Finding the best external hard drive to work alongside your laptop or PC comes down to a number of factors. As is often the case in the world of technology, it’s not so much about picking the top product but instead identifying which one suits your personal needs and budget.
Just like when we walked you through the best laptops on the market, we’re taking that same helpful approach with external hard drives. We’ll look at the storage on offer, the speeds at which the data can be transferred and even the physical size of the hard drive because portability isn’t something to take lightly. We can even help you choose between an SSD and the standard mechanical hard drives.
Here are our picks for the best external hard drives you can buy today.
- Seagate Portable 2TB External Hard Drive – the most reliable everyday external hard drive
- WD 4TB My Book – the best desktop external hard drive for PC and Mac
- SanDisk Extreme 1TB Portable SSD – an ultra-resilient external hard drive with insane speeds
- Samsung T7 Portable SSD – a stylish portable SSD with great performance
- Seagate Expansion SSD – an affordable portable SSD solution
1. Seagate Portable 2TB External Hard Drive
If you’re not quite looking to take the leap to SSD for your external hard drive requirements, the Seagate Portable 2TB external hard drive is a fool-proof option that gets the job done, and done well, for a reasonable cost. It doesn’t look like anything special, but it doesn’t need to, Seagate knows what this hard drive sets out to accomplish and paired that up with a no-thrills design.
- Plug & play simplicity
- Works with Windows & MacOS
- Vulnerable to damage as a mechanical hard drive
- No design options
No mechanical hard drive is going to outperform their SSD counterparts, but that doesn’t mean you can count out standard external hard drives as a viable option. Products like the Seagate Portable are as basic as they come but still offer high performance.
In this case, the Seagate Portable is compatible with USB 3.0 and 2.0 while also working on both Windows and MacOS for full flexibility. Plug & play is offered as standard meaning it should be ready to use within seconds of hooking it up. It also operates off the USB power supply meaning there is only one cable required throughout the setting up process.
It may not look like much, but the Seagate Portable isn’t trying to draw you in with different colors, instead it knows that it’s arguably one of the easiest to use and most reliable external hard drives on the market. Despite this, we would advise caution when using it on the move as there is a risk of damage. With it being a mechanical hard drive, dropping it could cause major issues as the plastic shell case isn’t built to withstand such an event.
2. WD 4TB My Book (Desktop)
It’s understandable that when talking about external hard drives, you may immediately think of something small and portable, but that’s not the case with the WD 4TB My Book. We selected this option because we believe it to be the best stationary hard drive available when taking into consideration the design, compatibility, storage capacity, and price.
- Sleek design should fit nicely into any setup
- Storage options up to 44TB
- Windows and MacOS support
- Requires 12v power supply
- No remote access
Stationary external hard drives are still the preferred choice of many people who strictly use desktop PCs and the WD My Book is one of the better options on the market. While it isn’t ideal having to use an additional power supply to keep the hard drive running, it is better than drawing on your PC to do that for you. Universal plug & play features to ensure that there are no hiccups when setting the drive up although some extra steps may be necessary if using it on MacOS.
4TB is a lot of storage to burn through, so while larger capacities are possible, the everyday user will likely struggle to get anywhere near filling the WD My Book. Password protection can be set up for a safer experience if you are using multiple machines or worried about the sensitivity of what is contained on the drive. The only real limitation of the WD My Book is that it’s still a mechanical hard drive that uses USB 3.0 or 2.0 so data read/write speeds will be limited compared to that of an SSD, however, for the price you pay, it’s a worthwhile sacrifice to make for such large storage capacity.
3. SanDisk Extreme 1TB Portable SSD
SanDisk is a company that you are likely familiar with for their memory cards, but they’re on this list with the first SSD entry. The SanDisk Extreme 1TB Portable SSD is an absolute pocket rocket that offers unreal speeds and a level of durability unmatched by any other external hard drive on this list.
- Super durable – water and dust resistant
- Up to 1050 MB/s read and 1000 MB/s write speed
- 5-year limited warranty included
- Design might not be to everyone’s liking
- Includes an adaptor that is prone to getting lost
We’re huge fans of the SanDisk Extreme 1TB Portable SSD and it’s clear to see why. There are three total speed configurations to choose from and we’ve gone with the middle option here but if you’re a real speed demon, you can choose the 2000 MB/s model although it is a bit more expensive. You also have to take into account that this is an SSD meaning general speeds are faster anyway when compared to a normal HDD.
A double ended USB-C cable is included alongside a USB-C to A adapter but this will need to be looked after otherwise you may misplace it and never find it again! Durability is also a huge factor when we selected this as one of the best external hard drives, because not only is it water and dust resistant but it has two-meter drop protection too.
We understand that the visual design of the product is different to a lot of other products out there, but we’re actually a fan of the practicality of it. The loop is carabiner safe or you could even attach a lanyard to it to keep it safe/noticeable at all times.
Read our SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD review for more.
4. Samsung T7 Portable SSD
If you like everything about the SanDisk Extreme, but perhaps want something that looks a little nicer but feels a little heavier, the Samsung T7 Portable SSD is the right pick for you. You also have the confidence of buying from a big name in the SSD space which is exactly what Samsung does.
- Slick design with color options
- All cables included
- Password protection
- Could be considered a little heavy
It’s genuinely hard to come up with any reason why the Samsung T7 Portable SSD isn’t worth buying. You’ll be getting speeds on par with the SanDisk Extreme leaving the only major difference between the two being the design. You lose durability if you are to purchase the Samsung T7 but whether or not the savings you will make are worth the difference will be the major decision.
The cost differential between HDD and SSD external hard drives is still quite large, so provided you are comfortable with just 1TB of space, we would still highly recommend this SSD over a mechanical one. That being said, if storage capacity is the biggest factor in your purchase, perhaps look towards a HDD that can double your available resources for even cheaper.
Samsung has put a lot of thought into the design of the T7 and even though it doesn’t challenge the SanDisk Extreme on durability, it’s hardly made of glass. The primary reason that the Samsung T7 still managed to come in a little heavier is because of the added layers of protection and materials that go into making it as sturdy as possible. Finally, a great inclusion that flies under the radar for the Samsung T7 is that it comes packed with both a USB-C and USB-A cable meaning there is no messing around with off-brand cables or adapters at all.
Read our review of the Samsung T7 Portable SSD for more.
5. Seagate Expansion SSD 500GB
We’ve hyped up SSD over HDD technology quite a bit in this list and for good reason, it’s also why we’re including the Seagate Expansion SSD as an option despite its limited storage capacity. If you’re looking for the speed and convenience of an SSD without needing terabytes of space while also not wanting to break the bank, this is the option for you.
- Speed despite lower cost
- Durable design
- Super basic design
- No color options
If you’re after a low storage option that is really cost friendly then there aren’t many options to rival the Seagate Expansion SSD. Where there may be limitations on storage, this external hard drive is one of the best options on a budget. The read/write speeds are capped at 400 MB/s which is less than half of the other SSDs on this list but still higher than the HDDs. On a performance scale, it pretty much sits right in the middle and that’s a pretty impressive spot again when you consider the cost.
The build quality is okay, it won’t amaze you when you unbox it and there is only one color option so there’s no tough decisions to make there. There are no advertised features in terms of durability but as we’ve mentioned with other SSD products, they tend to be able to withstand more than a HDD due to a lack of moving parts. You might think that the best external hard drive would need to have the largest capacity and fanciest design, but the Seagate Expansion really shows that it can hold its own in a challenging environment.