The best external hard drives feature the right amount of storage capacity, transfer speed, and durability. But choosing the right device for your needs isn’t always apparent. With tons of options and a wide range of prices, how do you know which external hard drive is quality?

We reviewed the best external hard drives for photographers in 2022 and discovered the most useful one for each scenario. Here is our list of the 6 best external hard drives you can buy today.

Best External Hard Drives: Specs

WD My BookSamsung X5Seagate FireCuda Gaming HubSeagate PortableLaCie Rugged RAID ShuttleWD Elements
Desktop
Capacity8 TB2 TB8 TB4 TB8 TB18 TB
InterfaceUSB 3.0Thunderbolt 3USB 3.2USB 3.0USB 3.0USB 3.0
Size1.9” W6.7” L5.5” H0.8” W4.7” L2.4” H2.0” W10.6” L5.3” H0.8” W4.6” L3.2” H 1.1” W6.9” L6.0” H1.9” W6.5” L5.3” H
Weight2.12 lbs0.33 lbs2.74 lbs0.57 lbs2.12 lbs2.78 lbs
ColorBlackGray/RedBlackBlackGray/OrangeBlack
Price$199.99$899.99$219.99$99.99$499.99$529.99
Sale
WD 8TB My Book Desktop External Hard Drive, USB 3.0, External HDD with Password Protection and Auto Backup Software - WDBBGB0080HBK-NESN
  • Massive capacity, up to 18TB capacity (1 1TB = one trillion bytes. Actual user capacity may be less depending on operating environment.)
  • Includes software for device management and backup with password protection (Download and installation required. Terms and conditions apply. User account registration may be required.)
  • 256-bit AES hardware encryption
  • SuperSpeed USB (5 Gbps); USB 2.0 compatible

Not only is the Western Digital My Book 8TB one of the best external hard drives of 2022, but its held this accolade for nearly six years. With encryption and password features, modern transfer interfaces, and a variety of capacities, it’s easy to understand why. When WD designs an external hard drive, it’s built to last.

You can find the My Book with a range of 3 TB to 18 TB capacities, but the 8 TB model is the best for your buck. While it’s not so portable (a power outlet is required), the hard drive is sturdy enough to pack along. And with 256-bit AES encryption, you know that your digital property is safe from attack. You can get the 8 TB model for about $200.

Check out WD My Book 8TB on Amazon.

SAMSUNG X5 Portable SSD - 2TB - Thunderbolt 3 External SSD (MU-PB2T0B/AM) Gray/Red
  • First-ever NVMe-based portable SSD from Samsung featuring Thunderbolt 3 technology
  • Sequential read and write performance levels of up to 2,800MB/s and 2,300MB/s respectively
  • Features a full metal body with glossy top and non-slip bottom mat
  • Shock-resistant internal frame make X5 withstands drops of up to 2 meters
  • Compatible devices: Television

If file transfer is your biggest concern, however, there’s no faster external hard drive than the Samsung X5 2TB. This little tool packs a punch with the quickest interface on the market. And while its capacity is tight (imagine calling 2 TB tight) its slender design makes this tool easy to use in a pinch.

While Samsung seems to have built the “supercar” of external hard drives, it’s maybe just as exclusive as one. The Thunderbolt 3 interface is incredibly new and your old USB cables won’t work. But that’s hardly the most limiting feature; with a price tag of $900, most won’t justify the purchase for a little extra speed. 

Check out Samsung X5 2TB on Amazon.

Sale
Seagate FireCuda Gaming Hub External Hard Drive HDD 8TB - USB 3.2, Customizable RGB LED lighting, Dual forward-facing USB for Desktop PC with Rescue Services (STKK8000400)
  • MASSIVE SPACE Up to 8TB of capacity builds the ultimate gaming library without sacrificing titles
  • LIGHT IT UP Create an epic gaming atmosphere with customizable RGB LED lighting
  • BILLIANT DESIGN A bold and refined design, crafted to compliment gaming battlestations
  • DUAL FRONT-FACING PORTS Connect and power your peripherals with front-facing USB-C and USB-A ports
  • WARRANTY Enjoy peace of mind with the included Rescue Data Recovery Services and 1-year limited warranty

When you need a stylish home for all of your games, The Seagate FireCuda Gaming Hub is a central piece of equipment. The external hard drive comes in 8 and 16 TB models, with plenty of space for a deep game library. Its lightweight design makes it easy to pack along and share the experience, and its Recuse Services make sure your files are safe while out of the house.

But the FireCuda’s specs aren’t the only aspects that make this the best gaming external hard drive. Seagate has made it fully customizable with RGB lighting that syncs with Razer peripherals, allowing you to coordinate your entire gaming rig. At a cost of $220, this is a solid hard drive that you can rely on to complement your needs.

Check out Seagate FireCuda Gaming Hub on Amazon.

Seagate Portable 4TB External Hard Drive HDD – USB 3.0 for PC, Mac, Xbox, & PlayStation - 1-Year Rescue Service (STGX4000400)
  • Easily store and access 4TB of content on the go with the Seagate Portable Drive, a USB external hard drive
  • Designed to work with Windows or Mac computers, this external hard drive makes backup a snap just drag and drop
  • To get set up, connect the portable hard drive to a computer for automatic recognition no software required
  • This USB drive provides plug and play simplicity with the included 18 inch USB 3.0 cable

Some of us don’t need RGB lighting, however. Some of us just need an external hard drive that can hold our files. For those looking for a tool that’s stripped of bells and whistles, the Seagate Portable 4TB is perfect. At a price of $100 or less, you can get 4 TB of storage in a portable device.

Keep in mind some of the aspects you’ll trade for this budget option. The Seagate external hard drive only uses a USB 3.0 transfer interface, so you’ll have to exercise patience when uploading large files. It’s also not as durable as some of our other options, so take it easy when packing it along with you.

