Can You Play Games Off an External Hard Drive [SSD / HDD]

As we know games are becoming better and better with each year.

They have way more features, way more activities that we can do in them, and most of all, better graphics and visuals!

But to be able to have all of these extra things that make the game outstanding and the best they will have a much bigger size, meaning that in term we will need much bigger storage in our devices.

So getting an External Hard Drive is a must in some cases. The question stands – Can you play games off an external hard drive? In this article, we will be discussing it.

Can You Play Games Through An External Hard Drive?

Yes, you can. To do so, just indicate where the game is saved during installation so that your computer can discover and access the game stored on the hard drive.

When installing a game you will have an option to select where to place this actual game.

It can be on your Local Disk or you can have the option to place it inside the External Hard Drive.

Then once you place it on your External Hard Drive you will have an option to choose that the game is located here before playing it and this way it will run from the External Hard Drive.

How To Play Games Through An External Hard Drive?

To play off an External Hard Drive might seem hard for some people and they skip over it completely.

Basically, you just plug it inside like you would for your microphone. But it is fairly simple and easy and can save you a lot of storage.

These are the steps:

You Will Need To Connect The External Drive

The first step toward your objective of playing games from your hard drive is to connect the external hard drive to your computer. 

When you attach the external hard drive to your computer, you must also ensure that the computer can read and access the hard disk. 

The simplest approach to validate this is to open your computer’s file explorer, travel to your external hard drive, and ensure that you can open the folder and view the data on the hard drive.

Open The Installer Of Your Game

Log in to your gaming browser(Steam, Uplay…) and navigate through your library to find the game you wish to save to your external hard drive. 

During the game installation process, you will be required to pick the folder to which the installation should be directed.

A drop-down option will appear in the installation window, allowing you to select the folder in which you wish to install the game. 

Click it and navigate to the appropriate folder on your external hard disk. If you can’t find the folder you want, you may have to manually add it.

A window will open with Downloads on it. You will select the Downloads Tab and then you can go into your Steam Library to choose the games downloaded.

From here you can press on the + button to add a folder for these downloaded games. Now just choose the external hard drive option.

This will make it so that they will download directly here.

Start Your Game

You will start the game just as before. Nothing is different about it just it will be running and getting the information that it needs to run from your external hard drive. 

No, there aren’t special ways of opening it for running better.

You can do it from your game library, from your shortcuts on the desktop, from right-clicking and opening it from the bottom right corner and etc.

Playing Off An External Hard Drive – Is It A Good Idea?

I would like to say that it is.

Modern games are getting bigger and bigger and sometimes you are even wondering if you can even be able to hold more than a couple of your favorite games.

If you are anything like me, and you want to have Red Dead Redemption 2 while also having Call of Duty: Warzone, you will want to have an external hard drive for sure.

Pros For Playing Off An External Hard Drive

Here are a couple of positives of having an external hard drive:


Like I just said above in the paragraph, games can be up to 300GB at times so if you have a laptop with 512GB storage, your best friend will be the external hard drive.

By having one you will be able to hold up multiple of your favorite games without having to worry about how much space you have left.

I highly recommend it mainly because of this reason.

FPS Will Still Remain The Same

A lot of people would argue that playing off an external hard drive will be bad for you mainly because of the lower frame rates that you would get. Well, that is wrong.

Gamers have been testing this myth over the years and the results are fascinating. You will get the same FPS as you would play normally. This is fantastic news for everyone I assume.

The main component important for your FPS is of course your system specifications.

If you have a good enough PC to hold and play a game, well you can put as many games as you want on your external hard drive and play them all.


If you are like me and want to travel around occasionally, while still keeping up to date with the new games, well then this is the biggest reason why you would want an external hard drive.

You can store as many games as you can on your external hard drive(of course if you have a bigger storage one you will be able to do more). 

So let’s say that you’ve put all the Assassin’s Creed games on your portable External Hard Drive and you decide to play one after a long time.

Simply place it inside your PC and game away!

Also, portability will allow you to go over to your friend’s house and play your favorite games from Steam just by attaching the external hard drive on their PC.

Show off your amazing skills!

Cons For Playing Off An External Hard Drive

Here are a couple of negative sides to playing off an external hard drive:


As we know it all comes down to what kind of external hard drive you buy. If you want to go for the quality and extra storage one, well then prepare to make your wallet lighter.

The external hard drives are very much in use in modern times meaning that their price will constantly go higher and higher. 

Of course, I am recommending it but only if you can afford it

Slower Load and Installation Times

No matter how fast an external SSD drive is, it will never be as quick as an internal SSD drive that plugs directly into the motherboard.

The same is true for internal HDDs vs. external HDDs.

As a result, installing or loading game files may take longer. Your in-game FPS will no longer be impacted. A lengthy loading screen, on the other hand, may irritate some users.

Of course, the time can vary according to the type of external hard drive that you’re using. Most users of them are USB users and here is some info about them:

  • USB 3.2 Gen1 Speed – 1250 MB/s
  • USB 3.2 Gen2 Speed – 625 MB/s
  • USB 2.0 Speed – 60 MB/s

Can It Damage Your USB Ports?

Yes, and no. It all comes up to you as a user and caretaker of your PC or Laptop. I have used mine for over 5 years and my USB are as good as new.

So, if you do see that this is a con on other articles on the internet you will have to know yourself what type of a caretaker of your devices you are. 

It doesn’t take much to have your device just like the day that you bought it.

Best Tip For Using An External Hard Drive

I am a user of an external hard drive for years now. My laptop does have the necessary storage that I would need to play games but an external hard drive is always my go-to.

When you decide to buy one, you will want to look for the most quality one with the biggest storage. I have used mine for the past 7 years and it is still functioning perfectly!

So, decide how much it would cost you and how it would make your life easier if you buy something that you’ll know that you’ll be using for the next 5 years!


Playing off an external hard drive is something that can be done and something that I highly recommend you try. 

The Pros outweigh the Cons in a long run, and the only thing you should be looking for is a quality External Hard Drive.

I hope that this article has cleared up some of the myths that you’ve had about playing games off an external hard drive. 

If you do have some questions about it do let me know down in the comments below.

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