External HDDs (or The Dream of a Content Creator)


That feeling when you have extra cash from your income tax return.

A couple weeks ago I reported on my Adventures in SLI. That adventure didn’t last very long since my case started emitting more heat into the room than I liked. I’m sure the temps would be very exciting once the humidity in Alabama cranks up in the coming months. So I decided to donate that new video card to charity; either the backup PC that my kid sometime uses or a friend in need.

So this evening I was looking over some Amazon items and realized just how cheap storage is these days. I began considering the addition of an external USB 3.0 HDD to my build in order to record some of my gameplay (either OBS or Nvidia Shadowplay). Not sure how far I would actually take this; likely just for my own entertainment initially, but I might try making some brief Youtube videos with minor commentary.

These videos would be terribad quality and mainly for the amusement of Strats members. I have zero skill or experience in production and I would be using a mediocre rig with a Logitech headset.

Initial ideas would be showing off bad plays in Battleborn or Overwatch (maybe with other Strats teammates), what-not-to-do-in-HotS, things like that.

It’s just an idea I came up with an hour ago when I realized that you can buy a 5TB external for about $120. Wut. And recording videos might be a little easier than live streaming. Except for that whole editing thing. And adding commentary.

As with all of my ideas this one could easily fail. I thought it might be fun to look into this and possibly provide some entertaining Strats moments in current and upcoming PC games.

Does anyone have experience with external hard drives? I assume that USB 3.0 is fast enough to write to the HDD while playing a game without any problems. Or does anyone have general comments about recording?


I have an external that I use on my Macbook for recording, but it runs on the Thunderbolt 2 port. The USB 3.0 should be fine since it’s 5GB/s, IIRC. I would highly recommend using OBS, personally, because of the configuration options over Shadowplay, but either would probably be fine. If you have a second monitor, I’d fire up Task Manager or another program to monitor CPU/RAM usage and do some tests at various record qualities to see what your system can and can’t do in terms of record quality while playing. It will vary from game to game, so pick a really system-intense game and use it as your basis :wink:


USB 3.0 will be fine. You’ll max out your ability to encode LONG before you max out a USB 3.0 connection.
The max bitrate for a youtube video is ~65Mbps (2160p 60fps), while the max transfer speed for USB 3.0 is 480Mbps.

For the best video quality, you want to record in no higher than 1440p (likely 1080p), record using the highest bitrate your computer can handle (up to 65Mbps), and then upscale according to the following YouTube bitrates:
1080p - 8Mbps(30fps) 12Mbps(60fps) <- Record in 720p or 1080p
1440p - 16Mbps(30fps) 24Mbps(60fps) <- Record in 1080p
2160p - 40Mbps(30fps) 60Mbps(60fps) <- Record in 1440p

The reason for the upsclaing is that 1080p can be compressed lossless (compression without quality loss) to ~45Mbps using h.264, but when YouTube detects a resolution of 1920x1080 it will compress it to 8Mbps. By upscaling the video YouTube will detect a higher resolution, and thus allow for a higher birtate. A higher bitrate will improve the quality of the video on a 1080p screen up to ~45Mbps.

I am too tired to write any more, but if you have any questions feel free to PM me on Discord.


After having a external die on me…I am never putting anything on an external that isn’t in a RAID array. The drive that we had die was a “Cheap” costco buy at around 135 USD for a 2-3ish TB drive. I think it was a Seagate. Very much so watchout and do some research on the drive before you buy it some cheap drives that seem “too good to be true” ARE too good to be true and have a high failure rate of 20-25% in the first year.

My only suggestion would be to check out some of the external all-in-one solutions if you don’t wanna deal with building another PC.

If you don’t mind another PC case, build a server.


I received my external HDD and am slowly beginning to experiment. For simplicity (and mediocrity, gotta keep the theme alive) I started out using Nvidia Shadowplay while playing Dark Souls 3. It’s currently recording at my in-game resolution (1080p), 60fps, 50Mbps, and using H.264.

All joking aside, I’m impressed with the quality of this video. I used the option to “record last 5 minutes of gameplay” and it looks good. Unfortunately, DS3 seems to be locked at 60 frames on PC so there are some moments where the video drags if my frames dip below 60. I am playing the game at max video settings. Maybe I’ll try recording at 30 frames, or lowering a few video settings, and see how it looks.

I then tried recording a section of The Division gameplay, probably one of the most graphic-intensive games I own. I had a minimum of 65-70 frames while playing and I think the video looks very good.

However, I have realized that I need to work on holding the camera steady. Lots of movement.

I now have some incentive to record segments of gameplay for the entertainment of myself and maybe others. Since a steady Twitch streaming schedule is difficult then this might be a good alternative. I’m not sure to what extent I will do this. Maybe I’ll record some Battleborn or Overwatch action.

Edit - I attribute this success to my sound card.


Good stuff.

I’d try turning the bitrate down before dropping the framerate, and see if that helps performance. I’d probably drop the bitrate all the way to 26Mbps, then upscale them to 1440p before uploading. It won’t look quite as good, but it will still be better than most, and you may not have to lose 60fps.