The Best External Hard Drives in 2021
External hard drives can improve your PC’s performance, securely back up important data, or even just hold more music and video. However, they’re not all created equal. So if you want to get the most out of one, you’ve got to look for the best external hard drive.
The world of storage is more complicated than ever. Cloud storage has become pretty widespread, with most major platforms offering their services along with third parties competing for the right to store your files. However, there is still something to be said for hard storage.
Like cloud gaming, sometimes the infrastructure simply isn’t good enough to make cloud storage a replacement for the old fashioned ways. Then there are the security concerns about storing sensitive data in the cloud. External hard drives are now significantly faster than accessing your files from a cloud service.
This isn’t even to mention the speeds of an SSD. On top of speed, you’ve got to consider price and portability. Multi TB hard drives are now really affordable. While cloud storage doesn’t break the bank, instant access to terabits for a one-off fee just makes more sense than eternally paying for a subscription.
The best portable external hard drive makes it easier than ever to access anything, anywhere. With a solid hard drive, you know exactly where your data is backed up, that you will always have access to it, and how much it costs after you first sign up.
While there are plenty of options at the moment, the best external hard drives give you a little more for your money. These are the top hard drives around at the moment.
Best External Hard Drives
WD Elements Portable
The Best All-Rounder External Hard Drive
- Available in 1TB 2 TB 3 TB 4 TB or 5TB sizes
- 2 Year Warranty
- Pre-formatted for Windows
This WD Elements Portable hard drive is a foolproof device. WD are well known for their hard drives, and this one takes the portable element and runs with it.
It comes with a two-year warranty and the casing itself is strong enough to withstand two years of heavy wear and tear. If you’re looking for a portable hard drive, you need a solid casing. This hard drive is built to last, so you can be sure anything you back up is going to stay on there.
This makes it a great choice for archiving important data and storing those photos or other documents that have real sentimental value. Coming at a few TBs big too, you won’t have to prioritize what you store. In terms of portability and speed, this is one of the best 2TB external hard drives.
This is a solid choice for its combination of size, durability, security, and connection speed.
- USB 3.0
- High Speeds
- Compatible with all Devices
- Uses Micro B Connector
- Not Shock or Water-Resistant
Toshiba Canvio Gaming
One Of The Best Potable HDDs For Gaming
- Available In 1TB, 2TB, and 4TB Sizes
- Perfect For PS4 And Xbox One
- 2 Year Warranty
The Canvio Gaming from Toshiba is an affordable portable hard drive made for storing game data from your PC or console. High capacity in combination with the low price makes the Canvio gaming a perfect companion for your PS4, PS4 Pro, and Xbox One S and X consoles.
Slim profile allows Canvio Gaming to be tucked away almost anywhere. Just make sure that the cable is long enough. The drive looks rather nice. The matted front with a sandpaper-like finish is pleasant to the touch and the drive itself looks rather attractive.
Toshiba offers 2 years warranty for this particular model and while it isn’t a performance champion, data transfer is fast enough to not suffer any penalties, in the form of longer loading times. Overall, this is an excellent external drive for gaming consoles, and thanks to its large capacity it can be a complete solution for all your gaming storage needs.
- Solid Transfer Speeds
- Stylish Design
- Relatively Affordable
- Not The Fastest External HDD Around
WD My Passport Ultra
The Best External Hard Drive for MacBook Pro
- USB C Connector
- Stylish Metal Design
- Available in 1TB, 2TB, and 4TB sizes.
External hard drives have traditionally used a Micro B cable. While it has fast file access, it is kind of prone to breaking. This WD My Passport external drive embraces a more universal connector.
It comes in a USB C connector, which has a few advantages. The first is that it is pretty universal. You can use the same cable to connect this to a PC as any other USB C device. USB C is like Micro USB; It is becoming so popular that you’ll have plenty of these cables laying around.
These connectors are much less prone to breakages. The Micro B cable is effective, but the 10 pin design makes it fragile. MacBook Pros have completely done away with the traditional USB. Using USB-C Makes this the best external hard drive for a MacBook Pro.
Of course, there’s more to the WD My Passport than just the connector. It has great speeds, password protection enabled out of the box, and a 3-year warranty. All of this should be assurances that you’re getting something high quality here, and this is definitely one of the best 1Tb external hard drives, or up to 4TBs.
