The Best External SSDs in 2021

Looking for an external SSD? If the answer is yes then check out our list of best external SSDs on the market. We have big, cheap, and affordable drives. Ultra-fast drives for those who want to transfer large files as quickly as possible, rugged drives that can take a beating or get underwater, and drives that feature advanced security features.

After you comb through our list of best external SSDs check out our external SSD buying guide, which is pretty detailed. Finally, if you like this list we also have pieces featuring best external hard drives, SSDs, and flash drives. Let’s begin.

ravpower portable external ssd pro
  • Capacity: 512GB
  • Max Write Speed: 490MB/s
  • Max Read Speed: 540MB/s
  • Interface: USB-C 3.1 Gen 2
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The RAVPower Portable External SSD Pro is an external SSD that’s extremely portable, sells at a competitive price, and comes with excellent performance. Read and write speeds are in line with other external SSD drives, build quality is spotless, and the drive itself looks rather attractive. The metal body made of aluminum and zinc looks quite durable and is very pleasant to hold.

The drive uses USB-C standard for transferring files, and the package comes with both USB-C to USB-C and USB-C to USB-A cables, which we always like to see. When it comes to extra features, the drive comes with password protection and AES 256-bit hardware encryption.

This external SSD is available only in 512GB size so it’s not perfect for users who need the highest capacity possible. On the other hand, if you need the most portable external SSD out there, the RAVPower Portable External SSD Pro is definitely one of the best choices on the market.

Pros:
  • The Most Portable External SSD On The Market
  • Fast Performance
  • Sleek Design
  • Rugged Metal Body
Cons:
  • A Bit Expensive

SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD

The Best Rugged External SSD

sandisk extreme portable ssd
  • Capacity: 512GB, 1TB, 2TB
  • Max Read Speed: 1050MB/s
  • Interface: USB-C 3.2 Gen 2
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The Extreme Portable SSD from SanDisk is made for users who often have outdoor adventures and need portable storage that can survive the said adventures. This drive is exceptionally compact and features a rugged case that fulfills the IP55 rating for water and dust resistance. It can also survive drops from up to 2 meters without any damage.

The ruggedness is followed by fast performance. The new version of the drive can reach up to 1050MB/s, which is exceptionally fast for an external SSD drive, let alone a rugged one. The drive is preformatted for usage on Windows and Mac OS and the interface used is USB-C 3.2 Gen 2.

SanDisk provides a USB-C to C cable with a USB A adapter, which is enough to connect this SSD to any device. The only downside is the fact that the cable is detachable, which isn’t great on an SSD meant to be used outside.

Pros:
  • Rugged Design
  • Fast Performance
  • USB Cable With USB A Adapter Included With Drive
  • IP55 Rating
Cons:
  • Detachable Cable Isn’t Great On A Rugged SSD

Crucial X8 Portable SSD

The Best External SSD For Video Editing

crucial x8 portable ssd
  • Capacity: 500GB, 1TB
  • Max Write Speed: 970MB/s
  • Max Read Speed: 970MB/s
  • Interface: USB-C 3.1 Gen 2
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The X8 external SSD from Crucial boasts fast write speed and surprisingly low price compared to other external SSDs with similar read and write speeds. It looks rather nice and comes with a USB-C to C cable with USB A adapter. Measured read and write speeds reach about 970MB/s making this SSD perfect for users dealing with large video files that are constantly accessed and/or moved.

The drive supports Windows, Mac OS, iPad Pro, Chromebook, and Android devices as well as PS4 and Xbox One. The blazing-fast performance will fall to about 100MB/s if you’re transferring very large (200GB or larger) files because of the limited cache. But in any other scenario expect maximum read and write speeds.

Overall, this is the best affordable option for video editing. Fast performance and nice design are followed by a very competitive price with the 1TB version of this disk selling for less than the majority of drives (even the slower ones) featured on this list.

Pros:
  • Exceptional Performance For The Price
  • Slick Design
  • Compatible With A Wide Array Of Devices
  • USB Cable With USB A Adapter Included With Drive
Cons:
  • Limited Cache Can Slow Down Transfer Speed When Moving Extra Large Files
  • Limited Capacity Options

Samsung T7 Touch Portable SSD

The Best External SSD For Security Oriented Users

samsung t7 touch portable ssd
  • Capacity: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB
  • Max Write Speed: 913MB/s
  • Max Read Speed: 974MB/s
  • Interface: USB-C 3.1 Gen 2
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The Samsung T7 Touch external SSD features two levels of security that offer unmatched protection for your data. First, you can lock your files behind a password backed up by AES 256-bit hardware encryption. Next, the presence of a fingerprint scanner allows the second level of encryption for the ultimate safety of your data. The drive looks rather nice and is very small and lightweight.

