- External hard drives offer vast storage capacities, allowing you to store large files like games, high-resolution images, and videos.
- External hard drives are compatible with different operating systems and can be easily configured to work with different OS.
- They are portable and durable, making them ideal for travelers, gamers, and professionals who frequently use software applications.
You can’t speak of computers and fail to mention external hard drives — they’re a necessity in data storage.
Suppose you want to store essential files, but your computer’s internal storage is full. In these cases, external hard drives are the unsung heroes as you can offload a ton of data onto them. Plus, they are portable and provide additional backup for other devices. So, you’ll worry less about accessing your files, music, and games whenever or wherever you need them.
Check out the top reasons to buy an external hard drive and the best choices out there today.
Background on External Hard Drives
An external hard drive can be a hard disk or solid-state drive connected externally to a computer. They draw power via the connected USB cable or an auxiliary cable that you plug into a wall outlet. A major benefit of external drives over their internal counterparts is that they’re portable and provide ample storage space, so they’re great if you regularly share or back up large files.
You might use them to back up data or expand your storage. For instance, if you’re an avid gamer, you can use external hard drives to store your game collection.
Best Reasons to Buy an External Hard Drive
Enjoy Vast Storage Capacities
An external drive is ideal when you have limited storage on your computer but want to store the latest game, high-resolution images, or videos. They come in different sizes, so your ideal pick should match your storage needs.
When planning to store or back up large files like operating systems, movies, and high-quality music, there are high-capacity disks (1TB to over 32TB). Keep in mind that the larger the storage capacity, the more it costs.
You’ll Enjoy Faster Transfer Speeds
You don’t want to waste time transferring files from a hard drive. So, when backing up your files using a hard disk drive (HDD), check the read/write speeds, which are denoted in RPM (rotations per minute). A high RPM in a hard disk drive means that it achieves a higher transfer rate. Most entry-level hard disk drives can attain an RPM of 5,400 while drives rated enterprise-class can reach 7,200 RPM.
On the other hand, the newer computer storage (solid-state drives) lack moving platters like the HDDs, meaning they don’t have RPM. Usually, their transfer speeds are affected by the USB connection interface. SSDs with a USB 2.0 interface offer significantly lower speeds (about 480Mbps). USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 Gen 1 attain speeds of 5Gbps, and USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 reaches peak speeds of 20 Gbps.
Different Connectivity Options
Connecting an external hard drive to a laptop seems easy. However, this isn’t always the case — some portable drives support different interfaces, which should be compatible with your laptop. Some common HDD connectivity types include eSATA, Firewire, and USB 3.0, while the SSD options include SAS and SATA.
Today, newer external hard drives feature wireless connectivity. Consequently, they can generate their Wi-Fi hotspot for seamless laptop connection without cables.
Different Security Features
The breach of sensitive information can mean business loss or costly data retrieval expenses. A safer data storage solution would be investing in external drives with a tamper-proof casing or security features, like a fingerprint scanner. If you take safety seriously, you should consider buying drives with physical security, like a pin code.
Compatible with Different Operating Systems
Out of the box, external hard drives should guarantee compatibility with different operating systems. However, some devices are pre-formatted to work with a specific operating system (OS), improving their ease of use. While this is the case, you can re-configure such devices to work with different operating systems using the disk management option in Windows or disk utility on Mac.
They’re Portable and Durable
If you’re an avid traveler, gaming fanatic, or in a profession where software applications are used frequently, pocket-sized, lightweight drives are an excellent pick. Still, such devices have to be durable. You should pay attention to the ruggedness of the casing and material used in its construction to ensure the drive is safe from shock or damage when it falls. Generally, solid-state drives are more durable than hard disk drive options.
The 4 Best External Hard Drives to Buy Today
Whether you’re looking to transfer large files from different computers or want to back up important files, an external hard drive comes in handy.
Let’s talk about some of the top picks worth considering.
Best Budget-Friendly: Crucial X8 Portable SSD
- Incredible performance with read speeds up to 1050 MB/s
- Works with Windows, Mac, iPad Pro, Chromebook, Android, Linux, PS4, and Xbox One with USB-C 3.1 Gen2 and USB-A connectors
- Beautiful and durable design, featuring an anodized aluminum unibody core. Drop proof up to 7.5 feet. Extreme-temperature, shock, and vibration proof
- Backed by Micron, one of the largest manufacturers of flash storage in the world
Besides its low price point, the Crucial X8 Portable SSD is our top pick. It promises faster transfer speeds of up to 1,050 MB/s, thanks to USB-C 3.2 Gen 2.
