Are portable SSDs good for gaming?

Portable solid-state drives (SSDs) are becoming an increasingly popular option for gamers who want fast external storage they can take with them anywhere. But are portable SSDs actually good for gaming? There are several key factors to consider.


One of the main benefits of portable SSDs for gaming is their fast data transfer speeds compared to traditional external hard drives. SSDs have much faster read/write times due to their lack of moving parts.

While a portable hard drive typically maxes out at around 120MB/s read/write, portable SSDs can reach speeds upwards of 500MB/s or more depending on the model and interface. This makes them much better suited for gaming applications where fast loading times are essential.

Higher-end portable SSDs with USB 3.2 Gen2x2 or Thunderbolt 3/4 interfaces can reach sequential read/write speeds over 1000MB/s. This approaches the speeds of internal SSDs connected directly via PCIe.

Size and Portability

Thanks to the use of flash memory instead of mechanical platters, portable SSDs are much smaller and lighter than portable hard drives. Top portable SSDs have enclosures built from aluminum or other metals that make them highly durable and resistant to drops or shocks.

A high-capacity portable SSD can be smaller than a smartphone while offering 1TB or more capacity. And some SSDs with USB-C connectors don’t even need a cable – the connector tucks right into the housing for true portability.

This compact size and lack of moving parts makes portable SSDs ideal for carrying your game library anywhere without worry. Whether heading to a LAN party or playing on the go, you can bring your games without taking up much space.


The capacities of portable SSDs continue to grow, making them viable external storage options even for large game libraries. It’s now easy to find portable SSDs offering 2TB or even 4TB of storage from brands like Samsung and SanDisk.

While this still falls short of the capacities offered by mechanical external hard drives, it’s enough to store 50+ AAA games at an average install size of 35GB per game. Careful management of your library or storing only your currently played games can make even 1TB work.


Thanks to the lack of moving parts and shock-absorbing materials used in their enclosures, portable SSDs are far more durable than hard drives when taken on the go. They are much more resistant to drops, vibrations, dust, temperature extremes, and other environmental threats.

This ruggedness makes them ideal choices as external storage you’ll be carrying around frequently for gaming. While portable hard drives are prone to failure from shocks, SSDs can handle most abuse gamers will throw their way.


Modern portable SSDs use standardized connectors like USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 to provide universal compatibility with PCs and consoles. Most can connect to Windows, Mac, PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One/Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, Android devices, and more.

So long as your device has a USB-C port or you use an appropriate cable adapter, you can connect a portable SSD without compatibility issues. This means you can use the same SSD on all your platforms for gaming.

Heat and Power Consumption

Unlike hard drives that get hot to the touch during long gaming sessions, portable SSDs stay relatively cool. The lack of moving parts and efficient flash memory chips means minimal power draw and heat generation.

This allows using portable SSDs without worrying about added heat in your console or gaming laptop. And lower power needs mean portable SSDs only need a simple USB connection for power and operation.

Encryption and Security

Data security is crucial, especially for portable storage devices that could be lost or stolen. Many portable SSDs now include hardware encryption to protect your data at rest with no performance hit.

AES encryption with 256-bit keys scrambles the data on the drive to make it unreadable without the password. This gives you peace of mind if your SSD ends up in the wrong hands.


The main downside of portable SSDs currently is their higher cost per gigabyte compared to hard drives. While 1TB portable hard drives can be found for $40-$50, a 1TB SSD will cost around $80-$150 depending on speed, brand, etc.

However, prices continue to fall. And the benefits in speed, size, durability, and compatibility make portable SSDs worth the extra cost over hard drives for many gamers. Considering you can reuse a portable SSD across multiple platforms over years, the value proposition makes sense.

Game Load Times

One of the biggest impacts of using a portable SSD for gaming is faster load times. The chart below compares sample game load times from a portable HDD versus a SATA SSD.

Game HDD Load Time SSD Load Time
Red Dead Redemption 2 1 minute 20 seconds 55 seconds
Final Fantasy XV 1 minute 10 seconds 42 seconds
Monster Hunter World 2 minutes 30 seconds 1 minute 15 seconds

As you can see, switching from a 5400 RPM portable hard drive to a SATA SSD cuts load times by nearly half on average. The savings are even bigger on large open-world games. NVMe SSDs can further reduce load times by 20-30% over SATA SSDs.

Game Storage Size Requirements

Another consideration is how large modern games are. Many popular titles require anywhere from 30GB to over 100GB of storage space. A portable SSD needs sufficient capacity to fit the games you want installed. Here are some example install sizes:

Game Install Size
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019) 101GB
Red Dead Redemption 2 88GB
Forza Horizon 5 81GB
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey 46GB

As you can see, even at 1TB capacity, a portable SSD can only hold around 10-20 AAA titles. So you’ll need to manage your library by only installing current titles or adding a large microSD card for Switch.


Portable SSDs provide gamers with the ideal blend of speed, size and durability in an external storage device. Their rapid transfer rates translate to much faster game load times compared to HDDs while their compact build allows easy portability.

While SSD prices are still higher than hard drives, the extra speed and quality are worthwhile for serious gamers. A 1TB portable SSD gives sufficient capacity for a small game library and can be reused across all your gaming devices.


In summary, portable SSDs are excellent options for gaming usage thanks to:

  • Blazing fast transfer speeds up to 1000MB/s
  • Small and durable design perfect for portability
  • Enough capacity for most gamers at 1-2TB
  • Faster load times that improve gameplay experience
  • Universal compatibility with all major gaming platforms

A portable SSD combines the ideal features for transporting and playing your games anywhere. While still more expensive than HDDs, portable SSD prices are now reasonable enough for most gamers to make the switch.

Fast, portable, and dependable, a high-quality portable SSD is one of the best investments you can make to improve your gaming experience. The boost to load times alone is worthwhile. With large game installs only getting bigger, a portable SSD is becoming a necessity to quickly access your library on the go.