Is your PC running out of storage space for all of your software and files? If you’re old enough, you surely remember the golden (or maybe not so golden) days when a gigabyte of data was a lot and a “terabyte” was practically unheard of. But in 2022, digital storage is both cheap and plentiful, and nowadays you can get external SSDs that offer tons of room while fitting right inside your pants pocket. Whatever storage solution you’re looking for— be it a portable SSD, a duty-grade network-attached setup, or a simple plug-in tabletop HDD — our roundup of the best external hard drive deals has you covered.
- WD Easystore 2TB USB 3.0 portable hard drive —
- Samsung T7 Shield 1TB USB 3.2 rugged portable hard drive —
- WD My Passport 5TB USB 3.0 portable hard drive —
- WD Easystore 14TB USB 3.0 external hard drive —
WD Easystore 2TB USB 3.0 portable hard drive — $63, was $110
- USB 3.0 interface
- Portable yet plenty of storage
- Automatic backup features
If you have a ton of digital assets and you’re working or playing on a budget, the WD Easystore is a great external hard drive option. It will pair well with any of the best laptops, but if you’re looking to keep expenditure down across the board, it will also sit nicely alongside one of the best laptops under $500. Its USB 3.0 interface offers an easy-to-use connection, and its backward compatible with USB 2.0 for simple connection to older computers.
The WD Easystore comes with a massive 2TB of storage space, and you can load it up with games, photos, video, or any media format you’re looking to house. It’s a particularly great option if you have a lot of media that you don’t access regularly, as it’s able to tuck easily into a drawer without taking up much space when it’s not in use. Its portability can also be enticing for users who collaborate and exchange media regularly, and anyone who likes to do their work away from their desk.
The WD Easystore is compatible with Mac and PC, and it even comes with automatic backup options. It allows you to use compatible software to back up your files to a server, and it’s equipped with WD Backup software, which simply needs to be downloaded before setting up your hourly, daily, or monthly backup schedule.
Samsung T7 Shield 1TB USB 3.2 rugged portable hard drive — $100, was $160
- Super portable design
- Shock, dust, and water resistance
- USB 3.2 interface
- 1TB of storage space
With their usage ranging from the desktop to the coffee shop to out in the field for photography and video shoots, external hard drives have become more durable over the years. This is particularly true with Samsung’s T7 Shield, which offers fast external hard drives in durable casings. This 1TB version of the T7 Shield is highly portable, and is ready to handle just about anything you throw at it (or anything a portable hard drive is likely to actually encounter, anyway).
The portable design of the Samsung T7 Shield is great for students and travelers, or anyone who wants to keep their desktop less cluttered. With its rugged design, it also offers shock and drop resistance of up to 10 feet, and it’s also dust and water resistant for all-terrain use. It boasts an IP65 protection rating against ingress from moisture and particular matter such as dirt and sand.
This T7 Shield comes with 1TB of storage space, and a USB 3.2 interface that’s compatible with both Mac and Windows platforms. It has password protection built in for security, whether you’re using it on the go or in a busy office environment. It provides fast transfer speeds of up to 1050MB/s, and the included software offers on-demand, one-click backup and easy data management.
WD My Passport 5TB USB 3.0 portable hard drive — $120, was $150
- Portable design
- Generous storage capacity for its size
- USB 3.2 interface
- Automatic backup options
Western Digital’s My Passport external hard drive lineup has been the go-to option for creatives and people who work with large amounts of files. For a relatively small price, a My Passport external hard drive will get your supreme portability and plenty of storage space. This model is a 5TB model, which is a ton of digital storage space, even for the likes gamers, video editors, and people with huge photo libraries.
Even with its impressive storage capability, the WD My Passport external hard drive still remains as portable as it gets when it comes to an external hard drive. It’s a cool sidekick to all of the best laptops, and it’s ready to go with you anywhere, whether that’s to work at the coffee shop, at a client’s office, or even just on the living room couch.
WD Discovery software allows the My Passport external hard drive to connect to popular social media and cloud storage services like Dropbox and Google Drive, and its USB 3.2 interface offers an easy-to-use connection to devices that include both Mac and Windows operating systems. Automatic backup options come with the My Passport external hard drive as well, ensuring you keep all of your favorite digital media safe and secure.
WD Easystore 14TB USB 3.0 external hard drive — $250, was $363
- Massive 14TB storage capacity
- Small desktop footprint
- Fast USB 3.0 interface
- Easy-to-use backup features
If cavernous amounts of storage space are what you need to house your digital media, or to provide the storage space you need for your business or creative projects, the Western Digital Easystore offers 14TB of external hard drive space. Unlike a portable hard drive, it’s meant to remain part of your desktop setup, and despite that and its eye-popping storage capacity, it maintains a small footprint, keeping desktop clutter at a minimum.
