Can I use external SSD for editing?

An external SSD (Solid State Drive) is a portable storage device that uses flash memory and has no moving parts, unlike traditional hard disk drives. External SSDs connect to computers and devices through USB, Thunderbolt, or other interfaces. They provide ultra-fast data transfer speeds, durability, small size, and lightweight portability compared to HDDs.

External SSDs function similarly to internal SSDs in that data is stored on NAND flash memory chips rather than magnetic platters like in HDDs. However, external SSDs are powered through their interface cable rather than an internal power supply. Their flash memory provides faster read/write speeds, better reliability, silent operation, and resistance to shock compared to external HDDs.

With their speed, durability, and compact size, external SSDs are ideal for activities like photo/video editing, gaming, backing up data, expanding limited internal storage on laptops/desktops, and more. Their portability also allows transporting or accessing large files across multiple devices conveniently.

Benefits of Using External SSDs for Editing

External SSDs offer several advantages over internal SSDs and HDDs for video editing:

Speed: Modern external SSDs with Thunderbolt 3 or USB 3.1 Gen 2 can deliver fast read/write speeds, often over 500 MB/s. This is crucial for handling high resolution video files smoothly. While internal SSDs may be slightly faster, the difference is usually marginal (source:

Portability: Since external SSDs don’t require installation, they can easily be transported and used across different machines. This makes them ideal for on-location editing. Their small size and shock resistance also adds to their portability.

Durability: With no moving parts, external SSDs are more durable and resistant to damage from drops or vibrations compared to traditional HDDs. Their solid state design makes them suitable for editing on the go (source:

Minimum Requirements

To effectively edit video files from an external SSD, there are some minimum requirements to ensure proper performance:

The external SSD should have a USB 3.0 connection or newer, like USB 3.1 Gen 2 or USB-C. USB 3.0 provides a maximum bandwidth of 5 Gbps, compared to just 480 Mbps for USB 2.0. This is critical for smooth playback and rendering of high bitrate 4K/8K footage [1].

In terms of capacity, the external SSD should have at least 250-500 GB of storage. Video files take up significant space, especially 4K/8K projects. You’ll want sufficient room for the original media, rendered previews, and exports [2].

For read/write speeds, the external SSD should support at least 400 MB/s sequential read and write. This allows fast scrubbing through footage and reduces render times. Some editors recommend at least 550 MB/s for optimum performance [1].

Recommended Specs

When selecting an external SSD for video editing, there are a few key specifications to look for:

Storage: For 4K video editing, a minimum capacity of 1TB is recommended. However, 2TB or higher is ideal for storing large video files and archives[1].

Interface: Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 offers the fastest speeds, up to 2500-2800MB/s. USB 3.2 Gen 2 and USB-C are also good options, with speeds up to 10Gbps[2].

Read/Write Speeds: For 4K editing, a minimum sequential read/write speed of 500MB/s is required. For 8K video, look for sequential speeds of 1000MB/s or higher. For large project files, higher speeds like 2000MB/s+ help improve workflow and responsiveness[1].

IOPS: Higher random read/write speeds measured in IOPS also boost performance when working with multiple media files. Look for drives with IOPS of 1000+ for optimal experience.

Top External SSDs for Editing

When choosing an external SSD for video editing, you’ll want one that has fast transfer speeds, durability, and reliability. Here are some of the top options:

The Samsung T5 and Samsung T7 portable SSDs are great choices that offer read speeds up to 1050 MB/s and write speeds around 1000 MB/s. They come in 500GB to 2TB capacities and feature a sleek, compact design with metal construction. According to testing by PCMag, the T7 is one of the fastest external SSDs available.

The WD My Passport SSD is another solid option, with reported speeds of up to 1050 MB/s read and 1000 MB/s write. It’s available in capacities from 500GB to 4TB. My Passport drives are also shock and vibration resistant. In their roundup, PCMag found it provided fast performance for the price.

For a rugged, durable external SSD, the SanDisk Extreme Pro is a great choice. It has read speeds up to 1050 MB/s and is IP55-rated for dust and water resistance. The compact, rubberized shell helps protect it from bumps or drops. PCMag rated it highly for its combination of performance, build quality, and reasonable price point.

Setting up and Using External SSDs

Setting up an external SSD for video editing is straightforward, but there are a few steps involved:


Connect the external SSD to your computer using a high-speed interface like Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.1 Gen 2, or USB-C. Avoid using older, slower USB standards as they can bottleneck transfer speeds.


Once connected, format the external SSD to a compatible file system like exFAT, APFS (Mac), or NTFS (Windows). Formatting erases any existing data and optimizes the drive for use.