- Uses Universal but Fast Connector.
- Longer Warranty Than Average
- Password Protection Included
- Metal Casing is Prone to Scratches
- Requires Use of a Dongle to Connect to USB 3
Samsung T7 Portable SSD
The Best External Drive For Video Editing
- Available In 1TB and 2TB Sizes
- Offers Password Protection and Hardware Encryption
- Comes With 3-Year Warranty
If you need fast external storage that also has a ton of capacity, features state of the art build quality, and pretty solid security features the Samsung T7 is the best choice on the market. The T7 great for users who regularly deal with large files, such as video recordings. But, the T7 also is an excellent choice for users who just need a compact but fast external drive to carry around.
The advertised read and write speeds (up to 1.050MB/s) are very close to real-world tests but do know that for the maximum performance you’ll need to hook the SSD to a USB 3.2 gen2 (USB 10Gbps) port.
Not only that the T7 is fast and very portable, it also comes both with password protection and AES 256-bit hardware encryption, more than enough to keep your files safe. If you want even higher-level security, check out the T7 Touch, a variant for the SSD that comes with a fingerprint scanner. Finally, Samsung offers buyers a total of 3-year limited warranty, another plus for an already superb device. The only downside? High price compared to other external SSDs.
- State Of The Art Build Quality And Design
- Very Fast For An External SSD
- Excellent Security Features
- Available In Three Colors
Seagate Backup Plus Slim
The Best External Hard Drive for Photographers
- Available in 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, or 5TB sizes.
- Comes with Backup Software
- 2 Year Warranty
The Seagate Backup Plus Slim hard drive is one of the best external hard drives for photographers with some of the extra features it contains.
This hard drive uses USB 3.0 for a fast connection, comes with a sturdy but sleek polished design, and can give you storage space up to 5TB. This is more than enough space for even SLR photographers.
On top of this though, it comes with some impressive backup software. This can automate backups of your photographs to be uploaded regularly. You can choose between daily, weekly, or whatever schedule works for you.
This software works great on any system, so it is one of the best external hard drives for Mac and PC for photographers. It also is packaged with a 2-month membership of Adobe Creative Cloud.
- Backup Software Works on PC and Mac
- Comes with 2 Year Trial of Adobe Creative Cloud and 1 year of Mylio Create
- Fast Speeds
- Polished Surface Could be Easily Scratched
SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD
The Best Portable SSD External Hard Drive
- IP55 Resistant
- Available In 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB Sizes
- 5 Year Warranty
The new version of the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD pushes the ante when it comes to speed while keeping all the good stuff this model is known for. It features a max transfer speed of 1050MB/s (doubling the speed of its predecessor), includes IP55 water and dust resistance, is available in multiple capacities, and uses a USB-C port for connecting to a computer.
Aside from this the drive looks excellent and is built like a tank. The rubberized body is pleasant to touch and it will keep the drive safe during heavier drops. The carabiner loop is there to keep the drive from being stolen, and the 256‐bit AES hardware encryption and password protection are here to keep your data from being stolen.
You also get a five-year warranty, which is always nice to see. Overall, this is one of the best external SSD drives out there and one of the best choices for users who need fast transfer speeds, high endurance, and increased portability.
- Uses USB-C
- Very Fast, Even For An SSD
- Includes 256‐bit AES hardware encryption
- Durable And Slick Looking
- Available In Three Different Capacities
- Much Pricier Than An External Hard Drive
WD Black P10 Game Drive
The Best External Hard Drive for Gaming
- Available in 2TB, 3TB, 4TB, and 5TB Sizes
- Compatible with PC, PS4, and Xbox One
An external hard drive for gaming has some different needs. It has to be compatible with a much great variety of devices or boost performance on PC.
Thankfully, the best external hard drive for Xbox One, or best external hard drive for PS4, only need compatibility, speed, and storage. This one has those qualities in spades.
In terms of PC gaming, this is still a stand out hard drive. Freeing up space on your PC will help the performance of your PC, and this one of the best external hard drives for that purpose.
Its design is also innovative. With a metal casing, it should be able to avoid complicating the cooling systems of game consoles.
