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Best external SSD for gaming in 2024: top portable drives

The best external SSD for gaming is more convenient than an internal NVMe or SATA alternative. These are our tried and tested drives

Best external SSDs - three top external gaming SSDs from SanDisk

What is the best external SSD for gaming? Finding the best external SSD for gaming is an easy way to expand storage and speed up the loading times of the best PC games without the hassle of rummaging around the insides of your machine. Simply plug one into a free USB port on your gaming PC or gaming laptop, install your game, and play to your heart’s content.

Portable SSDs don’t have to be bland, either. Adata leans into a distinct RGB-lit honeycomb effect and Sandisk makes a dust- and water-resistant NVMe drive that fits into the palm of your hand. You can even do it yourself if you own a spare internal NVMe thanks to an enclosure from Asus turning your existing drive into a portable storage device.

Portable and external options do come with some caveats, of course, such as slower speeds. They’re a marked improvement over hard drives, but you’ll want to grab the best SSD for gaming if you’re all about performance. Check out our guide on how to install an SSD to make sure it sits correctly.

So why buy an external SSD? The advantage of a portable SSD is that you can swap it between devices without any fuss. With so many prices to choose from and read speeds ranging from 540MB/s up to 2,800MB/s, we’ve tried and tested drives for every usage and budget so you can choose the best external SSD for gaming in 2024.

Why you can trust our advice ✔ At PCGamesN, our experts spend hours testing hardware and reviewing games and VPNs. We share honest, unbiased opinions to help you buy the best. Find out how we test.

Samsung Portable T7 Shield

Best external SSD overall

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Samsung Portable T7 Shield specifications:
Connection USB Type-C / Type-A
Capacities 500GB / 1TB / 2TB
Read speed 1000MB/s
Write speed 1050MB/s
Reasons to buy
  • Rugged, durable build
  • Compact design
Reasons to avoid
  • Not the fastest

The Samsung Portable T7 Shield offers the same specs as the Samsung T7 in sixth place in our guide and uses USB 3.2 for transfer speeds of up to 1000MB/s and 1050MB/s read and write respectively. We’ve picked this rugged external SSD as the top choice because it combines a reasonable price, durable design, fast transfer speeds, and a generally seamless experience.

In terms of looks, it’s not an SSD designed exclusively with gamers in mind and therefore is a little on the utilitarian side. The exterior is made from rubber, and Samsung’s Dynamic Thermal Guard controls heat to maintain performance even for big transfers. The SSD’s IP65 rating also means a certain level of water and dust resistance, so you can be sure that it’ll maintain performance even after an accidental spill or drop.

If you’re after a versatile, well-protected, and affordable external SSD for gaming, the Samsung Portable T7 Shield is for you. If you don’t need the extra protection, go for the standard T7 below.

Adata SE900G

Best external SSD with RGB

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Adata SE900G specifications:
Connection USB Type-C / Type-A
Capacities 512GB / 1TB / 2TB
Read speed 2,000MB/s
Write speed 2,000MB/s
Reasons to buy
  • Classy RGB lighting
  • Very fast transfer speeds
Reasons to avoid
  • No rugged classification
  • Shorter warranty than competitors

Adata’s NVMe-based model is one of the fastest external drives we’ve seen, with both the sequential read and write speeds coming in at 2,000MB/s. It connects via a USB Type-C cable, although Adata includes a Type-A adapter in the box to better cater to more devices.

We’d recommend the 1TB capacity model, although it’s also available as a 512GB or 2TB drive. The RGB lighting covering the top of the drive is a flashy touch, making it look at home with the best gaming keyboard and best gaming mouse.

SanDisk Extreme Portable V2

Best tiny external SSD

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SanDisk Extreme Portable V2 specifications:
Connection USB Type-C / Type-A
Capacities 500GB / 1TB / 2TB / 4TB
Read speed 1,050MB/s
Write speed 1,000MB/s
Reasons to buy
  • IP55 water and dust resistance
  • 5-year warranty
  • Small enough to fit on a keyring
Reasons to avoid
  • There are faster drives out there
  • No lights or power indicators

We love the Sandisk Extreme Portable, which is now on V2 thanks to its continued popularity. Despite its small size of 2.07 x 3.97 inches, the Extreme Portable still packs a punch. Thanks to the NVMe drive under the hood, it’s capable of swift sequential read and write speeds of 1,050MB/s and 1,000MB/s respectively.

It can also take a beating with two-meter drop protection, and IP55 water and dust resistance, making it the perfect travel companion for the best gaming laptop – not that we recommend chucking it around. We’ve used our original drive every single day for years, and have never once had any issues.

It connects via USB Type-C, although there’s a Type-A adaptor included too. You can pick the drive up in capacities ranging from 500GB up to a whopping 4TB, and sizes from 1TB now come in two funky blue colorways. It truly is portable and is designed with a hole in the corner so that you can clip it onto your keys or a bag. 

