Portable SSD Hard Drives

Category: Hard-Drives

A reader asks: 'I am in the market for a portable hard drive, and considering a solid state drive (SSD). What are the benefits of an SSD over regular portable external drives, and are there any specific SSD models you can recommend?' Read on for my advice on buying a portable solid state drive...

Should You Buy a Portable SSD?

An external hard drive for backups or additional file storage is a good idea. A portable drive that fits in your purse or pocket, and doesn't require an AC power cable is ideal if you have multiple computers, or you need to tote hundreds of gigabytes from place to place.

The choice you have to make is whether to get a standard "spinning magnetic disk" external drive, or a solid state SSD drive. Let's take a look at the pros and cons of the latter choice.

The obvious advantages of a solid-state drive (SSD) are speed and durability. SSDs store data in nonvolatile flash memory, which provides nearly immediate access to files on the drive. And there are no shock-sensitive moving parts such as spinning magnetic disks or careening read-write heads. Therefore, SSDs are inherently more rugged than their magnetic counterparts. Many laptops use internal SSDs because of the small form factor.
Portable Solid State Drives

But a new breed of portable solid state drives are arriving on the market, which have been engineered to extremes of ruggedness. So who wouldn't want a portable SSD? The answer is: many people who get a glimpse of the eye-watering price tags that portable SSDs carry.

With a non-SSD drive, you get a lot more storage for the money, and the drives come in larger capacities. You can find a portable magnetic 1 Terabyte (1000 GB) external drive for under $100. A portable SSD the same size would cost about ten times as much. But for some people, portable SSDs make good sense, especially if you don't need a huge amount of storage space.

Which Portable SSD is Right For Me?

Here are a few portable SSDs to consider, each with its own unique features.

Seagate’s Backup Plus Fast SSD Portable Drive holds 256 GB of data in a case 113 x 76 mm that fits in a shirt pocket with room to spare for a pen protector. Its USB 3.0 interface is three times faster than USB 2.0, achieving transfer speeds up to 480 MBps. It comes with Seagate Dashboard™ backup and restore software which works with the iOS or Android version of the Seagate Mobile Backup app. Right now, Seagate is discounting this SSD to $219.99 including free shipping.

The Lacie Rugged Thunderbolt SSD is a step up in capacity (500 GB) and ruggedness. Encased in a rubbery cushion, this tough little SSD can take a beating. The Rugged Thunderbolt also comes in a 1TB magnetic media version so be sure to look for the “SSD” in the name. This model sells for around $500 at B&H Photo online.

For a mere $1200, give or take a few bucks, you can have a 1-TB ioSafe Rugged Portable Solid State Drive. It can survive a 20-foot fall; 5,000 pounds of crushing pressure; and immersion in up to 30 feet of water for 72 hours. PC Magazine even froze one in ice for a while and it worked fine when thawed out. If you need a large capacity portable SSD drive that can tumble off a cliff and get run over by a truck, or you go swimming in Arctic waters with your hard drive in your pocket, this is the one you need.

What About Flash Drives?

Perhaps you're wondering "Isn't a USB Flash Drive the same as a Portable External SSD Drive?" The answer is YES. Flash drive = Solid State = SSD. I've focused on drives that are 256GB or larger in this article, but you can find lots of smaller flash drives at prices that are much easier on the wallet.

The SanDisk Extreme CZ80 64GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive is on sale for $36.99 at Amazon as I write this. And there's a PNY Turbo 64GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive for just $19.99. You can't complain about the price; just don't drop either of these in your iced tea.

Flash drives that are shock-resistant or have additional features such as encryption or backup software will cost more. Be sure to look for a drive that's USB 3.0 compatible, as it will offer much faster file transfer speeds than the older USB 2.0 standard.

Do you have a portable solid-state hard drive? Tell me all about it! Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Portable SSD Hard Drives"

Posted by:

05 Dec 2014

Flash drive = Solid State = SSD.
This implies a finite (large, but finite) number of read/write cycles. I'm very surprised this isn't mentioned in the article.

