I'm Still Never Sure When My PS4 Will Automatically Update A Game

If you’re a PlayStation 4 owner, there’s an experience you’ve probably had many a time: Upon waking your console from Rest Mode, you’re greeted by a barrage of new game updates waiting to be downloaded, even though one of PS4's most-touted features was supposed to prevent that from ever happening. To this day, I’m still not sure why my PlayStation 4 sometimes updates games automatically, and sometimes stubbornly refuses to.

PS4’s Rest Mode was touted early on as a way for the console to stay up to date without always having to keep it on. “We have the ability to turn off the main power in the system and just have power to that secondary custom chip, system memory, and I/O—hard drive, Ethernet,” the PS4's system architect Mark Cerny told Gamasutra in a 2013 interview months before the console’s release. “So that allows background downloads to happen in a very low power scenario.”

And they do happen. Just not every time. More than five years after I bought my PlayStation 4, I’m still trying to work out the mysterious alchemy that determines if and when it will download a new update for a game I’m playing without me having to tell it to. Yesterday, Ubisoft released The Division 2’s Title Update 3, and my PS4 downloaded and installed it while I was asleep. Perfect.

The week prior, I tried to go play Destiny 2 after its 2.2.2 update adding a special new exotic quest went live, only to find I first had around 30 minutes of downloading to do. Not so perfect.

Perhaps not surprisingly, this conundrum is a topic of much discussion on the PS4 subreddit. Here’s someone way back in 2014 asking “Why won’t my PS4 download updates in rest mode?” Here’s another PS4 owner complaining about the same issue only yesterday. It turns out that what seems like a straightforward proposition—have your console download updates while you sleep—is anything but. (Sony did not respond to Kotaku’s request for comment.)

As the PlayStation Support page on the topic explains, you actually have to fiddle with several of your PS4’s settings before games will update automatically.

Under “Power Save Settings,” you need to check a series of boxes to allow the system to access the internet while asleep. Under the settings for “Automatic Downloads,” you need to give the system permission to automatically download new updates. You also need an active PlayStation Plus subscription.

Even then, though, there are some caveats. The most dedicated PS4 users on Reddit have surmised two other crucial facts about Rest Mode.

The first is that the PS4 only seems to check for updates once a day in the early morning. The second is that it only checks for updates to games that have been played recently. My own experience backs this up, but this still provides an inexact understanding at best.

For example, when does a game fall out of the “recently played” category? I haven’t played Destiny 2 for a couple months, but that’s not unusual, given that I only make a point of dipping back in once there’s new content to check out.

It’s also one of only 10 games I have installed on my PS4. An ideal candidate for automatic updates, you’d think, but apparently still an edge case according to the logic of my PS4.

The daily morning sweeps are also somewhat frustrating. It’s fortunate that Ubisoft updates The Division 2 so early in the morning. But it seems that lots of other games, like Anthem, tend to miss that cut-off, leaving me to face lengthy downloads after getting off work.

There are, of course, workarounds, the most tried and true of which includes going to the PlayStation Store on a computer or your phone and downloading any free background theme. This triggers your PS4, so long as it’s in Rest Mode, to perform another sweep for updates.

The PlayStation 4’s idiosyncrasies would almost be charming if it weren’t for the always-online, live-game future toward which everything is swiftly moving. Hopefully the PlayStation 5 has enough horsepower to update all the games in my library multiple times a day. 


Comments

    The “recently played” criteria definitely applies to my PS4. As a general rule, if a game of mine has dropped off the home page bar of recent games and can instead be found in the “library” folder at the end of the bar, then it generally won’t have been updated. I’m not too fussed (with a 2TB drive there’s a LOT in the library folder), but for it not to update Ethan’s 10 games seems pretty lame.

      The only problem this has is that games which aren't regularly played are probably the ones you most want updated. There's nothing worse than going back to a game you haven't played in a while, only to be hit with a download when you fire it back up.

        Yeah these days there doesn’t seem a reason to limit the scope. A once-a-day check of everything on my PS4 would be great.

        Of course the flipside is there's nothing worse than being hit with downloads for games you haven't played in a while when you're trying to update the game you are playing regularly. You can pause them, yes, but then the whole process is no longer "automatic" and requires you to manage your downloading queue manually.

          I mean, the solution is easy. Simply add another checkbox in the auto-download options. ;-)

          Sony could just prioritise the download order based on recently played whilst still grabbing everything

      I think you hint at a fair solution here. If a game is on the home page bar, its recent. Either that or setting some sort or arbitrary limit (or both), like the last 5/10/20/50 installed games you've played.

