External storage drives (external hard drives or external SSDs) were engineered so that users could store data on a device outside their computer. A subset of external drives are portable hard drives and portable SSDs, which are designed to be disconnected from your computer and taken with you wherever you need your data. The difference between portable hard drives and portable SSDs is that SSDs are a newer technology with durability, speed and energy advantages over hard drives. 

Portable SSDs are often used as secondary storage devices so that you can easily:

  • Add fast storage to a computer with internal storage that’s almost full
  • Enjoy more films, videos, music and pictures without swapping out the drive inside your computer
  • Store copies of large games so that you don't have to download to play them
  • Keep backups of important documents in case your computer fails, is lost or stolen

Many SSDs come pre-installed with additional security features such as encryption tools and automatic backup schedulers to help with these tasks. 

Crucial offers a full suite of external SSD options for quick, convenient plug-and-play storage: 

  • The Crucial X10 Pro offers blazing read and write speeds for video professionals and others who need high performance in a portable drive
  • The Crucial X9 Pro offers fast read and write speeds for photographers and those needing sustained performance through the life of the drive
  • The Crucial X9 is an affordable storage option that’s 7.5x faster than hard drives, which makes it perfect for everyday backups and storage for photos, videos and files
  • The Crucial X6 provides affordable storage for on-the-go media and game storage in a wide variety of capacities and speeds that are as much as 5.7x faster than hard drivestext

External SSDs vs. external HDDs

We mentioned that SSD and HDD technology is different. But what are the differences, and how are SSDs better? 

An HDD stores data on a spinning platter accessed by a mechanical arm, whereas an SSD uses a grid of electrical cells to store data like a giant flash drive. 

For both internal and external hard drives, SSDs are faster, more durable, and can take up less space for the same amount of data storage. 

And while portable HDDs require their own cumbersome power supply, an external SSD can happily run straight from a USB port. 

Portable SSDs are also compatible with a wide range of devices, meaning you can use them with PCs, Macs, phones, games consoles and more!

Portable SSD speeds

If you want to quickly transfer large amounts of data or run data-intensive programs without clogging up your computer, then a portable SSD is for you:

  • The Crucial X6 give you speeds up to 800MB/s, which is up to 5.7 times faster than portable HDDs1
  • The Crucial X9 offers speeds up to 1,050MB/s, which is up to 7.5x faster than hard drives
  • The Crucial X9 Pro has sustained read and write speeds up to 1,050MB/s, which means the drive speed will not slow down as it fills up
  • The Crucial X10 Pro has blazing read and write speeds up to 2,100MB/s, which is a whopping 15 times faster than many traditional hard drive

With durable engineering and 7.5-foot drop ratings6, Crucial external SSDs are dependable enough to keep your apps, programs and files safe – no matter where you need to access them.

Portable SSD compatibility

All Crucial portable SSDs work with the following2:

  • Windows® 10, 8.1
  • macOS®
  • iPad Pro® (2018 USB-C model)5
  • Chromebook®
  • Android®4
  • Linux®
  • PS4® and PS4 Pro®3
  • Xbox One®3
  • PS5 or Xbox Series X3

They are also USB-C ready straight out of the box, or you can add a USB-A adaptor for use with older ports. 

All Crucial portable SSDs are backed by a 3-year worldwide limited warranty, which gives you trusted  dependability and durability in a drive that could easily last longer than the devices you will pair it with.

Get the most out of your portable SSD

To keep your portable SSD running strong: 

  • Maintain 10-15 percent of your external SSD as free space, as writing speeds on most drives can be directly affected if it's near full capacity. Crucial Pro SSDs have higher sustained writing speeds for those who want the best performance out of fuller drives.
  • Update your firmware to ensure that bugs or technical issues are corrected to maintain peak performance.
  • Many SSDs are designed so that trim can be used to permanently delete data no longer being used. If your system doesn’t support trim, consider upgrading to one that does.
  • Use a Self-monitoring, analysis, and reporting technology (SMART) monitoring system such as Storage Executive to track the health of your portable SSD external hard drive.

