Why an external SSD is your essential Black Friday PS5 upgrade

PS5 console with WD Black P50
(Image credit: Future)

When we talk about storage upgrades for PS5 right now, most people are talking about internal upgrades – the 667GB you get in the console doesn't go very far in a world where COD: Modern Warfare II takes up 150GB on its own, and God of War: Ragnarok cruises to 90GB. Any game made for the PS5 specifically must be installed on the internal storage, so all the space on your internal drive is at a premium.

But it's not just PS5-specific games, you'll have, is it? Anyone who had a PS4 for years or has taken Sony up on the PS Plus Extra subscription tier, with its access to Game Catalogue, will have a library of PS4 classics ready to be downloaded and dipped back into at any time. (Even if it could be better value.)

So between giant PS5 games and not-exactly-small PS4 games, even adding an extra 1TB of internal storage to the PS5 wouldn't exactly leave you with a bounty of available space for next year's titles.

The solution? Get yourself an external SSD during the Black Friday deals. Even if you're already thinking of getting more internal space, I think an external SSD is a must-have for PS5 gamers. I've got an additional 1TB internally in my SSD, but also a 1TB external SSD, and really, it's this that gets the most use.

You can't install PS5 games to an external PS5 SSD, but you can install PS4 games there, which means that they won't take up any space on your internal storage, easing the burden there. So if you want to download a ton of PS4 games from your library, so they're available to play any time, do it here.

And when you find them on a great deal (as you'll be able to over Black Friday), they're about half the price of internal SSD upgrades.

SSDs take the pressure off

I've used one since day one on my PS5 because I already used it with my PS4. Even over USB, an SSD is much faster to load games than an old-fashioned spinning hard drive, so I was using it for everything on my PS4, speeding things up massively. 

I used the drive to move my library over to my PS5 without spending ages downloading everything again, but I didn't move it to the internal storage. It just sits behind my PS5, out of sight, always plugged in and available.

It makes things so much easier – I've never had to worry about whether I've got the space available for any of the new PS5 games, because I've now got 1.6TB dedicated solely to that, and 1TB just for the best PS4 games. And it cost me much less than if I'd gone for a 2TB internal upgrade instead.

I've hit the limits of my 1TB external drive a few times and had to decide which older games to offload for now – most recently when I went on a downloading spree on Game Catalogue. But the drive meant that I could go on that downloading spree in the first place, without having to kick Ratchet & Clank, Returnal, Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Deathloop, and Horizon Forbidden West off my internal drive… and still having space for Ragnarok with no fuss.

It's a boring kind of upgrade, it's true – it doesn't make anything run faster or look better or anything like that. But having an external drive for your PS4 games is one of those purchases where once you have it, you could never think about returning to the old ways.

How to buy wisely

SSDs can run just from USB power, so it doesn't cause any extra connection headaches. I have mine plugged into one of the USB Type-A ports on the back of my PS5 – as mentioned, that means the tiny drive just sits behind my PS5, out of sight, doing its job.

The maximum speed of the USB ports on the PS5 is 10Gbps, which means that the maximum speed you can actually make use of from your drive is 1,250MB/s. Some USB SSDs support beyond that – but because of this limitation, there's little point going above 1,000MB/s or so.

I use a drive that's about 500MB/s, and the loading speeds from that are more than fast enough for me when playing games like Assassin's Creed Valhalla or Horizon Zero Dawn. If you're willing to spend more on an external SSD, I would personally suggest getting more storage rather than extra speed, but that's up to you.

And while you can technically use an external HDD (the old spinning kind) with the PS5, I really can't advise wasting your money on this. Yes, it'll solve the storage problem similarly, but the loading speeds will be in…ter…min…a…ble. You won't want to install anything on it, which makes it pointless – and SSDs can be found on good deals for only a little more than spinning drives.

And so one final bit of buying advice: make sure that the external drive you're buying is an SSD and not an HDD. While writing this article, I looked at the current market, and there's an alarming amount of drives that advertise as being SSDs in search results, but are suspiciously cheap and never mention what kind of storage they use when you get to the actual results. Don't gamble out there – buy something that is definitively an SSD.

We'll be searching out the best Black Friday PS5 deals in the coming week, highlighting savings where they're to be made, and steering you away from anything that may be a waste of money.

PS5 external SSD recommendations 

Crucial X8 | Up to 1050 MB/s at Amazon

Crucial X8 | Up to 1050 MB/s at Amazon
The Crucial X8 is our top pick for the best PS5 external hard drive. This is because it's competitively priced and one of the fastest SSD options on the market, pushing passed the 1000 MB/s sequential mark.

Samsung T7 | Up to 1050 MB/s at Amazon

Samsung T7 | Up to 1050 MB/s at Amazon
The Samsung T7 Shield line are some of the more competitively priced options you can get. Now there are two variations, the standard and the Shield, the latter of which is more heavy duty and hard-wearing.

Today's best PS5 external hard drive deals 

Our price comparison software pulls through some of the best rates available online on our top picks for the best PS5 external hard drives. If you're after a wider selection, this is a great place to continue your search. 

Matt Bolton
Managing Editor, Entertainment

Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Entertainment, meaning he's in charge of persuading our team of writers and reviewers to watch the latest TV shows and movies on gorgeous TVs and listen to fantastic speakers and headphones. It's a tough task, as you can imagine. Matt has over a decade of experience in tech publishing, and previously ran the TV & audio coverage for our colleagues at T3.com, and before that he edited T3 magazine. During his career, he's also contributed to places as varied as Creative Bloq, PC Gamer, PetsRadar, MacLife, and Edge. TV and movie nerdism is his speciality, and he goes to the cinema three times a week. He's always happy to explain the virtues of Dolby Vision over a drink, but he might need to use props, like he's explaining the offside rule.