In today’s highly connected world, many of us have come to rely on instant access to our files and data, no matter where we are. Whether it’s important work documents, irreplaceable photos and videos, or just our entire music library, we want our information at our fingertips at all times.
This is where portable solid state drives (SSDs) come in very handy. These compact, lightweight external drives allow you to take your data with you wherever you go. Compared to bulky external hard disk drives (HDDs), portable SSDs are smaller, faster, more durable, and offer more capacity.
With data transfer speeds of up to 1050MB/s, portable SSDs can access, transfer and backup files in a flash. Dropping one isn’t a horrifying moment like it is with HDDs, as SSDs have no moving parts and are better equipped to withstand shock. Many portable SSDs also offer handy features like encryption, water/dust resistance, and shock resistance.
So if you’re keen to get your hands on a portable SSD, read on! This guide will go over the key factors to consider when choosing the best portable solid state drive for your needs. You’ll also find a rundown of 5 of the top portable SSDs on the market right now.
How to Select the Best Portable SSD
With a wide range of portable SSD models out there, all with varying speeds, features and price tags, how do you select the right one for you? Here are the key factors to keep in mind:
For any external drive, its data transfer speeds are one of the most important considerations. Faster drives allow you to move files on and off the drive more quickly.
Portable SSD speeds are rated in megabytes per second (MB/s) or gigabytes per second (GB/s). On the faster end, portable SSDs can reach maximum read/write speeds of up to 1050MB/s. This is over twice as fast as the average portable HDD.
The interface the SSD uses also affects speed. USB 3.2 Gen 2, USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 connections offer the fastest transfer rates. Make sure your computer has compatible ports for these interfaces.
Portable SSD capacities range from around 500GB to 4TB. Consider how much storage you need when choosing capacity:
- 500GB to 1TB: Good for basic files and occasional transfers
- 2TB: Ideal for photographers, gamers and power users
- 4TB: Only for those with massive storage needs
Also check how much of the advertised capacity is actually available for storing your files after formatting and computing overhead.
Compact Size and Weight
A major appeal of portable SSDs is their compact, lightweight size compared to HDDs. With no moving parts, portable SSDs can be the size of a smartphone or smaller.
If you travel often and want a drive you can slip into your pocket, bags and laptop sleeve, pay attention to the physical size and weight. Lighter options like the Samsung T7 Touch weigh just 58g.
Ruggedness and Durability
Standard portable HDDs are notoriously fragile – one drop can spell the end for your data.
SSDs are much more durable and can withstand shock, drops, vibration, dust, water and more. Check the rated drop height like 1.5 meters. IP68 rated drives can handle submersion in water.
Ideal for travel, a rugged drive means you don’t have to worry about your data if the drive gets dropped, wet, or subjected to dirt or sand.
Data security is critical. Some portable SSDs include hardware encryption to protect your data in case the drive gets lost or stolen.
Encryption encodes your data so no one else can access it without authorization. Password protection and fingerprint sensors offer other ways to secure access.
Before you buy, verify that the portable SSD will work with your operating system, devices and other hardware:
- Windows: Nearly all portable SSDs work seamlessly with Windows PCs.
- MacOS: Many drives also support Time Machine backups and plug-and-play with Macs.
- Android: Some drives have USB-C connectors for newer Android smartphones.
- Legacy hardware: May need adapters/cables for older USB-A ports.
Warranty and Support
A long warranty provides more assurance and protection for your data. Look for portable SSDs with a 3 to 5 year limited warranty.
responsive and knowledgeable customer support is also important in case you need troubleshooting help or want to arrange a replacement.
Top 5 Portable SSDs
Now that you know what features to look for in a portable solid state drive, here are 5 of the top models on the market right now:
1. Samsung T7 Touch
The Samsung T7 Touch hits a sweet spot between fast speeds, security and a durable yet attractive design. It offers:
- Transfer speeds up to 1050MB/s with the USB 3.2 Gen 2 interface
- Built-in fingerprint sensor for biometric authentication
- Sleek and compact metal casing just 3.4 x 2.2 x 0.3 inches
- Drop protection up to 6 feet
- Compatibility with Windows, macOS and Android
- 256-bit AES encryption to secure your files
For portable SSDs, the Samsung T7 Touch is hard to beat, offering both performance and peace of mind.
2. SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD
The rugged SanDisk Extreme lives up to its name with:
- Blazing fast speeds up to 1050MB/s
- IP55 rating making it dustproof and water resistant
- Tiny, compact size of 3.79 x 1.95 x 0.35 inches
- Shock-resistant solid state core to handle bumps and drops
- 256‐bit AES hardware encryption and password protection
- Compatibility with Windows and MacOS
If you need to safely store and access data in challenging environments like hiking or travel, the durable SanDisk Extreme is a top choice. The rubberized exterior provides extra impact protection.
