Why you should trust u.s.
Wirecutter has been researching and recommending solid-country drives since 2013. Equally Wirecutter’s (and formerly PCMag’s) storage practiced, I’ve evaluated a multitude of storage devices—from portable and desktop difficult drives to SSDs to NAS devices to USB wink drives to microSD cards—to detect the best options.
Who this is for
Portable SSDs are great for travelers and for people who frequently transfer big amounts of data between computers. Since SSDs accept no moving parts, they can handle the bumps when you toss your travel bag on a couch, say, later a tiring trip or commute. If you need a drive just to support your data at home and you aren’t worried about having the fastest transfer speeds, a portable hard drive is much less expensive, though it’s also slower, larger, less durable, and potentially less secure.
Portable SSDs are three to six times faster at transferring files than portable hard drives or desktop external drives. They’re besides more than secure and much more than meaty and durable, and they run cooler on less power. They are more expensive, still. Prices have come fashion downward in the past two years, just a ane TB portable SSD nonetheless costs nearly $110-$150, a price that would get you a 5 TB portable hard drive or an 8 TB desktop difficult bulldoze.
If you spend most of your time working at the same desk or y’all demand more than iv TB of storage, get an external desktop difficult bulldoze. A desktop hard bulldoze is faster than a portable hard drive and much less expensive compared with a portable SSD for a similar amount of storage, but it’s bulky, so yous shouldn’t plan to travel with it.
Although you tin build your own portable SSD past purchasing an internal SSD and an enclosure to put it in, we don’t recommend that unless you already have a spare SSD that you want to repurpose. Building i wouldn’t salve you any coin compared with the WD My Passport SSD, and the resulting bulldoze would crave more time and energy to set upwardly.
How nosotros picked
Though a portable SSD looks like a relatively unproblematic device, we took all of the post-obit factors into account when we decided which model to recommend:
Reliability and toughness:
A portable SSD must keep your data safe. Since portable SSDs lack moving parts, they are less susceptible than mechanical drives to total failure when dropped, jostled, or subjected to changes in temperature or vibration. A portable SSD should too be sturdily built and not feel creaky or hollow.
Flash-memory cells tin be written to simply so many times earlier wearing out. You’d accept to write hundreds of terabytes of data to fifty-fifty begin to wear out most SSDs, though, and few people approach that limit. But better endurance is a bonus, especially if you’re using the drive for high-intensity tasks such every bit 4K video editing. Since SSD manufacturers don’t report durability ratings for external drives (only for internal models), we go on an eye on client reviews for reliability information. For example, we note when reviewers mention that their SSDs run hot; as well much heat during operation can shorten drive life or indicate that the drive is lacking.
SSDs provide dramatically faster transfer speeds (less waiting for files to copy) than mechanical drives, and we tested both sequential and random speeds. Although fast sequential speeds are important for transferring and backing up large blocks of information to your bulldoze, quick random speeds are essential if you must run programs or games direct off the portable SSD. (Note that we don’t recommend the latter; an internal solid-state drive is faster than an external drive, and with an internal drive you lot don’t have to worry nigh corruption from a cable getting disconnected.)
For this review we primarily considered portable SSDs with USB Type-C (USB-C) connectors that were rated for USB 3.2 Gen 2 transfer speeds.i
USB-C connectors (video), which are replacing older, slower USB Type-A connectors on thinner laptops, ensure that you get the speed you’re paying for.2
Merely all the drives come with either a Type-A adapter or a separate cablevision to ensure compatibility with the desktop PCs, laptops, gaming consoles, and tablets around your dwelling. Every bit a result, you’ll still get the best speeds your computer can handle, and your bulldoze will exist able to keep upwards with newer devices in the future.
More than expensive portable SSDs can offer faster speeds, simply you shouldn’t overpay to get extra speed or other features y’all may not notice. For instance, Samsung claims the Portable SSD X5 has read and write speeds of 2,800 MB/s and 2,100 MB/south, respectively—more twice as fast as those of the Samsung T7. But for well-nigh people, paying ii to three times more than the price of our pick for that speed isn’t necessary.
Currently, an SSD with a capacity around i TB and a price tag effectually $110-$150 represents the all-time mix of affordability, space, and speed. Drives with capacities of 2 TB tend to be most as toll-effective at nigh $300. Drives with 250 GB to 500 GB of space are too small for many people; they’re condign less widely available and typically more expensive per gigabyte. Our picks for the best laptops have 256 GB to 512 GB of drive infinite, so a one TB portable SSD volition allow you to dorsum up such laptops with room to spare.