Transferring Files

After formatting, you can begin transferring your video files and editing projects over to the external SSD. For large file transfers, use the native file copying tools in your OS instead of drag-and-drop. Be sure to eject the drive safely when done.

Per best practices, store only current editing projects and files on the external SSD. Keep your original media and long-term archives on a separate HDD or network storage.

With everything set up properly, you can edit directly from the external SSD for a much faster workflow. Just make sure it’s connected whenever launching your editing software.

Maximizing Performance

There are a few key tips for maximizing the performance of your external SSD to achieve faster transfer speeds and overall responsiveness:

First, make sure your SSD is connected to a USB 3.0 or higher port. USB 3.0 provides speeds up to 5 Gbps, while USB 2.0 tops out at just 480 Mbps. Connecting to a USB 2.0 port will significantly limit transfer speeds.

Second, use the cable that came with your SSD. Lower quality cables can bottleneck performance. Using the manufacturer-provided cable ensures maximum throughput.

Additionally, try connecting your SSD directly to a USB port on your computer rather than through a USB hub. Hubs can affect power delivery and cause performance issues.

You can also enable write caching on your SSD if supported. Write caching improves write speeds by buffering data before committing it to storage. Just make sure to safely eject the SSD before unplugging it to avoid data loss.

Finally, keep your SSD firmware and drivers up to date for performance improvements and bug fixes. The manufacturer may periodically release new firmware versions that can help optimize your drive.

If you are still experiencing slow speeds, you can try reformatting your SSD. A fresh format clears out any fragmented data and ensures proper alignment for maximum throughput.

By following these tips, you can get the fastest speeds possible from your external SSD on both Windows and Mac machines.

Security Considerations

When using external SSDs for video editing, it’s important to take security into account. Since you’ll likely be storing sensitive client data and unfinished projects on the drive, encryption and backups are crucial.

Look for SSDs that offer hardware-level encryption like AES 256-bit to protect your data in case the drive is lost or stolen. Software encryption through BitLocker (Windows) or FileVault (Mac) is also highly recommended for added security. If the software encryption is not available to you, use third party software for disk encryption and password protection on the drive (Source).

Regularly backing up your external SSD is vital to avoid losing your work and client’s data. Consider using backup software like Time Machine (Mac) or File History (Windows) to automatically back up changed files onto a secondary external drive. You can also manually backup important project folders periodically. Storing a copy of backups offsite or in the cloud provides protection if your external SSD and computer are both lost or damaged.

Following encryption and backup best practices will ensure your valuable video editing work and client data remains secure on external SSD storage.

Troubleshooting Issues

External SSDs can provide great performance benefits for video editing, but sometimes issues can arise that impact speed or result in errors. Here are some common problems and solutions when using an external SSD for editing:

Slow scrubbing/playback – This is often caused by the video codec or drive formatting. Try transcoding footage to an editing-friendly codec like ProRes or DNxHD. Also make sure the drive is formatted properly for optimal performance.

Random disconnections – Check the cable connections and try different ports/cables. Also make sure other USB devices aren’t interfering. If issues persist, try updating SSD firmware or editing software.

Export failures – Verify all drives have sufficient free space. Fragmentation on the external SSD can also cause issues, so try defragmenting the drive.

Permission errors – Check the drive is formatted as APFS or NTFS. ExFAT and FAT32 have known permission issues. Reformatting as APFS typically resolves this.

Corrupted files – Sudden disconnection during transfers can corrupt footage. Avoid disconnecting while working, use the “eject” function, and keep backups in case files need to be replaced.

By troubleshooting connectivity, drive formatting, fragmentation, permissions, and disk space issues, most problems with external SSDs can be easily resolved. Checking forums like Reddit can also provide tips from users experiencing similar problems.


Using an external SSD for video editing can provide significant benefits over traditional hard drives, including faster read/write speeds, better reliability, and easier portability. However, SSDs require meeting minimum system requirements and proper setup to reach optimal performance.

The key factors when selecting an external SSD for editing are read/write speeds, connection interfaces like Thunderbolt 3 or USB 3.2, and physical durability. Models like the Samsung T7 Touch and WD My Passport SSD offer a good balance of speed, portability, and affordability.

To recap, an external SSD can boost editing workflows by reducing rendering times and lags when working with high-resolution footage. Just be sure to invest in a high-quality SSD, properly configure it to maintain maximum speeds, and implement precautions to prevent data loss. With the right SSD, you can gain significant time savings and convenience when editing videos.