3. WD My Passport SSD
From respected brand Western Digital, the My Passport SSD offers an excellent balance of speed, security and style:
- Fast 1050MB/s transfer rates with USB 3.2 Gen 2
- Striking ridged metal design in gray, gold or silver
- Withstands drops up to 6.5 feet
- 256-bit AES hardware encryption to secure data
- Compatible with Windows, MacOS and Android
- Available in capacities up to 2TB
For those who want both high performance and sleek aesthetics, the My Passport SSD is a compelling package.
4. Seagate Barracuda Fast SSD
The Seagate Barracuda Fast SSD provides rugged durability at an affordable price:
- 540MB/s transfer speeds via USB-C
- Lightweight, shock-resistant design
- Data protection with helpful folder syncing software
- Compatible with Windows, MacOS, Android, gaming consoles
- Available in capacities up to 2TB
- Lengthy 5 year limited warranty for peace of mind
For an external SSD that can withstand everyday abuse, the Seagate Barracuda Fast SSD is a budget-friendly option.
5. G-Technology G-Drive mobile SSD
Designed for Mac users but compatible with Windows too, the G-Drive mobile SSD promises performance and resilience:
- Quick 560MB/s transfer speeds with USB-C
- Slim aluminum enclosure for durability
- IP67 rating for water/dust resistance
- Can withstand 3-meter drop protection
- Easily make backups with Apple Time Machine
- Available in capacities up to 2TB
The rugged, stylish G-Drive mobile SSD is optimized for Apple users but works great for Windows too. The durable build makes it ideal for travel.
Frequently Asked Questions About Portable SSDs
Here are answers to some common questions about portable solid state drives:
How is a portable SSD different from a HDD?
Portable SSDs use flash-based memory with no moving parts, unlike mechanical hard disk drives. This allows SSDs to be smaller and lighter. SSDs are also much faster for data transfers, more durable against drops and shocks, and more reliable overall due to having no fragile mechanical components.
Is a portable SSD worth the higher price over HDDs?
Yes, the extra cost is worth it for an SSD’s speed, durability and compact size. The price difference has narrowed over time as well. HDDs are larger, slower, and prone to breaking with travel – a risk to your important data. Portable SSDs have big advantages for on-the-go use.
How do I use the encryption and password protection on drives?
Drives like the WD My Passport SSD come bundled with the company’s software for enacting hard drive security. The software lets you encrypt the entire drive with 256-bit AES encryption. You can also add password protection. The software handles encryption/decryption seamlessly so you can access data like normal.
What cables will I need for connecting these portable SSDs?
Most portable SSDs today come with both a USB Type-C to Type-C cable and a USB Type-C to Type-A cable. This allows for direct connection to USB-C ports (newer), or USB-A ports (older PCs). For even older PCs with only USB-A ports, you may need a separate Type-A to Type-A cable.
How durable and shockproof are portable SSD drives?
With no moving parts, portable SSDs can withstand a lot of shocks, drops, vibrations that would ruin a HDD. Many SSDs have drop protection up to 6 feet. They are engineered for much more G-force shock than HDDs. Units like the SanDisk Extreme also boast IP55 dust and water resistance. So portable SSDs are very durable for travel and outdoor use.
Do portable SSDs fail or get corrupted like external HDDs?
External portable SSDs are generally much more reliable and less prone to failure than mechanical HDDs. However, they are still susceptible to data corruption from things like accidental deletion, viruses, device failures, etc. So still make backups of your important data! Compared to HDDs, portable SSDs have far greater resistance to failure from physical shocks and drops. But other threats exist where backups are wise.
Take Your Data Anywhere with a Portable SSD
External portable solid state drives provide an excellent solution for securely storing and accessing your important files and data on the go. They offer a compelling combination of fast transfer speeds, ample capacities, rugged durability, portability, encryption security and reliability.
If you need external storage you can easily toss into your bag or even pocket for use anywhere, a portable SSD is highly recommended over traditional HDDs. The Samsung T7 Touch stands out as a top choice with its fast speeds, robust design, fingerprint sensor and broad compatibility. But all the SSDs covered offer excellent performance and features for life on the move.
For protecting your memories, work files and other data while traveling, commuting or just out and about, consider picking up one of these handy portable SSD drives. With massive amounts of storage that fits in your palm, you’ll always have your data at your fingertips when inspiration strikes!