Using an external hard drive for gaming is a great way to create more storage space on your console or PC. This is essential for most gamers these days due to the file sizes of games.
Gaming requires a lot of memory on your computer, and external HDDs can take the pressure off your machines and give you the ability to store more games at the same time.
For individuals who are not highly tech savvy, the process of trying to install a new internal hard drive can be a difficult process.
While it is possible to have a professional install an internal hard drive, this will add a substantial cost to the product – a completely unnecessary cost too. The best external hard drives for gaming are extremely easy to use. All you need to do is plug them in and they pretty much work.
In addition, an external hard drive can be a great way to install games on multiple computers. Generally speaking, no file formatting is needed to use a gaming external hard drive.
However, there are circumstances when it may be necessary to reformat files. In order to do this, it’s important to choose an external hard drive that is compatible with your operating system. We’ll guide you through everything you need to know below.
And now that next gen consoles have confirmed their specs (showing you how up-to-date this guide is), we’ve already been able to show which options will be compatible with PS5 and the Xbox Series X.
What Are the Best External Hard Drives for Gaming?
|Product||Storage Size||Our Pick||Our Rating|
|WD Black P10 Game Drive||3TB-5TB||Best for PC Gaming|
Best for Steam Games
|Samsung T5 SSD||500GB-2TB||Best External SSD for Gaming||5.0|
|WD Elements Portable||1TB-5TB||4.7|
|Seagate PS4 Game Drive||2TB-4TB||Best for PlayStation 4||4.9|
|Seagate Xbox Game Drive||2TB||Best for Xbox One||4.9|
|Seagate Backup Plus Hub||4TB-10TB||Best for Gaming on Mac||4.8|
|Fantom Drive FD GForce 3 8TB||500GB-16TB||4.6|
|VectoTech Rapid SSD||4TB||Best Portable Gaming SSD||4.7|
|G-Technology ArmorATD 4TB||1TB-5TB||Best Durable External Gaming Hard Drive||4.6|
WD Black P10 Game Drive – Best External Hard Drive for PC Gaming
The WD Black P10 Game Drive is Western Digital’s main entry into our best external hard drive for gaming category. It’s more rugged and durable than most typical hard drives, which makes it a great option for transporting your game data around.
Visually, the P10 drive is edgy and cool with its futuristic black/silver casing, and the enclosure protects from minor bumps and drops. Unlike other drives that use hard plastic, this one has a metal cover. The aesthetic is perfect for gamers, and it supports modern platforms like PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
This is our number one external HDD for PC gamers, and is also the best external hard drive for Steam games in our opinion.
Compatibility: Works with PC, PS4, Xbox One, and will work with PS5 & Xbox Series X.
Capacity: Comes in a minimum of 3TB, up to a maximum of 5TB. That capacity is large enough to store dozens of titles for even the most serious gamers. Great for consoles that support 4K games like the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X.
Fast Transfer Speeds: The P10 averages 130 MB/s, which is an above-average speed compared to most drives. It’s an HDD that can run games directly without lagging or slowing down load times.
Hardcore Performance: The P10 is made for gaming, which means it doesn’t overheat even when running for hours (we tested it after a straight 20-hour operation).
Exceptional Portability: The slim form factor of the 2.5” P10 makes it extremely easy to haul your games around. Durable metal and hard plastic shell give ample protection from drops and bumps.
Warranty: Includes a three-year limited warranty.
Samsung T5 SSD – Best External SSD for Gaming
Samsung is one of the leaders when it comes to portable SSDs, and they continue their winning streak with the T5. This is an external gaming SSD that’s the perfect storage for laptop gamers on the go, thanks to its fast performance, portability, support for USB-C, and security features. It’s also very durable, making it exceptionally reliable, and it’s these reasons that make this our best external hard drive for gaming on laptop (and it’s still great for all other platforms, too).
The T5 makes a great SSD overall, not just for gaming. It’s ideal for storing your media files and running your other applications. While it costs more compared to other SSDs, the top-notch performance it gives is well worth the price.
