The best external solid-state drive

Peter McPherson

Compatibility of SSDs can vary, so be sure to check that your operating system or game console is compatible before you buy.

An external solid-state drive is a powerful device that can increase your computer storage and decrease the time it takes to store and read files. Because solid-state drives (or SSDs) have no moving parts, they are faster than the spinning-disk readers of traditional hard-disk drives. In addition to varying in their storage capacity, some SSDs may be better suited for everyday use or backing up files. Durability can also vary, and many rugged models are available that are designed to withstand short drops and even exposure to liquids. Our top choice is the Samsung T5 SSD, which is available in a variety of sizes and has a fairly durable metal design. You should choose an external SSD that suits your travel, capacity, and transfer-speed needs.

Considerations when choosing external solid-state drives

When shopping for an external solid-state drive, you should consider the storage size, read and write speeds, and interface.

More is more when it comes to storage, but an increase in storage size generally results in an increase in price. Consider what types of files you will be storing, as music files will take up far less space than programs and video files. SSDs vary in storage space from 128GB to 2TB.

Most SSDs connect to your computer via USB 3.0, but the faster USB-C and Thunderbolt ports are gaining popularity. USB 3.0 ports can read and write up to 5Gbps. By comparison, USB-C ports offer up to 10Gbps, while Thunderbolt ports can reach speeds of 40Gbps.

The read and write speed of SSDs reach up to 560MBps and 2.3GBps, respectively. For intensive tasks like video editing, a high-speed SSD is a must for peak performance. Bear in mind that your interface can limit the maximum speed of your SSD.

SSD features

The durability and form factor of SSDs can vary. If travel and space are priorities for you, there are many slim models that can easily be tucked in your bag and taken on the go. To protect your data, consider a model with a drop-proof or waterproof design.

Some models may also include security features, such as encryption, to protect sensitive documents.

External solid-state drive prices

External SSDs for $50 to $100 usually have anywhere from 128GB and 512GB of storage and lower read/write speeds. For $100 to $300, faster SSDs may have up to 1TB of storage. Some models in this range may have rugged designs that protect against drops and water. Expensive external SSDs that cost up to $1,000 typically have 2TB of storage and are designed to withstand the elements.


Q. What should I store on my external SSD as opposed to my internal storage?

A. Any programs and files that you access regularly should be stored on your external SSD to increase the speed and performance of your computer.

Q. Can an external SSD increase the speed of my computer?

A. In a way, yes. Most external SSDs will be faster than your internal storage, which may result in a noticeable improvement in performance.

External solid-state drives we recommend

Best of the best: Samsung T5 SSD

Our take: This higher-priced SSD combines storage space, speed, and durability for a high-performing device for backup or regular use.

What we like: With 250GB to 2TB models, this SSD can be used for storing anything from photos and music to programs and video games.

What we dislike: There are many less expensive external SSDs available.

Best bang for your buck: SanDisk Extreme SSD

Our take: Despite the low price, this is a reliable SSD with fast read/write speeds.

What we like: Available in sizes up to 2TB, this external SSD is compatible with a variety of operating systems and game consoles. The durable case protects your data from drops, dust, and water.

What we dislike: This SSD may not perform well with older computers.

Choice 3: Western Digital My Passport SSD

Our take: This moderately priced external SSD comes in sizes up to 1TB and works well as a backup drive.

What we like: Multiple security features and automatic backup make this a reliable option for storing important files.

What we dislike: This SSD does not have the best transfer speeds, and it can become quite hot.

Peter McPherson is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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