Retailing under $100, the Crucial Portable SSD is shock-, vibration-, and drop-proof. Plus, it’s an excellent SSD for gamers as the storage space is decent enough to store Xbox and Playstation games. You’ll love the anodized aluminum finish that adds shock protection when it drops from a height of 7.5 feet.
|Works with different operating systems, like Android, Linux, Chromebook, iPad Pro, Windows, and Xbox One||Might require OS updates and reformatting|
|Attains speeds of up to 1,050 MB/s|
|Shock protection on drops of up to 7.5 feet|
Best for Gaming: WD_BLACK DRIVE
Want to enjoy extended gameplay from an external hard drive? Look no further than the speedy WD_BLACK Drive.
With SSD read speeds of up to 2,000MB/s, you’re guaranteed faster load times for an immersive gaming experience. If you have a laptop or PC compatible with USB 3.2 Gen 2×2, this drive can achieve transfer speeds of up to 20 Gb/s. The best part is that it’s compatible with gaming consoles like Xbox.
Another notable design feature is that the drive comes with a shock-resistant design, enhancing its durability. With a 4TB storage capacity, enough to store different games, it’s ideal for on-the-go gamers who use the device on consoles/laptops.
|Offers 4TB, sufficient to build a huge gaming library||Speed of the drive can vary based on the drive capacity, usage conditions, and host device|
|Shock-resistant casing for durability|
|Attains read/write speeds of up to 2,000 MB/s|
Best for Portability: Kingston XS2000
- 1TB high-performance portable SSD
- With USB-C
- USB 3.2 Gen 2x2
- Up to 2,000 MB/s
As an avid traveler or freelancer, the Kingston XS2000 fast, pocket-sized external hard drive is an essential accessory.
At just 2.74 x 1.28 x 0.53 inches and 1.02 ounces (29g), the compact size of the Kingston can easily be confused with a flash drive. Even in its small size, it has the latest USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 to achieve up to 2,000 MB/s speeds. With a storage capacity of up to 4TB, you can store large files, including games, videos, and high-resolution images.
Thanks to the USB Type-C connector, you can access mobile devices or PC data. The removable rubber sleeve cut stylishly shows off the Kingston logo. In addition to the build quality, the SSD is water-resistant, dust-resistant, and shockproof.
|Compact, making it ideal if you need an external portable storage device on the go||Requires compatible devices to achieve USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 USB-C performance|
|Water-, dust-, and shock-resistant|
|4TB storage capacity is ideal for storing large files|
Best for Security: Apricon Aegis Padlock
- Encrypted USB 3.0 Hard Drive
- 7,200 RPM
We must include the Apricorn Aegis Padlock on our list since it’s making its mark by offering top-notch security.
You’re assured the safety of your files as this drive features 256-bit AES XTS hardware encryption, meaning you’ll have to input a unique passcode before use. The Apricorn software (the Aegis configurator) also lets you perform different tasks like configuring independent admin, user PINs, and recovery PINs.
For advanced security, the circuitry of this hard drive is encrypted using an epoxy compound that can’t be removed without damaging the electronics. This hard disk drive also has a USB 3.0 cable and is pre-formatted in NTFS.
In terms of performance, the drive attains 7,200 RPM, which is decent enough to give faster transfer speeds. The only downside is that the speed is slower compared to solid-state drives.
|Circuitry is protected from intrusion using an epoxy compound||Doesn’t achieve the speeds of solid-state drives|
|Assign unique pins using the Aegis configurator|
|Higher RPM helps the hard disk drive achieve high transfer speeds|
External hard drives allow you to safely store information that can easily be compromised in the primary device. Usually, if you require to store high-resolution images, videos, or games, you need external hard drives with ample storage.
In terms of functionality, hard disk drives (HDDs) perform slower than solid-state drives (SSDs). Hard disk drives feature sensitive platters that spin at specific speeds (rotation per minute). The higher the speed, the faster the HDD performance.
SSDs store their data in memory blocks. So, when you request to retrieve information, the drive checks the address of the information and reads it, making the read/write process faster. The best part is that HDDs are less costly than SSDs, making them an excellent choice for budget-conscious shoppers.
|External Hard Drive||Key Features||Considerations|
|Crucial X8 Portable SSD||Works with different OS, speeds up to 1,050 MB/s, shock protection||Might require OS updates and reformatting|
|WD_BLACK DRIVE||4TB storage, shock-resistant, speeds up to 2,000 MB/s||Speed can vary based on drive capacity, usage, and host device|
|Kingston XS2000||Compact, water/dust/shock-resistant, 4TB storage||Requires compatible devices for USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 USB-C performance|
|Apricon Aegis Padlock||Encrypted circuitry, unique PINs, higher RPM||Slower speeds compared to SSDs|
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Vadym Sh/Shutterstock.com.