick press (rather than a long press) of the Share button takes a screenshot and lets you stay focused on your gaming. You’ll then need to press and hold the button to bring up the Display menu; as before, pressing the Share button twice is used to start or stop video recording. You can swap back to the defaults at any time.