Compatibility: Works as a laptop gaming SSD. It’s also compatible with desktop PCs, PS4 and Xbox One, and is our number one pick for an external SSD for gaming.
Fast Transfer Speeds: This SSD features data transfer rates of 540 MB/s, making it fantastic for running Steam games and playing high-resolution game replays directly from the drive. It also offers blazingly fast copying speeds.
Generous Capacity: The T5 is available at up to 2TB space. This option is excellent if you have an extensive library of Steam games, or if you use game recording software and need extra space.
Compact Form Factor: The T5 can fit in the palm of your hand, allowing you to store it in your pocket or bag easily.
Various Colors: You have the freedom to match your T5 with your console’s color.
Security Features: The T5 has AES 256-bit hardware encryption, which keeps your game data and other personal files safe.
Supports USB-C: It makes the T5 futureproof with upcoming devices that use the USB-C port type.
Shock Resistance: The T5 features no moving parts so that it can survive drops from up to 2 meters.
Western Digital’s Elements portable hard drive is one of their most popular external hard drives. That’s because it combines generous capacity, reasonable speeds, and affordable cost. It’s one of the best all-around drives, which makes it perfectly suitable for gaming. The WD My Passport might have more features, but nothing beats the value of the Elements line.
The only thing to complain about the WD Elements is the included cable, which can become defective over time. Spare yourself the trouble and just get a dedicated wire for it. Nevertheless, if you had to pick one drive from the list, WD Elements is a safe bet.
Compatibility: Works for PS4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, and will be compatible with PS5 & Xbox Series X.
Value For Money: The cost per GB of this drive is one of the best in the market. Perfect for the value-hunter gamer
Flexible Capacity: You can buy the WD Elements in sizes from 1TB to 5TB, making it great for serious and casual gamers alike. For PC gamers, it also doubles duty as a reliable storage space for your other media files.
Decent Transfer Speeds: The WD Elements drive averages around 100 MB/s, making the drive suitable more for long-term storage
Small Form Factor: Gives the WD Elements line exceptional portability, combined with its light weight.
Seagate Game Drive for PS4 – Top Pick for PlayStation
Seagate’s Game Drive is its series of external hard drives that are designed for use with specific consoles. This one is optimized for use with the PS4, and the higher capacities are perfect for handling the large file sizes of 4K games on a PS4 Pro. The PS4 Game Drives features the same iconic black and blue color theme, making it blend in well with your PS4 console.
Compatibility: Recommended for use with PS4, PS4 Slim, and PS4 Pro, but it can also be used with a PC. It will also work with the PS5.
Large Capacity: You can choose between the 2TB and 4TB models. The latter is excellent for giving you tons of storage space for keeping dozens of AAA titles.
Portable: Thanks to its slim form factor, you can easily bring this around and transfer games from one PS4 to another. Great for playing games at your friend’s house.
Gorgeous Black and Blue Color Theme: It’s the perfect fit with the color scheme of the PS4 console.
Seagate Game Drive for Xbox One – Top Pick for Xbox
The Seagate Game Drive is the external hard drive series for gaming consoles, and this one is made specifically for the Xbox One.
The Xbox Game Drive also comes in other limited editions featuring tie-ins with popular Xbox games.
Compatibility: Recommended for use with Xbox One, but can also be used with a PC. It will also work with the Xbox Series X.
Portable: The Game Drive is slim and compact, making it a suitable option for carrying your games with you at all times.
2TB Capacity: The capacity is a great middle-ground for both casual and serious gamers. It allows you to store 40 games on average.
Iconic Design: Features the iconic green Xbox color. Visually, it goes well with any of the Xbox console editions, including the classic black version. There is also a classy white version, along with special edition Gears of War and Star Wars options.
The Adata SD700 is an external SSD for gaming that’s made for rugged travel. This durable little drive is small enough to be carried in the palm of your hand or stored in your pockets. The smaller capacity (1TB max) makes it perfect for casual gamers or for those who want to speed up the performance for select AAA games.
