I am about to buy a PS3 superslim 12GB for my son for Christmas - he's overdue a replacement for his PS2! I intend to install a HDD in the console. (I've seen a compatible drive and mounting bracket on amazon). Will it cause any problems if I install the HDD and repack the machine in the box without switching it on? Will it start properly the first time he uses it?
The PS3 won't work after installing a new HDD without first installing the latest system software. With new HDDs you need to install the software via a USB flash drive.
Buy the HDD you wish to install (I would suggest a 1TB 2.5" 9.5mm thickness drive if you can afford it).
Install the HDD using the official mounting bracket from Sony (you can buy these from HMV currently and should be available on Amazon by now). Follow an online guide to install the HDD as it's not completely obvious how to do this.
Once downloaded place the .PUP file into a folder called "UPDATE" (must be in capitals), then place that folder into a folder called "PS3", then copy the "PS3" folder to your flash drive.
When you start the PS3 with the new HDD in make sure to have the flash drive with the "PS3" folder on inserted and then it's a simple case of reading and following the instructions.
Once the update is complete the system will restart showing the "Make.Believe" splash screen. Switch off the PS3 at this point and you are ready to rebox as a brilliant Christmas pressie.
Hope this helps, I have tried to put all the info you need here. Any questions just reply and I'll get back to you pretty quickly. :-)
Thanks so much for that really comprehensive reply - I'm going to grit my teeth and give it a go....