Posted by:

Mike Davies
05 Dec 2014

Bob, very helpful article, thanks.

But please, it's "careering", not "careening". The latter is to scrape barnacles and weed off the bottom of a boat. What you've written describes the action of whizzing around with no apparent deliberate direction.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Careening has both definitions, in Webster and other dictionaries.

Posted by:

05 Dec 2014

You should menetion that USB3 drives need to have USB3 connections and cables in order to get the speed advantage.

Posted by:

05 Dec 2014

Your Aug 7 column talked about possible malware on some USB drives. Are the ones you've mentioned here highly unlikely to have the kind of problem you described in that column?

Posted by:

05 Dec 2014

1 Tb less than for $100? There are 2Tb portable hard drives for way less, than $100 here! At Black Friday or after BF sale I've got Seagate Expansion 2 Tb for $69.99 after rebate minus $25 for using PayPal for that purchase. Even with around $8 shipping it's way less, than a sacred $100. SSD can be relatively cheap as well - for example, AMD 480 Gb for $149. It's a bare drive, but it's not a rocket science to put it in an enclosure for some more bucks (for example, SIIG USB 3 for SATA for $3 after rebate). That makes SSD portable option much sweeter. It's not rugged enclosure, of course, but you've got the idea.

About flash drives I consider a good price when it's 4 Gb per $ or better. But that drive should be reliable. So, do some research. I saw Toshiba 32 Gb flash drive for $8 after rebate, but when I read feedbacks, I decided to keep away of that drive. For years some companies manufacture special models hard to kill, like Corsar Survivor. I have two rugged 16Gb Corsair Voyagers and happy with them, so there is a high probability that Survivor will survive years of using as well.

Actually since every portable drive uses USB, their SATA super fast 6 Gb/s speed (I bet every rugged SSD portable drive contains inside a regular SATA SSD with a standard SATA III interface) is a waste of money, so I'd consider flash drive more logical for that purpose unless you need more space, than 128 or 256 Gb, a pretty common size for flash drive for a couple of years.

Posted by:

Ray Bobo
05 Dec 2014

Do they have the same inherent code vulnerability as flash drives?

Posted by:

bob price
05 Dec 2014

SSD look great but I cannot justify the cost. My ext USB drive is identical to the laptop drive. I use cloning [not image] software and have an identical cloned copy on my ext drive. Should the primary drive fail, I merely install the backup. Simple and effective.

Posted by:

05 Dec 2014

Hello Everyone:

I purchased the OYEN Digital High Performance USB 3.0 Shadow Mini SSD last year to store my precious HD Music Video Collection and my Mp3 catalogue of music for safekeeping as I understand that an SSD is more reliable than a non-SSD in terms of longevity. My computer files are too precious to waste if the device I use crashes so I am more confident using my portable SSD from Oyen (a company I am sure few have heard of).

I thank you all for listening,


Posted by:

05 Dec 2014


EDITOR'S NOTE: Nice price, but it's not an SSD drive.

Posted by:

Bob Connors
05 Dec 2014

In June of this year, I purchased a Samsung 840 EVO-Series 1TB 2.5-Inch SATA III SSD drive for $420.00 from Amazon. Not all 1TB SSD drives are as expensive as you stated Bob.

Posted by:

05 Dec 2014

Just received a 256 Gig HP Flash rive from Tiger Direct for just under $81.00 including tax and shipping. I am not sure how long it will be on sale.

Posted by:

05 Dec 2014

The write lifetimes are largely myths, well they were once true, but on modern (last couple of years) SSDs do have limits but now we're talking about decades for the regular user, so now it will likely outlive your computer.


Posted by:

Mike Rehmus
05 Dec 2014

I've put a few flash drives through the washing machine and they cleaned up really nice. Still ticking.

