If you’ve been wondering if having an external SSD is good for gaming, you’re not alone. In this article we’ll answer your questions about externals SSDs and gaming, including:

  1. Do games run slower on an external SSD?
  2. How much external storage do I need for my game library?
  3. Is it okay to play games on an external SSD?
  4. Are there any downsides to an external SSD?
  5. Can you run Steam games off an external SSD?

Ultimately, we hope to help you choose the best external SSD for gaming.

If your PC, Mac or console storage is already filling up (or full) of your favorite games, you may have already started deleting games to clear out space. Instead, choosing a portable SSD for your game library makes a lot of sense. Portable SSDs are durable, portable, spacious and compatible with multiple devices. But there are a lot of options to choose from, so how do you decide which one is best for you?

We think you’ll find what you’re looking for in Crucial’s full portfolio of external SSDs, which have transfer speeds up to 2,100MB/s and capacities up to 4TB. In fact, in 2023, PC World chose the Crucial X10 Pro as the best external SSD for gaming. But here are the specific factors you should consider, no matter what external SSD you choose:

Gaming speeds

Whether you’re saving games on or playing legacy games directly from your external SSD, you want read and write speeds that can keep pace. The highest read speeds available in USB external SSDs hover just around the 2,000MB/s mark, while write speeds are generally a bit lower. When choosing a drive, consider whether you will mostly be writing (saving games to your drive) or reading (playing directly from the drive) to decide what’s best for you. In general, getting the fastest speeds for your budget makes the most sense. Crucial’s fastest external SSD is the Crucial X10 Pro. But if budget is a major consideration, don’t worry about choosing a drive that’s not the top of the line. The Crucial X9, for example, has read speeds of 1,050MB/s, which means it is 7.5 times faster than portable hard drives (HDDs), and 100 times faster than USB flash drives.

Good news for Steam game players: you can play your favorite titles directly from your external drive. For console gamers, it gets a bit more complicated. If you’re playing games directly from your Crucial external drive on Xbox One or PlayStation 4, an external SSD will likely outperform the stock HDD in your console, but keep in mind that some gaming consoles, like PlayStation 5, do not support game play directly from non-proprietary external drives. For PS5, we recommend a high-performance internal drive with heatsink, like the Crucial T500.

Note: the USB connection between your external SSD and your PC or console matters! For the best performance with Crucial external SSDs, always use the high-quality USB cord that comes with your drive.

Sustained speed

If you’ve ever filled up an older external drive, you know that file transfer speeds can significantly slow down when it gets close to capacity. This meant that you needed to either expect slowdowns as your drive filled up, or buy more capacity than you really needed to maintain faster performance.

One important benefit of the technology engineered into newer drives like the Crucial X10 Pro and X9 Pro is that it makes them powerful enough to support sustained performance throughout the drive’s capacity. The X9 Pro, for example, offers 1,050MB/s reads and 975MB/s writes throughout the drive’s capacity.

Game storage

Speaking of capacity, since games are getting bigger with every release and DLC drop, it’s easy to quickly run out of a space with just a few games. A couple of cases in point:

  1. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor requires 155GB of storage
  2. Baldur’s Gate 3 requires 150GB of storage
  3. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare requires 133GB of storage
  4. Forspoken requires 150GB of storage
  5. Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond requires almost 200GB of storage 

That’s nearly 1TB of storage needed if you just store those five games! Of course, you’re likely to have many smaller games in your library as well, but it’s important to consider the size of the games you’ll store when choosing your drive’s capacity. The good news? Even if you fill up one Crucial external SSD, you can always add another.

Final thoughts about gaming with an external SSD

If you’re a gamer who wants loads of space for your favorite games and the new ones you’re looking forward to playing in the future, you’ll love the speed, performance, capacity and portability of external SSDs. Just remember these important points:

  1. Not all external SSDs are the same. Compare speeds, capacity and price to find one that’s write for your gaming library.
  2. Using the right USB cord will give you the best speed and performance.
  3. Not all consoles support game play directly from an external drive, but most allow you to save games on external drives. Consult your console’s manual for complete information about compatibility and usage.

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