The best external SSD

Computer Accessories & Peripherals

Solid state drive memory is about twice as expensive per GB than hard disk drive memory.

BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details.

WHICH EXTERNAL SSD IS BEST? 

When you want to add storage to your computer using the most convenient and fastest-working technology, an external solid state drive (or SSD) is the best choice. It’s a plug-and-play storage option that delivers reliability and quick read/write speeds.

Some external SSDs are made for speed, while others give you excellent durability for use in harsh environments. They vary in their storage size, read/write speeds, form factor, compatibility, and other features, all of which mean you should shop around to find the right SSD for you and your computer.

Our favorite external solid state drive is the Samsung T5 SSD 500GB, which has plenty of capacity and great read/write speeds.

WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU BUY AN EXTERNAL SSD

SSD

Solid state drives don’t have moving parts. This gives them a leg up on HDD options, which use spinning platters that may break if you drop the drive.

Average SSDs have a read/write speed of 400 MBps to 500 MBps (or MB per second), greatly outperforming HDDs.

SSDs tend to operate faster and with more efficiency when they are not approaching their maximum capacity. Once 75% of the SSD is full, it may begin to suffer a slight performance drop that increases as the drive approaches its maximum capacity.

HDD

HDD technology is older than SSD technology, and it has appeared in computers for decades. An average HDD has read/write speeds of around 150 to 200 MBps.

However, HDDs carry a significantly lower price per GB of storage than SDDs.

Storage space

Each hard drive is able to store a certain amount of data, usually ranging between 128GB and 4TB. One TB of storage is roughly equal to 1,000GB of storage.

Think about what you’ll be storing on the drive. Videos and photographs require more storage space than word processing files.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A QUALITY EXTERNAL SSD

When comparing external solid state drives, you should pay attention to a few specific features.

Read/write speeds

External SSDs have excellent data transfer speeds. The maximum read/write speed for an SSD is about 560 MBps, although slower units are available. A speed of at least 400 MBps should meet your needs for basic uses if you want to save a bit of money.

Connection cable

The external solid state drive connects to the computer through a USB 3.0, USB-C, or Thunderbolt 3.0 cable. It’s important that the external SSD unit you select matches a port on your computer. The Thunderbolt 3.0 cable will deliver the fastest data transfer speeds.

Compatibility

An external SSD should work with almost any computer or gaming console. Format the drive with the device to which it will be connected to ensure compatibility. It’s important to understand that formatting an SSD erases all of the data stored on it.

Durability features

Some external SSDs are made to withstand difficult conditions, making them perfect for use in industrial environments. Units may be shockproof, allowing them to survive a drop. Others are made with a waterproof, dustproof, and fireproof case, keeping your data protected in any situation.

Security features

If you want built-in data encryption in your external solid state drive, you can find this feature in many models.

HOW MUCH YOU CAN EXPECT TO SPEND ON AN EXTERNAL SSD

External SSDs may cost anywhere from $50-$1,000, depending on their storage side, speed, and durability. Most SSDs fall in the range of $100-$300 and offer up to 1TB of storage.

EXTERNAL SSD FAQ

Q. Does the performance of the SSD dip when using it as an external drive versus an internal drive?

A. The performance of an external SSD may suffer if you are using a slower or older USB port as a connection. However, in some cases, external drives can be faster, depending on the port and cable you use.

Q. Why does an SSD sometimes fail?

A. Solid state drives use bits of electricity to write and erase memory to individual cells. Each cell can only save data a certain number of times before it will fail. But this does not happen for at least a few years, as a cell could store data up to 100,000 times.

WHAT ARE THE BEST EXTERNAL SSDS TO BUY? 

Top external solid state drive

Samsung’s T5 SSD 500GB

Samsung’s T5 SSD 500GB

Our take: Case design that features an all-metal construction, meaning it’s made to withstand rough environments.

What we like: Includes extensive data protection features. Higher than average read/write speeds.

What we dislike: A little more expensive per GB of storage than competitor models.

Where to buy: Sold at Amazon

Top external solid state drive for the money 

SanDisk’s Extreme SSD 500GB

SanDisk’s Extreme SSD 500GB

Our take: Delivers excellent read/write speeds, but you need a fast computer to take full advantage of it.

What we like: Sealed to provide water and dust protection. Compatible with Windows and Mac computers.

What we dislike: External case is a little sticky, so it may attract dust particles.

Where to buy: Sold at Amazon

Worth checking out

VectoTech’s Rapid SSD 1TB

VectoTech’s Rapid SSD 1TB

Our take: Reasonable price for a versatile and durable external SSD that runs a little slower than some others.

What we like: Handles extreme temperature environments well. Case is tough enough to survive rough treatment.

What we dislike: Reliability of the firmware is questionable.

Where to buy: Sold at Amazon

 

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Kyle Schurman writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.