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Which external solid-state drive is best?

As software becomes more complex and file sizes continue to grow, there will come a point where you won’t have enough native storage left on your computer. External solid-state drives are the best option for increasing your storage or serving as a backup for your most precious information. They have faster transfer speeds and are more durable than external hard disk drives.

The best external SSD is the Samsung T5 Portable SSD 1 Terabyte. It’s small and lightweight, and its transfer speeds are fast. It also comes in several capacities and colors.

What to know before you buy an external solid-state drive

Capacity

How much data your external SSD can store is the most important factor. They can have anywhere between 128 gigabytes of storage to 10 or more terabytes (1TB is worth 1,000GB). Depending on your needs, you may not need much storage. For example, if you’re only storing basic files, you shouldn’t need more than 500GB. If you’re storing entertainment-related files, like games and movies, you’ll want a minimum of 1TB.

Connection type

The connection type your external SSD uses determines what devices it can connect to and how fast it can read and write data. Most external SSDs use USB connections, either 3.0 or C, with others using Thunderbolt 3.0. USB connections generally have maximum speeds of 5-10 gigabytes per second, which is more than enough for the average consumer. Thunderbolt 3.0 can reach up to 40 Gbps, making it perfect for serious data storage needs.

Compatibility

External SSDs aren’t natively compatible with all operating systems. Most are designed to natively work with either Microsoft- or Apple-related OS. Most can be formatted once connected to a different OS in order to work with that OS. Most external SSDs also need to be formatted to work with video game consoles.

What to look for in a quality external solid-state drive

Read and write speed

Read and write speed determines how quickly you can access or transfer a file between your computer and the external SSD. Most SSDs have a maximum of at least 500 megabytes per second; this can transfer the average game in roughly 4 minutes. Better SSDs have 1 Gbps speeds, with ultra-high-end models having even more.

Size 

Computers used to be the size of entire rooms, and now they fit in your pocket. It’s the same with external SSDs — they used to be as large as Blu-ray cases, but many of them today are smaller than the average business card. However, larger SSDs tend to have more protection and they aren’t as easy to lose.

Durability

Some external SSDs are built tough to protect themselves during travel. These models usually cost more per gigabyte but have more extensive drop, dust and water protection.

How much you can expect to spend on an external solid-state drive

As time goes on, the cost of external SSDs decreases. For now, you can find many for $100 or less, while the best and largest-capacity options start around $200 and go up to nearly $1,000.

External solid-state drive FAQ

How much slower will files load from my external solid-state drive compared to my internal drive?

A. Depending on your computer, it could actually load faster. SSDs are capable of faster read and write speeds than many internal drives. The limiting factor is what ports your prospective external SSD uses to connect to your computer, as well as how advanced your computer’s ports are. For example, if your new external SSD connects via the latest USB technology but your computer only has older USB port tech, your read and write speeds will be as fast as your computer’s old USB tech allows.

How long does an external solid-state drive last?

A. External SSDs can last for years. Two factors shorten their lifespan: overwriting and environmental effects. The more you overwrite data, the faster it will break. However, many SSDs include extra space to allow for decomposition over time. Environmental effects such as dust and water are the most damaging to SSDs. To extend their lifespans, keep them in a storage case when not needed.

What’s the best external solid-state drive to buy?

Top external solid-state drive

Samsung T5 Portable SSD 1TB

What you need to know: This drive has plenty of space at a great price.

What you’ll love: It’s smaller than a business card at 0.4 by 2.91 by 2.26 inches and weighs only 1.8 ounces. It includes two USB cables (A to C and C to C). It’s available in four colors and three additional storage capacities (250 and 500GB, 2TB).

What you should consider: Each capacity has different color options. Its maximum read and write speed is only 540 MB. There are some compatibility issues with Apple products.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top external solid-state drive for the money

SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD 500GB

What you need to know: This drive is built to last through harsh environments.

What you’ll love: It has up to 1GB read and write speeds. It has drop protection up to 6.5 feet and is IP55 dust- and water-resistant. It has a loop for easy attachment to backpacks, etc. It’s also available in 1, 2 and 4TB capacities.

What you should consider: There are compatibility issues with some Apple products. Its read and write speeds can be handicapped by your computer hardware.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Adata SE800 Portable SSD 1 TB

Adata SE800 Portable SSD 1TB

What you need to know: This is another solid pick for extra storage.

What you’ll love: It has read and write speeds up to 1GB. It connects with both USB 3.2 and USB-C. It’s also available in 512GB and comes in blue or black. It’s waterproof, dustproof and drop- and shock-resistant. It’s tiny at only 2.8 by 1.7 by 0.4 inches.

What you should consider: Some consumers had trouble using the included software. It can get hot when plugged in, even without being accessed and can get worse with extended use. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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Jordan C. Woika writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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