But this drive isn’t just ultra-secure and portable, it’s also pretty fast. It can achieve up to 913MB/s write and 974MB/s read performance, which are impressive numbers. Samsung includes two cables with the drive – USB-C to C and USB-C to A and the T7 Touch is compatible with virtually any operating system and mobile device as well as gaming consoles.

The only major downside is the limited write cache that tops out at about 45 gigabytes after which write speed falls down to about 500MB/s. Also, the T7 Touch is more expensive than other external SSDs that offer similar performance.

Pros:
  • Slick Design
  • Ultra-Fast Performance
  • Two Encryption Levels
  • 2 USB Cables Included With The Drive
Cons:
  • Limited Write Cache
  • Expensive

Seagate Barracuda Fast SSD

The Best External SSD For Xbox One

seagate barracuda fast ssd
  • Capacity: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB
  • Max Write Speed: 515MB/s
  • Max Read Speed: 550MB/s
  • Interface: USB 3.1 Gen 1
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If you want a beautiful external SSD with a design completely in line with the Xbox One console, look no further. The Seagate Barracuda Fast looks amazing. If someone wrote Xbox on the front instead of Seagate we would think that this is the official external SSD for the Xbox One. Aside from the exceptional black and green design, this SSD also has excellent performance.

Write speed of about 515MB/s and read speed of about 540MB/s puts it in line with other SSDs that advertise speeds of about 550MB/s. The inclusion of USB-C to C and USB-C to A cables allows easy connection with any device. The disk itself is compatible with Windows, Mac OS, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 out of the box. The downside is a high price, about 20 percent higher than what competing drives sell for.

Pros:
  • Attractive Design Is Perfect Fit With Xbox One
  • Excellent Performance
  • 2 USB Cables Included With The Drive
Cons:
  • Expensive
  • Uses Older, USB 3.1 Gen 1 Interface

Samsung X5 Portable SSD

Fastest External SSD Drive On The Market

samsung x5 portable ssd
  • Capacity: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB
  • Max Write Speed: 1620MB/s
  • Max Read Speed: 1560MB/s
  • Interface: Thunderbolt 3
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If you need the fastest performance in an external SSD and are ready to pay for that luxury get the Samsung X5. This is a Thunderbolt 3 NVMe external SSD that supports incredible read and write speeds. Benchmarks show max read speed of about 1560MB/s while write speed can reach about 1620MB/s. Both read and write speed can be noticeably higher if you transfer smaller (less than 1GB) files.

These numbers are awe worthy and make the X5 the best external SSD on the market. If you’re in the business of constantly moving large files and have Thunderbolt 3-supporting device this is the perfect external drive for you. The drive comes with AES 256-bit hardware encryption to keep those files secure. The only downside (aside from arguable design) is the price. This drive is very expensive but the performance justifies it.

Pros:
  • Lighting Fast Performance
  • Faster Than Any Other External SSD On The Market
  • AES 256-bit hardware encryption
Cons:
  • High Price

Seagate Expansion SSD

Affordable External SSD For Casual Users

seagate expansion ssd
  • Capacity: 500GB, 1TB
  • Max Write Speed: 400MB/s (Advertised)
  • Max Read Speed: 400MB/s (Advertised)
  • Interface: USB 3.0
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The Seagate Expansion SSD is an affordable external SSD for users who don’t need ultra-fast speeds, encryption, durable design, or other extra features. This is a cheap external SSD that’s a noticeable upgrade over any external hard drive.

Read and write speeds won’t leave anyone excited. Seagate advertises read and write speeds at 400MB/s but you can bet they are a bit slower. The drive uses an old USB 3.0 Micro interface so make sure you don’t lose the provided cable.

The drive is compatible with most operating systems and will work with both Xbox One and PS4. Overall, this is a cheap external SSD that’s perfect for keeping a backup of important files but isn’t suited for frequent file transfer.

Pros:
  • Affordable
Cons:
  • Low Read And Write Speeds
  • Dated Micro USB 3.0 Interface
  • Limited Capacity Options

How To Pick An External SSD

Picking an external SSD takes a few steps more than simply clicking on the desired capacity and then clicking buy. You have drives that come with physical encryption, which is great for security-minded users. Next, you should look at the interface used to determine whether you’ll be able to achieve max read and write speed on your computer.

Some users need rugged drives capable of withstanding shock and falling into water. There’s also the question of compatibility with your OS. And in case you have an old SSD you aren’t using, you can turn it into a portable drive for cheap. Let’s cover each of these points individually.

Picking The Right Capacity

You know the best which capacity you need so make sure to pick the right one. Most people should be comfortable with 512GB capacity but if you’re working with large video files and/or always have new files to copy to your portable SSD it’s better to get a unit with at least 1TB of storage.

Design And Portability

Some external SSDs are larger than others. Check dimensions of the external drive you’re interested in case you need an extremely small and portable drive. If you aren’t planning to move the drive around the size shouldn’t be an issue.