The SD700 is also exceptionally durable with shock, water, and dust resistance. While it’s faster than any HDD, it’s slightly slower than comparable SDDs. For the gamer on the go, however, it will still give an exceptional boost in performance.
Compatibility: Works with laptops, PC, PS4, and Xbox One. It will work with the PS5 & Xbox Series X.
Standard Capacity: The SD700 comes in capacities from 250GB to 1TB max. It’s suitable for travel purposes or for accessing your Steam games on a laptop.
Fast Transfer Speeds: The SD700 comes in at transfer speeds of 440 MB/s, giving dramatic improvement over an HDD.
Shockproof: Uses a military-grade hard case that gives it exceptional protection from drops and bumps.
IP68 Protection: Gives the SD700 water and dust resistance, protecting it from accidental spills.
Exceptional Portability: At just 2.6 ounces and 3 inches in length, the SD700 is easy to store in your bag or pocket.
Warranty: Includes a three-year limited warranty.
Seagate Backup Plus Hub – Top Pick for Mac Gaming
The Seagate Backup Plus Hub is our preferred storage for desktop gamers who have a lot of games and media files on hand. The full-sized 3.5″ drive has larger capacities of up to 10TB and comes with two front USB ports. With its generous capacity, you can also store other work and media files in the drive.
Being a desktop drive, it needs to be plugged in to work, making it much more suitable for use with desktop PCs. If you’re planning to use this with your console, Seagate has a Game Hub version that offers better compatibility.
Compatibility: Works best with Windows PCs and as a Mac external hard drive, but will also work with PS4 and PS5.
Large Capacity: The Backup Plus Hub offers sizes ranging from 4TB to 10TB. It’s the ultimate storage solution for games, recordings, and other media files.
Two Front USB Ports: These ports are great for extending the port count of your computer, including the one that the Backup Plus Hub occupies. Use it to charge your other devices or even plug in another portable drive.
Cross OS Compatibility: With a simple tweak, it can transfer files from both a Windows and Mac computer.
Warranty: Two-year limited warranty for your peace of mind.
Fantom Drives are known for their high performance, and these GForce 3 series desktop drives are no different. The defining feature of this HDD line is its 7,200 RPM drive, giving fast read and write speeds without resorting to SSD.
This drive is perfect for desktop and console gamers who want above-average transfer speeds without sacrificing storage capacity. It’s ideal as a semi-permanent drive near your computer or console where you can load and play games directly.
Compatibility: Works best with desktop PCs, PS4, and Xbox One. Will also work with PS5 & Xbox Series X.
Huge Capacity Range: The GForce 3 drive comes in every capacity you can think of, from 500GB to 16TB. It gives you the freedom to pick the size you need.
Fast Drive Speed: All drives in the GForce 3 line features a 7,200 RPM drive, which gives swift load times for an HDD. In consoles, it’s a considerable improvement from their internal 5,400 RPM drives.
Durable Aluminum Casing: Aside from giving these drives a distinctive look, it also makes them very durable. Aluminum is also efficient at cooling the drive, helping to avoid overheating without the need for fans.
Warranty: Comes with a one-year manufacturer warranty and optional data recovery plans.
VectoTech Rapid SSD – Top Versatile External Gaming SSD
The VectoTech Rapid SSD is for those who want the speed and reliability of an SSD but also needs more storage space. This portable SSD is one of the rare ones that come in a 4TB size.
The Rapid SSD is the ideal companion for laptops as they can maximize the generous space this drive gives. It also allows you to stream 4K resolution video direct from the drive.
Compatibility: Works with PC (Windows and Mac), PS4, PS5, Xbox One & Xbox Series X.
High capacity: The 4TB capacity is generous and rare for a portable SSD.
Durability: The VectoTech Rapid’s aluminum case is especially hardy, giving this drive exceptional durability. It can survive drops at up to 6 feet and extreme temperatures from -25C to 85C.
