What type of external hard drive is best for gaming?

When it comes to choosing an external hard drive for gaming, there are a few key factors to consider: storage capacity, read and write speeds, portability, and durability. Gamers need a high capacity drive to store their game libraries, fast data transfer speeds to reduce load times, and durable construction to withstand being moved around and plugged in frequently. In this article, we’ll compare the best external HDDs and SSDs for gaming to help you pick the right option.

Quick Answer

For most gamers, the overall best external hard drive is the Samsung T5 SSD. With its fast read/write speeds, high capacity options up to 2TB, sleek design, and durability, it hits the sweet spot for gaming drive performance. HDDs like the WD Black P10 are a more budget-friendly option but are much slower. For max speed in a portable drive, the Seagate FireCuda 510 is the top choice.

Storage Capacity

When looking for an external drive for games, you’ll want at least 1TB of storage space. This allows you to store 25+ triple A game titles. Here are some ballpark storage requirements to give you an idea of capacity needs:

  • Small indie games: <5 GB
  • Full HD games: 25-50 GB
  • AAA titles: 50-100 GB
  • Ultimate editions: 100+ GB

Larger games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare can take up over 200GB now with all content installed. So if you play a lot of massive titles, consider 2TB or 4TB drives. On average, 1TB should cover most gamers’ needs for their rotating game library.

Recommended capacity for external gaming drives:

  • Light gamers: 500GB – 1TB
  • Moderate gamers: 1TB – 2TB
  • Serious gamers: 2TB – 4TB+

Transfer Speeds

The transfer speeds of an external drive play a big role in gaming performance. Faster read/write times mean faster loading screens and improved texture streaming in open world games. An external SSD will load games much quicker than a traditional HDD. But SSDs are more expensive per GB. The sweet spot for price and speed is an external SSD in the 500MB/s range.

External drive interface speeds:

  • Hard disk drives: Up to 200MB/s
  • USB 3.2 Gen1 (USB 3.0): Up to 625MB/s
  • USB 3.2 Gen2: Up to 10Gbps (1250MB/s)
  • USB-C 3.2 Gen2x2: Up to 20Gbps (2500MB/s)
  • Thunderbolt 3 & 4: Up to 40Gbps (5000MB/s)
  • External SSDs: Up to 1000MB/s+

As long as your drive has a USB 3.0 or USB-C interface for compatible ports on your PC, you’ll be able to take advantage of fast transfer speeds. The latest USB standards and Thunderbolt connections offer future-proofing for blazing speeds.


Gamers often bring their library of games over to friends’ houses for gaming sessions or tournaments. Some drives are more portable than others. Ideally, you want an compact, lightweight drive that you can easily fit into a bag or pocket. Look for drives that have a solid state design without moving discs or parts. Rugged, shock-resistant construction is also ideal for drives on the go.

External SSDs tend to be ultra portable since they use flash memory chips. While portable HDDs have more mechanical parts, they’ve improved in durability against drops and vibration. Also consider if the drive has its own protective casing or if you need a separate pouch.


Gaming drives take more wear and tear than standard external storage. They get plugged in and removed frequently, bounced around in bags, and used heavily during gaming marathons. Look for drives with rugged build quality and robust casings. Solid state drives typically have better durability than traditional hard drives since they lack fragile moving parts.

Features like water, dust, and shock resistance add to the drive’s lifespan. Rubber or silicone protectors around the housing absorb bumps. Metal casings withstand more abuse than plastic. Also check if the manufacturer offers decent warranty coverage like 3 years. Overall, SSDs are your safest bet for resilience during intense gaming use.

The Best External Hard Drives For Gaming

Based on the criteria above, here are our top picks for external gaming drives:

Drive Storage Interface Speed Portability Durability
Samsung T5 SSD 500GB – 2TB USB 3.1 Gen2 Up to 540MB/s Excellent Very good
WD Black P10 HDD Up to 5TB USB 3.2 Gen 1 Up to 140MB/s Good Good
Seagate FireCuda 510 SSD 500GB – 2TB USB 3.2 Gen2x2 Up to 2000MB/s Good Good
SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD 500GB – 2TB USB 3.1 Gen 2 Up to 550MB/s Excellent Very good
Silicon Power Armor A60 HDD Up to 5TB USB 3.1 Gen 1 Up to 130MB/s Good Excellent

1. Samsung T5 SSD

The Samsung T5 is the overall best choice for gaming. It hits the sweet spot of speed, capacity, and portability. With sequential read/write speeds up to 540MB/s, it loads games much faster than HDDs. The durable metal casing is available in 500GB up to 2TB. And it easily fits in your pocket. While not as fast as cutting edge drives, it has a great blend of affordability and performance.