Different Interfaces Mean Different Read And Write Speeds

While internal storage devices use SATA, M.2, or PCIe interfaces external drives are limited to the USB interface. But USB can be confusing since there are so many different standards and technologies, each with its own max transfer speed. External SSDs use one of the three main interfaces:

  • USB 3.0/3.1/3.2 Gen 1 interface achieves up to 5Gbps bandwidth
  • USB 3.1/3.2 Gen 2 interface achieves up to 10Gbps bandwidth
  • Thunderbolt 3 interface achieves up to 40Gbps bandwidth

Today, most external SSDs use either a USB-A or USB-C port and come with a transfer cable so you shouldn’t have issues with connecting them to your computer or a console. The fastest SSDs use Thunderbolt 3 interface. And if you see an external SSD with USB 2.0 or eSATA port avoid it, transfer rates on that disk are extremely slow.

You should also know that most external SSDs work when hooked to slower ports. For instance, a USB 3.1 Gen 2 SSD will work when connected with a USB 3.1 Gen 1 port on a computer, it will only have slower transfer rates. Thunderbolt 3 drives can only work when connected to a USB-C drive that supports Thunderbolt 3 speeds. Vice versa, if you have a Thunderbolt 3 port on your computer, it should work with any external SSD.

Finally, remember that the maximum transfer rate also depends on the drive inside your computer. If you have an HDD or a slower SSD transfer rates will be affected. You can’t achieve max transfer speeds on your external SSD with Thunderbolt 3 interface if your internal storage is slow.

Do You Need A Rugged Drive With Shock And Water Resistance?

If you plan on taking your next external SSD with you on camping, hiking trips, or some other outdoor adventure make sure it’s shock and water-resistant. There are drives out there with different IP certificates so keep a close eye when looking for a rugged external SSD.

Also, many portable drives are shock-resistant so you don’t need to worry about damaging them in case you drop them from a relatively low height (1-1.5 meters).

And What About Security?

If you’re worried about your data being stolen in case you lose external drive, you can always install encryption software on the external drive. But some external SSD models come with AES 256-bit hardware encryption that encrypts your password and make it incredibly hard – practically impossible – to hack.

Further, there are external drives out there that come with a fingerprint reader, which is an even better method to keep your data secure.

Make Sure the SSD Is Compatible With Your Operating System

This is a small annoyance that can be remedied by formatting the drive but it can be irritating. Most external disks are formatted to work with new versions of Windows and macOS out of the box. If you want to use the drive on Linux or Android either look for a drive that is preformatted for these operating systems or be ready to format it once you buy it.

SSD Durability Shouldn’t Be An Issue

Years ago SSD durability was a valid issue. Older flash memory technologies weren’t very durable and looking for an SSD with the best durability was recommended. But today most internal and external SSDs are based on modern flash memory tech that can last for decades.

Unless you’re planning on using the external SSD on a server where large amounts of data are written 24/7 you’ll be fine with virtually any decent model on the market.

Some Models Are Designed To Fit With Xbox One And PlayStation 4 Design

Getting an SSD for your gaming console is a great way to reduce loading times. You can drastically reduce loading times by installing your games on an external SSD.

As is the case on PC, NVMe drives using PCIe interface, and boasting ultra-fast transfer speeds aren’t faster than SATA SSDs when it comes to loading games. The best SSD for gaming on consoles is an affordable and reliable SATA drive with a read speed of about 500MB/s.

If design matters to you you can get an external SSD that matches the design of your console. You can find a decent number of models that feature green and black design found on the Xbox One or blue and black design of the PS4.

Turn An Old SSD Into A Portable SSD

In case you have an old SATA or even NVMe SSD lying around, you don’t even have to buy an external SSD. There are plenty of external enclosures for SATA and NVMe drives out there that cost next to nothing and that’ll allow you to turn your old SSD into an external drive in just a couple of seconds.

About The Author

Goran Damnjanovic

Goran studied psychology but video games and PC hardware were much more interesting. On top of that he likes writing so he decided to become a writer. And it was the right choice. Other than games and hardware, Goran is interested in basketball, Sci-Fi literature, and music.

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Alvaro Romero Mato
Alvaro Romero Mato
4 months ago

Hey Goran !!! I am planning to install Linux in my SSD but I do not know which one I should buy. I am goin got use for my university (Robotics). I was looking the SanDsik Extreme 1TB but I have read that it doesn’t reach the veolicity rates of 500MB/s… Which one do you recommend me?

XbitLabs Staff
Editor
4 months ago

Hi,

Samsung T7 and Crucial X8 are way faster so you can go for one of them. Here are some YouTube reviews that may be helpful https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCwNvuE-I3c, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7yxDXcTMTI.