Posted by:

05 Dec 2014

ManoaHi and intelligencia: SSD life is still hotly debated and certainly not settled yet. With manufacturers pushing multi-level cell (MLC) technology to the limit (which each memory cell hold more than one bit) in order to get capacities up and prices down it is argued by some that SSD reliability is going down, not up. (see Scott Mouton & his 'My Hard Drive Died' website and podcasts.) Both technologies now assume errors will occur and use ECC to fix those errors without the user (or OS even) knowing.
Manfacturers can make much more reliable drives (both SSD and HDD) but the market wants them cheap. Those that worry about reliability use RAID and run multiple drives at one time.
p.s. And don't confuse RAID with backup. - Hey BobR: RAID vs. Backup would be a good topic!

Posted by:

06 Dec 2014

I have read many conflicting suggestions as to whether external hard drives should be constantly attached to your laptop for continuous back-up.

Doesn't this action wear out your external drive easily as compared to attaching it as needed? Cheers.

Posted by:

06 Dec 2014

I have a 30month old Patriot Pyro 240GB SSD as my boot-drive which includes Win8.1 OS and oodles of installed applications (114GB Free space). Utility program 'SSDLife Pro' shows that this SSD has over 20,000 working hours on it and its "Health" is shown as 100%. 'SSDLife Pro' is showing the "Estimated Lifetime" to be 7 years, 3 months, 25 days (T.E.C. date = 2022/04/10). To minimize WRITES to this SSD, all my application and personal data are stored on other drives in the system. To further elongate the SSD's life, I don't index it (for searches), since there is very little data that I need to search for and it is blazing fast even w/o search-indexing enabled.
30months ago I paid $199 for this SSD and now similar SSDs are selling for under $100.

Posted by:

Rick Steeb
06 Dec 2014

My new Samsung 750 Pro 256GB SSD has a 10 year / 150TB-Write warranty; it cost $150 [an external USB3 case costs

Posted by:

06 Dec 2014

For me, the SSD Drives, at a price I can afford ... Would not be good, for me at all. Now, for Hubby, that is a different story completely.

I have a 1TB Hard Drive, with over 275GB of data, stored on my computer. Hubby, has next to nothing, only 36GB, with a 250GB Hard Drive. Oh, he has his games, but, they are not many, only the ones he likes. While, I on the other hand, have a ton of games ... It's what I do, okay??? I also, have lots of information on our monthly bills, our lease, and other stuff, that is important ... That is why I have an External Hard Drive.

I am happy, that I have a lot of free space, too. Having a low amount of data on your computer, helps with the speed of getting up on display, what you need!!! If, you have ever had a Hard Drive be almost full to capacity, you know what I am talking about.

Now, I do have a 3TB External Hard Drive, for backing up, my computer. I got that for a good price, last year, for $129 plus tax. I bought it at a retail store. I know they are probably much cheaper now, but, that was an excellent price, when I bought it and it just works, like it is suppose to.

I also, have a 1TB External Hard Drive, that I am not using and will give to one of my daughters, when she find a house, to rent. I have already given her a computer, she just needs this, for good backing up. Her computer has only, 250GB Hard Drive, just like my husband's.

Posted by:

06 Dec 2014

Mike, should have checked a little further on your definition of careening:
turn (a ship) on its side for cleaning, caulking, or repair.

2. North American
move swiftly and in an uncontrolled way in a specified direction.
"an electric golf cart careened around the corner"

Posted by:

07 Dec 2014

I'm not sure what it takes to destroy a flash-drive, short of fire or hammers. I've washed two in a clothes washer, both still work good. I have another that was dropped in a parking lot and ran over by several cars crushing the outside case and terminal head; still good.
BTW, distilled water is pure enough that it is an insulator. This works great to rinse off electronics that have had coffee, soft drinks or other conductors spilled onto them. I have saved laptops and other devices by this simple procedure. Disconnect power, remove batteries, rinse thoroughly and dry completely. Avoid wetting speaker cones, if possible. It's best to disassemble the case if one has the means.

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