- Designed to Prevent Size Getting in The Way of PC or Console Cooling
- USB 3.0
- Great Compatibility
- Can Be Loud
Silicon Power Armor A60
The Most Durable External Hard Drive
- Available in 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, and 5TB Sizes
- Available in USB 3.0 or USB C
- Water Resistant, Shockproof, and Scratch Resistant
This Silicon Power Armor hard drive is built to last. It comes with an awful lot of protections, which should guarantee that your files and kept safe no matter where you take this hard drive. It is one of the best portable external hard drives if you need something to suit an active lifestyle.
The hard drive is coated in a special protective case. This is scratch-resistant, water-resistant, and shockproof. It has been tested for military-grade shocks and came out functioning just fine.
These protections should give you the reassurances that you need, but it also comes with a 3-year warranty for extra protection. Outside of its durability, this has everything else you would expect from the best portable external hard drive.
It uses a speedy USB 3.0 connection, is compatible with all devices after a quick reformat, and comes in some big sizes. This is one of the best external hard drives if you’re worried about damaging your device.
- Durable and Built to Last
- Available with Different Connectors
- 3 Year Warranty
- USB C Version is The Same Price
- Might Be Overkill for Protection
- More Expensive Than Most Comparable Drives
RAVPower Portable External SSD Pro
SSD Transfer Speeds In A Flash Drive Body
- Available in 512GB Capacity
- Shock Resistant
- Extremely Compact
The RAVPower Portable External SSD Pro looks like an oversized USB flash drive (or am armored M.2 SSD, whichever you like more) and it offers fast transfer speeds of 540MB/s. In other words, this is a perfect external drive for users who want maximum portability but don’t want to sacrifice transfer speed in the process.
The zinc-aluminum body looks and feels premium and it has a nice, hefty feel when you hold it. The drive is limited to 512GB capacity but that’s what you pay for the smallest external SSD around.
The drive also comes with password protection and AES 256-bit hardware encryption, keeping all your personal data secure and away from prying eyes. Overall, this is an excellent external SSD that’s extremely portable and comes with solid read and write speeds. The only thing holding it back is the high selling price.
- Most Portable External SSD Around
- Fast Transfer Speed
- Features Both Password Protection And AES-256-bit Encryption
How to Choose an External Hard Drive
Those are some of the best external hard drives on the market at the moment. There is a lot of variety out there. As expansive memory has gotten cheaper, hard drives have gotten a lot of extra features to distinguish themselves. If you’re wondering which is the best external hard drive for you, these the things you need to know and consider to make your choice.
What You Need to Know
It is easy to get a bit lost in all of the options. If you’re wondering which is the best 4TB external hard drive, you’ve got to understand those extra features beyond just storage. This is everything you need to know to make the right choice:
- Connectors – External hard drives mainly connect via USB 3.0 or USB C. All of the hard drives included on this list will connect to a normal USB port with either their regular cable or an included adapter.
- Compatibility – All of these devices are compatible with the vast majority of devices. However, you may need to re-format a device to get it to work.
- SSD or HDD? – SSDs offer much higher speeds of reading and writing data, whereas HDDs can offer good speeds but more storage. SSDs are smaller, but they aren’t as commonly used for external storage as the larger devices are more expensive.
What to Consider Before the Purchase
If you’re struggling to decide which is the best external hard drives are for you, you need to consider what your priorities are. This is what you need to think about to find which external hard drive is right for you.
- How Much Storage Do You Need? – Not everyone needs a 5TB hard drive. Consider how big the files you need to store are before purchasing a giant hard drive.
- USB C or USB 3.0? – USB C hard drives can use an adapter to fit a USB 3.0 port, but this is unnecessary if you only use USB 3.0 otherwise.
- Durability and Portability – Many of these hard drives have impressive specs when it comes to water resistance and shock protection. However, consider if your hard drive that remains on your desk actually needs this.
Will These Hard Drives Work on My Device?
Many external hard drives make a point of mentioning what devices they work on, which can give the impression that others aren’t compatible. This is a case of marketing confusing things. This is how compatibility actually works.
- The only thing that makes a hard drive not function on a device is its format.
- You can re-format a hard drive to function on a different device by connecting it to your PC, and re-formatting it in Disk Utility on Mac and selecting format on the device’s drop-down menu in Windows.
- You can reformat a hard drive to work on other devices this way.
- However, newer MacBooks don’t always have USB 3.0 ports. In these cases, the best external hard drive for mac needs to use USB C.
- You can use an adapter to get around this, so even an incorrect port doesn’t make a hard drive incompatible.
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