16 TB SSDs do exist, but they definitely DO NOT cost $100 or less. If you ever see a listing online for an ultra-capacity SSD that looks something like this, ignore it. It’s a popular scam that fraudulent sellers love to exploit with non-tech-savvy users.
As for the legit ones, their availability isn’t for the average consumer. The reasons are more or less the same as with 8TB SSDs, but there may be hope on the horizon, even if price premiums will never go away.
WRITERS NOTE: Before proceeding, we would just like to clarify that while 16 TB HDDs exist, a good majority of SSDs of similar capacities are typically available at 15.36 TB. However, for the purposes of this piece, we shall also mention and treat them as if they are 16 TB storage products.
Pre-Disclaimer: You Probably Don’t Need a 16 TB External SSD for Gaming
The current line-up of external SSD’s is more than enough for both casual and competitive gaming. Even if your games tend to go upwards from 100 to 150 GB each, you can still fit more than thirty or so inside a standard 4 TB Steam Deck SSD before it fills up.
Now imagine 16 TB is four times that amount. Most multimedia nowadays is consumed online, so the practical need for such massive storage capacities for the average PC user has greatly diminished. Especially for SSDs, which skyrocketed to insane prices at that level, and is also the main reason why products such as the Samsung PM1633a are catered almost exclusively for (large-scale) enterprise applications.
Types of 16 TB Drives
In terms of availability:
Expansion storage products – a vast portion of available 16 TB external drives in the market are actually high-end NAS servers. This means that they don’t have 16 TB physical storage but are only designed to carry drives that can add up to a total of 16 TB. So yes, you still must buy separate HDDs or SSDs for these products.
Ultra-high-performance enterprise 2.5-inch drives – these SATA-based storage drives rarely appear in typical online store search results. If they do appear, they are either part of a product group (such as the Synology HAT5300-16T HDD) or are a refurbished/renewed model on resale. Oh, and they are still mostly HDDs, with the aforementioned Samsung PM1633a SSDs generally plugged into a data center if not connected as one of many drives in a NAS server.
High-end enterprise M.2 drives – Same with 2.5-inch enterprise drives, these NVMe SSDs never typically appear in general search results when shopping online unless you specifically type the model name/number. As they are using the latest in storage drive technology, many of these are also even more expensive than the already exorbitantly priced 16 TB SATA SSDs. The Micron 9300 Pro, for example, has been available for enterprise applications starting in 2019. While using regular NVMe enclosures works for external use, these products are still best suited for disk array applications, where numbers improve their overall operational efficiency.
Fake 16TB external SSDs – if you see an online product claiming to be a 16 TB SSD with a price that is well below that of a 16 TB HDD, it is most definitely a fake SSD. When plugged in, they would display properly as 16 TB drives and will be able to save a good amount of storage space (1 to 4 TB). However, once you go past its true capacity, it will automatically delete sections of saved data to make way for new writes, essentially deleting the old ones and corrupting them along the way.
Maximizing 16 TB External SSD Performance
16 TB external SSDs may technically be a huge waste of money for the average user. But if you really want to purchase one, then you may want to remember these things to keep them worth the fortune you spent:
Use a high-speed connecting interface – NVMe SSDs have speeds that are well outside the limitations of traditional USB 3.0 connections (5 Gbps). So, to maximize their use externally, your minimum target should be at least 10 Gbps (USB 3.1 Gen 2), with your ultimate goal being Thunderbolt USB Type-C connections, which go near the limit of Superspeed+ specs (20 Gbps).
A modern, mid-range PC from at least 2018 – or, more specifically, a PC that supports motherboard features of updated data transfer technologies starting in 2017 or later. You will generally want higher-end motherboards for this purpose, as they are usually the ones with default availability for the USB connections mentioned earlier (check individual motherboard models for rear I/O specs).
Custom PCIe products that provide high-speed connections – if your motherboard supports at least extra PCIe 3.0 connections, you can use something like this add-in card to provide high-speed ports to an older computer that doesn’t have the necessary native USB ports.
Uses for 16 TB External SSDs for the Average Consumer
Nothing. A 16 TB external SSD is just way too unworkable for any standard application. It may be a traveling video editor’s dream storage drive or a roving graphical designer’s ideal pocket server. But as with 8 TB portable drives, you’re not getting too much value out of a very expensive product that gets occasional use for data that would better be served in an actual (internal) system or simply accessed online.
And if you want something to save your games on, get an internal drive. 4 TB is mostly more than enough, and if you can afford many, you’re probably no longer at an age where you have the time to play and complete every one of those games regardless.
What About 32 TB SSDs and Bigger?
Not a single consumer SSD exists that comes even remotely close to 32 TB, let alone an external one. There’s the 30 TB Samsung PM1733/1735 30 TB NVMe SSD, but that’s not even built for M.2 ports and is plugged into its dedicated PCIe connector. The Nimbus ExaDrive DC is a whopping 100 TB SATA SSD with an equally astronomical price of $40,000, well above the cost of a high-end GeForce RTX 4090 gaming PC several times over.
As we have concluded with 8 TB SSDs, if you really want a 16 TB SSD (or higher), then you better have an actual productivity or professional-related use case to justify its high cost and everyday impracticality.
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