Fast Transfer Speed: The Rapid SSD is one of the fastest in its class, with speeds of up to 540 MB/s.
Super Slim Form Factor: Makes the drive very portable.
Warranty: gives an extended three-year manufacturer warranty.
The Armor ATD (or “All Terrain Drive”) is a durable external hard drive that’s perfect for those who want superior protection while on the go. It has a rigid shockproof casing, plus water and dust resistance. With a generous 4TB capacity, it’s a good drive that combines longevity, space, and value.
Compatibility: Works for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Will also work with next gen consoles.
Shockproof Casing: Features triple-layer protection that protects crush and drop protection, enough to withstand 1,000 lbs of force or being dropped from four feet.
IP57 Rating: The ArmorATD is water and dust resistance. It can withstand rain and spills but is not suitable for total submersion in water.
Generous Capacity: The drive features 4TB of space, great for storing dozens of AAA games.
Support for USB-C: It’s excellent for use with modern computers that have a USB-C port. For consoles, it has an included USB-A adaptor.
External Hard Drive Requirements for Xbox One and PS4
Both the Xbox One and PS4 have similar minimum requirements when it comes to external hard drives. As long as all of these are met, you can pretty much use any drive from any brand.
- USB 3.0 or better, with support for USB-A ports
- You need to patch the PS4 and Xbox One’s OS to the latest version.
- Minimum storage space of 250 GB
- Maximum storage space of 8 TB (for the Xbox One, it’s 16 TB, because it can support up to two drives at the same time)
- Only one external drive can be used at a time (two for the Xbox One)
- Only drives directly connected to the console is supported (no NAS or wireless drives)
External Hard Drive Requirements for PC Gaming
For external hard drives destined for desktop or laptop computing, the rules are much more relaxed. In theory, you can use any hard drive so long as your system detects it.
In practice, you’ll get much better results if you go with the following recommendations:
If you’re using the drive for long term storage, just get an HDD with the highest capacity you can afford (a minimum of 1TB is ideal). For faster copying, go for a USB 3.0 or better connection.
If you plan to play games off the drive, however, you’ll get the best experience if you go with the following minimum requirements.
- USB 3.0 or better, preferably using a USB-C connection
- Either go for an HDD with 7,200 RPM or an SDD for fast loading times and lag-free gameplay.
- If you’re going for an HDD, a 3.5″ desktop drive is recommended, preferably with cooling technology.
- As for the size, go with the largest you’ll need. We do recommend choosing a capacity of at least 1 TB.
Gaming Hard Drive Buying Tips
Regardless of whether you’re a PC, Xbox One, or PS4 gamer, there are some common elements when it comes to what makes the best external HDD for gaming.
Storage space is one of, if not the most, important considerations when buying an external hard drive. How much capacity you’ll need will largely be dictated by your gaming habits – but we recommend getting a minimum of 500GB.
If you’re a serious gamer who plays through all the new AAA-title releases and maintains a sizable collection, a larger capacity is vital. Somewhere along the lines of 4TB and above is excellent. Bigger storage space is also essential if you record your games a lot for social sharing.
However, for casual gamers who play lighter 2D games or for those who stick with single titles for a very long time, you can get away with a smaller sized drive. 1TB should be enough, with 2TB being generous.
With most games having average sizes of 50 GB, even casual gamers can quickly their storage space up. Storage is cheap nowadays, so anything less than 1 TB probably isn’t worth getting.
SSD vs. HDD
SSDs, or solid state drives, use flash memory instead of the rotating disc of traditional hard drives. They feature no moving parts, so they transfer files much faster than HDD. They also don’t overheat, are much more durable, and generate no noise.
The drawback of looking for the best solid state drive for gaming is that they’re much more expensive, and they don’t have large capacities compared to an HDD.
Now, the question of whether you need an SSD or HDD drive mainly depends if you want to play games directly off the external drive. For PC users who want to do this, you’re better off with an SDD as its performance is on par with your internal drive. HDDs tend to load slower and are prone to overheating, especially with graphically demanding AAA games.
