Almost nothing is worse than realizing you don’t have enough space on your PC to store your latest files. External drives can be a great solution to that problem, as well as a good backup source to keep your most precious data protected. As outlined in our guide on how to choose an external hard drive, you’ll want one that’s fast, easy to use, and won’t break the bank. Our current top pick is the Samsung T7, a compact, affordable, high-speed storage solution, but there are plenty of other options to choose from, as outlined our definitive list of the best external hard drives you can buy today below.
Samsung T7 Portable SSD 1TB
Best all-around external hard drive
- Compact design for easy portability
- Performed excellently in our speed tests
- Compatible encryption software
- While durable, it's not ruggedized and not the best pick for outdoor use
Why you should buy this: It's one of the fastest external hard drives available.
Who it's for: Anyone who needs a speedy but compact solid-state drive.
Why we picked the Samsung T7:
One of the most well-rounded external SSDs available, the Samsung T7 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 design, though it comes in a variety of storage sizes at different prices.
We've seen excellent results from the Samsung T-series in our read and write tests, and the T7 upgrades the technology including USB 3.2 Gen 2 support, PCIe NVMe connection support, and ePCM thermal technology to resist overheating. Encased in a solid aluminum shell, Samsung claims this external drive can withstand a drop from as high as 6 feet without difficulty. Although we would hardly suggest you put such claims to the test, it's important that external drives — which are 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 T7 SSD. It can be expensive when you get toward the top end of the storage space spectrum — the 2TB configuration will cost several hundred dollars — but it's much cheaper than it was a couple of years ago. If you can afford it, this is the external drive for you.
SanDisk Extreme Pro 1TB
Best portable external hard drive
- Ruggedized and portable
- USB-A and USB-C support
- Handy notch for hooks and loops
- Higher storage capacities can grow very expensive
Why you should buy this: It's rugged, portable, and very fast.
Who it's for: Anyone who will be traveling or going to places where the weather is extreme.
Why we picked the SanDisk Extreme Pro 1TB:
SanDisk's Extreme Pro 1TB is a highly portable NVMe drive that offers read speeds up to 2000MBps while still being light enough to stow and carry anywhere you're going. The rugged IP55 design resists both water and dust, while the silicon rubber coating and notch make it easy to store the Extreme Pro however you'd like, and it comes with 256-bit AES hardware encryption for protection, too.
We also really appreciate that the SanDisk Extreme Pro is compatible with both USB-A and USB-C connections, so you don't have to worry about device compatibility — or about upgrading your devices in the future and switching to a USB-C connection. Since this is such a good pick for photographers and others on the move who may be dealing with larger file sizes, we recommend the 1TB version, although you can push it all the way to 4TB if you want.
Western Digital My Passport Ultra
Best HDD external hard drive
- A solid HDD option
- Free backup software
- Slim design
- HDDs fall short of SSDs in several ways
Why you should buy this: It's got big storage in a slim package, and it's very affordable.
Who it's for: Anyone looking for a reliable traditional spinning hard drive.
Why we picked the Western Digital My Passport Ultra:
Western Digital's My Passport Ultra isn't the lightest drive on the market, but it does come with a three-year warranty and the company's reputation for speed. 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 on a budget and those looking for an affordable backup drive.
At this price, you can’t expect fast read and write speeds, but the Western Digital My Passport Ultra does include a free WD Backup tool, password protection, and 256-AES hardware encryption capabilities. It’s available in 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, and 5TB capacities along with Blue or Silver finishes. Note that it does have a USB-C connection
Samsung SSD T7 Touch
Best workstation external hard drive
- Fingerprint security
- Drop protection
- LED indicator light
- 2TB model may be too expensive for some
Why you should buy this: It's a workspace-friendly SSD with an easy fingerprint login.
Who it's for: Office workers and others who want effective biometric protection.
Why we picked the Samsung SSD T7 Touch:
While some external drives are built for serious security, like our iStorage pick with its built-in keypad, this Samsung T7 Touch model finds a pleasant balance between security and usability, making it an excellent companion for a computer workstation or similar setup.
The “Touch” title comes from the built-in fingerprint-based AES 256-bit security, which allows you to easily protect hard drive access while also unlocking it in seconds when you sit down at your desk. The 2TB storage capacity we picked is enough to hold plenty of work information, projects, and portfolios, while the design sports shock resistance to withstand drops from up to six feet.
The LED square on the front of the SSD is a little indicator light that will show you when and how the SSD is working. The T7 Touch connects via a USB 3.2 connection for read speeds up to 1,050 Mb/s. If the 2TB model is a bit too expensive for you, the 1TB version features a steep price drop to make this option more affordable.