FAQs for portable SSDs

  • What is an external SSD?

    External storage drives store data for use by other devices, including computers, gaming consoles, and mobile phones. In contrast, internal drives are physically linked to just one system. 

    External hard drives (HDDs) use older technology with physical moving parts to access data. While they are slower, they tend to be cheaper. External SSDs use flash memory for nearly instant data access. They're more convenient, offer more memory for their size, and don't require a separate power supply unit to run.

  • How do external SSDs work?

    External SSDs use the exact same technology as SSDs found inside a computer. The only real difference is that they are enclosed in a case and are accessed (and powered) via an external USB port. 

    Portable SSDs generally come in more durable enclosures because you’ll be carrying them from place to place (as opposed to some external SSDs that are designed to sit on your desktop next to your computer).

  • What is a portable SSD used for?

    The most common use for a portable SSD is to back up important data, such as documents and photos, including those from mobile devices. The external drive can then be stored somewhere safely away from your device in the event of a theft, water or fire loss. Many people maintain two backup drives for additional protection. 

    Using a portable SSD with your laptop is a popular alternative to installing a new internal drive as they're quicker and easier to plug and play. 

    People also use portable drives to store collections of films and music, either to enjoy when the mood hits, or to share with other people on their devices. 

    Creative prosumers and professionals working with large amounts of data use external SSDs to free up their computers to focus on processing. All Crucial external SSDs work seamlessly with popular photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop Express and video editing software like LumaFusion. 

    And thanks to wide-ranging compatibility, external SSDs are also used by console gamers to save large games rather than having to constantly delete and download.

  • Help! My external SSD isn't working?

    Here are the steps to take before deciding that your external SSD is gone forever: 

    1. Try another hard drive first to see if your computer is the issue
    2. Try the unresponsive SSD in a different computer port
    3. Try it with a different cable
    4. Try it on a different computer
    5. Try it with a different plug socket or power strip
    6. Try restoring your system
    7. Try uninstalling the driver for a fresh firmware restart
    8. If you're running Windows, open the Run dialog with Win + R and enter “diskmgmt.msc” to try the Disk Management tool
    9. If you don't need to keep your data, try reformatting, ensuring you're using the correct file system – generally NTFS for Windows computers, APFS for Mac and exFAT for other systems
    10. If you do need the data, then it may be time to call a professional recovery expert
  • Can I use an internal SSD as an external hard drive?

    Yes! You'll need an external SSD case to protectively house the internal SSD and a suitable USB adaptor. Read Crucial's article on using an old drive for external storage for more information.

  • What capacities do Crucial external SSD drives come in?

    Crucial’s external SSD drives come in capacities ranging from 500GB7 to 4TB, which gives you enough room to back up and protect up to 20,000 photos, 100 hours of video, 6,000 songs, or 400GB of documents with room to spare8.

1. MB/s speed measured as maximum sequential performance of device as measured by Crucial on a high performance desktop computer with Crystal Disk Mark (version 6.0.2 for x64). Your performance may vary. Comparative speed claims measured as maximum sequential performance of similarly situated portable SSD’s, mainstream portable HDD’s and mainstream USB flash drives from vertically-integrated manufacturers selling under their own brands as at June 2019.
2. Compatibility may vary and may be contingent on device formatting and host capabilities. For more information, see https://crucial.com/support/x8.
3. Latest firmware may be required for operation. For more information, see https://crucial.com/support/x8.
4. Compatible Android devices must be able to work with USB Mass Storage over OTG. Operating system updates and reformatting may be required. For more information, see https://crucial.com/support/x8.
5. iPadOS 13 required for the Crucial X8 to work with iPad Pro devices with USB-C port. For more information, see https://crucial.com/support/x8.
6. Up to 7.5 ft/2 m without impact to data on drive on a carpeted floor.
7. Only the Crucial X6 is available in 500GB
8. Based on average photo size of 6MB, video at 4K/60fps in H246 format at 24GB/hr, and average music file at 4MB each.

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