And while the WD Easystore external hard drive is meant for desktop use, it certainly can pack up easily and move. Its USB 3.0 interface makes for fast transfer times and easy compatibility. It’s compatible with both Mac and Windows, and it’s even backward compatible with devices that use a USB 2.0 interface.
Backup features are easy to implement with the WD Easystore external hard drive, as it comes with WD Discovery, backup software that lets you set hourly, daily, or monthly backup schedules and makes it easy to back up high-capacity files to the hard drive. It’s also compatible with Apple Time Machine, ensuring Apple users can keep their entire computer backed up if need be.
How to choose an external hard drive
The first two steps of choosing an external hard drive are setting your budget and determining what size you need. As cheap as storage is per gigabyte nowadays, the classic trade-off of hard drive size versus portability still holds; basically, is your primary consideration storage space or physical size? If your external hard drive is for home and office use at a single workstation and will more or less sit in one place, then storage space is more valuable than mobility. If, on the other hand, you’re frequently ferrying data around from one PC to the next, then a portable hard drive might be a better choice, even if you’re sacrificing some storage space for a smaller footprint.
What exactly you are using your hard drive for will also factor into your purchase decision. If your external HDD or SSD is just for file storage, then this is rather simple, but if you’re going to be regularly reading and writing to your external storage (for example, doing video editing right from the drive itself rather than from your computer’s system drive), you’ll want to be sure you get something that has good read and write speeds and that uses up-to-date connectivity standards such as USB 3.0. For more details about external hard drive designs and features to look for when making your purchase decision, read on.
HDD vs. SSD
Storage drives mostly fall into two main categories: traditional hard drives, or HDDs, and solid-state drives, or SSDs. Most hard drives, until recently, were mechanical HDDs. These have moving disks (called platters) inside, where the data itself is written and read. These traditional hard drives have largely fallen out of favor for use as system drives, but their larger capacities and much cheaper per-gigabyte cost means they are still a very popular choice for external storage use.
In recent years we have witnessed the solid-state drive revolution. These drives are basically a type of flash memory, where data is written onto chips rather than magnetic platters — that means no moving parts, which in turn means faster read/write speeds as well as (in theory) increased long-term reliability. However, these drives are typically smaller and considerably more expensive per gigabyte than HDDs; the trade-off is that they are what you’ll typically find when looking for portable external hard drives that are small enough to carry around in your pocket.
There are also hybrid hard drives, sometimes called SSHDs. These hybrid drives are essentially HDDs that feature built-in flash storage (usually a fairly small amount) where your most-used files are stored and read, combining much of the responsiveness of SSDs with the larger storage capacity of HDDs. These could be worth the price if you need the boosted storage of an HDD but expect to actively read and write to the external drive a lot.
Are all external hard drives SSDs?
Pretty much any hard drive can be used as an external drive with an appropriate hard drive enclosure, and these are available as both SSDs and HDDs. Although SSDs are quickly replacing HDDs for use as internal system drives (the hard drive inside your PC where your operating system and other software are installed), HDDs still remain hugely popular for external use since they are much, much cheaper per gigabyte and thus give you a lot more storage capacity for your dollar.
Are external hard drives reliable?
An external hard drive is simply any HDD or SSD — just like the ones found in laptops and desktop PCs — that’s inside an external enclosure. This enclosure features some means of connecting the hard drive to your computer or another device, usually a USB port, and may also (depending on its size) have some sort of power adapter. What that means is that an external hard drive will be about as reliable as any internal hard drive so long as it comes from a reputable manufacturer. Stick with proven makers like Western Digital, Seagate, SanDisk, Samsung, and Kingston, and your data should be in safe waters.
Are external hard drives fast?
A very important thing to consider is read and write speeds (the speeds at which data is downloaded from and uploaded to the hard drive), but this is less of a potential pitfall than it was in the past. Even traditional rotary hard drives (HDDs) offer pretty solid read/write speeds today, with 7,200rpm being the standard. Be sure to double-check this and avoid any that use the older 5,400rpm standard, although these are less common now. Solid-state drives naturally offer the best read/write speeds, but, as explained above, offer the least value per gigabyte.
Also, don’t overlook connection speeds. The fastest read/write speeds will be bottlenecked when transferring data over a connection that uses an older standard like USB 2.0. Make sure your external hard drive uses at least USB 3.0 (which is about ten times faster than USB 2.0 by comparison).
Do external hard drives need power?
Hard drives are electronic devices that need power from some external source, but that’s not to say that all external hard drives need to be plugged into a wall. Most can typically draw enough power over the same USB connection that they use for transferring data, but larger HDDs may require an external AC adapter that will come with the hard drive. This isn’t a huge problem for most but it is something to be aware of if power outlets are prime real estate where you’re going to be setting up your drive.
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