Check out Seagate Portable 4TB on Amazon.

Sale
LaCie Rugged Raid Shuttle 8TB External Hard Drive Portable HDD - USB-C USB 3.0 Compatible, Drop Shock Dust Water Resistant, for Mac and PC Computer Desktop Laptop, 1 Mo Adobe CC (STHT8000800)
  • Store, pack, and send out content like never before with 8TB of massive capacity in a Rugged external hard drive built uniquely flat for jam-packed gear bags and shipping envelopes
  • Easily configure RAID 0/1 using the step-by-step wizard to optimize the system for performance or redundancy
  • Protect projects from unauthorized access with Rugged RAID Shuttle’s self-encrypting password system
  • Includes a one-month complimentary membership to Adobe Creative Cloud All Apps Plan for access to awesome photo and video editing apps

When your project files are absolutely critical, you can’t take a chance with delicate external hard drives. Storing and transferring large, creative documents, the LaCie Rugged RAID Shuttle 8TB is the best of the best. Its beefy design resists shock, dust, and water for those that need it in the field. And with RAID 0/1 security and self-encryption, you can expect all your files to arrive without corruption.

This is a big external hard drive, so if discretion is what you’re looking for, the Rugged RAID Shuttle isn’t it. But it can store up to 8 TB, for up to 250 hours of 4K video or 80,000 RAW photos, so its tough frame protects a massive package. The LaCie external hard drive comes at a price of $500, so you might consider this device for professional uses.

Check out LaCie Rugged RAID Shuttle 8TB on Amazon.

Sale
WD 18TB Elements Desktop External Hard Drive, USB 3.0 external hard drive for plug-and-play storage - WDBWLG0180HBK-NESN
  • High-capacity add-on storage
  • Fast data transfers
  • Plug-and-play ready for Windows PCs
  • WD quality inside and out

When the first TB storage came out in 2007, it opened the eyes of many. But in 2022, we’re reaching a point where we need even more storage. For those working with IoT or machine learning, where you need to collect an immense amount of data, the WD 18TB Elements Desktop is one of the largest external hard drives on the market.

Of course, this device comes with an eye-opening price; the 18 TB model costs $530. And don’t expect to haul this hard drive around. At nearly three pounds, it’s the heaviest external hard drive on our list. The surprising thing? It’s not even Western Digital’s biggest model!

Check out WD 18TB Elements Desktop on Amazon.

How to Pick the Best External Hard Drive: Step by Step

When choosing a portable charger there are four main considerations.

  • Storage capacity
  • Interface
  • Security
  • Price

Let’s review each one in more detail.

Storage Capacity

More than any other aspect, the reason you’re looking at external hard drives is to store large files. You’ll find a wide range of capacities, typically ranging from 500 GB to 8 TB. Before purchasing one of these devices, consider the size of the files you’re trying to store.

Interface

Alongside storage capacity, you might frequently need to move files from one device to another. If this is the case, you want to consider the transfer interface. Usually, external hard drives come with USB 3.0 interfaces, but higher-end models might feature USB 3.2 or even Thunderbolt 3. Remember, with these newer interfaces, you need a corresponding cable or they won’t work properly. 

Security

Not all external hard drives are built the same; even if a hard drive advertises a high capacity, it’s not worth anything if the files aren’t safe. For sensitive files, you’ll want to consider both physical and technical security. Look for models with RAID capability, 256-bit AES encryption, and a durable frame for maximum protection.

Price

The price range for external hard drives is massive. You can find a simple hard drive for less than $100, but for greater capacity, quicker file transfers, and enhanced protection, you’ll have to invest. A quality external hard drive can cost up to $1000, so think carefully about what you’ll use it for.

What to Know Before Buying an External Hard Drive

Before you go out to buy an external hard drive, it’s important to know that not all devices are designed with portability in mind. 

You’ll notice some hard drives labeled as HDD or SSD. Your traditional hard drives (HDDs) are bulkier and built to store larger files. These hard drives typically find a comfortable place on your desk and stay there. On the other hand, solid-state drives (SSDs) can store a considerable amount of files while having a much smaller frame. These can easily be packed in a bag for easy transportation. Just don’t expect them to transfer files as fast (unless it’s a Samsung X5).

Using the Best External Hard Drive: What It’s Like

Since we’re not IoT engineers, using these hard drives to max capacity isn’t the easiest task. We did find that every one of these external hard drives offered plenty of storage for everyday use.

While using the Lightning 3 interface on the Samsung X5 felt like a luxury, all of these hard drives have USB 3.0 or better transfer speeds. For all but the Seagate Portable, it didn’t feel like there was much waiting.

The most noticeable difference came with transporting the external hard drives. Both of the SSDs packed in a bag without a single thought, while the WD Elements took a little planning to fit safely.

Want to know more about external hard drives and other useful gadgets? Check out these articles below.

Last update on 2022-12-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Best External Hard Drives for Photographers FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is the most reliable external hard drive brand?

The Western Digital and Seagate make hold the largest market share for external hard drives. Their devices range from affordable to high-quality and are very reliable.

How long do external hard drives last?

External hard drives can run smoothly for three to five years. This time can vary based on exposure to high temperatures, frequent use, and improper ejection.

What should I look for when buying an external hard drive?

The key aspects to look for when buying an external hard drive include storage capacity, file transfer speed, and security features.

Which lasts longer SSD or HDD?

Because SSDs have no moving parts, their physical parts typically last longer. However, this can vary depending on usage.

Should I unplug my external hard drive when not in use?

Even when your external hard drive is idle, it is still working. If you’re concerned about the lifespan of your device, it is good practice to unplug it when not in use.

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