On consoles like Xbox One or PS4, this matters much less. Even an HDD will give noticeable speed boosts. SSDs, in this case, are more of a luxury if you want to speed up your load times even further.
If you’re just looking to offload your games for storage, then HDDs with their bigger, cheaper capacities are preferred.
Portable vs. Desktop Drives
External hard drives come in one of two form factors: portable or desktop. As with the SSD vs. HDD discussion above, what you pick depends on what you intend to use the drive for.
First, let’s look at the portable drive, or 2.5”. As the name suggests, these are meant for moving your data around. They are slimmer and smaller and can be usually placed fine in your pocket or a small bag. Do note that most portable drives max out at 4 – 5 TB capacity due to physical limitations.
Portable drives are the de facto choice for moving PS4 or Xbox One games from one console to the other, for lack of a better method. If you’re aiming for capacities at 4TB or less, they’re also generally cheaper on a per GB basis than desktop drives.
Desktop drives, or 3.5”, are heftier as they are meant to be placed semi-permanently near your computer or console. They’re powerful and feature larger capacities, and can usually support the faster 7,200 RPM drives.
If you’re after pure storage capacity for your PC gaming and other media needs, desktop drives are preferred. They tend to have lower per GB costs at the higher (more than 4TB) capacities.
Transfer speed is how fast or slow your hard drive can read and write files. It matters for gamers because it speeds up two things: copying data and loading times. The latter is especially crucial if you want to play games direct from the drive, lag-free.
The drive’s transfer speed is measured in megabytes per second (MB/s). For HDDs, you should aim for 100 MB/s to 130 MB/s, with 160 MB/s being the fastest. SDDs are dramatically faster, with rates at 540 MB/s on average.
It’s important to realize, though, that transfer speeds vary significantly in practice. There are plenty of things that influence it, such as how full the drive is (drives nearing capacity are slower in general).
There are, however, three things that have the most significant impact on transfer speeds: HDDs vs. SDD (which we discussed earlier), the drive’s speed, and the connection type. We’ll discuss the two next.
A drive’s speed only applies to HDD and describes how fast the disc platter is spinning. It’s measured in revolutions per minute, or RPM. The faster the rotation, the higher rate it can write and read files. Hard drive speeds vary, but you’ll often see two quoted with consumer drives: 5,400 RPM and 7,200 RPM.
5,400 RPM is considered the minimum speed of modern hard drives. It gives decent transfer speeds, which makes it more suitable for HDDs destined for storage.
For a substantial speed boost, though, you should go with 7,200 RPM drives. They offer a roughly 25% – 33% improvement in both loading and copying times. As such, it’s ideal for drives that you want to load games from and where an SDD isn’t an option.
The price difference between 5,400 and 7,200 RPM isn’t that much higher, too. However, you’ll most likely only see 7,200 RPM with full-sized desktop drives. If you want 7,200 RPM speeds but prefer a portable drive, SSDs are an excellent and faster alternative.
Connection Type and Standard
This section refers to how the external hard drive is going to connect with your console or PC. You have two to think about: the connection standard (USB, SATA, etc.) and the connection type (the “physical” shape of the port).
For external hard drives, your connection standard will almost always be USB. However, USB has many subcategories and versions on its own. Fortunately, for gaming, you only need concern yourself with one – USB 3.0
USB 3.0 is the newer standard, capable of transfer speeds that’s 10x that of the previous version, USB 2.0. It can, however, get pretty confusing. You’ll often see many variants like “USB 3.1 Gen 1” or “USB 3.2” being thrown around in product specs.
To make life easier, just remember that:
- USB 3.0, USB 3.1 Gen 1, and USB 3.2 Gen 2 are the same thing, which has 5 GB/s transfer speeds. Their ports are also colored blue.
- USB 3.1 Gen 2 and USB 3.2 Gen 2 are the improved USB 3.0, capable of 10 GB/s speeds. You can tell them apart by their red-colored ports.
