What is the most reliable SSD external hard drive?

External SSD (solid state drive) hard drives have grown in popularity in recent years as a portable storage solution. They provide a number of benefits over traditional external HDD (hard disk drive) storage, including faster read/write speeds, better durability and portability, and silent operation. However, with the higher cost of SSD storage, reliability becomes an important consideration when choosing an external SSD drive for critical data backups or frequently accessed files. Choosing a model from a reputable brand and one that has been properly tested can give peace of mind that your data will remain secure and accessible on an SSD drive.



What Makes an SSD External Drive Reliable

There are several key factors that impact the reliability of an external SSD drive:

NAND Type – The type of NAND flash memory used affects durability. Higher-end SSDs use MLC or TLC NAND which offers 10x more write cycles than cheaper TLC NAND. MLC and TLC NAND is more reliable for frequent writing and rewriting of data [1].

Controller – The SSD controller manages all read/write operations. A quality controller with advanced firmware algorithms can optimize performance, extend lifespan, and prevent data loss. Models with controllers from brands like Phison and Silicon Motion are generally more reliable [1].

DRAM Cache – The DRAM cache buffers data so it doesn’t have to write directly to NAND cells as frequently. More DRAM cache improves speed and longevity of the SSD.

Firmware – The SSD firmware has a big impact on reliability. Newer firmware versions fix bugs and optimize drive operations. Models that allow firmware updates will have better long-term reliability.

Compatibility – External SSDs with wide compatibility across operating systems and devices tend to be more reliable in real-world use.

Focusing on these technical factors when selecting an external SSD model can help maximize reliability and durability.

[1] https://www.zdnet.com/article/are-ssds-more-reliable-than-hdds-this-research-may-have-the-answer/

Top Reliable SSD Brands

When looking for the most reliable SSD external hard drive, it’s important to consider the reputation and track record of the brand. According to experts, some of the top brands known for reliable SSDs include:

  • Samsung: One of the market leaders in SSD technology, Samsung SSDs are known for fast performance and reliability. Their high-end models like the T7 are frequently recommended.
  • Western Digital: WD produces a range of excellent external SSDs, including the My Passport SSD which consistently ranks as one of the most dependable.
  • SanDisk: Owned by WD, SanDisk offers popular SSD options like the Extreme Portable SSD with impressive durability.
  • Crucial: A well-respected brand, Crucial’s external SSDs like the X8 provide top-notch reliability and speed.

When evaluating SSD brands, factors like track record, warranty coverage, controller technology, and real-world testing feedback should be considered. Sticking with reputable names known for rigorous reliability standards is advised.

Reliability Testing Methodology

Reliability testing is key for determining how durable and dependable an SSD will be over time. Some important methods for testing SSD reliability include:

Stress testing – This involves testing SSDs under extreme conditions like high temperatures, vibration, and humidity. The goal is to identify any weak points or flaws in the design. Products that hold up well demonstrate better reliability.

Endurance testing – SSDs are subjected to extensive read/write cycles over a long duration to test longevity. The amount of data written before failure indicates real-world endurance.

Compatibility testing – SSDs are tested across many systems, OS versions, and configurations to verify broad compatibility and minimize issues. Models that work seamlessly in more setups will have better reliability.

Key criteria for judging SSD reliability are longevity, durability under stress, consistency between drives, and compatibility. High-quality drives will exceed minimum standards on these metrics based on rigorous testing. By understanding the testing methodology, consumers can better evaluate true SSD reliability.

Most Reliable Models

Based on extensive testing and reviews from sources like PCMag and CNET, the most reliable consumer SSD models for 2020 are:

Samsung SSD T5 (https://www.pcmag.com/reviews/samsung-portable-ssd-t5). The Samsung T5 is consistently rated as one of the fastest and most durable portable SSDs. It has read/write speeds up to 540MB/s, password protection and AES 256-bit hardware encryption. Reviews praise its light, durable metal body.

WD My Passport SSD (https://www.cnet.com/reviews/wd-my-passport-ssd-2020-review/). WD’s My Passport SSD is a top choice for its fast 400MB/s transfer speeds, compact design and affordability. It’s shock and vibration resistant. The included software allows password protection and 256AES encryption.

SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD (https://www.pcmag.com/reviews/sandisk-extreme-portable-ssd). The ruggedized SanDisk Extreme has up to 1050MB/s read and 1000MB/s write speeds. It has an IP55 rating for dust and water resistance, and a rubber bumper for drop protection up to 6.5 feet.