      It shouldnt be hard to even loosely define what gets updated.

        There's just a wee problem with the home page update idea, and that is, folders. I have a folder for my PSVR games, one for my PS+ games and all my disk based games stay on the home screen...but yes, a simple solution such as the last however many games you played, would work great. Even allow you to select priority games.

        On a side note, many people view Kotaku at work, so why am I constantly faced with
        "NSFW Overwatch Cosplay Was The Star Of The Show" when browsing to the comments? It appears twice in this article! Oh, not only that, but that story is from 2017.

    While I have to agree I am just glad it is far superior to Xbox.

    Which never seems to update anything, nor does it have anything as useful and successful as the ‘check latest version’ on PS4. Hell I can’t even get my Xbox to download when it is turned off.

    The only game I find doesn’t automatically update as often as I like is Destiny 2 but even then it is only sometimes. Shrug.

      Actually the xbox has an entire section in your library called updates which shows ALL games and apps that have a new version and allows you to add them to your downloads, or you can turn off power save mode and it will automatically download them all for you.

      Completely disagree. My X1X wakes up fully updated all the time from rest.

      My PS4 on the other hand, never updates anything.

      Hey.

      On the main menu you can open My apps & Games. Within that there is a tab below Groups that will show all the games that require updates.

      You can also go into Settings - System - Updates and downloads and then check "Keep my console up to date" and "Keep my games & apps up to date"

      These two options will mean your console will auto download updates when its turned off.

        interesting, I thought I had all those options checked, maybe I missed something (I even tried turning the options off and restarting, then en-enabling again, then restarting) hoping that might reset the issue but my Xbox flat out out refuses to download anything if I turn it off.

        I know I should look through the knowledge base, but they make my head hurt, hehehe

        thanks

    Hopefully the PlayStation 5 has enough horsepower to update all the games in my library multiple times a day. It's not about "Horsepower", it's about internet usage. The PS4 can handle parallel background downloads quite fine, but the question is whether your internet can. The decisions make sense, they take the route that doesn't burn your quota with unnecessary downloads and try to update when it's least likely to be disruptive to your bandwidth. It's more that they try to make the decisions for you without letting you give them free reign to download whatever they want whenever they want.

      I totally forgot about the whole internet data limit thing. I know when I first got my PS4, my limit was extremely low, and a couple of times I remember being throttled to dial-up speeds as large downloads attempted to get through (or I figured that I'd download one of my PS+ games). It's not such an issue now with unlimited plans being quite common, but yes, back when PS4 was released it could be an issue if auto-download was enabled.

    One thing I realised as a reasonably new PS user this year, is that in the settings it mentions downloading games and updates in Rest Mode as PS+ feature...
    Unless I read that wrong somehow, that seems like a bit of a shitty thing to wall off to me.

      It's about as shitty as walling off multi-player behind the service. Your PS+ subscription revenue isn't helping developers/publishers run the backend servers behind their games: all Sony is offering is a service to securely identify users. And that's a service they need to provide to non-PS+ users anyway, in order to sell games on the PSN store.

    I end up manually checking my games for updates despite the ‘auto update’ function being active. It’s sporadic at best and the only major problem I have with the PS4. The store could run a bit better though

    My updates don't download because they cause me to run out of space....

    Boot into safe mode and rebuild the database. Once the console restarts every game that's installed will update if there's an update available.

    I wish they'd copy the Xbox and have an interface tab dedicated to available updates.

      yeah i did this a few months ago and its beautiful having it auto update again

    I have no idea how the recently played thing is calculated - I woke the PS4 up the evening after 2.2.2 launched, after playing Destiny 2 for a few hours the previous night - the game was still running. It then started downloading 2.2.2. Meanwhile, 2.2.1 had installed automatically just fine; and it notified me on turning it on recently that it had automatically updated RDR2, a game I haven't booted up since November.

    When there's a patch I know about in advance, I'll generally turn the console on in the morning to kickstart the download/install, just in case it didn't do so overnight - does the trick, but it would be better if it worked as advertised.

    It's pretty much part of why I spend so much more time playing games on my PC. I boot up my PS4 and it's all "updates" and "please wait".

    as soon as i did a rebuild on my ps4s database it would always do auto updates by itself no problem at all.

    Agreed this 'feature' sucks and should be fixed. My Xbox is the same though.

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