Portable solid-state drives (or SSDs) are faster and more flexible than traditional hard drives, which makes them perfect for creative projects, IT work, or home computing hobbies. But how do you buy the SSD that will best suit your needs?
New SSDs come in all shapes and sizes. They sport a dizzying array of data transfer rates and utilize new technology, like Thunderbolt 3, that will benefit some people. So, we’ve rounded up our favorite portable SSDs to take a look at their features and help you find the one that’s best for you.
Before You Buy
If you don’t quite know what you’re looking for, shopping for a portable SSD can be overwhelming.
However, there are really only four things you have to look for, and they’re pretty dang straightforward:
- Speed: SSDs are fast! If you want to get the best possible speeds, make sure you choose one with a Thunderbolt 3 port. Your computer also has to have a Thunderbolt 3 port, though, so double-check.
- Size: Solid-state storage comes in virtually any shape or size. So, if you want a small SSD, get one! The tiny form factor shouldn’t reduce the drive’s speed or capacity.
- Durability: SSDs aren’t easy to break. If you’re concerned about durability, though, we suggest you choose one with a decent IPX rating (only a handful of the SSDs in this article have these).
- Capacity: High-capacity SSDs are super-fast, so they’re perfect for migrating user data or running virtual machines. They’re also very extremely super-duper expensive. If you just want a huge portable drive and don’t care about speed, you might want to skip an SSD in favor of a less expensive HDD, or cloud storage, like Dropbox or Google Drive.
Now that you know what to look for, it’s time to get into it. Here are our favorite portable SSDs, along with information about their speed, size, durability, and capacity.
Best Overall: Samsung T5
The Samsung T5 is an incredibly popular external SSD that actually lives up to the hype. At just three inches long, it’s one of the smallest portable SSDs on the market. The small form factor doesn’t lead to any caveats, though. The T5 has a fantastic 540 MBps transfer rate, built-in encryption software, and a surprisingly reasonable price tag.
You can buy the T5 with a 500 GB, 1 TB, or 2 TB capacity. Samsung used to sell a 250 GB model, but it seems to have gone out of production.
Samsung T5 Portable SSD - 500GB - USB 3.1 External SSD (MU-PA500B/AM), Blue
Looking for a portable SSD that checks all the boxes? The Samsung T5 is super-small, super-fast, and reasonably priced. What more could you ask for?
Best Budget: ADATA SD600Q
Some situations just call for a portable SSD that’s cheap and fast. The ADATA SD600Q is a no-frills portable SSD with a 440 MBps data transfer rate, and a price tag that’s comparable to some HDDs. It’s a fantastic option for anyone who needs a drive for their Xbox or the occasional lightning-fast file transfer.
The ADATA SD600Q is sold in 240 GB, 480 GB, and 960 GB varieties. Unlike the other SSDs on this list, it also has a USB 3.0 Micro-B port. It comes with a Micro-B to USB-A cable, but you’ll need an adapter if you want to plug it into USB-C ports.
ADATA SD600Q 960GB Ultra-Speed Portable Durable External SSD - Up to 440MB/s - 3D NAND USB3.2 Black (ASD600Q-960GU31-CBK)
An incredibly cost-effective portable SSD. For just $100, you get 960 GB of storage and 440 MBps data transfer rates---not bad!
Best Speed: Samsung X5
The Samsung X5 is a monster! It’s an expensive piece of equipment, but its 2,800 MBps read and 2,300 MBps write speeds are terrifyingly fast. Plus, the X5 is pretty dang portable (it’s only 4.7-inches long). It also comes with optional encryption software and sort of looks like a Ferrari.
Samsung sells this SSD in 500 GB, 1 TB, and 2 TB flavors. It achieves its extreme data transfer rates via Thunderbolt 3, so we don’t recommend it for a computer that has basic USB-C or USB-A ports.
A Thunderbolt 3 USB-C cable is included.
Samsung X5 Portable SSD 1TB - Thunderbolt 3 External Solid State Drive with NVMe Interface (MU-PB1T0B/AM) - Gray/Red
The Samsung X5 achieves amazing 2,800 MBps read and 2,300 MBps write speeds. It's a very fast external drive.
Highest Capacity: Oyen Digital U32 4TB
High-capacity external SSDs are a rare breed. Because they’re so expensive, there aren’t too many on the market. However, they’re useful if you need to run an external boot drive, rapidly migrate user data, or speed up virtual machines.
At this writing, the Oyen Digital U32 is the best option for someone who needs a gigantic portable SSD. It has a 4 TB capacity and boasts super-fast 500 MBps data transfer rates over USB-C, so it’s perfect for those demanding computer projects.
As we mentioned earlier, though, cloud storage solutions and high-capacity HDDs are very cheap. If you’re only interested in storage capacity and don’t mind dealing with slower data transfer rates, we suggest you buy an HDD or subscribe to a service like Dropbox or Google Drive.