Whichever you go for is fine, so long as you go with USB 3.0. It has the data bandwidth to support fast transfers and game loading from the drive.
You also need to consider the connection type, or the physical shape of the port, which is separate from the connection standard. With USB, you have two as well: USB-A and USB-C.
USB-A is the older, rectangular-shaped port most of us are familiar with. A key characteristic of USB-A is that it only goes in one “side” (it’s not flappable). USB-C boasts a newer shape with rounded edges and a smaller port. It’s good to get it if you can, as most future devices will most likely adopt it.
Consoles like the PS4 and Xbox One all feature USB-A ports, so buy the corresponding drive if you’re console gamer. Fortunately, most USB-C hard drives have a USB-A adaptor so you can still use them with your console.
If you’re a PC gamer, get a USB-C adaptor if your computer has one.
While you’re not going to use it to store sensitive files, a gaming hard drive nevertheless needs to be reliable. You don’t want to lose all of your game and save data with simple drops and bumps.
Unfortunately, hard drives will eventually break down due to normal wear and tear. How long before this happens depends on a lot of factors, but some brands are much more durable than others. There’s no easy way to tell this, however, other than to check user reviews and to trust drive manufacturers with excellent track records.
Also, if you’re going to haul your external hard drive around, then it’s a must to invest in a more durable drive. Some drives feature a shockproof exterior or IP58-rated casings, giving them water and dust resistance.
However, if you just want a long-term storage solution, it’s better to get a full-sized desktop drive. They have better longevity for the simple fact that they stay in place most of the time.
The good news when it comes to the best gaming external hard drive is they’re not brand specific. Drives from any manufacturer will work as long as it meets the requirements of your PC or console.
However, like any electronic consumer product, a manufacturer’s reputation can tell you a lot about the quality of the external hard drive (but not always). Since you can’t determine how long a drive will last at face value, basing it on brands is an excellent rule of thumb to judge durability.
When it comes to drives, two manufacturers top the game: Seagate and Western Digital. Both have excellent lines of external hard drives for gaming, a loyal fan base, and reliable products. You shouldn’t encounter any problems with these two, and even if you did, they have excellent customer support to help you out.
Other good alternatives include Toshiba and Samsung, with the latter being well-known for its high-quality external SSDs.
Today’s external hard drives have features that go beyond just capacity. The most common you’ll encounter include security and auto-backup software built into the drive. Some game-branded drives also have bonuses that will appeal to gamers. Case in point is the Seagate Game Drive Game Pass edition, which includes a free one-month subscription to the Xbox Game Pass service.
Generally, you don’t need these extra features if you’re a console gamer. The PS4 and Xbox One won’t even recognize, let alone use, any security or backup software included in the drive.
For PC gamers, these features can be useful for keeping your data secure or backed up, but it’s not essential.
When you’re comparing different hard drives, even from the same brand or line, it’s a good idea to compare them on a per-gigabyte basis. Calculating it is simple – simply divide the drive’s cost by its capacity in GB (1 terabyte equals 1000 gigabytes).
Why compare cost per GB and not just its SRP? It’s because the price per GB doesn’t tend to be uniform across brands and product lines. Usually, you’ll see that price per GB is higher on lower capacities, which is why it’s sometimes economical to buy larger capacity drives.
However, sometimes this is flipped, with some external drives getting more expensive per GB as capacities go up. Compare a few hard drive’s per GB cost, and it will help you decide on which to buy.
Warranty is a must with any consumer device, and much so with external hard drives. That’s because they hold valuable data, and losing them will definitely ruin your day. Warranties are also a way for manufacturers to guarantee that their drives will work for a specified period.
Note, however, that warranties will only cover the replacement of your drive due to a factory defect. It will do nothing to save or recover your data unless the manufacturer also has a data recovery plan in place.
So we recommend backing up your game data in a secondary drive (if you can), or begin planning to transfer it to a new drive after about five years just to be safe.