Are External SSDs As Fast as Internal?

Are External SSDs As Fast as Internal

Are External SSDs As Fast as Internal?

It’s no question that solid-state drives (SDDs) are significantly faster than hard disk drives (HDDs). But making comparisons amongst different types of SSDs, including how fast internal and external types are, requires a lot of research and time. 

External SSDs can be as fast as internal SSDs, but it isn’t easy to compare if it’s faster or slower than an internal drive. Many factors can determine if external SSDs will be as fast as internal ones. Interface type and form factor can influence the SSD, as there are many kinds currently available. 

This article will describe the differences between an internal and external SSD, the main factors contributing to the speed, and how to optimize the use of your SSD.

The Purpose of an SSD

Compared to their hard drive counterparts, SSDs are faster, more energy-efficient, and provide many additional features that benefit them. Found in many devices, this form of storage is useful for many fields, including gaming and data analysis. Depending on their purpose, SSDs can be either external or internal.

For a great explanation of the differences between HDDs and SDDs, watch this popular video from Techquickie:

Differences Between External and Internal SDDs

  • Evident in their name, the main difference between the two is their location concerning your set-up. Internal SDDs are found within your computer body or tower, while external SSDs are portable.
  • Upgrading or installing on SSD can differ depending on whether it’s an internal drive or external. Internal drives require special equipment and know-how to replace, whereas the user can plug in an external drive. Although you may need an adapter depending on your laptop or computer ports, making any changes to an external SSDs is far easier.
  • The storage purpose of each SSD can be different depending on the user. Most people use an external drive to back-up their internal drive, where all of their data is kept. Alternatively, some use an external drive as additional storage or for running games.
  • Why someone may purchase an external SSD in addition to an internal SSD varies as well. The many benefits of an external SSD make it perfect for people transporting files from location to location. They’re much more durable and portable, perfect for those needing to move data or programs from work to school to home.
  • Depending on the user, security may be the deciding factor to keep your data on an external drive. If you’re worried about your files’ safety, an external drive allows you to keep it with you at all times. Additionally, many external SSDs offer password protection and data encryption as an extra level of security.
  • If you are on a budget, internal drives are better as they are more cost-effective. The cost of an external SSD is significantly more than an internal one. This can be attributed to the slightly different needs of making the former more portable and durable. If you have a spare internal SSD or would prefer to save a few dollars by avoiding an external SSD, consider buying an enclosure to keep it safe outside the computer.
  • In using an internal SSD, you are guaranteed a constant connection. Although a significant benefit of external drives is their ability to be unplugged and taken anywhere, this could be a downfall if data is missed by disconnecting your cable too soon. 

Factors Contributing to the Speed of an SSD

Due to the connection between the external SSD and the computer, the internal SSD may be faster. However, the speed of an external SSD is impacted by several factors:

  • Type of storage: What will you be storing on the SSD? Will you be running games or using it to store files and data?
  • Size: How much storage does the external drive provide in comparison with the internal?
  • Interface: How does your SSD connect to your system?
  • Actions: Are you streaming data or reading and writing data? 

All things considered, the main determinants of how quickly an SSD can operate are the form factor and the interface type. Due to the variety of computer types, Operating Systems, and user requirements, there are understandably many kinds.

Form Factor

The form factor or design of the SSD is a huge contributor to its speed and general performance. There are three common form factors:

  • SSD Add-In Card (AIC): As they work with PCI Express, this form factor can be quite fast and is expected to progress due to its versatility continuously. As it’s quite large, the speed and capacity should be quite high compared to other form factors.
  • M.2 SSD: This design is often found as an internal drive for laptops or tablets due to their small size. In fact, the 16mm x 22mm M.2 (0.6in x 0.9mm) form factor is 16.15mm x 20.15mm x 1.3 mm (0.64in x 0.79in x 0.05in). It supports the following interfaces: PCIe, SATA, and USB. One downside of this form factor is that the largest capacity is normally 2 to 4 TB. However, M.2 SSDs have very fast read and write speeds.
  • 2.5-inch (6.4-cm) Serial ATA (SATA): This common form factor is compatible with PCIe, SATA, and SAS interfaces and is similar in design to HDDs found in laptops. Typically found in servers and desktops, the size allows an easy transition from HDDs to the more efficient SSDs.

Interface Type

There are five main interface types, all of which can permit the user to replace their HDD with an SSD easily and, in some cases, enhance their performance. The following are the most popular on the market, and each has its own uses and advantages:

  • Serial ATA (SATA) interface
  • Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCI-E) interface
  • Universal Serial Bus (USB) interface
  • M.2 interface
  • mini-SATA (mSATA) interface

If you’re interested in learning more about what an interface is and examples of them, check out this video from Basler AG:

How To Increase the Speed of Your SSD

The speed of your SSD is a major selling point when shopping for external drives. However, as a user, you can take action to ensure that your SSD is as quick as possible. 

Tips To Maximize SSD Performance

Whether it’s an internal or an external SSD, there are proactive steps you can take to speed up your SSD and avoid potential issues:

  1. To avoid losing data due to your drive failing, take advantage of the S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology) monitoring system. In addition to SSDs, this system is also used for HDDs and eMMCs (embedded MultiMedia Card).
  2. Try not to keep your SSD full and leave some amount of space empty, as this will slow down writing speeds.
  3. Continue to update your OS (Operating System).

For a great video on how to make your SSD as fast as possible, watch this informational video from MODDED WARFARE:

Final Thoughts

Due to the number of factors involved in determining an SSD’s speed, it’s impossible to say whether an internal or external SSD is faster. The form factor and interface are the main determinants of how fast an SSD is, as there are many types currently on the market with various purposes. 

To increase speed and avoid hardware failures, proactive steps can be taken by the user. This includes downloading a S.M.A.R.T. system and keeping some space on your SSD empty to ensure fast writing speeds.


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