Western Digital My Book Duo 20TB
Best large capacity external hard drive
- Excellent high-capacity drive
- Replaceable drives
- Plentiful configuration options
- Mostly suited for professionals and offices
Why you should buy this: It's the perfect solution for storing an enormous amount of photos, video, and anything else among multiple systems.
Who it's for: Those who need a lot of external storage.
Why we picked the Western Digital My Book Duo:
If you want a more robust, long-term external drive, Western Digital's MyBook Duo is a great choice. This massive enclosure comes with up to 28TB of storage for $1,000, or as little as 4TB of storage for $259 — and five other configurations in between. You can configure the two drives inside this enclosure in RAID, for file redundancy or speed, 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 Western Digital My Book Duo's case also is 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.
SSK Portable Wireless Hard Drive
Best external hard drive for travel
- Allows for partitioning between public and private
- Built-in Wi-Fi hotspot
- Can connection additional USB devices
- Need to keep an eye on battery life
Why you should buy this: If you want to protect your data and connect with others, it's an excellent pick
Who it's for: Business teams or students on the go, frequent travelers
Why we picked the SSK Portable Wireless Hard Drive:
SSK's drive is built for travel and is particularly friendly for business workers on the go. Its 1TB storage is enough for a variety of project data, and it includes its own Wi-Fi hotspot support to help enable connectivity no matter where you are. Wireless access also means that you don't have to worry about juggling cable management to access data from a nearby laptop or PC.
You can attach compatible USB storage or card readers to further expand your storage capacity. You can also divide the drive's storage between public and private for further security. If you want a great drive for centralized data management (Samba and DLNA protocols are both supported) while traveling or working with your team, this may be your best option.
Crucial X8 1TB
Best external gaming hard drive
- Great for consoles and other devices
- USB-C and USB-A support
- Ruggedized features for drops and vibration
- Limited usefulness with Series and PS5 consoles
Why you should buy this: It's a great external drive for your Xbox or PlayStation consoles.
Who it's for: Gamers who want to expand their local game library.
Why we picked the Crucial X8 1TB:
Today’s games require a lot of data storage, and you might need more than traditional onboard storage to stay up-to-date on games. This 1TB Crucial drive provides all the storage space you’ll need. It features read speeds up to 1050MBps and hefty aluminum construction that’s drop-proof up to 7.5 feet. The drive is compatible with PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles.
You can also use this drive with USB-A and USB-C connections, which makes it extremely flexible. The Crucial X8 1TB is your best bet for managing your ever-growing game collection — plus it looks impressive next to your console. However, please note that hard drives used with newer Series X and PS5 consoles need to have specific compatibility to play games directly from the drive: Otherwise, drives like this Crucial are primarily useful for storage.
Best ruggedized external hard drive
- Ruggedized for all outdoor adventures with IP67 protection
- Perfect for photographers
- Integrated SD card
- Plenty of capacity options
- USB-C required
Why you should buy this: It's eye-catching and has plenty of space inside its rugged casing.
Who it's for: Photographers and filmmakers
Why we picked the LaCie Rugged:
Those out in the literal field like photographers, filmmakers, and drone pilots need a hardy, speedy external drive to keep up with their work. Lacie’s Rugged SSD was created just for these purposes, with IP67 protection against shock from drops, water splashes, and dust.
But that’s just the beginning of what this USB-C drive can do. It also comes with an integrated SD card slot that’s perfect for photographers switching files to a larger storage device to clear up some room, as well as a useful status screen that shows transfer progress, current capacity, and current battery life. That battery can also be used as a power pack to charge cameras, drones, or other devices that are running low on juice.
While you can adjust the capacity of the Rugged drive anywhere between 500GB and 5TB, we chose the 1TB option as a good compromise between the already high cost of the model and enough storage space to be useful. Just make sure all your devices are ready for USB-C, if necessary, and note that there are alsothat can fulfill a similar purpose.
Best budget external hard drive
- Highly affordable
- USB-A and USB-C options
- Small enough to be portable
- Lacks extra features
Why you should buy this: It's an affordable way to back up a lot of data.
Who it's for: Anyone looking for a budget external SSD.
Why we picked the Buffalo SSD-PG:
While SSDs offer plenty of advantages (see our guide below for more), they can also quickly grow expensive, especially as you pass the 1TB threshold. This Buffalo SSD is an excellent option for those interested in affordability: It provides 1TB of storage at a low price, with a durable, compact design that can comfortably sit by your PC or console — or in your pocket.
