The 10 Best Portable SSDs
This wiki has been updated 21 times since it was first published in December of 2016. Unlike their mechanical hard disk counterparts that wear out and fail over time, these compact and portable external SSDs don't have any moving components to malfunction. Featuring cores of flash memory, they offer dependable performance, speed, and stability, so you can store large files, play games, stream high-definition media, edit videos, and transfer data quickly between multiple devices. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best portable ssd on Amazon.
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July 15, 2020:
There are a lot of professions that demand hardware capable of maintaining data integrity while supporting quick file retrieval. Although traditional HDD technology works well in situations when you may be sedentary, it isn't the most practical solution if you're, say, a video technician, filmmaker, or IT professional who's constantly on the move. In those situations, you'll need something a bit more compact, durable, and fast with a capacity large enough to contain large amounts of data. That isn't to say traditional HDD technology is a bad thing. However, there's a greater chance of sustaining damage to a mechanical hard drive (that depends on moving components) when using it in a remote outdoor location where anything can happen. In situations like these, an SSD drive is a logical alternative. Not only do they lack moving components, but they're small in size, lightweight, and designed to consume very little power.
We've made a significant number of edits/upgrades to this list now that storage capacities have increased and USB technology has continued to develop.
If you're a filmmaker who's constantly viewing and editing high-resolution video files, the Lacie Rugged Pro is an ideal travel companion, thanks to its extreme drop tolerance, crush resistance, durable construction, and transfer rate of 2,800 megabytes per second. It also comes with five years of file recovery services and one free month of the Adobe Creative Cloud All Apps plan.
Also newly added is the Seagate Firecuda with customizable RGB LEDs and a two-terabyte capacity for storing a large number of games.
As an upgrade to Samsung's T5 model, we've included the Samsung T7 Touch, which now gives you the option of unlocking the drive using either fingerprint identification or a password.
We've replaced the 2018 Western Digital My Passport model with the Western Digital My Passport Go, which features a cobalt blue color, integrated cable, and an ability to withstand drops from over six feet.
Despite its small size, the Ravpower Mini Pro still deserves a spot, thanks to its use of a Silicon Motion controller for smooth data performance without using a lot of power. Low power consumption is, after all, one of an SSD's main selling points, so you shouldn't feel guilty trying to capitalize on that benefit when playing games that require a lot of CPU power to begin with.
As an upgrade to its predecessor, the SanDisk Extreme Pro utilizes Non-Volatile Memory Express communication technology as a means of boosting its read speed to over one gigabyte per second. This one also comes with a five-year warranty.
We've added the Crucial X8 for its plug-and-play operation, which minimizes the need to reformat it when connecting it to multiple devices that run different operating systems.
Finally, the Oyen Digital U32 Shadow has a huge four-terabyte capacity with a built-in wear leveling mechanism for device longevity, making it a convenient option for graphic designers and other professionals who have large workloads and need ample storage.
June 02, 2019:
We've reached a point where external drives are about as fast as internal drives. For example, the OWC Envoy Pro, and to a slightly lesser degree the Samsung X5, offer blazing-fast speeds in both directions using the Thunderbolt 3 protocol. Of course, they are pretty expensive. In the mid-range, Samsung's T5 is hard to beat, while SanDisk's Extreme, Sabrent's Rocket, and G-Technology's G-Drive Mobile are just barely behind it in terms of performance. Western Digital's My Passport is one of the most affordable, and Adata's top offering is a great choice because of its great combination of low cost, high performance, and incredible durability.
For something a little different, check out the Glyph Dock, which is (surprise) a full-featured dock with an SSD inside it. If you need an all-in-one connectivity solution and your PC has Thunderbolt 3 capability, that's the one for you. Finally, if you don't need a ton of space, check out the Seagate Fast, which is offered in a 250-gigabyte version for an affordable price.
Over 70 Years Of Storage Innovation
Pick your number one favorite song to archive, though, because it offered a whopping 3.75 megabytes of storage space — considerably less than a modern Blu-ray release.
Every time a computer boots up, it processes countless ones and zeros. Every character typed, sound produced, and video played is the result of a combination of binary data. There's so much data involved in every process that, naturally, some data is best saved for later. But when your computer isn't actively processing that information, where is it stored? Long ago, the answer was made clear: on a hard drive.
