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Question Installing and running Steam games from USB 3.0 external hard drive? (Speed-wise)


Golden Member
Apr 20, 2013
It's been a while since I had a external USB 3.0 hard drive...my last one was a 3 TB Seagate where the USB enclosure died on me.

I just now bought a Western Digital Elements 12 TB USB 3.0 external hard drive from Amazon.

How much of a limiting factor is it running high-stress games like Assassin's Creed Odyssey, or Red Dead Redemption 2 off of a USB 3.0 hard drive?

(In terms of the game keeping up with the hard drive speed) versus being installed on a internal SATA 6Gbps hard drive.

Also, are the newer external hard drives as sensitive to being moved or jostled?

Don't want my new 12 TB external drive failing because I clumsily knocked it over.


Senior member
Dec 19, 2008

It will work. You may experience some issues in-game and with loading times between play moments. The drive has a lot of ground to cover to get back to where it needs to be to read data, so that latency time will hang up on some games if they're calling for information from all over the place. Some games you'll not notice a thing, as it loads everything prior to play and it's all accessible from memory mostly and just pre-reads and caches the next play area that way. Loading times may be a bit slower. But latency for when the drive is asked for information during play is where you'll experience some hang ups, sometimes (maybe).

You would be far better off putting it into the system on an internal SATA port. Or at least an external eSATA port.

It's not so much the USB3 thing, but actually the drive itself (a huge slow dense 12TB HDD is not ideal for gaming even internally on SATA).

Do you really need a 12TB drive for games? Even with 300+ games installed, a 1TB drive is likely plenty to just have the install files, if separate from the OS disc. I would get a 1TB SSD for this, rather than a big HDD. Just a thought.

And yes, do not bump or knock over these new dense high capacity drives. Not once. Set it so it cannot fall over. Put it in something. Whatever it takes.

Very best,


Golden Member
Apr 20, 2013
With most of the games I mentioned being so large, I'd rather have the space to fit them installed.

(Assassin's Creed Odyssey is 92.9 GB installed,RDR 2 is 116GB installed, and I've got a few other big games as well.)

FiveM(it's a multiplayer GTA 5 mod) requires a copy of the entire GTA 5 directory, so that's over 200 GB installed.

I'd rather not have my 1 TB Mushkin SSD stuffed to the brink with games.


Memory and Storage, Graphics Cards
Super Moderator
Sep 13, 2008
I would get an internal drive for this. Search for deals on 8TB or larger WD golds, like I did! It will be faster and safer.


Junior Member
Nov 22, 2020
I do hate how people who have never tried this at all before are quick to naysay it, but it does depend on what kind of Gamer you are.
I have an Akitio NT2 U31C with two shucked 8TB WD Helium drives (My Book Duo) in it for this very purpose running in JBOD. I use USB3.1 type C connection
I have an older computer (Alienware 13R3 Laptop). I have been playing Horizon Zero Dawn with this configuration with no problems, default configuration (so I don't lower textures or anything)

Now if you're the type of gamer that throws a fit over playing at any less than 120Hz then of course you're going to see a performance drop. But there are no freezes, loadtimes are not extremely different (a few seconds more than if I copy it to my M.2 SSD sure, but who times loading screens?). Scene transitions happen flawlessly, The enclosure can handle a bit of shaking around, but don't do it.

Of course, the great part of having an external HDD is that you can offload files from your SSD and copy over stuff that you actually want at the moment. The setup works regardless of how you use it.