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Summary :

can you run a game from a USB flash drive

Thanks to the small size of USB flash drive, you may want to run games off it. Can you run a game from a USB flash drive? How to successfully install a game on it or move game installation files to it? In this post, MiniTool discusses these questions.

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Can You Run a Game from a USB Flash Drive?

Generally, we use a USB flash drive for external storage, data backup, and transfer of computer files. Due to its small size and light weight, loads of players want to install their games on it and play them off it. Those who want to install run games off a USB flash drive

Since my laptop SSD is running out of space, would it be possible to play games like Bioshock Infinite on a USB 3.0 flash drive (assuming I have a USB 3.0 port)?forum.notebookreview.com

The potential of being able to install and play games from a flash drive is extremely enticing, especially for those of us that travel often.

Is it possible to run a game from a USB flash drive? Yes. The majority of games can be installed on a USB flash and you can run them off the storage device. Furthermore, you can also install Steam on a USB flash drive.

Aside from this doubt, lots of players have been bothered by the following questions.

How About the Gameplay Experience on a USB Flash Drive?

Gameplay experience matters. How about the gameplay experience on USB flash drive? There are different voices.

Some users hold that game will be quite slower at loading on a USB flash drive than on hard drive as a SATA hard drive can transfer data faster than a USB flash drive can.

The SATA interface has developed into SATA III or SATA 6Gb/s. The generation, in theory, can run at 6Gb/s and the bandwidth throughput is 600MB/s.

As to USB speed standard, it has developed to USB 4.0 and its transfer speed can be up to 40 Gb/s, but there is few USB 4.0 flash drive on the market. Most of us are using USB 3.0 flash drive and its transfer speed is 5.0Gb/s, which is slower than a SATA hard drive.

usb 3 0 speed thumbnail
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However, there are some different voices. One comes from techpowerup.com:

“Flash drives have lower latencies than hard drives, so they should be better suited for games that are loading a lot of different files. I think, even with lower read/write speeds, games like GTA:V might actually run better off a USB flash drive than a hard drive simply because of how GTA:V is loading so many different texture files”.

Flash storage is a solid-state technology that relies on electronic signal transmission for writing and reading data. Therefore, USB flash drive can achieve very fast response times (microsecond latency), compared to hard drives with moving components.

A YouTuber has compared reading and writing speed and the Skyrim loading time among USB 3.0 flash drive, HDD, and SSD and got surprising results.

reading and writing time comparison

loading time comparison

From the two screenshots, you can see:

  • USB flash drive outperforms the hard drive in non-sequential reading speed which is what you may be most interested in with gaming.
  • In terms of writing speed, hard drive is superior to USB flash drive, which means you will speed longer time installing games on the flash drive.
  • As to the game loading time, flash drive is surprisingly to be on a par with SSD.

Want to know reading and writing speed of your USB flash drive, HDD, and SSD? If yes, you might be interested in Hard Drive/SSD Speed Test with Best Free Disk Benchmark Software.

Other Questions Related to Running Games off USB Flash Drive

Is it bad to run games off a USB flash drive? Playing games off a USB flash drive must have a negative influence on the storage device and therefore it is not highly recommended that you play games off it in the long term as it might burn out.

Moreover, you will get into trouble if your USB flash drive carries with viruses. To ensure your data security, you’d better back up your computer regularly.

Can you copy game files to a flash drive and play the game on other computers? This depends on whether the game has a registry. Generally, small games do not have a registry and you can copy their files to USB flash drive and play them on other computers. However, some large games carry the registry and you need to register the game on other computers.

How to pick a USB flash drive for gaming? You can refer to The Guide to Choose the Best USB Flash Drive and select a USB 3.0 flash drive with large enough capacity.

Issues You Might Face Before Running Games off USB Flash Drive

Before running a game off the USB flash drive, you need to download it to the storage device or move the existing game files to it. However, there are some issues you may run into.

  • The game goes straight to local drive instead of the flash drive.
  • The game cannot be installed on the flash drive and games files cannot be moved to it.
How do I install a game on my Flash Drive instead of Hard Drive? When I install it, it goes straight to hard drive. And when I try to move it from hard drive to flash drive it won't let me.forums.tomshardware.com

The Game Goes Straight to Local Drive When Downloading

When downloading a game, you may find that the game goes straight to the local drive. How to make it goes straight to the flash drive? The trick is below.

