The best external hard drives of 2018

There are many factors to consider when buying a new external hard drive, but the primary ones are storage space, speed, portability, and reliability. With that many factors, it’s hard to definitively call one external drive “the best,” but it is possible to find a few drives that, collectively, will fit the needs of anyone.

Below are our favorite USB-compatible drives that are perfect for backing up your files in whatever circumstance you’re in.

At a glance

Product Category
Samsung T5 ($130-$600) Best overall
Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Slim Portable ($60-$80) Most lightweight
Adata SE730 ($85) Toughest
Western Digital My Passport ($50+) Best budget hard drive
Western Digital My Book Duo ($265-$800) Best professional storage

Samsung T5 ($130-$600)

The best overall

Samsung T5 SSD review

Drawing inspiration from its predecessor, the Samsung T5 is a compact, affordable, high-speed storage drive that looks and feels like a top-tier portable storage solution. Utilizing the latest generation of Samsung’s 3D V-NAND technology, it packs up to 2TB of storage space in a tiny form-factor, though it comes in a variety of storage sizes at different price points.

In our Samsung T5 review, the solid-state drive dominated the competition and its T3 prequel in read and write tests, while maintaining the same physical footprint. Encased in a solid, aluminum shell, Samsung claims this external drive can withstand a drop from as high as six feet without difficulty. Although we would hardly suggest you put such claims to the test, it’s important that external drives — which are by their very nature not protected by the shell of a desktop or laptop — are sturdy enough to withstand a little punishment.

Thanks to its speed, compact sizing, and additional features like compatible encryption software, there is no other drive we can recommend as highly as the Samsung T5. It can be expensive when you get toward the top-end of the storage space spectrum — the 2TB configuration will run you $750 — but if you can afford it, this is the external drive for you.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Slim Portable ($60-$80)

The most lightweight

seagate-backup-plus-ultra-slim-2tb-hd-plugged-in-2-1500x1000
Digital Trends

If you’re looking for something portable that’s also reasonably priced, the Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Slim Portable will likely fit the bill. Not only does the mechanical drive weigh a paltry 4.8 ounces and measure a mere 9.65 millimeters thick, but it touts an affordable price tag ($100 for 2TB, or $80 for 1TB). The speeds aren’t going to rival that of a solid state drive, but our benchmarks show it can compete with any mechanical external on the market despite its extremely portable footprint. The case is currently available in either silver or gold and is primarily made of plastic, with an aluminum top.

Buy one now from:

Amazon Newegg

Adata SE730 ($85)

The toughest

Adata SE730 SSD

Searching for an extra-durable SSD drive?  You’ve found it! This 250GB Adata model is design to withstand tough conditions, with dustproofing, military-standard shockproofing, and waterproofing that includes auto-sealed ports. This allows the drive to survive be submerged in six feet of water for an hour without damage, so rain and puddles should pose no danger. The connection uses USB 3.1 Gen 2 type C (for read/write times up to 500 MB/s), so compatibility should pose no problem. While you can take this drive anywhere, you have to be careful not to lose it, as it measures only a few inches across.

Buy one now at:

Amazon

Western Digital My Passport ($50+)

The best budget hard drive

western digital releases redesigned portable hard drives wd mypassport yellow designer

The recently-introduced Western Digital My Passport drive isn’t the lightest on the market, but it does come with a three-year warranty and WD’s reputation for reliability. It’s also available at a low price point — the 1TB model costs a mere $50. Best of all, the drive doesn’t require external power and showcases a sleek, stylish build, which is likely why it’s the first choice for many. It even comes in six different colors, if the yellow above is a bit much for you.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

Western Digital My Book Duo ($265-$800)

The best professional storage

If you want a more robust, long-term external drive, the WD MyBook Duo is a great choice. This massive enclosure comes with up to 20TB of storage for $800, or as little as 3TB of storage for $150 — and a few other configurations in between. You can configure the two drives inside this enclosure as a RAID, for file redundancy, or take advantage of every byte of storage. Either way, you get a lot of storage space and a two-year warranty from a reliable brand.

Supporting USB 3.1 for high-speed data transfer, the MyBook Duo’s case is also user-serviceable, meaning you can replace broken drives yourself, and use the enclosure long after the drives break down. And with full support for 256-bit AES hardware encryption, you can make sure nobody can read your data but you.

Buy one now from:

Western Digital Amazon

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