If you’re just looking to snag one, then we full heartedly recommend the Seagate Expansion 4TB Portable External Hard Drive USB 3.0, which will quickly meet the needs of most consumers without stretching their budget ultra-thin.
External hard drives are great, whether you’re using them to store pictures, video, work, or whatever else. With a good one you’ll be able to quickly and easily transfer files between different machines.Of course, not all of us are super technically inclined. If you’re a bit deficient in the tech department and don’t know what to make of the myriad of drives which are available on the market these days then you’re in the right place. If you’re still here, then let’s take a look at five of the best external hard drives on the market, and discuss the qualities that make a drive stand out.
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Table of Contents
Top 5 External Hard Drives
1. Best External Solid State Drive
VectoTech Rapid 2TB External SSD
While the amount of storage on this drive isn’t super impressive, there are definitely some uses for these ultra-fast drives. Boasting a USB 3.0 connection is one thing, but with this drive you can expect to get transfers of up to 450mb/s.
You’ll only have 2TB of storage with this drive however, and the next size up is even more prohibitively expensive.
Solid state drives are best for those who are planning on transferring files on a daily basis. The average consumer isn’t going to find much use for the high-speed transfers except as a matter of convenience.
On the other hand, if you absolutely need a solid state external drive then you’re going to want to make the investment in this super-quick, highly reliable SSD. There’s nothing like it.
- Solid state drive
- Up to 450mb/s transfers
- Easy to transport thanks to a small, durable case
- Can withstand temperature extremes
- Extremely expensive
- Customer service with VectoTech is hard to deal with
2. Best Overall
Seagate Expansion 4TB Portable External Hard Drive USB 3.0
We love this hard drive. It meets the perfect middle ground between super expensive, highly specialized drives and the cheap ones which don’t provide enough storage or speed to be of practical use for larger file transfers.
With 4TB of storage and a lightning fast SuperSpeed USB 3.0 port you know you’re in good hands. Even better, it’s backwards compatible with USB 2.0, although you’ll get much slower speeds with older machines.
The sheer amount of storage is great, but it’s also plug-and-play. Hook it up, start moving files around. No extra software needed in order to make sure that you can get exactly what you need.
Add in the sleek, fairly small design and you’ve got a clear winner for the average consumer.
- 4TB of storage
- SuperSpeed USB 3.0
- Awesome pricing per gigabyte of storage
- Not good for usage with gaming consoles
- Not the best for private data
3. Best External Hard Drive for Mac
G-Technology G-DRIVE USB 3.0 4TB
If you’re looking for a plug-and-play option that’ll work with your Mac without having to go through any formatting, this 4TB external hard drive from G-Technology is exactly what you’re looking for.
It has the speed to compete with any comparable drive, boasting a USB 3.0 connection that allows for fast file transfers. It’s also super quiet, which is a nice touch for those who find whirring hard disks to be an aggravating noise.
When it comes down to it, most external drives in this price range are formatted for PC which is kind of a pain since you’ll need to reformat them and get them to work with your Mac. Instead, this one is ready for connection, right out of the box.
If you need a great external hard drive for your Mac, then you’re looking at exactly the right option. Go with this instead of a more expensive brand and you’ll be impressed with the quality… and the savings.
- Mac formatted right out of the box
- USB 3.0 for fast transfers
- 3 year limited warranty
- Runs quiet and cool
- Sometimes has trouble connecting with PCs
- Warranty process can be hard to figure out
4. Best External Drive Setup for Offices
Buffalo TeraStation 1200 2-Drive 4 TB Desktop NAS
If you’re looking to make sure that you can back things up for your whole office, then this 4TB is a great way to make sure that you come out ahead. Simply back it up over your Wifi and you won’t have to worry about one computer going down with valuable data.
Of course, NAS are specialized devices and most consumers aren’t going to want to spend the extra money when you can just run a USB port to a normal drive and save a whole lot of money.
This definitely isn’t the most simple device to use, so you may want to call for installation once it arrives but for those who need it there’s simply no substitute.
As an office based storage solution, the Buffalo TeraStation 1200 meets the fine line between uber-expensive and ultra-useful in order to make an ideal point for office backups. Regular consumers will want to opt for something else however.