Size and weight:
A portable SSD should be light and compact—many are roughly the size of a stack of glutinous notes or even smaller.
Portable SSDs that back up the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), can more reliably protect your sensitive information. External solid-state drives with AES don’t require software to set up it upwards, although they should include password-protection software to enable encryption to proceed your data prophylactic from unauthorized access even if someone removes the drive from its housing. Not all portable SSDs offering this characteristic, and we’ve seen technical issues ingather upwardly, specially during upgrades of operating systems such equally macOS.
Fill-in software is a nice addition to a portable SSD, but it’s not essential. You can notice plenty of fill-in service alternatives online.
Some drives feature an LED indicator that lights up when the drive is connected to your device, and although it’s non a requirement, we found this indicator to be very useful.
Warranty and customer service:
Iii-year warranties are standard among portable solid-country drives, though a few come with five-yr warranties. Strong customer service is also valuable when something goes wrong.
To find worthy contenders, nosotros investigated the nigh popular portable solid-state drives on Amazon, and we checked online reviews on tech sites like AnandTech, Dong Knows Tech, and PCMag. We as well scoured the websites of well-known external-SSD manufacturers such every bit LaCie, Samsung, SanDisk, and Western Digital. Nosotros came upward with 7 finalists:
- Adata SE800
- Crucial X8
- Samsung Portable SSD T7
- Samsung Portable SSD T7 Affect
- SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD
- Seagate BarraCuda Fast SSD
- Western Digital My Passport SSD
How we tested
We used CrystalDiskMark, Anvils Storage Utilities, and ATTO Disk Criterion to test each drive’s sequential and random speeds. These tests, respectively, measure out a drive’southward ability to move large files similar database sets or HD movies versus multiple modest files such as when you run a plan or game. (We bear witness our CrystalDiskMark results as points of comparison, but the more-thorough Anvils and ATTO tests were in line with that information.) We ran all of our tests on a Dell G7 15 Gaming laptop; its NVMe PCIe solid-state bulldoze and Thunderbolt 3 port were fast enough to avoid bottlenecking the drives we tested. We also explored each drive’south included software, if information technology had any, and nosotros checked build quality to brand certain there were no obvious red flags.
Our selection: Western Digital MyPassport SSD (one TB)
|Capacity:||one TB||Physical size:||4.0 past 2.ii by 0.4 inches|
|USB interface:||USB 3.2 Gen ii||Warranty:||Five years|
The Western Digital My Passport SSD (ane TB) is the best portable solid-state drive for nearly people because it’due south reliable, fast, and reasonably priced, and like nigh of the portable SSDs we tested, it’s meaty enough to almost hibernate nether a stack of sticky notes. As of this writing, information technology’south neither the most economical nor the about expensive 1 TB SSD we tested, though the race was tight. The My Passport SSD has a single USB-C port that supports transfer speeds of upward to 10 Gbps, and it includes a short cable with a USB-C–to–A adapter, which lets yous connect the bulldoze to most desktops, laptops, and game consoles. Information technology also comes with easy-to-use software and AES 256-scrap hardware encryption to protect your data. Plus, information technology has a sturdy metal case and a lengthy v-year warranty, in contrast to the three-year warranty of its competitors.
You spend more for speed on an SSD, and the WD My Passport SSD is quick, more than enough to justify the expense. Using the Dell laptop’south Thunderbolt 3 port, the My Passport SSD gave us sequential read and write speeds (transferring largish files one after some other, similar to when you’re bankroll up your laptop’due south chief drive) of 913.6 MB/s and 949.6 MB/due south, respectively. That’s very close to the drive’s claimed one,050 MB/s max write speed. The My Passport SSD and SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD V2 (which had average speeds of 914.vii MB/s read and 950.5 MB/south write) were our course leaders during the sequential tests, in a statistical dead rut. The other drives, bated from the underperforming Seagate BarraCuda Fast SSD, weren’t likewise far behind, with about finishing above 900 MB/s on the read test and above 861 MB/s on the write exam. Accepting a lilliputian drag from the USB interfaces, we plant that these results matched the SSD makers’ claims of upward to 1,000 MB/s or 1,050 MB/s during data transfers.
