Technically speaking, playing games on an external drive will often be slower than playing them on an internal disc. This is because internal drives often have quicker drives and connection types. Even so, it’s possible that you won’t be able to see a change in performance but there is a considerable difference between both.
So you’re at the proper spot if you want to find out if are games running on an external drive slower or faster and what is the reason behind that.
Let’s get going!
How Does the Performance of Storage Drives Affect Games?
The fundamental idea is not too difficult. The computer or console must continuously retrieve data from the disc to play the game.
Therefore, a responsive drive will result in a responsive game experience.
However, we can go a little farther and be a little bit more particular. In general, the drive has little effect on the real-time game pace (although there are cases where it can). So, for instance, if you’re playing a one-person shooter, the drive won’t affect how quickly you move or adjust your aim. Instead, loading speeds are mostly affected by drives.
Usually, a loading screen appears while the computer retrieves the data it needs to play the loaded game environment from the storage disc.
Following that, the majority of important data is stored in the computer’s memory (also known as RAM).
This eliminates a tonne of storage drive speed-related delays, allowing you tremendous play in real-time.
However, your loading time will again rely (at least in part) on your drive speed if you load a new environment (such as a new level or a new multiplayer game).
Having said that, there are several situations in which drive speed might affect real-time performance.
Gaming systems, as previously mentioned, rely considerably on computer memory (and/or graphics memory). Even the greatest storage devices cannot compare to the speed of these memory resources.
As a result, while a game is running, games offload as many crucial files as they can to these resources.
Many gadgets and games also make use of virtual memory as an addition to computers and graphical memory.
There are other methods to do this, but for this discussion, leveraging storage drive resources for virtual memory is the most important.
In essence, a portion of the storage is set aside to serve as virtual memory. While it performs the same function as RAM and video RAM, the internal drive is the real hardware involved.
The drive’s speed is much more important if your game uses virtual memory. In essence, slower drives have trouble keeping up while providing virtual memory, which might result in obvious variations in the game’s performance.
Also Read: Are gaming laptops worth it?
What External Drives Are Best For Gaming?
The best external hard drives for gaming are solid-state drives, which are technically not hard drives or so-called hard drive discs (HDDs) (SSDs). Here are the top 5 gaming-focused external hard drives (or solid-state drives). from best overall to greatest value for the money.
Why Do External Drives Operate More Slowly Than Internal Drives?
We now understand the importance of driving speed. It has an impact on virtual memory performance and loading times.
That raises the following question.
Why don’t consoles and computers simply all have quicker drives?
The first response is simple enough. Older hard discs are found in older systems. Like every other component of a computer, storage drive technology advances gradually. Modern computers often come with speedier storage discs as standard. Additionally, it costs more to manufacture quicker drives. Therefore, you may have to give up drive speeds to keep your device’s price low.
Drive designs and the sort of connection utilized between the drive and the computer running the game are the main factors that affect drive speeds.
We’ll discuss both of those ideas. Here is something to keep in mind while we discuss that.
Drives with the same design and connection type may perform differently, although these changes aren’t really significant.
The variations you’ll see when the connectivity or design kinds change.
To put it another way, it matters whether you have a solid-state drive and how it is attached.
Beyond that, speed variations are much less and are not likely to affect how well a game runs.
1. PCIe Connection
The quickest sort of storage drive connection to discuss first is PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express).
This internal connection enables a drive to interact with other parts of the computer (or console) in a manner similar to that of a graphics card.
Simply said, there is currently no speedier solution available in consumer electronics.
On average, PCIe SSDs outperform the next-best choice by a factor of five.
In extreme circumstances, PCIe connections for the same device may be almost ten times quicker than SATA connections.
As a result, load times and virtual memory performance varied substantially.
2. SATA Connections
For storage discs of various types, SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) connectors are the next best choice.
Even while SATA connections have a speed that is around one-fifth that of PCIe connections, they are nevertheless quick enough for many gaming tasks.
In general, a solid-state or NVMe drive (more on these in a later section) can connect quickly enough over SATA to meet the requirements of contemporary gaming.
The majority of games work perfectly well with SATA connections, as long as the disc is fast enough, even if a PCIe connection is substantially quicker.
Although gaming PCs with PCIe connections are increasingly prevalent, there are also models that can run demanding games with SATA storage.
You may presume they all utilize PCIe or SATA connectors until we discuss popular storage drive options for various PCs and consoles.
3. USB Connectivity
Compared to the other connection methods, USB is substantially slower.
Even if you’re utilizing the most recent version of USB 3, your storage disc connection will still be substantially slower than one using contemporary SATA. Although technically capable of faster maximum data speeds than SATA, USB 3.2 is often slower in use.
However, USB-C (sometimes referred to as USB4) is a distinct species.
USB-C connections are capable of reaching speeds comparable to SATA and PCIe.
Consequently, a USB-C external drive may perform better than an internal SATA disc.
