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The best external hard drives: What are your options?

Need more storage? You don't need to strip your computer open! Get an external hard drive!
May 14, 2022
Sandisk Extreme Portable SSD 2 on table sat down

Laptops and computers pack plenty of storage space nowadays, but it’s not limitless. There may come a day when you need to add a few gigs to fit the rest of your files. One way is to open your computer and upgrade the storage inside, assuming your computer is repair-friendly. Alternatively, you can buy an external hard drive. Not only is it a useful way to back up your data, but it lets you easily move files from one device to another. These are the best external hard drives you can buy today.

See also: The best external hard drive deals

Picking the best external hard drive

hdd vs ssd stock image
Calvin Wankhede / Android Authority

External drives have been a hot commodity for years, but the offerings have changed quite a bit. They’re great for storing some extra data, like a bunch of media, including movies, TV series, music, and photos. They’re also great for folks that work with media, like video editors that quickly need to move a lot of footage off of their SD cards and are ready for editing. If you no longer have enough space on your PC to install programs, external drives can come in handy there too.

This list considers both hard disk drives as well as external SSDs. Hard disk drives offer a ton of storage for cheap, but consume more power, and have slower transfer speeds. SSDs are faster but can cost a pretty penny, especially for higher capacities.

While shopping for the best external hard drive for you, focus on your budget and use cases. If you want to move around a lot of data very quickly, an SSD will be the better choice, especially if you need it for professional use. On the other hand, if you want a ton of storage that doesn’t require frequent copy-pasting, you can opt for a hard disk drive.

Today’s computers mostly use SSD drives for booting and running programs and hard drive disks for mass storage. As such, an external SSD will give you similar performance to your PC if you’re to run a program off of it. An external HDD will only run programs faster if your PC has a slower hard disk drive running the operating system.

All of that is assuming the external disk is using a fast interface, like USB 3.2 or Thunderbolt 4, as the speed of these external drives is also limited by the interface they use, so make sure to pick the best possible interface your PC supports.

More: What is flash memory and how does it work?

The best external hard drives

Editor’s note: We will update our list of the best external hard drives over time.

1. Seagate Portable Drive

Seagate Portable 2TB External Hard Drive

Our list starts with the Seagate Portable Drive. The headline feature is how slim it is relative to other external hard drives with similar storage configurations. Another nice touch is the aluminum enclosure, along with up to 5TB of storage space before the drive gets any larger.

The 120MB/s transfer speed isn’t the fastest, but it’s typical of mechanical hard drives. Also, the Backup Plus Slim uses USB 3.0 instead of USB-C, which is something to note if your computer only has USB-C ports.

2. Western Digital My Passport Ultra

Western Digital My Passport Ultra
At first blush, the Western Digital My Passport Ultra looks like any other external hard drive. However, taking a closer look reveals a surprisingly compact hard drive with one key feature: USB-C.

Also read: The best USB-C cables

Yes, there’s a USB-C port on the My Passport Ultra. The hard drive comes with a USB-C-to-USB-C cable, though it also includes a USB 3.1 adapter for those with access to the older port. Transfer speeds hover around 125MB/s, so don’t expect blazing read and write speeds. At least the hard drive features an anodized metal finish.

3. Samsung T5

Samsung T5 Portable SSD

Unlike mechanical hard drives, the Samsung T5 is an external solid-state drive (SSD). That means there are no moving parts to worry about. That also means the Samsung T5 is incredibly slim and compact, easily fitting in a shirt pocket.

Don’t let the size fool you into thinking transfer speeds are slow, however. Thanks to its use of Samsung’s V-NAND flash memory and USB-C, the T5 provides transfer speeds of up to 540MB/s.

4. SanDisk Extreme Portable External SSD

Sandisk Extreme Portable SSD 2 on table upright

We continue the portable SSD offerings with the SanDisk Extreme Portable External SSD. According to SanDisk, maximum sequential read and write speeds are rated at 1050 and 1000MB/s, respectively.

Apart from being speedy, the Extreme Portable External SSD is also rugged. The portable SSD features an IP55 rating for protection against water and dust. Also, it can withstand drops from up to two meters onto a concrete floor.

5. Western Digital My Book Duo

Jumping from the most portable hard drive to the least, the Western Digital My Book Duo is a tank. It’s best for those who mostly stick to their desks and want to maximize their storage options.

The My Book Duo is RAID-0 ready with WD Red drives inside and a USB-C port along with two USB-A options that allow for plenty of peripherals. As for speed, the My Book Duo handles up to 360Mbps sequential reading and can switch to RAID-1 to mirror your data. There may be faster speeds out there, but with a capacity of up to 24TB, you should never be hurting for space with this one.

6. LaCie Rugged Mini

Lacie Rugged Mini

Another option that’s designed to face the elements, the LaCie Rugged Mini, makes our list of the best external hard drives for several reasons. There’s plenty of flexibility available in a really compact package. You get a capacity of up to 5TB to the six different formats.

You’ll probably never misplace the LaCie Rugged Mini, thanks to the bright orange bumper. The bumper works to protect the device from falls up to 4 feet and provides water resistance, too. It’s a USB 3.0 drive, and you can max out the transfer speed at 130Mbps. The LaCie Rugged Mini can reportedly withstand up to one ton of pressure.

7. Western Digital Black P10

WD Black external hard drive

Pretty much all of the best external hard drives so far have been made for everyday use. However, gamers often find themselves needing extra storage, too, with how large games have become. That’s where the Western Digital Black P10 makes its name. With a capacity of up to 5TB, you should be able to manage up to 125 new games at a size of 36GB apiece.

Also read: The best gaming laptops you can buy right now

Beyond the storage capacity, the Black P10 has an industrial design that feels like it belongs in your gaming arsenal. It’s smaller than a standard Xbox controller and sits flat, and speeds of up to 140Mbps should keep you running smoothly. Weighing in at just about eight ounces, you should be able to stuff the Black P10 in a backpack and not feel any difference.

8. Asus ROG Strix Arion

Asus ROG Strix Arion

If you truly want one of the best external hard drives out there, you shouldn’t ignore the Asus ROG Strix Arion. This is by far the best-looking and one of the best-performing options on this list. The only reason we left it to the end is because it isn’t technically sold as an external hard drive; it’s actually an enclosure. This means you have to buy the M.2 NVMe SSD separately.

If you don’t mind the hassle, you will enjoy quality construction, a super cool design, and plenty of performance. The unit supports transfer speeds of up to 10Gbps, and it even has RGB lighting! You can use it with 2230/2242/2260/2280 NVMe form factors.