Are External SSD’s Worth It?

By Tim Chesonis •  Updated: 01/23/19 •  9 min read

External SSD drives have been out for a few years now. They and are incredibly fast, durable, very quiet, and are super convenient both in the work place and for students alike.  But are external SSD drives worth it?

If speed, flexibility, durability, gaming, or if multi-tasking is important too you, then purchasing an external SSD (Solid State Drive), is absolutely worth it.  It will save you a lot of time, and in the long run, it will save you money, given how long solid-state drives last.

Newer external SSD’s now have USB-C which just makes everything faster.  You can just get so much more done.  I’m going to show you just how fast these USB drives are and offer several uses for them.  I’ll even show you what I did with an external SSD drive to cause my 2012 MacBook boot up in 19 seconds flat!

External SSD Drives Are Ridiculously Fast

To begin, let’s talk about speed.  One reason why they are so fast is because they have no moving parts, which as an aside, is also why they are so quiet.  They are like larger USB drives, but even faster.

If you were to take a new external SSD drive and mount it as your primary hard drive on your computer, you would see all of the following benefits:

I can now boot to my desktop in 19 seconds flat!

This is exactly what I did.  I purchased an external SSD drive, (Samsung 850 EVO 250GB 2.5-Inch SATA III Internal SSD).  I then removed the CD-ROM from my 2012 Macbook Pro and mounted this external SSD drive into my Macbook Pro.  Then I installed Mac OSX on it, along with all of my applications.  I now use the internal 500gb HHD drive, (the mechanical hard drive), as a backup drive to store files and documents.

The results?  As mentioned earlier, I can boot to a desktop in 19 seconds flat.  Applications launch faster on this 2012 Macbook Pro than they do on new Macbook Pro’s that are 6 years newer!

External SSD Drives are Incredibly Flexible

There are several uses for external SSD drives.  For example, you could use an external SSD for any one of the following:

SSD drives are Great for Video editing

For College students who major in Digital Media, an external (portable) SSD drive is absolutely essential. Professors require their students to get one to use for their classes. They can bring their work to class on the SSD drive and take it with them on that same drive to work on it outside of class. The same applies to those who do video editing for work. You can take your work with you, wherever you go, and perhaps use a desktop computer as the backup location for your work.

Mount the SSD as your Primary Hard Drive

As already discussed, you can take an external SSD drive and replace your existing HHD (mechanical hard drive). Install your operating system and all of your applications directly on the drive itself. This will cause your computer to boot up in record time, (seconds, not minutes), and will your applications will launch so much faster. If you are not comfortable doing this yourself, take it to BestBuy and have them do it for you. They might even do it for free if you buy the SSD drive from them.

SSD Drives are Great for Gaming

Gamers love external SSD drives because they can take their games with them and run them from a computer or their favorite gaming platform.

Store large Photoshop or Autocad files

The time that it takes to save a large file is now shorter than ever, thanks to SSD drives. With a portable SSD drive, you can now store your files and take them home with you, or to work. You no longer have to lug that heavy laptop around with you. Simply save your files to a portable SSD drive and you are set.

Back up your Entire Computer

With an external SSD, you can use it as a “Time Machine” backup drive for your Mac. You can also backup your entire Windows computer on it.

One nice thing I like about about using an external SSD drive is that it can be used for just about anything you throw at it. I also love that you can take it with you wherever you go.

Durability is Not Something You Need to Worry About

External SSD drives are great for college students.  They tend to be rough on technology, as you an easily imagine them throwing their external SSD in their backpack, which of course, they drop on the floor any time they enter a room.

When I refer to “durability”, I’m referring to how rugged the SSD drive is.  For example, not that I recommend doing this often, but you could drop an external SSD drive to the floor from chest height.  If you ever did that with a traditional HDD drive, (mechanical drive), you could kiss all your hard work goodbye as it would surely die immediately.

Believe it or not, an external SDD can even withstand the washing machine!  Though it is not officially supported by SanDisk, this user took her SanDisk Extreme 500 Portable SSD and through it in the washing machine, and after she ran her load of laundry, it worked without issue.

External SSD Drives Were Designed for Multi-Tasking

SSDs can transfer data between 300mb/s – 40gb/s, depending on the drive in question, of course. Traditional hard drives, (HDD’s), are much slower, offering anywhere between 20mb/s – 220mb/s.

When using an SSD, you no longer wait on the computer, it waits on you.

Clearly video editors want to do all of their editing on an SSD. It just gets the job done faster, and it doesn’t “tie up the computer”. You can do other things at the same time.

With speed comes the ability to multi-task. For example, while that 20 minute video is rendering in Adobe Premier Pro, you could scan your computer for viruses, or back up your data while launching other apps to work on, or perhaps while playing a game.

It should be noted that when you use an SSD, multi-tasking is very do-able, but remember the more tasks you tell it to complete, the more it will bog down the drive. Even so, an SSD drive is still WAY faster than the traditional mechanical HDD drive, and I would much rather accomplish those tasks on an SSD drive than I would using an HDD drive.

Gamers Can Leverage External SSD Drives

Owning an External SSD is essential to Gaming on the PC. Ask a gamer what is the most annoying thing about today’s games, and you will get one of two answers:

  1. The graphics suck
  2. The time it takes for games to load

With the external SSD drives today, (USB-3 at a minimum, but preferably USB-C), you can take the external SSD and easily plug it into the front of your Playstation 4, format the drive and use it as external storage for all your games.  Now you can download even more games and run them directly from your external SSD drive.

But gaming is obviously not just limited to Playstation. Many people play games on their PC’s because its convenient. Instead of installing your games to the C:\ drive, you can install them to your external SSD drive and play them directly from the SSD drive, . . . or take the SSD drive with you to work and play them there 🙂

Kids will love saving games to their SSD drive so that they can take their games with them to their friend’s house and play, regardless of the gaming platform.

Are External SSD’s Worth the Price?

We have just covered all that one can do with an external SSD drive, and I’ve offered several practical ways in which you could benefit from having one. But even so, are they worth it?

Back in 1987 when the the 1.44 mb floppy disks first came out, it would only hold 1.44 megabytes per disk. It would take 711 floppy disks to equal 1 gigabyte. 1,000 gigabytes is a Terabyte, and today, you can buy a SanDisk 1TB Extreme Portable External SSD – USB-C, USB 3.1, hard drive for about $85 USD.

HDD drives are less expensive by far, but they are also slower . . . by far. External SSD drives are extremely convenient and will save you a LOT of time, and can help you be far more productive than you otherwise would. Is it worth it? Overwhelmingly so.

Where can I Buy an External SSD Drive
You can buy an external SSD drive at any computer store. Amazon has great prices and reviews, however, gamers might want to consider “The Best SSD for Gaming“.

What Brands Should I Consider?
It is highly recommended that you stick to brand names that have a good reputation such as Samsung, Crucial, Western Digital, Mushkin, or Gigabyte when considering purchasing an external SSD drive.

When Were External SSD Drives first Released?
In 1991, SanDisk Corporation offered the first SSD drive, which only had a capacity of 20 MB and sold for around $1,000.

Tim Chesonis

Tim has been helping people with computers needs for several years, and he loves to help people succeed. He brings a wealth of wisdom and insight from an entrepreneur's perspective and enjoys freelance writing. In fact, when he's not writing an article, you might find him binge-watching Suits or formatting his computer . . . again, just for fun. To learn more about Tim, click here.