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To protect your valuable computer data and make it more portable, investing in an external hard drive is a great idea. They’re never powered up as much as integrated drives inside your computer, so the data remains protected better, and you can be more assured that in case of any mishap, you’ll have a backup of your precious data.
Best External Hard Drives Reviewed
External drives have trailed in their evolution when compared to integrated storage devices. Now, solid-state drives or SSDs are the modern standards in integrated storage solutions, with the computing world also quickly adopting the much faster NVMe PCIe m.2 SSDs as well.
The external drives niche, on the other hand, is still predominantly occupied by mechanical drives. Yet the trend is slowly moving forward, and now external SSDs are becoming more common as well. Still, it’s perfectly viable to have an external hard drive as opposed to an external SSD due to cost-effectiveness, and that’s why external mechanical drives are so relevant today.
We’ve reviewed our favorite external drives – both mechanical and solid-state – in this article. We believe these are currently the best external storage solutions available. For our selection, we valued price per GB, speed, reliability, durability, and toughness over other factors.
SSDs were considered the future, but the future has arrived. The Samsung T5 is a reliable, fast, and high endurance external drive that will make every external storage technology feel obsolete.
Solid State drives used to cost much more per GB than normal hard drives, and while that is still true, a massive and continuous price drop in flash storage memory across the board has made solid state technology much more viable. In fact, it does seem that, for the average consumer, the era of mechanical drives may be soon over.
Samsung’s T5 Portable SSD is an external drive that has been available for quite a while, but few have been able to match its speeds, performance, endurance, and reliability. Many have gotten close, and some have even made external SSDs that are more portable, such as our runner up for this category. But the Samsung T5 still beats every external drive comfortably when it comes to speed.
It is considerably faster than even other portable SSDs out there, beating the competition with ease. Utilizing USB 3.1 Gen 2 technology, this external drive has a Type-C port for connectivity to deliver data transfer speeds up to 540MB per second for read speeds and around 520MB per second for write. For those who don’t have a USB Type-C port in their computer, Samsung is kind enough to include a USB Type-C to Type-A port in the box as well.
The drive is also incredibly sturdy, possessing an all-metal design that is able to protect it from physical damage. It doesn’t have the rubberized external of our runner up, the SanDisk Extreme Portable, but the metal casing should be enough to withstand drops. SSDs tend to be a lot more durable than external hard drives anyway, so you know your data is safe with the Samsung T5.
The Samsung T5 also comes with AES 256-bit encryption to protect your data from possible hackers. All that comes in the size that will fit the palm of your hand. This drive is ideal for individuals who will store very large essential files and require quick transfers.
It’s important to note though that the Samsung T5 isn’t the fastest external drive you can buy. That accolade goes to the new Samsung X5 External Portable SSD. The X5 uses NVMe technology and USB Thunderbolt 3 interface to deliver blazing fast transfer speeds, but it will cost you several times more than what you’d pay for the T5. But we just don’t think that’s necessary for an external drive since they won’t be carrying your operating system or influencing the performance of your system. For this reason, the T5 is our top pick and is likely to remain as such for a while.
While this drive can perform way better than most drives out there, it is kind of expensive and does not have many variations, just a 512GB and 1TB variant are available in the market. It is, however, really stylish, with a cloth exterior that has many patterns and designs drawn on it. But having a clothed exterior also means it will get dirty really fast and you do not want to put this drive in a washing machine to clean it.
This drive is super small, as small as a credit card, and it comes with a 3-year warranty for peace of mind. One more thing you get with this drive is a 1-year free subscription to Mylio Create and a 2-month subscription to Adobe CC Photography Plan.
Best External Hard Drive
The Western Digital My Passport is arguably the most popular external hard drive, and for good reason. It has a low failure rate, offers great value per GB, and has a great manufacturer’s reputation behind it.
Western Digital has been a constant presence as one of the best manufacturers of computer storage devices. Their main My Passport external hard drive has seen major design changes over the past few years.
The latest was back in 2016, and WD has retained the classy design thanks to how well My Passport has sold. A simple yet stylish textured underside and a distinctly modern design have become the iconic look for WD drives that is well-known among many external hard drive users.
