What is an external SSD?

By: James Hoffmann | 03.11.2023, 18:03

An SSD (Solid State Drive) is a storage medium that uses flash memory for data storage. Compared to their HDD (Hard Disk Drive) counterparts, SSDs offer greater speed, reliability and energy efficiency.

This article looks at the features of external SSDs, the key aspects you should consider when choosing an SSD and gives you advice on how to choose the most suitable model for your needs.

Ina nutshell: An external SSD is an SSD that can be easily connected to various devices such as computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones and others. Portable SSDs are usually compact and lightweight and have a robust housing that is resistant to dust, moisture, shocks and vibrations. They are connected to devices via a USB port or other interfaces such as Thunderbolt, HDMI or Wi-Fi.

What is a portable SSD used for?

What is an External SSD

An external SSD fulfils several functions:

Storage expansion: if the internal drive of your desktop or laptop is reaching its capacity limits, an external SSD can serve as additional storage space. It's perfect for archiving various file types - from documents and photos to videos, games and software - which not only expands your storage options, but can also lead to improved performance of your primary drive.

Streamline data transfer: For transferring large amounts of data between devices - think transferring work from a laptop to a tablet or syncing files from a desktop to a smartphone - a portable SSD is a reliable workhorse. It ensures fast, secure data transfer, regardless of internet connections or cloud-based services.

Back up important data: Using a portable SSD as a backup drive provides a safeguard for important files. Whether for routine or automated backups, an SSD provides a robust solution for data recovery in the event of device loss, damage or theft.

Improve professional workflows: You can use external SSDs for video editing, engineering, encoding and other resource-intensive tasks. It facilitates the seamless operation of demanding software and provides ample space for processing large files such as 4K videos, extensive 3D renderings or complex programming environments.

How to choose a portable SSD

what is an external ssd

If you're in the market for a portable SSD, consider these key specifications to make an informed decision:

Capacity: How much space you need depends on the amount of data you want to store. Portable SSDs come in a variety of sizes, from a modest 128GB to a massive 8TB. Determine the appropriate capacity by estimating your storage needs and the regularity with which you will be adding new data.

Speed: Pay attention to the read and write speeds that the drive promises. Options range from 300 MB/s to a fast 2000 MB/s. Your choice should be based on your expectations of data transfer rates and the speed at which you need to run programmes on the drive.

Interface: The connection type of the drive is crucial. There are various interfaces, including USB 2.0, USB 3.0, USB 3.1, USB-C, Thunderbolt, HDMI and even Wi-Fi. Match the interface to the connections available to you and the desired speed of data transfer.

Durability: Consider the level of robustness the drive provides against elements such as water, dust, shocks and extreme temperatures. Portable SSDs can be rated IP55, IP67, IP68 or even MIL-STD-810G. Choose a level of protection that matches the environments in which you will be using the drive and your concerns about its longevity.

Comparison table for external SSDs

For a better understanding, here is a table comparing some popular models of portable SSDs based on key specifications:

SSD comparison table

SSD model Capacity Capacity Speed Interface Protection
Samsung T7 Touch 500 GB - 2 TB up to 1050 MB/s USB 3.2 Gen 2 None
SanDisk Extreme Pro 500 GB - 2 TB up to 1050 MB/s USB 3.2 Generation 2 IP55
WD My Passport SSD 500 GB - 2 TB up to 1050 MB/s USB 3.2 Gen 2 None
Seagate Barracuda Fast SSD 500 GB - 2 TB up to 540 MB/s USB 3.1 Gen 2 None
Crucial X8 500 GB - 2 TB up to 1050 MB/s USB 3.2 Generation 2 None
LaCie Rugged SSD 500 GB - 2 TB up to 950 MB/s USB 3.1 Gen 2 IP67 RATED
G-Technology G-Drive Mobile SSD 500 GB - 2 TB up to 560 MB/s USB 3.1 Gen 2 TYPE OF PROTECTION IP67
Transcend ESD350C 240 GB - 960 GB up to 1050 MB/s USB 3.1 Gen 2 None
Adata SE800 512 GB - 1 TB up to 1000 MB/s USB 3.2 Gen 2 IP68
Sabrent Rocket Nano 512 GB - 2 TB up to 1000 MB/s USB 3.2 Gen 2 None

What is a portable SSD: Questions and answers

What are the advantages of external SSDs over external HDDs?

External SSDs offer several advantages over external HDDs, including:

  • Faster read and write speeds, which allow for faster copying, transferring and launching of files and programmes;
  • Lower power consumption, which preserves the battery life of the connected device and reduces heat generation;
  • Greater reliability and durability as external SSDs have no moving parts that can be damaged by shock, impact or vibration;
  • Smaller size and lighter weight, making external SSDs more convenient to transport and store.

How to connect an external SSD to a device?

You can connect an external SSD to a device via various interfaces such as USB, Thunderbolt, HDMI or Wi-Fi. To do this, follow the steps below:

  1. Select the appropriate interface based on the available ports on your device and your data transfer speed requirements.
  2. Connect the external SSD to your device using the appropriate cable or adapter;
  3. Wait until the device recognises the external SSD and installs all necessary drivers and settings;
  4. Open a file manager and search for the external SSD in the list of available drives;
  5. Use the external SSD to store, transfer or execute data from the drive.

How to format an external SSD?

To format an external SSD, proceed as follows:

  1. Connect the external SSD to the device from which you want to perform the formatting;
  2. Open a file manager and search for the external SSD in the list of available drives;
  3. Right-click on the external SSD and select the "Format" or "Properties" option, depending on the operating system;
  4. Select the desired file system, cluster size, volume label and other formatting parameters;
  5. Click the "Start" or "OK" button to start the formatting process;
  6. Wait until the formatting is complete and close the window.

What is an external SSD: Summary

how does external ssd work

To summarise, the versatility and reliability of a portable SSD makes it an exceptional choice for anyone looking to expand their storage solutions and facilitate data mobility.

Whether it's increasing your device's storage capacity, moving large amounts of data between devices, backing up valuable files or optimising the operation of demanding applications, a portable SSD is a top-notch option.

When choosing a portable SSD, pay attention to the storage capacity, transfer speed, connection interface and the level of physical protection it offers. With these considerations in hand, you'll be well equipped to find an SSD that's perfectly suited to your needs.

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