U32 Shadow Dura 4TB USB-C (3.1 Gen 2) Rugged Portable Solid State Drive SSD
High-capacity portable SSDs are great for running virtual machines or migrating user data. The Oyen Digital 4 TB SSD is one of the largest external SSDs, and it has 500 MBps data transfer rates.
Most Portable: G-Technology G-DRIVE
Solid-state storage devices can get amazingly small. If you’re looking for an SSD you can fit in your tiny coin pocket, look no further than the G-Technology G-DRIVE. It’s a 3.74-inch by 1.97-inch (so, slightly bigger than a Bic lighter) portable SSD with a nice little USB-C port. It also has a much-appreciated IP67 water-resistance rating (it can sit in a puddle for about half an hour).
The G-Technology G-DRIVE comes in 500 GB, 1 TB, and 2 TB storage options.
G-Technology 1TB G-DRIVE mobile SSD Durable Portable External Storage - USB-C (USB 3.1), Up to 560 MB/s - 0G06053-1
The G-Technology G-DRIVE is just slightly bigger than a Bic lighter, yet it boasts 560 MBps transfer rates and an IP67 water-resistance rating.
Most Durable: CalDigit Tuff Nano
Some “rugged” portable SSDs sacrifice speed and portability for the sake of durability, but that isn’t necessary, as proven by the CalDigit Tuff Nano. This ideal “rugged” SSD is still fast and super-small. It has a tough rubber shell and an IP67 water-resistance rating, which means it can handle about half an hour in a puddle. Plus, it’s only about three inches long and sports a Thunderbolt 3 port for impressive 1,055 MBps read and 900 MBps write speeds.
At this writing, the Tuff Nano is only available with a 512 GB capacity, though. If you need a rugged SSD with a bit more storage, we recommend the SanDisk Extreme SSD—just keep in mind its transfer rates are about half the speed of the Tuff Nano.
CalDigit Tuff Nano - Compact Rugged IP67 USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 10Gb/s External NVME SSD, Compatible with Thunderbolt 3 Mac and PC, Up to 1055MB/s (512GB SSD, Red)
The CalDigit Tuff Nano sports an IP67 water-resistance rating, 1,055 MBps read speed, and is small enough to fit in your pocket. What's not to love?
Best Wireless: WD My Passport Wi-Fi SSD
Wireless SSDs are useful for geeks and artists who are always on the go. They’re not nearly as fast as wired SSDs, but they make data transfer easier for people who work with a mix of phones, computers, and cameras. (They’re also advertised as local streaming solutions, although we think a Plex server is the better option.)
The durable WD My Passport Wireless SSD is an incredibly popular wireless storage device. It’s easy to use and has a built-in SD card reader for on-the-fly SD backups.
Over a wired connection, the WD My Passport supports 390 MBps data transfer rates. Once you connect to it over its 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi band, those speeds go down to somewhere between 10 and 20 MBps. Those speeds might sound abysmal, but they’re fine to passively back up photos or videos from your phone or camera.
Western Digital sells its wireless SSD in 250 GB, 500 GB, 1 TB, and 2 TB storage capacities. It has a 10-hour battery life (for wireless functions), and USB 2.0 and Micro-B 3.0 ports for wired data transfers.
WD 250GB My Passport Wireless SSD External Portable Drive - WiFi USB 3.0 - WDBAMJ2500AGY-NESN
The WD My Passport Wireless SSD is a great option for creatives who are always on the go. Its wireless capabilities and built-in SD card reader are great for backing up important files on the fly.
NVME + Enclosure: ADATA XPG SX8200 PRO
So, after an entire article about portable SSDs, consider this: they just don’t hold a candle to real NVMe SSDs. Why not use an NVMe SSD as a portable SSD? It’s a lot cheaper, and you can get crazy data transfer rates and brag to your nerdy friends about your cool demeanor and unflinching intelligence.
All you need is an NVMe SSD and an appropriate portable enclosure—preferably one that supports Thunderbolt 3. We suggest the ADATA XPG SX8200 PRO SSD because of its (relatively) low price and fantastic 3,500 MBps transfer rates. This SSD is also compatible with the Thunderbolt 3 Sabrent enclosure, so you can actually achieve those speeds in the real world.
The ADATA XPG SX8200 PRO SSD (what a mouthful) comes in 256 GB, 512 GB, 1 TB, and 2 TB flavors.
ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro 1TB 3D NAND NVMe Gen3x4 PCIe M.2 2280 Solid State Drive R/W 3500/3000MB/s SSD (ASX8200PNP-1TT-C)
If you want things your way, then you're gonna have to do them yourself. An NVMe SSD with an enclosure is cheaper and faster than most portable SSDs.