The random read and write tests are designed to simulate the demands of tasks such as transferring multiple small-scale files or running programs off the external SSD. In these tests, the My Passport SSD had random read and write speeds well-nigh the superlative of the range, 23.5 MB/s and xl.3 MB/s, respectively, whereas the other drives’ results were distributed evenly in a narrow range of 18 to 25 MB/s read and 38 to xl MB/s write, differences you’re unlikely to notice. In general, speeds in these kinds of tests don’t give you a reason to cull ane bulldoze over some other.
Photo: Sarah Kobos
The My Passport SSD is slightly larger than some of the other models hither, and it’s measurably larger than the Adata SE800, simply all of the drives we tested could fit hands into the coin pocket of a pair of men’south jeans, and they certainly will fit in an accessory pocket on a laptop backpack.
Similar virtually of the drives we tested, the WD My Passport SSD comes with a utility installer for Windows and Macs, though you lot don’t have to install those programs to use the drive. The Western Digital Dashboard software lets you check on the drive’s health and upload firmware updates to the SSD, if necessary. It’s simple and easy to use, but if you’re familiar with Windows 10’due south erase-bulldoze commands or macOS’s Deejay Utility, you can skip it. You can also install an encryption countersign program to lock the drive’s 256-fleck AES hardware encryption. But if you lot utilize a Mac, nosotros recommend using the FileVault encryption built into macOS instead, or checking online to brand sure yous accept the latest version of the WD Drive Security app. We’ve heard reports of people having tertiary-party encryption-utility issues on Macs subsequently updating to newer versions of the operating system (for instance, from macOS Mojave to Catalina).
Flaws but not dealbreakers
The USB-C cable that Western Digital includes with the My Passport SSD is somewhat brusque, measuring well-nigh 6 inches including both connectors. Although that length is fine for apply with a laptop, if you plug the drive into the front panel of a desktop PC, the bulldoze may end upward hanging past its cable instead of resting on your table or desk; in this situation, gravity could compromise connectivity and may stress the cable and plugs. The bulldoze as well comes with a Blazon-C–to–Type-A adapter, which some heir-apparent reviews on the PCMag and Amazon sites complain is easy to lose. (The SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD V2 has the same short cable and Type-A adapter.) In add-on, the WD My Passport SSD lacks an action light, and though that characteristic isn’t a must-accept, an activity light serves equally a skillful reminder that you should always use your PC or Mac’s eject-bulldoze command to safeguard your information.
During our testing, the My Passport SSD stayed around room temperature, but online reviews accept mentioned that the drive gets warm to the touch during long fill-in sessions.
Runner-up: SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD V2 (i TB)
|Chapters:||ane TB||Concrete size:||4.0 by 2.1 by 0.4 inches|
|USB interface:||USB 3.2 Gen 2||Warranty:||Five years|
If you tin can detect this model for significantly less than the WD My Passport SSD, or if the My Passport SSD is unavailable, we recommend the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD V2 (1 TB). The Extreme Portable SSD is most as fast and typically priced about the same, and similar the My Passport SSD, information technology has a USB-C port that supports USB 3.two Gen 2 (with transfer speeds of upwardly to ten Gbps). The SanDisk is also a scrap more rugged, in example you foresee extended travel or a rough commute in your time to come.
The second version of the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD has a USB-C port, and it comes with a USB-C–to–USB-C cable. The bundle also includes a tiny USB-C–to–USB-A adapter for older systems that’s like shooting fish in a barrel to pop on and off, but similar any tiny adapter, it’s potentially easy to lose.
The Extreme Portable SSD costs about the same as the My Passport SSD. Prices tin fluctuate $10 to $30 overall over the course of a few months, and then there may be a time when i or the other is more expensive.
The SSDs nosotros tested were all modest, and the SanDisk is about as compact as the Western Digital. The SanDisk adds the reward of an IP55 (dust and water resistance) rating, and its soft-touch exterior and carabiner loop make information technology await similar it’south ready for travel, in contrast to the sculpted metal on the Western Digital, which suggests that model is more meant for an function.
The SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD V2 comes with Windows and Mac versions of SanDisk’southward SecureAccess software, which allows AES 256-chip hardware encryption unlocked via password. Every bit with the WD My Passport SSD, if y’all accept a Mac, we recommend using macOS’s built-in FileVault encryption software or downloading the latest version of SecureAccess before upgrading your Mac from Mojave to Catalina or Large Sur.
The Extreme Portable SSD V2 also lacks an activity indicator light. In contrast, the Adata SE800 and Samsung T7 both include this useful feature, but they fail to match the SanDisk’s lengthy, v-yr warranty.
