Do you wish you had more space for your files? A great external hard drive is an incredibly convenient way to add a huge amount of storage to an existing machine without having to pry open your case and tinker around in the internals.
Even better, they’re incredibly portable, and one of the best ways to move huge archives of media, data, and other files, without having to wait hours for terabytes of data to slowly upload and download.
Every computer needs a backup hard drive, and if you use a laptop, a portable hard drive that’s easy to slip into a messenger bag is the most convenient option
4 Terabytes Hard Drive: Expand your File Storage
Portable hard drives let you back up or store a large amount of data for a (relatively) small amount of money.
Any portable drive will let you store, backup, and transport files. But getting the best external hard drive or best portable SSD for your needs is important.
An external hard drive or SSD is a do-it-all storage device. It’s a pocket-friendly gadget that lets you carry huge between PCs and Android devices, back up essential data, offload footage from your DSLR or drone while on the go, and more.
What to Look For in an External Hard Drive
Digital storage is changing. Internal storage drives are getting bigger, cloud storage is getting cheaper, and USB drives are getting less common. But that doesn’t necessarily negate the need for a good external hard drive
Buying a hard drive isn’t as simple as purchasing the first one you see. There are a number of factors to consider when buying an external storage drive, and the kind of drive you ultimately end up buying could dictate what you’re able to do with it.
So what should you keep in mind? For starters, you’ll want to decide between a hard drive and a solid-state drive, both of which offer some major advantages and disadvantages. You’ll also want to think about drive speed, hard drive format, connectivity, and special protection features.
– THE STORAGE SIZE
The most important thing to consider is the size of your drive. We’re not talking how physically big, but rather, how much storage you want.
It’s hard to recommend a storage size because it varies from person to person and largely depends on what you plan on storing. A good rule of thumb, however, is to determine how much storage you think you’ll need and then buy a drive that’s double.
– TYPE OF STORAGE DESIGN
Next, it’s time to decide on the kind of storage drive you want. There are two main types of external storage drives, and while they ultimately serve the same purpose, the way they store files is markedly different.
– THE PERFORMANCE
There are a few things that can affect the performance of a hard drive beyond simply what type of hard drive it is.
That’s truer of a hard disk drive than a solid-state drive, but solid-state drives still have performance-related metrics that you should pay attention to.
With dozens of models available, how do you know which is the right external drive to buy? And should you opt for a faster, more rugged external SSD instead of a hard drive made up of fragile moving parts?
To help you pick the best portable external drive for your needs, we thoroughly test and review key drives and publish our list of specific recommendations on this page
1. LaCie Rugged RAID ProHard Drive
If you are a creative professional in the market for an external HDD, be sure to check this drive out. There aren’t many competitors: Most other HDD solutions are much larger, and flash-based SSDs don’t yet offer similarly-priced capacity, nor the same value-adds.
The LaCie Rugged RAID Pro 4TB has a unique blend of features and accessories that make it easy to use and quite the versatile travel companion
LaCie’s Rugged RAID Pro is a fast external HDD designed for the mobile pro. The two internal 2.5” HDDs can reach speeds of 250MB/s of read/write performance in RAID 0, but the drive is also designed to take a beating and handle the weather almost anywhere you go.
While it is on the pricey side, this LaCie product buys you peace of mind because the Rugged RAID Pro also includes a free data recovery service during its three-year warranty. In all, it’s a pretty unique drive with rugged protection for demanding environments.
2. WD My Book Duo 4TB External Hard Drive
If you’re looking for the absolute largest capacity external hard drive, then the WD My Book Duo 4TB is the one to get, offering a sizeable 4TB (you can also get versions with up to 20TB) of storage space over two hard drives.
You might sacrifice some of the ample storage space, if you don’t mind losing some, so you can set the drives up in a RAID array, so you have file backups of your files should one of the drives die.
This USB 3.0 drive has many of the features of a fully-fledged NAS device (including a high price), and if you have a router with a USB 3.0 port you could use this as a network attached storage device in its own right.
