Which external hard drive is best?
Whether you are an information professional, a die-hard video gamer with more titles than space on your console or looking to preserve your family photos in a more durable form, external hard drives are an excellent way to increase your storage space. With a slim and powerful unit like the Western Digital My Passport Ultra at your disposal, you can save tremendous amounts of data to your heart’s content, and rest assured, it will be well-protected outside of your PC.
What to know before you buy an external hard drive
Consider how much storage is needed
For those unfamiliar with exactly how much data is contained in a terabyte, a single TB possesses the same storage capacity as eight average smartphones with 128GB of internal storage. To clarify further, a terabyte can store up to 6.5 million digital document files like Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat, 250,000 photos taken by a 12-megapixel camera or a full 500 hours of HD video content (or roughly 250 average length movies).
The average netizen can probably get away with only a 4TB external hard drive. Still, if your internal hard drives are already full to bursting, it can be well worth spending the extra money on an 8TB unit to not run out of storage space for the foreseeable future.
HDD or SSD, which is better?
There are currently two major types of hard drives that are used in both internal and external applications, namely the hard disc drive and the solid-state drive. HHDs are mechanical in nature and rely upon moving parts like discs and arms to carry out operations while SSDs have no moving parts and instead use microchips to receive and transfer data.
If you are simply looking for a relatively inexpensive way to store files externally and keep them protected, you can likely get by with a conventional HDD unit. However, as the latest generation of external hard drives, SSDs offer the advantage of no moving parts, making them more reliable and resistant to external damage. Furthermore, SSD external hard drives tend to be smaller in size and can write data anywhere up to 15 times faster than HDDs can manage.
What to look for in a quality external hard drive
This section should detail the primary features available in different models of this product, both fundamental features and optional features or upgrades. On average, expect to have three to six features. If there are a few key players synonymous with the product type (e.g., with smartphones, there is Apple vs. Android), cover their key points of differentiation.
Suppose you have any experience with typical external hard drives. In that case, you might be wondering how safe data stored on such devices can be if all you need to access it is a functioning computer with a compatible operating system and USB port. However, modern external hard drives now come equipped with security features like password protection backed up by 256-bit AES hardware encryption. As an encryption protocol adopted by the U.S. government and nations around the world, 256-bit AES hardware encryption protection abilities have been calculated.
Easy of use
Having the ability to plug and play with devices of all ages is key to transferring and preserving your data.
Let’s face it, many of us have dropped an expensive piece of electronic equipment harder than we’d like and hoped against hope that it would start up again without any issues. Of course, if your product has been designed to withstand a weight of up to one ton and is resistant to dust, rain, drops and shock, you can rest much easier if it happens to fall out of your computer bag. Not every hard drive can prevent such damage and destruction, so it is well worth considering purchasing a more durable unit for your needs.
How much you can expect to spend on an external hard drive
Depending on your desired features and how much memory you would like, an external hard drive can cost between $120-$220 and sometimes more.
Best external hard drive FAQ
How easy is it to connect my new hard drive to my PC or console?
A. Ideally, your external hard drive should be compatible with your OS and plug-and-play directly into a compatible USB port, though using these units as consoles will often require them to be reformatted before they can effectively store games.
What’s the best external hard drive to buy?
Given their overall superiority in data transfer speeds and load times, SSD is generally the superior choice, though HDDs are just fine for less sensitive data.
Top external hard drive
What you need to know: This is a handsome and streamlined unit formatted for Windows 10 or Macs.
What you’ll love: It comes with USB-C and USB 3.1 ports with metal cover, password protection with 256-bit AES hardware encryption and 3-year limited warranty.
What you should consider: Users have reported issues with electrical failures and being unable to “safely remove” the hard drive without losing files.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top external hard drive for the money
What you need to know: This rugged and durable external hard drive protects your data on the move.
What you’ll love: It is resistant to shock, drops, water and dust, and includes a free month of Adobe Creative Cloud All Apps Plan.
What you should consider: If using this with a Mac computer, you must reformat the hard drive first.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: It’s portable, and users love how it works with their various gaming consoles.
What you’ll love: It works well with both PCs and Mac though separate adapters are required, and it comes with 3 years of rescue services and a limited warranty.
What you should consider: Users have reported issues with slow file transfer speeds and unwanted file deletions.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
Daniel Martin writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.