Advantages of portable or external SSD drives

WD My Passport Portable SSD 1TB with NVMe Technology, USB-C, Read Speeds of up to 1050MB/s & Write Speeds of up to 1000MB/s. Works with PC, Xbox, PlayStation
WD My Passport Portable SSD 1TB with NVMe Technology, USB-C, Read Speeds of up to 1050MB/s & Write Speeds of up to 1000MB/s. Works with PC, Xbox, PlayStation

Not so long ago internal and external SSD drives were of very low capacities and considerably more expensive compared to internal and external mechanical hard disk drives (HDDs).

Way back in 2005, I bought a new external Seagate HDD with a capacity of 500GB  for £50, which I still use. Now for £56 (in February 2022), you can buy a Crucial CT500X6SSD9 X6 500GB Portable SSD – Up to 540 MB/s – USB 3.2 – USB-C – External Solid State Drive.  The WD My Passport SSDs with twice that capacity (1TB), showing in the the image at the top of this page, were selling for £120 in February 2022.

External SSD drives twenty times faster than external hard disk drives

The very high speeds over the USB 3.2 or USB-C interfaces provide the major advantage of portable or external SSD drives. They can write up to 10 times faster and read data up to 20 times faster than external HDDs. Note that USB-C does not use any specific USB speed. USB-C is a specific type of cable that can support anything from USB2 to the latest USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 connection speeds. In short, the speed of USB-C depends on the type of USB-C cable.

External SSD Prices

In February 2022, these were the prices on Amazon of a “SanDisk Extreme PRO USB 3.2 Solid State Flash Drive” – 128GB – £50 – 256GB – £90 – 512GB – £180 – 1TB – £360. Amazon is the probably the best source of the latest competitive pricing information.

Using external SSD drives saves time

So, if you transfer very large amounts of data to storage or in making backups to external drives,  using a portable or external SSD would save you plenty of time. Moreover, a vital activity that takes a long time is often left undone. If the same activity takes a few minutes, it is not a bind and is therefore less likely to be put off.

The far greater durability of external SSD drives

Mechanical External hard disk drives (HDDs) are designed to be more durable than the internal HDDs that desktop PCs use.  Being heavier than external SSDs, dropping or even giving external HDDs a good knock can make them stop from working, perhaps making the data inaccessible and requiring expensive professional repair and/or data recovery.  On the other hand, SSDs are much lighter, purely electronic devices that have no moving parts. As such, rendering the data inaccessible would take a great deal of mistreatment and damage.

External SSD drives compared to USB flash drives

Apparently, most SSDs undergoing relatively normal use should last many decades. That is, should outlast most of the computers that are using them.  If the use is particularly intensive, the write lifespan of an SSD would be lower than for normal use, depending on just how intensive the writing to it is. In any case, when an SSD can no longer write data, it becomes a read-only device. allowing its data to be read.

I have yet to have an internal SATA or M.2 NVMe SSD fail on me or, for that matter, anyone else I know.  That can’t be said of my experience of external SSDs because I don’t own one and won’t while I still have external HDDs. Unfortunately, I have lost two USB flash drives that just stopped working for no reason.

Both external SSDs and flash drives use flash memory

Both external SSD drives and USB flash drives use USB connections and flash memory, but most SSDs use a DRAM cache to speed up the delivery of common data. Because DRAM does not wear out in the same way that flash memory does, the wear on an SSD’s flash memory will be significantly less, thereby extending the life of the drive, which, as I wrote earlier, is already pretty long.

USB external SSD drives work with laptop and desktop PCs, PlayStations, tablets and most smartphones that provide a USB connection.

Also take into account that flash drives are much easier to lose and harder to find. Who hasn’t lost several flash drives that may have gone through a washing cycle, fallen from a pocket, left in other computers or accidentally kicked out of a USB socket at the front of a computer’s case? – It is highly unlikely but not impossible that any external SSD has met that kind of fate.

External SSD drives provide a higher level of security

As long as you disconnect an external SSD drive from its computer(s) and keep it in a secure place, such as a fire-proof safe, its data will be secure. That is not necessarily the case with data that you store on services in the cloud, which are hacked on a regular basis. To make the device even more secure than that, password protect and encrypt its data. Note that some external SSD drives provide an additional biometric measure, such a fingerprint sensor. – For highly valuable data, always use as many security features and backups as possible.

Using external SSD drives does not require accessing data over the Internet

The insane largely unfounded obsession the West has with attaining net zero carbon-dioxide omissions on top of the equally insane lockdown measures are already bringing huge increases in energy and food prices and no doubt will bring power outages that could last for long periods in which you won’t be able to access your data in the cloud. Either because your own power is down or the cloud services you depend on are themselves having power outages. Therefore, you must have backups and data stored on your computers and on external drives. Of course, to access your data during a power outage requires having a computer that gets its power from a generator or that is a laptop with sufficient charge in its battery.

Is using one or more external SSD drives essential?

In my opinion, you should not only have one or more external SSD drives, in these most uncertain of times, you should also invest in one or more electricity generators.

The WD My Passport SSDs with twice that capacity (1TB), showing in the the image at the top of this page, were selling for £120 in February 2022. The prices of cloud storage of 1TB/2TB, paid annually or monthly, varies wildly from free to hundreds of pounds or dollars. Of course, you should investigate free high-capacity cloud storage because it could involve unsatisfactory conditions or be a rip-off of some kind. I used to use a free cloud account from Dropbox until one day I had to use a backup only to find that I could not access it because accessing my account a couple of times from more than one computer was not possible from a free account.

USB adapters

Not all computers provide a USB-C connection port, so some recent external HDD and external SSD drives come with USB-C adapters that enable connection to the earlier USB 2.0/3.1/3.2 ports that all computers provide. Of course, the connection speeds are limited to the speeds of the earlier USB standards.  In other words, a USB-C cable plugged into a standard USB port via an adapter cannot read/write at the same very high speeds as a USB-C connection to an external SSD drive that plugged into a USB-C port on a computer.

About Eric Legge 269 Articles
I am an experienced PC technician who has been the owner and sole writer of the PC Buyer Beware! website since 2004. I am learning all the time in this very dynamic, ever-changing field.