Best external SSD for gaming: my top external storage picks for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X

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The WD Black P50 Game Drive and the Crucial X6 external SSD on a grey gradient background with the PC Gamer recommended logo

(Image credit: WD, Crucial)

⚙️ The list in brief
Best overall
2. Best budget
3. Most durable
4. Where to buy
5. FAQ

It might not be immediately obvious but external SSDs are more than just handy backup devices. They're a great way to keep your most important data with you at school or work, on your commute, and of course at home. You can use them to store your massive games library, freeing up precious storage space on your desktop and laptop.

For us, the WD Black P50 Game Drive is the best overall external SSD, as it's super fast with a great form factor from a trusted brand. The best budget external SSD is the Crucial X6, as it's available in large capacities for a very reasonable price.

External SSDs are a great way of adding more storage to a PC, the Sony PlayStation 5 or Microsoft Xbox Series X gaming consoles. You can even run games directly off the SSD itself in some cases, though it won't be as fast as using the internal drive. However, whatever you plan to use it for, chances are there's one that's just right for you listed below.

Curated by
Shot of Jeremy Laird in front of a bookcase
Curated by
Jeremy Laird

Jeremy likes CPUs. And GPUs. And SSDs. A lot. Which is just as well, since he's been writing about them since the early Mesozoic period. Or at least since Intel released those early stuttering SSDs. Remember them? Good times.

The Quick List

Recent updates

Updated April 30 to reorganise our categories—moving the WD Black P50 Game Drive to our best overall spot and the Crucial X6 to best budget. Also removed some products no longer for sale, and added in extra information to help you make the best decision on your next external SSD purchase.

Best overall external SSD

Western Digital WD Black P50 Game Drive on a grey background

(Image credit: Western Digital)

1. WD Black P50 Game Drive 1TB

The best external drive in town


Storage: 1TB
Connectivity: USB 3.2 2x2 Type-C
Sequential read: 2 GB/s
Dimensions: 118 x 62 x 14 mm
Warranty: 5 years

Reasons to buy

USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 connectivity
Up to 2 GB/s sequential performance

Reasons to avoid

Middling sustained transfer speeds
Buy if...

✅ If you feel the need for speed: It's one of the fastest external SSDs we've tested to date. 'Nuff said.

If you want a small, durable form factor: The all black chassis is neatly designed, and it'll tuck into a jacket pocket with little fuss. Looks good too, for what it's worth.

Don't buy if...

If you're on a budget: It's quite pricey for the storage size you get, so if all you need is the space then the Crucial X6 might be more what you're after.

If you’re looking for fast USB-powered external storage for games, this is currently as good as it gets, and that in combination with its svelte form factor means it's our top pick for best external SSD drive overall. The WD Black P50 Game Drive we tested here in 1TB format, and available in 500GB and 2TB flavors, is a rare breed of USB Type-C external SSD. That’s because it supports the very fastest USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 20 Gbps interface, which is why it’s capable of read and write speeds up to 2,000 MB/s.

As for real-world performance, in terms of peak sequential, the WD Black P50 easily maxed out the 10Gbps connection of our test PC, registering just over 1GB/s in both directions. It’s likely capable of the advertised 2GB/s with the right interface, however.

Sustained performance is a little less impressive, with performance dropping to around 375MB/s after around 30GB of data transfer. Random access performance is reasonable rather than spectacular, with 22MB/s reads, and 40MB/s writes for the 4K QD1 metric.

While its performance isn't perfect, it's still very impressive, and it comes clad in WD's rather attractive all-black shroud. It's a portable and good-looking little unit, and while we doubt anyone's been bowled head over heels by the looks of their external drive, this one has a well-judged form factor that makes it easy to take anywhere.

Speedy, portable, solidly built and available in large capacities. Yep, that's all the major checkboxes ticked, although it is worth mentioning that it's not cheap. If all you need is large amounts of storage on a budget without the speed, then the Crucial X6 is probably more to your tastes.

However, if you want the best all-round external SSD and don't mind paying for the privilege, this is the one to go for.

Best budget external SSD

Top down shot of the Crucial X6 on a grey background.

(Image credit: Crucial)

2. Crucial X6 2TB

The best budget external SSD


Storage: 2TB
Connectivity: USB 3.2 Type-C
Sequential read: 540 MB/s
Dimensions: 69 x 64 x 11 mm
Warranty: 3 years

Reasons to buy

2TB is a lot of storage
Decent performance

Reasons to avoid

No DRAM cache
Buy if...

✅ If you want a lot of storage space for cheap: The 2TB model here offers plenty of room for all your files, with a good TB to price ratio, too.

Don't buy if...

You want peak speeds: It's reasonably quick, especially for its primary purpose as a backup drive, but it's not the fastest of the pack.

There’s a fine line between compelling and compromised when it comes to external USB Type-C SSDs. That being said, while speed is not this drive's strong point, it does offer a lot of storage for a reasonable price, and that makes the Crucial X6 the best budget external SSD we've tested to date.

While the X6 doesn't feature any DRAM cache, it does support features like TRIM passthrough, which isn’t always the case on cheaper USB drives and ensures that performance should be sustained in the longer term. It’s also very compact for a 2TB drive, measuring 69 x 64 x 11 mm.

Not only that, but it's light, and the Micron flash memory inside comes from one of the biggest names in the industry, which means it's a reliable little drive that should last for a long time. It's not as durable and tough as the Samsung T7 Shield, however, so if long-lasting is your aim, you might be better off looking there instead.