- 4TB of storage
- Makes for easy backups for an entire office
- Can be accessed remotely for workers not in office
- Supports multiple levels of RAID
- Not very portable
- Storage is split between two drives
5. Best Budget External Hard Drive
Toshiba Canvio Basics 1TB Portable Hard Drive
If you just need some quick and easy backup, then this is the drive for you. It’s a plug-and-play drive without any of the super advanced features you’ll find that this 1TB drive is perfect for your needs. In addition to being available for a great price, it’s super easy to use. For a PC all you need to do is plug in the USB 3.0 connection and you’ll be off and running. The connection type makes it fairly fast, especially for an HDD. It’s also small enough that you won’t have to worry about it taking up a whole lot of room in your bag, which keeps it super portable for when you’re on the go.
Whether you’re storing pictures or movies, this spacious external drive is perfect.
If you want an external hard drive with a decent amount of space, then you’ll be super pleased with this basic, budget-priced drive. Add it to your tech collection and get some real storage capacity.
- 1TB of storage
- Plug-and-Play capable
- Stylish and sturdy casing
- Highly portable due to small size
- Slow for super large transfers
- USB port wears fairly quickly
Who Needs an External Hard Drive?
When it comes down to it, nearly anyone who uses their computer extensively might like to ensure that they have a good external drive.
They’re handy for media storage, transferring files, or even just making sure that you have backups for you work in case of a complete failure on the part of your computer.
For most people, they simply make the most practical choice for storage. While DVDs and CDs might last longer than the majority of currently designed hard drives, with certain “archival” disks being guaranteed for 100 years, they’re also a pain to use.
Frankly, the amount of storage you’ll be able to get out of even the smallest external drive is going to dwarf the capacity of most other media.
It also allows you to use a “drag-and-drop” interface instead of having to use burner software to store things. There’s also no compatibility issues like you can run into with CD or DVD RWs.
Not having to organize your storage, since you know it’s all in one place, is another huge advantage. Most people simply don’t have the time to arrange a TB of media on other types of storage medium.
Lastly, using them for incremental backups of vital system files is pretty much a given. Some will even come with software that lets you backup certain files, or a whole computer, each time you plug them in.
Backups are important, since computers can fail and you can lose a ton of valuable work if you’re not careful.
Even better, one of these drives can be used in the event of an internet outage. That’s a pretty big advantage over cloud based storage solutions.
Lastly, some of us have a tendency to hoard media on our hard drives. Even the largest laptop or desktop is going to get full eventually, which means that you’ll either need to delete some data or get another device to store it.
For the reasons outlined above, external hard drives are the obvious solution.
So, who really needs an external hard drive? Basically everyone who uses a computer will them to be super handy.
What You Need to Know About External Hard Drives
There’s a lot more to picking out a great external hard drive for your usage than just grabbing the biggest storage space.
These days, there are a ton of different specs that you need to keep in mind when you’re looking for your new drive.
Keep in mind the following in order to make sure that you end up with the product that’s right for your usage.
The storage space of the drive is always going to be a primary consideration for most people.
These days, you can get multiple TB of storage on a single drive.
Of course, whether or not you’ll end up using that much space is in question. That’s a metric ton of media any way you slice it, and most people will be hard pressed to even fill 1 TB of storage.
You can get a much better drive for your needs if you fit the space to your usage. Most people will be better off with a 250GB or 500GB drive that has better qualities in other areas than with spending a ton of money in order to make sure that they have more space than they’ll ever use.
The fact of the matter is that media isn’t likely to get much bigger than 4k stuff, at least until 3D media becomes a reality instead of just a gimmick.
For most people, a big HDD will allow you to make sure that all of your important stuff has backups or isn’t cluttering up the hard drive on your main computer.
You have a few different choices when it comes time to pick out a connection for your new drive. Some are much better than others, so keep that in mind.
FireWire is used exclusively for Macs and is generally super-fast. If you use Apple devices then you may want to make sure that you end up with one of these. If you use a variety, however it may not be the right solution.
USB connections or eSATA are the best for those with a variety of devices or solely PC stuff. USB connections come in 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 varieties. USB 3.0 is extremely fast, but not all computers will support it. If you have to choose between eSATA and a lower USB device, you’ll want to pick based on the transfer speed that you’re planning on getting out of it.
The connection is one of the biggest factors for most people. You need to make sure that the external drive you purchase is compatible with all of the devices that you’re going to be using it with.