The SSD-PG model includes both USB-A and USB-C 3.2 ports, so it’s guaranteed to work with both new and older devices. Otherwise, there aren’t a lot of extra features here, but that’s part of what keeps the price so low. If you want to save even more money, you can also choose Buffalo’s MiniStation HDD, although you will be sacrificing speed and portability.
iStorage dishAshur Pro 2
Most secure external hard drive
- High security with password protection
- Dust and splash proof
- Military-grade encryption
- No USB-C option
Why you should buy this: It's a super-secure way to store your data.
Who it's for: People who care about privacy.
Why we picked the iStorage DiskAshur Pro 2:
If external hard drives are going to store sensitive information, financial documents, personal customer data, or other content that needs to be protected, then security is a priority. Fortunately, security is also the priority of iStorage's HDD drive, which features a number pad for password protection (up to 15 digits) and military-grade hardware encryption to keep up to 2TB of data safe.
The iStorage DiskAshur 2 is also dust- and splash-proof, so it can easily be carried around without worrying as much about the elements. While there's no USB-C port, the USB-A 3.2 port works fine for most devices and supports read speeds up to 160MBps. If you need to meet CCPA, HIPAA, or other important compliance measures, this is one of the best external hard drives you could pick.
With no moving parts and circuit board-based memory, SSDs can last longer and are less susceptible to damage than HDDs. However, while prices continue to fall, SSDs also remain significantly more expensive than HDDs, especially at capacities of 1TB and over.
Practically speaking, newer SSD technology has a wide variety of advantages. With no moving parts and circuit board-based memory, SSDs can last longer and are less susceptible to damage than HDDs, and they are available in a wider variety of sizes from flash drives all the way up. They are also much faster, especially newer PCIe and NVME drives. However, while prices continue to fall, SSDs also remain significantly more expensive than HDDs, especially at capacities of 1TB and over.
Desktop-based drives are better for offices where most of the work is done in the same space and the drive serves primarily as extra storage that won’t leave the desk very often. Portable drives, on the other hand, are more ruggedized, often smaller, and designed to easily fit in pockets or cases while people move around.
Portable drives, on the other hand, are more ruggedized, often smaller, and designed to easily fit in pockets or cases while people move around. This is better for on-the-go storage for business travelers, photographers, filmmakers, and anyone else using laptops, cameras, smartphones, etc., to manage large files. Keep in mind that for smaller projects, an SD card is often sufficient, while portable hard drives are designed to hold much more data, like photoshoots and high-definition video.
For older-generation consoles like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, many hard drives will work with the right connections, making an external drive an easy way to expand storage — although drives formatted for this purpose are recommended, as this helps avoid potential bugs.
For newer consoles like the PS5 and Xbox Series X, things are a bit different. The PS5 is designed to take official M.2 SSD stick drives, which are a separate purchase. The PS5 does support other external hard drives with the right connections, and while originally these were limited to PS4 games only, support was expanded in April 2021 and PS5 games are now allowed in external storage as well — although you’ll still need to transfer PS5 games to the internal SSD to play them.
For the Xbox Series X/S, the console has a dedicated slot for a specific, an SSD specifically made to work with this version of Xbox. Other USB 3.1 external drives are supported, but with limited capability reserved for older games, not Seris X/S games.
All things being equal, an HDD will last around three to five years before its moving parts will start to cause problems and eventually fail. Studies have shown that SSDs, on average, last around 10 years before failing, although this is also dictated by how many times the SSD flash memory can be overwritten, so frequent use will shorten the lifespan.
Some external drives do need to be plugged in to function, and that includes firmware updates, which is why it’s a good idea to periodically plug in your SSD even if you don’t use it that often. Other drives include batteries and Wi-Fi connections so that they can operate wirelessly without needing a cable connection. Our pick of the My Passport Wireless from Western Digital is one example of these wireless drives, which are often useful for fieldwork in photography or similar purposes.
It depends on how long-term you mean. External SSDs don’t have moving parts, which helps with longevity, but they can lose data when powered down for long periods of time. A year or two should be alright with modern SSDs. Any longer than that, and an external hard drive just sitting on a shelf becomes more problematic. There are archiving services that have dedicated, maintained servers to store data in the cloud, which may be a better solution when you want to store data for many years into the future.
Today's computers are very good at recognizing external hard drives. Typically, you just have to connect it to the proper port, usually via USB. Your computer should automatically recognize the storage device and add it as a storage option along with your other drives. It's important to find it using your search function to note what name the drive has, and to change the name to something recognizable.
Yes, and it's a popular use for external drives. However, drives may not be able to hold all the data from your computer, especially if you have a lot of media files stored there. In some cases, you may have to choose only the most important parts of your computer to back up. Our guide can help walk you through the process!
In addition to our top pick, we list other drives you should consider for durability, wireless connectivity, and more. We’ve even rounded up some of the best wireless external hard drives available and the best external hard drive deals if you’re working with a tight budget.
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