However, your connection rates will be much slower if you’re utilizing an older USB format, and you could notice a performance difference.
4. Speeds of Hard Drives
We’ve discussed connection kinds, but there are a number of various ways that storage devices are constructed, and their designs matter a lot.
Platter hard drives, also known as hard disc drives or plain hard drives, solid-state drives, and non-volatile memory express drives, are your primary options (NVMe).
A magnetic disc used in hard drives really rotates in circles.
For a few decades, this was the industry standard for storage drive technology.
You may still purchase external hard drives that use this technology, despite it being a bit more dated.
They are by far the slowest of these three types of drives, but they typically cost far less per terabyte of data.
Around five times as quick as hard discs are solid-state drives.
This is clearly sufficient to detect performance discrepancies, particularly with regard to loading times.
This is partially caused by the fact that hard drives cannot transport data quickly enough to max out SATA connections.
Solid-state drives have such capability.
So, moving to an inside SATA solid-state drive from an external hard disc may significantly improve storage drive performance.
However, solid-state drives are much slower than NVMe SSDs (by another factor of five or more).
SATA or PCIe may be used to connect these discs, however, PCIe is preferred.
This is due to the ease with which NVMe SSDs may surpass the maximum speeds made possible by SATA connections.
Referring to external drives once again, they are often either hard drives or solid-state drives.
Additionally, they often use USB connections rather than SATA, and they never use PICe.
Therefore, taking into account these alternatives and constraints, external hard disc performance is often much slower than internal hard drive performance.
Furthermore, switching from hard discs to solid-state or NVMe drives significantly improves boot speed, provided your connection type can keep up.
By the way, find out whether external drives are compatible with USB hubs here.
What Are the Differences in Storage Drive Performance Across Different Platforms?
Okay. Your storage drive’s configuration and the connection it utilizes both affect how well you play video games.
What features are common on popular consoles and personal computers?
What results can you anticipate from your various decisions?
Technically, you can have any combination of various discs and connections since PCs come in numerous sizes and designs.
So let’s think about a computer that is intended for gaming.
An NVMe drive linked through PCIe will be the most popular option for the internal drive in this case.
Naturally, because it is the quickest choice, gaming PCs will choose it.
The choices are far more extensive when it comes to external drives.
While some PCs have USB-C connectors, many gaming setups still only have USB 3 ports.
As a result, external drives are often much, much slower than internal drives on gaming PCs.
Therefore, loading times for games from external drives connected through USB 3 will be much slower than those from internal drives.
The USB connection is the limiting element, therefore this is true whether you have a hard disc or solid-state drive in that USB slot.
A quick solid-state drive is sufficient for most games if the PC supports USB-C.
Some PCs also include external eSATA ports.
Even though they are slower than USB-C, they are still faster than a typical USB-3 connection.
It’s important to remember.
We need to also discuss virtual memory.
Virtual memory is often used by PCs to improve performance.
Virtual memory is often allotted by the operating system rather than the currently running game.
As a result, the computer will utilise its internal disc as virtual memory.
The external disc and connection type you choose are irrelevant and shouldn’t affect how well a game runs.
The most recent Xbox model makes use of PCIe-connected NVMe SSDs.
In essence, you receive the quickest storage disc performance that is currently accessible.
The Xbox additionally includes USB 3.0 external connection connectors.
The limitations of USB 3 connections mean that your decisions won’t have a big effect.
Because of the connection type’s limitations, solid-state performance won’t be as noticeable in-game as it would be with an external hard drive.
In other words, if you use a current Xbox to play a game that uses external storage, you’ll see slower load times.
Since the console will give priority to the considerably quicker internal disc for virtual memory, you probably won’t experience any troubles in-game.
The experience on the PlayStation is unique.
It also has NVMe SSDs inside that are PCIe-connected.
The presence of USB-C ports is what really makes a difference.
A PlayStation 5 user may benefit from a significantly better performance from their extended storage since this is accessible for external devices.
Here, decisions are crucial.
A solid-state drive that can take full use of USB-speed C’s advantages will perform substantially better than a hard disc.
Slower load times are noticeable with the hard disc (even if you connect it to a USB-C slot).
The performance will be substantially better with a solid-state drive connected through a USB-C connector than it would be with a hard disc.
However, the internal disc is still speedier when compared to your solid-state drive (via USB-C).
While playing games, you may not really realize which is faster despite the speed difference.
Both of them are quick enough to provide premium performance.
The virtual memory experience is consistent amongst all of the devices.
The internal drive will be given preference by the PlayStation while creating virtual memory.
In this regard, it won’t really matter which external disc you use.
How to Play Games from a Hard Drive?
You already know that you can play games on an external disc and that there probably won’t be any performance differences.
However, do you know how to use an external disc to play games?
The computer merely has to know where to look for the game when it is on another disc to do this.
When you install the game, you may choose its storage location and make sure the computer can locate it.