Other good portable SSDs
The following portable SSDs were just as fast as our pinnacle picks in our tests, but they both accept at least ane flaw—such as a shorter warranty or a higher price—that caused them to place behind our top picks in our rankings. They’re still skillful options that may meet your item needs, especially if they happen to be on auction. (And both have a three-yr warranty.)
The Adata SE800 was an odd duck in 1 regard: By default, it’s formatted equally NTFS (Windows format) instead of exFAT, and then if you want to use it with a Mac or a gaming console, you’ll have to reformat the drive. It performed just too as our picks, and it’south a scrap less expensive than the other drives hither (typically by near $twenty to $xl), then it’s a decent choice if yous desire to save some money. Merely it has a shorter warranty than the SanDisk and Western Digital drives, falling short of their v years of coverage by two years.
Samsung’southward Portable SSD T7 is the visitor’s follow-upwards to the T5, our previous portable SSD pick. It looks like the T5, but information technology’s slightly thinner and quite a bit faster on sequential reads and writes. Like the Adata SE800, the T7 has a three-year warranty. It’s a good culling if you lot find information technology for significantly less than the Western Digital or SanDisk.
What to look forward to
Our pick and runner-up are now available in 4 TB capacities. Although this is a milestone, nosotros retrieve these particularly roomy models are likewise expensive at the moment, with a list price over $450. If you lot demand to store that much data or keep archived backups over multiple years, a portable difficult bulldoze is much more economical (though slower, larger, and less durable) at about $100 for 4 TB.
The USB-IF has certified USB 4.0, which volition continue to use the USB-C physical interface but will comprise Thunderbolt 3 specs. Equally a result, a fully compliant USB iv drive will be able to transmit upwardly to xl gigabits per second. One of the first USB 4 drives we’ve seen appear is the Adata SE920, which is still unavailable as of this update.
What does that mean? Although all time to come portable hard drives and SSDs will have physically uniform USB-C interfaces (and cables), you’ll still accept to check the specs to determine the speed of your drive. For the fourth dimension existence, USB iii.2 Gen 2 sits in the sweet spot betwixt cost and speed.
Samsung’southward Portable SSD T7 Touch is about $20 to $40 more expensive than our picks, a price tag justified by a touch sensor that allows you lot to unlock the drive using a recognized fingerprint. Otherwise this SSD was well-nigh as speedy as the other models we tested. The fingerprint reader tin aid you get into the habit of locking your information securely, but we don’t think information technology’s a must-have characteristic.
The Seagate BarraCuda Fast SSD was significantly slower than the residuum of the pack on sequential read and write operations, though it produced performance like to what nosotros saw from the other models on random reads and writes. That’s non surprising, because that Seagate claims speeds of “upwards to 540 MB/sec” versus 1,000 to ane,050 MB/sec, and our testing confirmed that it was slower than the other drives here. It’due south typically priced virtually the same as its competitors.
The Crucial X8 SSD is built into an attractive metal chassis and has an attractive toll (11¢ per gigabyte at this writing). Information technology also has the virtually comprehensive list of compatible devices (iPad Pro, macOS, PS4, Xbox 1, and Windows), though all the drives we tested should work with nigh computers and gaming consoles. Notwithstanding, it was the simply SSD that became noticeably warm during our recent tests. It wasn’t hot plenty to fire, merely it was cause for concern, as none of the other drives warmed up beyond room temperature. Our scans of Amazon reviews revealed that various owners had also observed the X8 heating up uncomfortably, and the issue was an apparent point of failure for ane unfortunate Mac user.
We also dismissed other models without testing in the previous version of this guide. All were aging or outdated models, and we don’t recommend them, even if you lot detect them in stock online. This group includes the 480 GB Adata SD600Q, the Adata XPG SD700X, the Glyph Cantlet, the G-Applied science Atomos Master Caddy 4K SSD, the Grand-Engineering science One thousand-Drive ev RaW SSD and Thou-Technology G-Drive Slim, the 500 GB LaCie Mobile SSD and LaCie Portable SSD, the MyDigitalSSD BP5, the PNY Elite, the Samsung Portable SSD X5, the 480 GB SanDisk Farthermost 510 Portable SSD, the Transcend StoreJet 500, the VectoTech Rapid Portable SSD, and the Western Digital My Passport Wireless SSD.
Justin Krajeski contributed to previous versions of this guide.
This article was edited by Signe Brewster and Arthur Gies.
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