Shopping for a good external SSD for your laptop? Let’s explore everything you need to know to make the best decision.

There are many advantages to laptops: they’re light, portable, and almost as powerful as desktop PCs. But one disadvantage? Space. Many new laptops come with limited storage — as little as 256GB in some cases, which can fill up quickly, particularly if you are dealing with large files.

Using an external SSD to add storage to your laptop is an easy solution that doesn’t require you to swap out your internal drive or delete precious data.

Creatives, gamers, and everyday users can all benefit from the full spectrum of performance and capacity options that Crucial external SSDs offer. To help you make your choice, here are six factors to keep in mind when choosing an external SSD for your laptop:

1. Reliability

Whether you are using your external drive to store new projects or backup irreplaceable data from your laptop, you need a device that won’t fail. That’s why your first consideration should be reliability, even before you choose speeds, capacities, features or other attributes.

Is the external SSD you’re considering manufactured by a reputable company with decades of expertise in the memory and storage industry? What kind of warranty is included? Is it designed to work without fail every time you plug it into your device?

All Crucial external SSDs have been rigorously tested against shocks, vibrations, X-rays, magnets, and even a drop of up to seven and a half feet. Crucial Pro Series external SSDs are also splash and dust resistant. All Crucial external SSDs are designed with internal flash memory manufactured by Micron using a state-of-the-art process that relies on more than 800 operations to protect against contamination.

2. Durability

Of course, durability goes hand in hand with reliability, so it’s important to think about where and how you will use your portable SSD. Will it sit in a desk drawer after you transfer your files? Or will it be in your laptop bag while you travel, getting jostled in airplane turbulence, crowded subways, and bumping against your hip as you navigate city streets?

Portable SSDs are almost always more durable than portable HDDs (hard disk drives) because they don’t have any moving parts. An HDD relies on a spinning disk which can easily malfunction in the wrong conditions, even inside protective external housing. If you drop a portable HDD, it’s likely that you’ll lose data. SSDs are not only more reliable than HDDs, but they typically don’t get as hot, have faster speeds, and produce less noise.

But not all SSDs have the same durable build. If you are planning to take your external SSD out into the world, make sure that both the internal and external components of the drive are built to withstand potential hazards.

Crucial X10 Pro SSD

3. Compatibility

Crucial external SSDs work with Mac, PC, Xbox, PlayStation, iPad Pro, Android devices and more. They also use an easy-to-use USB-C interface that works with most laptops manufactured within the past few years. We also sell adapters to ensure proper USB-A to USB-C connections.

If you’ll use your external SSD with multiple devices, compatibility is going to be a consideration, especially if you’ll be working with both Mac and Windows machines. Windows uses the NTFS (New Technology File System), while macOS uses the APFS (Apple File System) for formatting drives. Crucial offers external drives that are preformatted for both, including the Crucial X9 Pro for Mac. Fortunately, you can also partition your Crucial external SSD to handle both operating systems, if you’d like to go back and forth between Windows and Apple devices. If you are planning to use significant amounts of data, opt for a 2 or 4TB drive, since your available space for each operating system will only be 50% of the drive if partitioning.

4. Security

Whenever something is portable it’s also at risk of getting lost. That’s why security is an incredibly important feature to consider when buying an external SSD. Without security measures to protect your data against attacks, it’s vulnerable to theft from anyone who plugs in your drive.

The Crucial X9 Pro and X10 Pro offer password protection and 256-bit AES hardware encryption to help protect your data, and all Crucial external SSDs work with Windows Bitlocker to Go and Apple’s File Vault. You can also use additional endpoint protection from services like Symantec and McAfee on your external SSD.

In addition to encryption, you will also want to make sure your external SSD can sync with file backup services. Crucial external SSDs work with Windows Backup and macOS Time Machine as well, so you can back up your data automatically. 

5. Capacity

External SSDs come in capacity options of multiple terabytes, but since more capacity means more of an expense, it’s important to think about how you will use your drive rather than just buying the biggest one available. Are you storing family photos? Backing up your PC? Using it for school or to manage files? Or, will you be downloading hours and hours of videos for binge watching off the grid?

Here are some general guidelines to help you decide how much capacity you need for a variety of data:

  • 4TB holds up to 20,000 photos, 50 hours of family video, 10 AAA game titles, and 100GB of documents, with 400GB to spare1
  • 2TB holds up to 10,000 photos, 25 hours of family video, 5 AAA game titles, and 50GB of documents, with 200GB to spare1
  • 1TB holds up to 5,000 photos, 15 hours of family video, 2 AAA game titles, and 50GB of documents, with 100GB to spare1

If you’re a creative such as a photographer, videographer, music producer, graphic designer or someone who works with hefty files like an engineer, architect or geologist, you will generally need significantly more capacity than casual users.

Crucial’s Pro Series portable SSDs — the X9 Pro, X9 Pro for Mac, and X10 Pro — are ideal for those uses. With capacities up to 4TB, these drives were designed specifically for creative professionals.

6. Speed

Speedy file transfers are especially important under two conditions: first, if you have large files to transfer and, second, if your drive is getting full. As with higher capacities, faster drives are generally more expensive than slower ones, so it’s important to once again consider how you will use your drive.

The Crucial X10 Pro is perfect for video professionals and any creative who will need maximum performance and capacity. With read and write speeds up to 2,100MB/s, the Crucial X10 Pro offers the best of everything and is powerful enough that you can edit directly from the drive.

The Crucial X9 Pro is ideal for photographers and other creatives, with read and write speeds up to 1,050MB/s and high sustained performance, even as the drive fills up.

The Crucial X9 Pro for Mac is for professionals that want to level up their Mac experience. Optimized for MacOS, this Crucial X9 Pro portable SSD can offer space while reaching speeds up to 1,050MB/s.

The Crucial X9 is designed for those who want backup storage for all their photos, video, and files. The lightweight design offers speeds up to 1,050MB/s for compact, long-lasting performance.

The Crucial X6 has read speeds up to 800MB/s, which is 5.7x faster than most portable hard drives. It is a great option if you want to maximize value while still getting solid durability and plenty of space. 

Check out Crucial’s SSD Buying Guide for more insight into selecting the best external drive for your needs. 

1Based on average photo size of 6MB, video at 4K/60fps in H264 format at 24GB/hr and 200GB for AAA games.

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