The best external hard drives

Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Slim 2TB HD box
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Whether it’s for backing up your entire computer or giving yourself some extra file space to work with, everyone needs an external storage drive. But with so many models on the market to choose from, which ones are worth getting? Which are the best external hard drives?

There are many factors to consider, 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 you can buy right now.

Looking into picking up some additional storage? We’ve also put together a guide outlining the main differences between SSDs and HDDs. And if you’d rather back up your information to the cloud, here’s some of our favorite providers.

The fastest, lightest that money can buy — Samsung T5 ($110-$750)

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 Best Buy

Light, but not on storage — Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Slim Portable ($60-$80)

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

Tough and fast — ADATA SD700 Ruggedized SSD ($160 – $370)

best external hard drives adatasd700

External drives might be lighter and more portable than ever, but most are still rather fragile. Not so with the ADATA SD700. This high-speed solid-state drive is available in capacities up to a terabyte, with USB 3.1 technology allowing sequential read/write speeds of 440MBps /100MBps respectively.

Its big selling point is its toughness. The rugged shell of the SD700 makes it IP68 dust/water resistant, which means it is entirely impervious to dust, and can be submerged in up to 1.5 meters of water for as long as thirty minutes. If you need a photo backup solution to take with you into inhospitable places but don’t want to sacrifice speed, this is the drive for you.

Buy one now at:

Amazon B&H

Affordable and portable — Western Digital My Passport ($50+)

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:


Lots of space at a low price point — Seagate Expansion ($80+)

If total storage space is more important to you than portability or speed, desktop external drives are an extremely affordable option. Sure, they require an external power supply, but they also give you a lot of storage for very little money. This Seagate drive starts at 3TB of storage for about $80 and goes up to 8TB for $150. That’s a lot of storage per dollar. Better yet, all that drives have a textured black case that will look great on your desk.

Buy one now from:

Amazon Jet

All the storage in the world — Western Digital My Book Duo ($150+)

best external hard drives mybookduo01

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