Lexar SL660 Blaze Portable SSD

Best portable external gaming SSD

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Lexar SL660 Blaze Portable SSD specifications:
Connection USB 3.2
Capacities 512GB / 1TB
Read speed 2,000MB/s
Write speed 1900MB/s
Reasons to buy
  • 256-bit AES hardware encryption
  • Aluminum casing
Reasons to avoid
  • Comes with stand and pouch
  • Maximum 1TB storage

The Lexar Blaze SL660 is the perfect choice for you if you want a dedicated portable gaming SSD. Compatible with PC, as well as PS5, PS4, and Xbox, it’s a versatile drive that combines reliability and performance with a great price. It’s not the fastest SSD in this guide, but the USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 support ensures fast read and write speeds.

Like the Asus ROG Strix Arion below, the Blaze has a gorgeous RGB design. At just 2.5 inches wide, it also boasts a truly portable form factor, comes with a detachable stand for added functionality, and its aluminum construction ensures protection from shock and drops. Security-wise, it offers 256-bit AES encryption software solution to protect your data.

The downside of the Lexar Blaze SL660 gaming SSD is that it needs a USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 connection to get the best performance. The capacity also maxes out at 1TB, which may be too low for some, but if you want a truly portable SSD to complement a larger hard drive, this might not be a problem.

Samsung Portable SSD T7

Best budget external SSD for gaming

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Samsung Portable SSD T7 specifications:
Connection USB 3.2
Capacities 500GB / 1TB / 2TB
Read speed 1000MB/s
Write speed 1050MB/s
Reasons to buy
  • Tiny and compact
  • Stays cool
Reasons to avoid
  • Three-year warranty

The Samsung T7 uses USB3.2 to allow zippy transfer speeds  NVMe form factor, but this helps to keep the price low. It’s the best budget external SSD that’s almost nine times faster than an external hard drive, rated at 1000MB/s sequential read and 1050MB/s sequential write speeds – double the previous Samsung T5 for around the same price.

The T7 is well-built, with a sturdy metal enclosure that you can buy in several bright colorways. Although it isn’t as rugged as the T7 Shield SSD that takes the top spot in our guide, it’s a brilliantly affordable option. And with a three-year guarantee, you can be reassured against your purchase for some time to come.

The all-metal body gives it a solid feel and helps it withstand drops of two meters. And, if security is at the front of your mind, you can use Samsung’s software to lock the drive with a 256-bit encrypted password.

Seagate Storage Expansion Card

Best external SSD for xbox

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Seagate Storage Expansion Card specs:

Seagate Storage Expansion Card specifications:
Connection Xbox expansion slot
Capacities 1TB / 2TB
Read speed N/A
Write speed N/A
Reasons to buy
  • Easy to set up
Reasons to avoid
  • Very expensive
  • Slower than an internal SSD

The Xbox Series X / S won’t allow you to install and play current generation games on any random external SSD, instead making use of the expansion slot on the rear of the console.

Seagate’s NVMe is currently the only model that fits into Microsoft’s proprietary port and offers read and write speeds identical to the console’s internal NVMe solid-state drive. There’s no USB connection, however, so this is solely an external SSD for the latest Xbox consoles rather than one for your PC.

Best external SSD for gaming FAQ

Why choose an SSD over HDD

SSD technology arrived on a mass-produced scale over the last few years, and regular HDDs don’t stack up well in comparison. The risk of having moving parts within your storage that are prone to failure or damage means SSD technology is far safer and more secure, as well as carrying superior read/write speeds.

Do SSDs come with security features?

Some SSDs will have security features that you can enable on them, ranging from simple password protection, all the way to fingerprint recognition. If this is something you require, be sure to check the features and specifications of any device to see what it is capable of.

How long do SSDs last?

There’s no age ceiling on an SSD. Unlike HDDs, there are no moving parts to an SSD, so the risk of failure is far lower, even after a decade of use.

How we test external SSDs

At PCGamesN, our reviewers thoroughly test external SSDs for gaming, as we want to deliver reliable results that make it easy for you to compare their performance. We’ll put each SSDs through testing benchmarks, using a fast system with a USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 port and a fast internal drive to avoid bottlenecks.

Synthetic benchmarks are carried out using CrystalDiskMark and AS SSD, to assess the drive’s sequential and random read/write speeds, providing a baseline for performance. And then we’ll perform real-world simulations with PCMark 10 Professional to simulate everyday tasks like program loading.

Using 3DMark Storage Benchmark, we focus on game loading times, saving, and recording which helps identify drives that optimize the gaming experience. And lastly, to measure file transfers we use a standardized test involving a large game folder.

With this combination of testing methods, we aim to go beyond the manufacturer’s claims on paper and give you a comprehensive understanding of how the best external SSDs perform.