After shakedown in waters off northern Europe, Porter visited St. John’s, Newfoundland, for coronation ceremonies in honor of George VI in May 1937 and was at the Washington Navy Yard during the Boy Scout Jamboree, June–July 1937. Then reassigned to the Pacific Fleet, she transited the Panama Canal and arrived at San Francisco on 5 August 1937. She operated from San Diego continuously with the Pacific Fleet until the outbreak of World War II.
On 5 December 1941, Porter got underway from Pearl Harbor, escaping the Japanese attack by two days. She patrolled with cruisers and destroyers in Hawaiian waters before steaming in convoy on 25 March 1942 for the West Coast.
She operated off the West Coast with Task Force 1 for the next four months. Returning to Pearl Harbor in mid-August, she trained in Hawaiian waters until 16 October, when she sortied with TF 16 and headed for the Solomons.
On 26 October 1942, TF 16 exchanged air attacks with strong Japanese forces northeast of Guadalcanal in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. During the ensuing action, Porter was torpedoed by a submarine and, after the crew had abandoned ship, was sunk by gunfire from Shaw. Her name was struck from the Navy List on 2 November 1942.
Porter earned one battle star for World War II service.