2. WD Black P10 HDD

For cheaper bulk storage, the WD Black P10 gaming hard drive is a solid pick. It uses a 2.5 inch form factor and is bus powered for easy portability. Rugged bumpers help absorb shock if dropped. While not as fast as an SSD, the 140MB/s speeds are good for a HDD. And it goes up to 5TB for max capacity. If you need lots of storage on a budget, the P10 is a great gaming drive option.

3. Seagate FireCuda 510 SSD

As one of the fastest external SSDs around, the Seagate FireCuda 510 is perfect for max speed. It uses the cutting edge USB 3.2 Gen2x2 interface for up to 2000MB/s read/write. So you’ll see incredibly fast game launch and level load times. Capacities go up to 2TB, giving you space for your whole library. If you have a compatible USB-C port and want bleeding edge performance, the FireCuda 510 delivers.

4. SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD

SanDisk’s rugged external SSD can withstand dust, water, and 2 meter drops. The compact, lightweight design makes it super portable. Read speeds up to 550MB/s give you speedy load times. And it’s available in capacities from 500GB to 2TB. For a durable SSD you can take anywhere without worry, the SanDisk Extreme Portable is an excellent choice.

5. Silicon Power Armor A60 HDD

As one of the most durable external hard drives, the Silicon Power Armor A60 is highly shock and drop proof. It meets military standards for dust, water, and shock resistance. Cable storage right on the device makes it super portable. While not as fast as SSDs, the speeds are good for a HDD. And it provides up to 5TB capacity. For a super rugged portable hard drive, the A60 is a top pick.

Shopping Tips for Buying an External Gaming Drive

Follow this advice when shopping for an external drive to improve your gaming experience:

  • Get at least 1TB capacity for a good-sized game library.
  • USB 3.0+ interface like USB-C for current and future speed standards.
  • SSD strongly preferred over HDD for much faster load times.
  • Look for compact, lightweight designs for easy portability.
  • Check durability and drop protection if taking your drive on the go.
  • Consider Thunderbolt 3 compatible drives if you have a high-speed port.
  • Research if the drive needs separate power other than just USB.
  • Check warranty period and coverage in case of drive failure.

Maximizing Gaming Performance With Your External Drive

Once you get your new external gaming drive, here are some tips to get the most out of it for your games:

  • Connect to a USB 3.0 or faster compatible port on your gaming PC for maximum speed.
  • Use the drive to store your game libraries and launch executables.
  • Move or reinstall current games to the drive to take advantage of faster loading.
  • Turn the external drive into your default install folder for new games.
  • Defragment HDD drives occasionally to optimize game file storage.
  • Uninstall old games you no longer play to free up extra space.
  • Use your drive’s management software to monitor drive health.
  • Keep drive firmware and software updated to latest versions.

With your games running off a speedy external drive, you’ll see big improvements in initial load times, level loading, and texture streaming. Just be sure not to disconnect the drive while actively gaming or it could corrupt data.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are external hard drives good for gaming?

Yes, external drives are an excellent way to add more storage space for games. They can store your entire game library for quick access. Load times will improve over the internal hard drive. And they allow you to bring games to friends’ houses easily.

Can you run games directly from an external drive?

Yes, you can install and run games directly from an external hard drive or SSD. Just make sure to connect it to a high speed USB 3.0+ port. The game performance will be dependent on the speed of the external drive.

Do pro gamers use external drives?

Pro gamers often use external SSD drives for extra storage and improved game loading performance. Top esports players want super fast load times to start matches as quickly as possible. An external SSD gives them expanded capacity and speed.

Should I use an external HDD or SSD for gaming?

SSDs are strongly recommended over HDDs for gaming. The solid state drives have much faster read/write speeds, which improves game load times significantly. They are also more portable and durable than mechanical hard drives. SSDs do cost more per gigabyte but provide a better gaming experience.

How do I choose an external drive for gaming?

For gaming, you’ll want a minimum of 1TB capacity along with fast transfer speeds, usually with an external SSD. Check the interface like USB 3.2 Gen2x2 for the latest standards. Also consider the portability and durability if you’ll take the drive on the go. An external SSD hits the optimal balance for gaming performance.

The Bottom Line

Boosting your gaming setup with an external drive allows you to store plenty of games and improves loading times. For the best gaming experience, choose an external SSD over a hard drive. Look for drives with USB 3.0 minimum and capacities of at least 1TB. Features like compact size and durability also help when taking your games on the go. With the right external drive, you can supercharge your gaming storage for fast access to your entire library.