The transfer speed, from highest to lowest, is as follows:
- USB 3.0
- USB 2.0
- USB 1.0
Transfer speed will greatly affect the usability of your drive. Something on USB 1.0 might take hours to transfer a few larger files that a faster connection can handle in minutes or seconds.
If you’re willing to pay a premium and have compatible devices, there are also Thunderbolt connections. These are actually the fastest around, but the exclusivity of the drives puts them out of the range of most consumers.
Most people will want to opt for a USB connection in order to maintain compatibility of their drive across a ton of different platforms.
Keep in mind that eSATA devices generally require an outside power source as well. This means that they’re not the device you’re looking for if you’re planning on transferring away from home or the office.
The portability of a device can actually add quite a bit to the price. A heavier device will generally cost a lot less than the lighter alternative but they’re just more bulky and harder to move around.
As a matter of practicality you’ll want to ensure that devices which you’re going to be moving around quite often are also made of tougher materials. You don’t want to lose all of your data because you fumbled your bag after all.
SSD vs. HDD
Solid state drives are still fairly new to the market, but they’re becoming more and more popular for users of external drives. At the moment, you’ll have to balance the costs since they also cost a lot more for the same capacity.
On the other hand, they’re lightning fast so if you’re going to be transferring files on a more or less constant basis then they’re pretty much ideal.
On the other hand HDD are a pretty reliable technology at this point, with decades of development behind them, and boast much larger capacities for the same cost.
Studies have found that there really isn’t much difference in reliability between the different technologies, so basically what you’re going to be paying for is a faster drive.
Some people insist that SDDs are more reliable, but most studies have found that the manufacturer and “vintage” of the drive in question is more important than the type of drive.
This means that you can save a lot of money if you’re planning on using a drive primarily for long-term storage by opting for an HDD as opposed to an SSD.
The choice, at the end of the day, is pretty much yours. What you need depends more on what you’re planning on doing with your drive than anything else.
So, most consumers with a want for long term storage will be fine with an HDD but those with a desire for a lot of speed due to frequently moving files may find the higher prices of SSDs perfectly acceptable.
Security is huge for some people, and those who need it already know.
If you’re just storing pictures or movies, then you may not want to spend the extra money associated with the security of a drive.
On the other hand, if you’re moving valuable information around then you’ll want to make sure that you have some built-in encryption.
As a general rule, hardware based encryption is the best that you’ll be able to find.
You can further encrypt the files on your drive as well, and those who need to will generally know how.
Built-in security can be a godsend for certain users, so keep an eye out if you’re planning on having any personal or business information on a drive.
With a modern external drive, it’s actually possible to backup an entire network onto a single drive.
This is one of the best ways to ensure that an office keeps all of their data, although it’s of no use for most private consumers.
A network-attached storage device, or NAS, is one of the best ways to do this. We’ve included one on our list, to make sure that there really is something for everyone, but most private consumers aren’t going to find the cost to be worth it for backing up media.
Ease of Use
Depending on how tech-inclined you are, this might matter a lot or a little. If you’re tech inclined then you’ll already know how, or at least how to find out, run your drive no matter what.
On the other hand, the tech-naïve will want to ensure that they get a drive which is easy to connect.
Some external hard drives are pretty much plug-and-play, which is the easiest way to go about using one.
Others will require you to install software but include it in the package which is also a fairly easy solution for the majority of people.
Just be aware that some drives are harder to use than others, and if your tech skills and Google-Fu aren’t up to the task you’re going to end up having to call a local IT guy in order to make your drive more than an expensive box.
We know the above is a lot of information to take in. So, here are some recommendations when you’re looking at your drives:
- Consumers want an HDD with a good amount of storage in order to save money and let them access their media for the most part.
- If you’re going to be transferring files on a frequent basis then you’ll want to get an SSD that will fit in your budget.
- Those who are buying for office backups will want to find an NAS that can meet the storage needs of their business.
So, what are you waiting for? We’re sure that we’ve found something perfect for you.
It’s not that hard to make sure that you have the best external hard drive for your needs. Once you’ve factored in everything that you need to know in order to make sure that you get the most out of it, it’s just a matter of figuring out which one fits in your budget. They’re definitely handy, so make sure you get the one you need today.