WD includes many neat features common across the most popular external drives from the manufacturer. An auto backup software comes with this drive, and users also get the option to encrypt their data and utilize password protection.
The WD My Passport uses a USB 3.0 interface for connectivity. Read and write speeds are limited to the interface speeds, the RPM, and the mechanical nature of the drive, with speeds around 110MB/s for sequential read and 100MB/s for sequential write. Running at an RPM of 5400, this isn’t by far the fastest external hard drive anyone can buy for their system. However, its good value, high reliability, and protection/backup features make it one of the most well regarded external HDD available on the market right now.
Cost-effectiveness is the main reason why external mechanical hard drives are still relevant today, and they won’t be going away any time soon. You can get the WD My Passport in 1TB, 2TB, 3TB, and 4TB options, and there is a plethora of colors to choose from as well. The 2TB version is priced for less than $60, and it has a slim and elegant design which encourages us to recommend that specific version over the rest. Western Digital offers a 3-year manufacturer’s limited warranty for this drive, which is an industry standard for external hard drives.
The Seagate Backup Plus external drive offers an appealing balance between speed, performance, and cost-effectiveness. The 2TB version, in particular, is the most appealing, as it is slim (the 4TB and 5TB versions are bulky) and offers great cost per GB.
However, with the WD My Passport in town that offers greater reliability, the Seagate Backup Plus and its comparatively higher failure rate is what prevents us from recommending it over Western Digital’s main external drive.
Best Rugged External Drive
You get two variations, one a full black for a simple look or go with the citrus yellow. This external SSD has super-fast transfer speeds that will help you save time on transferring of large files.
There are many external drives out there who boast an IP57 rating or less, yes I am looking at you CalDigit Tuff, which might have options like Thunderbolt 3 support, but let us face it, that is limited to the speed of the mechanical drive. The ADATA SD700 is not only of a higher rating but also is a 3D-NAND SSD, meaning you get way faster transfer speeds.
When it comes to the dust, water, and shock proofing this drive is rated at an IP68, which is way higher than that of the other portable external drives out there. Not only that this drive is way smaller in size and easier to carry.
This drive can bear the brunt of almost anything, when we said it’s a military-grade shockproof external drive, we were not joking, this thing has been tested and survived through and passed MIL-STD-810G military-spec drop test. Which is no joke, so better luck finding a tougher external drive.
The ADATA SD700 has a waterproof rating of IPX8, meaning you can submerge this drive in a 4-feet deep pool for over an hour and when you take it out, it will just shrug it off and keep doing what it does and give you amazing speed file transfer.
It has an IPX6 rating of dust proofing, which is the highest amongst external drives we have reviewed thus far. With this drive, you can travel through a tropical forest or a desert and the ADATA SD700 will survive it. Just don’t expect it to block a bullet for you that would be going too far otherwise you are good to go.
With 3D-NAND, you can expect up to 400MB/S transfer on this small drive, which is way better transfer speed than most drives claiming to support Thunderbolt 3 but are limited due to their mechanical nature. Again looking at you Caldigit Tuff.
Jokes aside the drive is compact, very portable, while still being sporty. You get 3 years of warranty on this thing, so if something did go wrong, you could still claim the warranty.
What is great about this drive is all the platforms it supports, it supports Android, Windows, and macOS, the only thing missing is Linux, but pretty sure you can run it on that too.
The LaCie Rugged comes in a close second to the CalDigit Tuff in-terms of durability and performance. Like the CalDigit Tuff, this durable external drive is both water and dust resistant. The rating, however, is lower than that of the CalDigit Tuff, at IP54 compared to the Tuff’s IP57.
LaCie Rugged comes with a plethora of connectivity options as well, ranging from regular USB 3.0 and also offering Thunderbolt 3 connectivity option too. However, you can’t have all these connections at once, and the manufacturer demands a rather hefty fee for a more advanced connection type.
We also like that LaCie Rugged offers 1-month complimentary membership to Adobe Creative Cloud All Apps Plan. However, when it comes to pure toughness and performance, we still prefer the CalDigit Tuff, though the LaCie Rugged is a great alternative if you can’t find it.