Internal vs External SSD | What is their Difference?

samsung external ssd

In the early 1990s the first Solid-State drives(SSDs) commercially entered the market and in the last decade they have risen so much in popularity that they are now considered the go-to solution for computer storage. Compared to the much older HDDs, they can offer vastly improved loading speeds and data transferring. With the rapid decrease in their pricing, they will eventually replace HDDs altogether. There are currently 2 different types of SSD: The Internal and External.

A lot of people might make a mistake when buying, thinking that they are the same with the only difference being that only one is portable but the truth is that they have quite a few differences in pricing, speed and connectivity. I am not by any means an expert in Hard Disks but after doing some research on the subject(for my SSD) I will help you analyze both types and figure out which one is the best for you.

What is the difference between internal and external SSD?

There is not a distinction to the way both drives write/read data, but the main difference is in their connection to computer. The internal SSDs will connect via SATA or m.2, while the externals will connect through USB or eSATA.

Are internal SSDs faster than externals?

ssd

Internal SSDs’ speed of reading and writing can be faster than the externals’ since they have less elements limiting their speed. However, if you use all the recent interfaces like USB 3.0 or better you can achieve similar performance for both drive types. 

There are 2 factors that limit the transfer rates of internal drives:

  1. The drive speed
  2. The transfer interface

While an external SSD has 3 limiting factors:

  1. The drive speed
  2. The transfer interface
  3. The electronic interface converter in the enclosure

At the moment most SSDs run at about 500Mbps speed, while the internal SATA interface transfers data at a 6Gbps rate. So, the “bottleneck” here is the drive speed. The same is true for the transfer interface as you will get not get the drive’s max speed if you hypothetically connect it to an interface with less than 500Mbps transfer rate.

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As for the external drives, to simplify it as much as possible, they have an “electronic converter” pre-installed in their casing which converts the main interface of the SSD to a different one(for example SATA to USB). If you were to remove the external SSD from its casing(Not recommended) you would indeed notice that it’s a normal SSD with a SATA connected to this “converter“. You can see that even if you buy two of the same SSDs and connect them to two interfaces with equal transfer rates, the external will always experience extra “bottleneck” from the interface which does the conversion.

However, what happens if you connect your external drive to a latest USB version such as USB3.1 or 3.2 or maybe thunderbolt? Can the external drives be as fast as the internals? The answer is YES. If you have a modern computer with high quality interface and as technology further progresses, you can expect the external SSDs to have very similar performance as the internals or even better in specific cases. There are already external PCIe drives and enclosures which are faster than the internal mechanical drives but their prices are pretty high.

Pricing & which one you should buy

external ssd

A few years back, internal SSDs used to cost way higher than externals mainly because they were built with better materials and they had higher speeds but nowadays, with the more and more improved interfaces which can be used by the external drives the prices are reversed.

You can get a decent 500GB internal SSD on Amazon with a starting price of $59.99(Without the discounts) while an external starts at $89.99. Considering how similar their performance has become over the past 5 years, it was only a matter of time for the external drives to get more expensive. No internal drives can match the portability that the external SSDs give to the user.

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You can even use them for gaming as their load times are not even slow anymore. You can plug the drive to your console, perform a format and then use it as external storage. For example, you can easily install PS5 games, go to your friend’s place and run them from the external storage on his PS5. They are definitely worth the price if you ask me! 

Now, let’s take a look at who should purchase each type of SSD.

Who should buy an Internal SSD?

This type of storage should be bought by people who are on a limited budget and don’t really need the flexibility that the External SSD offers. If all you need is fast boot times, large storage capacity, speed and multi-tasking capabilities then an Internal SSD is the perfect fit for you.

Who should buy an External SSD?

People who are interested in gaming and also want to use the portability that it generally offers should purchase an External SSD. Their higher price should surely be taken into consideration but if budget is not an issue, they are absolutely worth the money.

Conclusion

To sum all of this up, the external SSDs are just normal Solid-State Drives which are installed in a casing with a converter which changes their main connection interface to a different one. Nowadays, both of them can have the same performance when it comes to speed, although, the external drives are more expensive as they offer more options to their buyers. At the end of the day, upgrading your PC with either of them is utterly the right answer since all the latest programs and video games tend to get larger and require more and more resources to run. As always, I recommend you to do your own research before buying as things can rapidly change in this industry. I hope that this article was helpful to you and now you know which SSD is the best for you. If you have any further questions about Hard Disks, let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to help you.

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Will you purchase an Internal or External SSD?

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