As for raw performance, peak write speeds are a little disappointing at 378 MB/s, as is the 12 MB/s 4K QD1 write throughput. It’s also worth noting that write performance eventually drops to 180 MB/s with sustained throughput. However, in our testing, it never dropped lower than that, even with over 50GB of sustained traffic.

If speed's your goal, you'd be better served by the WD Black P50 Game Drive. Still, when it comes to external storage, speed isn't everything, and you're likely looking for plenty of room for your files without spending a ton. Here, the Crucial X6 makes a whole lot of sense.

The Crucial X6 might not be the fastest or the toughest, but if you're in the market for a high-capacity drive in a small form factor that can tuck onto your desk or in your backpack with very little fuss, it's a good pick for not a lot of cash.

Most durable external SSD

T7 Shield on a wet table.

(Image credit: Future - Jorge Jimenez)

3. Samsung T7 Shield Portable SSD

The most durable, high speed external SSD


Storage: 1TB
Connectivity: USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C
Sequential read: 1,021 MB/s
Dimensions: 88 x 59 x 13 mm
Warranty: 3 years limited

Reasons to buy

Good transfer speeds

Reasons to avoid

Software is not all that impressive
The 2TB option is too expensive
Buy if...

✅ If you want a drive that can take a beating: If you're plan is to throw an external SSD in your backpack on a regular basis, or you think it might get wet, this external drive is overbuilt in a way that inspires confidence.

Don't buy if...

If you're just planning on keeping it on your desk: The T7 Shield is a good overall performer, so it'll do just fine. Still, if durability isn't an issue, you can get more storage for a bit less if you forgo those heavy-duty credentials.

The T7 Shield is Samsung’s portable NVMe SSD that’s about as big as a playing card. Being rated to IP65 durability, it's classified as dustproof and water resistant, meaning it's aimed at content creators who travel and, for whatever reason, might end up a little wet or with a bit of dirt on their person.

To test it, we left the SSD on my patio in the rain for a couple of hours since absent-mindedly leaving things outside feels more like a real-world situation we’d end up in. Opening, copying, and transferring files took no performance hit when testing the drive afterwards. We also dropped the T7 Shield from standing desk height a few times until satisfied with the sound of the thud, and used the drive again with no issues.

It doesn't feel flimsy when you hold it in your hand or store it in a pocket despite still being pretty light. In fact, the aluminum body covered in a rubber casing has an almost all-weather resistant feel to it.

It has a sequential read speed of 1021 MB/s and a write-speed of 896 MB/s, according to our benchmarking. More practical testing includes transferring nearly 8GBs worth of This Week In PC Gaming clips on and off the drive, which took about 6 seconds each round.

The T7 Shield is compatible with game consoles, too. Great if you're looking for a nondescript way to expand your storage. We mostly used it to keep the games I use for benchmarking laptops and PCs. But loading games like Horizon Zero Dawn from the SSD didn't present any issues, nor did were there any dips in performance after playing for about an hour. 

Plenty speedy then, although it must be said nowhere near as fast as the WD Black P50 Game Drive, which is also pretty well-protected in its durable shroud. But if durability and overall reliability are your top priorities, with decent performance as a close second, the sheer toughness of the T7 Shield wins out.

Read our full Samsung T7 Shield review.

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Where to buy

Where are the best external HDD deals?

In the US:

In the UK:

Best external SSD FAQ

Should I buy an NMVe or SATA external SSD?

Performance-wise, your choice is between a drive based on the SATA interface with a bridge to USB, or an NVMe interface, again behind a USB bridge. SATA-based USB Type-C drives top out at around 540 MB/s peak performance, while the NVMe options up the ante to a maximum of 2 GB/s.

At least they do, in theory. To achieve those peak speeds, you’ll need a USB 3.2 Gen 2 (20 Gbps) port in your PC. That’s something that remains relatively rare on motherboards and laptops and isn’t available on any console, including the Sony PlayStation 5 and Microsoft Xbox Series X. Instead, you’ll find most high-speed USB ports top out at 10 Gbps.

Indeed, it’s unlikely that USB 3.2 Gen 2 (20 Gbps) will ever become widely used. Instead, USB4 will likely take over, increasing bandwidth to 40Gbps. But the good news is that USB4 is backwards compatible with USB 3.2 Gen 2, so you'll be able to plug a super fast external SSD into that port and feel the need for speed that way.

What type of NAND flash should I go for?

Interface specification isn’t the only deciding factor when it comes to performance. Features like controller specification and the type and quality of NAND flash used are also important, though it’s not always easy to identify the finer details. Many manufacturers are reluctant to quote full specifications. For instance, drives with four-level QLC NAND memory will tend to have worse underlying performance than those with triple-layer TLC memory.

Form factor and other frills should also be part of your calculations. Some drives are built to be particularly robust; others include extras like hardware encryption, status LEDs, or even fingerprint scanners for added security. Some of those features are fairly tangential to the basic remit of providing high-performance storage space for a games library. But you might also be looking for a drive that can serve more than one role. 

Jeremy Laird
Hardware writer

Jeremy has been writing about technology and PCs since the 90nm Netburst era (Google it!) and enjoys nothing more than a serious dissertation on the finer points of monitor input lag and overshoot followed by a forensic examination of advanced lithography. Or maybe he just likes machines that go “ping!” He also has a thing for tennis and cars.