In 1956, if you had the space equivalent to two refrigerators, as well as access to cutting-edge research labs, you could have used the IBM 305 RAMAC to store your data. Pick your number one favorite song to archive, though, because it offered a whopping 3.75 megabytes of storage space — considerably less than a modern Blu-ray release. Multiple companies continued to further the realm of long-term storage, but it would be over three decades before these drives would see widespread use or become more than a high-end novelty.
As technology marched forward, the modern hard drive form factors were solidified. For a few decades now, 2.5 and 3.5-inch units have been standard in both desktops and portable computers. However, what has changed is the way some of these drives store and read memory. Recent advances have made solid state drives available for use by many consumers. This evolution has provided us with additional speed and reliability of data storage in the modern computing era.
What Makes Solid State Drives So Solid?
Let's consider the concepts of volatile and non-volatile memory. Volatile memory requires a constant power source in order to retain what's stored on its circuits. Your PC's random access memory (RAM) is a perfect example of this. This is, of course, incompatible with long-term storage, which has to remain digitally recorded, even when the computer is turned off. By contrast, non-volatile memory can store information until the cell is rewritten or until the drive itself wears out. For this reason, engineers have been developing larger, faster, and more reliable non-volatile options for decades.
This type of memory has the advantage of being completely electronic.
Traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) utilize multiple magnetically sensitive disks whose charges are altered on a microscopic level by a laser at the end of a mechanical arm. The disks spin, the arm reads and writes data, and the drive communicates with the system's chipset. Solid state drives, however, have zero moving parts. Their memory is comprised of many cells of NAND flash memory strung together. This type of memory has the advantage of being completely electronic. Because of that, it can eschew the mechanical parts of the process while retaining its stored memory — even when the power is cut.
This fundamental difference in SSD construction makes a number of improvements over the traditional HDD design, not least of which is durability. With no motor, no bearings, and no mechanical arm to worry about, these units can take significantly more physical use without showing signs of wear and tear. This has obvious benefits to people whose usage demands more durable tools that can take some abuse (e.g. professional photographers or filmmakers working with large volumes of high-resolution data in remote locations). Even this author has felt the sting of personal documents being lost at the drop of a laptop — it's not a good feeling. Solid-state technology can help prevent such heartbreak, especially in portable devices.
Why Should I Buy In?
While the durability of flash-based, long-term data storage is a great boon to many, one of the most important things SSDs offer is pure speed. Electrons travel faster through superconductors than mechanical parts do across surfaces, so it's no surprise that a lack of moving parts leads to higher read and write times. In fact, the entire contents of a modern Blu-ray release, roughly 50 gigabytes, can be transferred by one of these beasts in less than a minute.
While the durability of flash-based, long-term data storage is a great boon to many, one of the most important things SSDs offer is pure speed.
The problem is that although high-capacity NAND-based drives are fast and reliable, they can be quite expensive as well. Not everyone with a highly portable computing setup can afford a four-terabyte internal drive to share their massive video-editing archives with their ultrabook. But video editors, engineers, and media executives always need portable access to high-resolution video and audio files and massive data caches at extreme speed. Also, you can purge flash-oriented storage much more easily, streamlining confidential use for security firms or government arms. For those reasons, portable SSDs are flourishing now more than ever.
There's one note that we should make at this point: don't be confused by hybrid solid state drives. These use a large flash-memory cache to coordinate the data drawn from multiple, smaller, traditional HDD faces. These lose most of the advantages of portable, fully solid-state models, although they do offer a speed increase over traditional, less expensive technology. Because they're more expensive than traditional HDDs (and lack the full performance of SSDs), they haven't become very popular.
Completely solid-state units, however, are so capable that they can support entire operating systems (even dual-booting via separate partitions) and serve as alternate boot drives for any system, starting up in the blink of an eye. Using the newest, fastest protocols in connectivity helps, too. Remember that sub-one-minute Blu-ray transfer time? USB 3.1 support from the top models available lets you do exactly that with the most popular plug-and-play connection standard in the world.
With all of today's advancements in engineering and consumer awareness, many companies have provided models that are perfect for the constantly commuting executive or the rock-climbing videographer. With terabytes of resilient, high-speed storage options available, you're sure to find one that suits your specific needs.
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