Step 1: Right-click the Windows icon on the toolbar and then choose Disk Management from the menu. Right-right-click the flash drive to select Change Drive Letter and Path…

change Drive Letter and Paths

Step 2: Click the Add button and then click the Browse button in the Mount in the following empty NTFS folder section.

click Add and Browse

Step 3: Click the New Folder button and then name the folder. Finally, click the OK button to confirm.

add a new folder

Cannot Install Game and Move Game Files

Why can’t install games on the USB flash drive or move game files to it? The reason is that the file system of the flash drive cannot support the file.

Generally, a USB flash drive adopts FAT32 file system. FAT is short for File Allocation Table 32 and FAT32 is the most popular version of FAT. It does not support the file that is over 4GB. However, game files are large and single game file might be larger than 4GB.

So, check the file system of the USB flash drive in Disk Management. Take Windows 10 for example.

  • Open Disk management.
  • On the Disk Management window, check the file system of the USB flash drive.

check the file system of the USB flash drive

Then, open File Explorer, find the game files you want to transfer to USB flash drive, and see if there is any game file that is over 4GB.

If the USB file system is FAT32 and the game file is over 4GB, you need to break FAT32 file size limit by switching to NTFS or exFAT.

NTFS and exFAT are another two main Windows file systems. NTFS (New Technology File System) can support a file that is up to 256TB and exFAT can support a file that is up to 16EB. To see more differences among the three file systems, please refer to NTFS vs FAT32 vs exFAT.

There are three utilities to reformat a USB flash drive to NTFS or exFAT on Windows computers and they are Disk Management, diskpart commands, and MiniTool Partition Wizard.

If there are some important files on the USB flash drive and you want to convert it to NTFS, it is highly recommended that you try MiniTool Partition Wizard. This professional partition manager can help you complete this conversion without data loss as well as format the storage device to the file system you want with ease. Plus, this utility can also help you upgrade to a larger hard drive without data loss.

Here is the tutorial on how to format a USB flash drive to NTFS or exFAT with MiniTool Partition Wizard.

Free Download

Step 1: Connect your USB flash drive to your computer.

Step 2: Click the above button to download MiniTool Partition Wizard. After downloading, install it on your Windows computer and launch it to access its main interface.

Step 3: See if the USB flash drive has been loaded on the software interface.

Step 4: Highlight the partition of the USB flash drive and then click the Format Partition feature from the left panel.

activate the Format Partition feature

Step 5: On the popping-up window, choose NTFS or exFAT as the file system and then click the OK button.

choose a file system and click OK

Step 6: Click the Apply button on the main interface to execute the changes.

click the Apply button

usb formatter thumbnail
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After these steps, you should manage to install the game on the flash drive and move games files to it.

If you don’t know how to move game files from Steam to the USB flash drive, you can follow the instructions below.

Step 1: Go to Steam > Backup and Restore Game.

click Backup and Restore Games

Step 2: Choose backup and Game of choice.

Step 3: Back up the game in a file on your local computer and then drag the backup files onto the USB flash drive.

transfer data from flash drive to flash drive thumbnail
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Can you run a game from a USB flash drive? Read the post that touches on the question and talks about some issues you might face before running a game off the storage device.Click to tweet

Final Thoughts

You can run some games from a USB flash drive. But before you do that, do not forget to format the storage device to NTFS or exFAT. Otherwise, the game installation process or game files transfer process will not go smoothly. If you have some issues when formatting it with MiniTool Partition Wizard, you can contact us via [email protected].

Can You Run a Game from a USB Flash Drive FAQ

Can you play Steam games from a flash drive?
Yes. You can use your flash drive as an external Steam library. However, you can’t store many games on the storage device, including 16GB or 64GB.
Can you run League of Legends off a flash drive?
You can run LOL off a flash drive. The game can work fine off a USB flash drive, even a USB 2.0, some users said.
How do I run Steam from a USB?
  • Plug the USB flash drive in your computer and make sure there is enough free space on it.
  • Locate the Valve folder on the hard drive (C:\Program\File\Steam). Make sure that any games you want to play are installed on your computer and in the Steam folder.
  • Copy the entire Steam folder onto the USB flash drive.
  • When the copy process ends, remove the drive and connect it to another computer.
  • Open the Steam folder on the drive and double-click stean.exe to open the application.
  • Log into the service using your user name and password and find the game you want to play.
  • Open a server and analyze the quality and performance of the game to make sure that the settings from one computer are optimized for the other.
  • Adjust the settings appropriately, including the resolution or graphics detail.
  • Start to play the game.
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