Tips for Maximizing Reliability

There are several steps you can take to maximize the reliability and lifespan of an external SSD drive:

  • Use a quality cable – Make sure to use a high-quality USB 3.0 or USB-C cable to connect your SSD. Lower quality cables can lead to connectivity issues and data transfer problems. Choose an appropriately short cable length.
  • Proper ejection – Always safely eject the external SSD before unplugging it from your computer. Improperly ejecting the drive can lead to file corruption and write errors.
  • Allow airflow – Avoid keeping the SSD in cramped, hot spaces which can cause overheating. Allow space for airflow around the drive.
  • Regular backups – Maintain backups of your data on a separate device. This protects your data in case of SSD failure.
  • Update firmware – Check for and install firmware updates for your SSD which include bug fixes and performance improvements. Keep firmware up-to-date.

Following these best practices helps avoid conditions that negatively impact SSD health and lifespan. Proactively maintaining your external SSD leads to more reliable long-term performance.[1]

Signs of SSD Failure

SSD drives can exhibit several warning signs before completely failing. Being aware of these symptoms can help you take action to recover data before it’s lost and potentially fix issues.

One common early sign is the appearance of bad blocks. Bad blocks are sections of storage space that can no longer reliably store data due to physical damage or corruption. They may cause read or write errors, or make certain files inaccessible.[1] Bad blocks indicate the SSD is beginning to deteriorate.

As more blocks go bad, you may notice slower performance. Operations like booting up or loading applications and files will take longer. This decline in speed is another red flag that failure could be imminent.[2]

File corruption is also common. You may find files disappearing or becoming unreadable. Data corruption tends to increase as more blocks fail. The SSD may also crash or freeze frequently as corruption interferes with basic operations.[3]

Catching these early signs gives you a chance to act before catastrophic failure. But if you ignore the warnings, the SSD could stop working entirely, making data recovery difficult or impossible.

Data Recovery Options When an SSD Fails

If an SSD fails or data becomes inaccessible, there are a few options to try recovering the data:

DIY data recovery software like EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard allows you to attempt recovering data yourself. This software can work with both external and internal SSD drives. The advantage of DIY software is it’s inexpensive compared to professional services. However, success rates may be lower for severe SSD failures. DIY recovery works best for simple logical failures.

For more severe SSD failure cases, professional data recovery services like DriveSavers may have higher success rates. Professional recovery can physically repair drives and recover data from advanced failures like controller damage. The downside is the high cost, often $500-2000+. But for critical data, professional recovery offers the best chance of getting data back.

As a last resort, data recovery companies may attempt chip-off recovery, physically removing storage chips from a damaged SSD to read the raw data. This is extremely expensive but sometimes the only option.

To maximize the chances of recovery, it’s recommended to stop using a failed SSD immediately and contact a professional service promptly if DIY software cannot recover the data.

Alternatives to SSDs

While SSDs are known for their speed, durability, and reliability compared to traditional hard disk drives (HDDs), there are some alternatives worth considering depending on your storage needs:

HDDs tend to be cheaper per gigabyte compared to SSDs. They have larger capacities available, making them a good option for mass storage of data that doesn’t need fast access speeds. However, HDDs have moving parts making them less durable and more prone to failure from shock or vibration. A portable external HDD could be an alternative for backups or archiving large amounts of data.

USB flash drives offer a compact and affordable option for transferring and accessing smaller amounts of data. Modern USB drives are fairly durable and provide decent speeds. But their capacities are limited compared to SSDs and HDDs. Flash drives work well for transferring files between devices or as secondary backup storage.

Cloud storage services allow you to access your data from anywhere with an internet connection. Providers like Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud offer generous free tiers and paid plans with abundant capacity. Cloud backup helps prevent data loss if a local drive fails. But constant internet access is required and uploads/downloads can be slow.

For quick system boots, program launches, and file transfers, SSDs are hard to beat. But HDDs, flash drives, and the cloud may better suit certain budgets and use cases. Understanding their trade-offs can help choose the right external storage.



When selecting an external SSD, reliability should be the top priority. Some brands consistently score higher in long-term testing, like Samsung and SanDisk. Models like the Samsung T7 and SanDisk Extreme Pro have proven their dependability through rigorous stress testing.

No storage drive lasts forever though. Make sure to frequently backup your data, either to a second external drive or a cloud backup service. Backups ensure you can recover quickly from any potential SSD failures down the road.

For most users, the Samsung T7 or WD My Passport SSD provide the best blend of reliability, performance and value. But power users may want to invest in the unmatched speeds of the Samsung X5 Thunderbolt 3 drive. Just be prepared to pay a premium.

In the end, regularly backing up your data provides the best protection against any external SSD failures. With a sound backup strategy, you can confidently store important files on a high-quality SSD without worry. Just be sure to choose a reputable brand and frequently verify the integrity of your backups.