The device, which comes with two-year warranty, has 256-bit AES hardware encryption, and automatic backup software (WD SmartWare Pro).
Worth noting that the enclosure used is fully serviceable and that WD ships the drive already pre-formatted for Windows users (NTFS).
3. Western Digital My Passport 4TBHard Drive
When it comes to the best external hard drives, look no further than the Western Digital My Passport range. This is the latest model to have launched, coming in sizes from 1TB to 4TB.
It features cloud storage and 256-AES encryption, along with WD’s own backup software. (WD My Passport also makes an SSD and an Ultra version).
It also offers top data transfer speeds. And while it doesn’t quite offer a similar speed to solid state drive devices, the Western Digital My Passport range hits a brilliant balance between high storage capacities and quick file transfers without knocking the price way up.
4. Western Digital Elements 4TB Portable External Drive
Balancing performance with price, there’s a reason WD’s Elements Portable Hard Drive remains the reigning champ of Amazon’s best-selling external drives. This is the drive I own and recommend to anyone looking to expand the storage of their console.
You’ll have enough storage up to 80 games at a time (assuming an average game size of 50 GB). It’d be nice if the drive came in different designs like some of the others on the list.
If you’ve never owned a Western Digital hard drive before, the company has been producing storage since the early ‘80s, and has a well-earned reputation for building products that last.
In addition to being able to store a ton of different games, you’ll also be able to hang onto them for a long time, which could be useful if there are titles you want to revisit.
How We Picked
Ideally, a portable hard drive is something you don’t notice much. It should sit on your desk, quietly storing and backing up your data.
And if you want to throw it in your bag (carefully), that shouldn’t be a problem. These are the features you should look for in a portable hard drive, in rough order of importance:
Although reliability is the most important factor for any storage device, solid information on reliability is hard to come by. Only three companies—Seagate, Western Digital, and Toshiba—still manufacture hard drives, and all of them make reliable options. But all hard drives die, and it’s still possible to buy a lemon that will die too soon.
Portable hard drives are generally slower than their desktop brethren, but speed is still important. You’re more likely to use a portable drive to transfer large files between different computers, so a faster drive will save you time.
We tested drives with USB 3.0 and USB-C connections. USB-C hard drives aren’t necessarily faster than USB 3.0 models, though, because they’re limited by the disk speed, not the USB interface.
By looking at Amazon reviews for our top picks, we found that most people buy 2 TB and 4 TB drives.
Although a higher-capacity drive is more cost-effective per terabyte, 4 TB portable hard drives are nearly twice as expensive as 2 TB drives and supply more storage than most people need. Since many portable drives nowadays provide similar performance, lower-cost options are better.
We recommend getting the largest capacity you can afford. Larger drives generally offer a better price-per-terabyte value, and you’ll likely use a larger drive as you amass more data over time.
We focused on 2 TB drives because of their balance of value and total cost. We also considered a 4 TB pick for people who need more portable storage and don’t mind the larger size.
– BACKUP AND UTILITY
Although included backup software or extra utilities are a nice perk, you can find lots of free alternatives and other great options for online backup services.
If you don’t need the extra features the software provides, it’s not worth the time and effort to set it up on every computer you use.
Dragging and dropping files works just fine for manual backups, and your OS’s built-in backup utility suffices for automatic ones.
Frequently Asked Questions
We know you have questions. The answers below might just help.
1. How do I Preserve an external Hard Drive?
Avoid overloading it, be aware of the surface it’s placed on (level, flat, non-slip surfaces are best), be sure to defrag the drive periodically, and, of course, be careful to avoid physical damage to the drive and USB connectors.
2. Should I buy an external hard drive or a USB flash drive?
If you’re looking for a large amount of storage, faster transfer speeds, and don’t mind a large form factor and higher cost, an external drive is the best option. For smaller amounts of data in the most portable size available, check out our list of the best USB flash drives.
3. Are external hard drives good for backing up data?
For long-term backup, traditional HDDs, including external options, are the best solution, providing the most data stability and capacity for the price (or for a faster solution at a higher price tag, an SSD, possibly an SSD in an external enclosure).
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