The 5 Reasons to Buy an External Hard Drive Today (and Which are Best)

hard drives for video editing

The 5 Reasons to Buy an External Hard Drive Today (and Which are Best)

Key Points

  • 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.  

Hard drives for photo storage
External hard drives are an essential accessory for any student, professional, or traveler.

©Nor Gal/Shutterstock.com

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 

Best Budget-Friendly Option
Crucial X8 1TB 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
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12/02/2023 08:11 pm GMT

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

Best for Gaming
WD_BLACK 1TB P50 Game Drive SSD
  • External solid state drive (SSD)
  • Compatible with PlayStation, Xbox, PC, and mac
  • Up to 2,000 MB/s
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12/02/2023 02:20 pm GMT

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 librarySpeed 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

Best for Portability
Kingston XS2000 1TB High Performance Portable SSD with USB-C
  • 1TB high-performance portable SSD
  • With USB-C
  • Pocket-sized
  • USB 3.2 Gen 2x2
  • Up to 2,000 MB/s
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12/02/2023 02:30 pm GMT

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 goRequires 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

Best for Security
Apricorn 2TB Aegis Padlock DT 256-Bit Encrypted USB 3.0 Hard Drive
  • 256-bit
  • Encrypted USB 3.0 Hard Drive
  • 2TB
  • 7,200 RPM
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12/02/2023 02:31 pm GMT

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 compoundDoesn’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

Wrapping Up

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.

Summary Table

External Hard DriveKey FeaturesConsiderations
Crucial X8 Portable SSDWorks with different OS, speeds up to 1,050 MB/s, shock protectionMight require OS updates and reformatting
WD_BLACK DRIVE4TB storage, shock-resistant, speeds up to 2,000 MB/sSpeed can vary based on drive capacity, usage, and host device
Kingston XS2000Compact, water/dust/shock-resistant, 4TB storageRequires compatible devices for USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 USB-C performance
Apricon Aegis PadlockEncrypted circuitry, unique PINs, higher RPMSlower speeds compared to SSDs

Frequently Asked Questions

Should you pick a solid-state drive (SSD) over a hard disk drive (HDD)?

Different factors determine whether you should pick an SSD over HDD. If you’re on a budget, an HDD is worth considering as it costs less than an SSD. In terms of durability and performance, SSDs are better than HDDs.

Can an external hard drive fail when constantly plugged in?

Leaving your drive plugged into the computer can cause it to fail sooner than expected. To prevent such an issue, remove it when it’s not in use.

What’s the lifespan of an external hard drive?

A hard disk drive should last about five years with proper maintenance. However, factors like frequent falls and temperature can affect their performance. SSDs manufacturers will indicate the total terabyte written on a drive (TWB). This is the data a drive can write before reaching the end of its useful life.

What’s the ideal external hard disk drive size?

Ideally, a 4TB external hard disk drive should cover all your data storage needs. However, you should estimate the files you’re backing up and future storage needs as it will guide you on the storage size that will best suit your needs.

What do you need when setting up an external hard drive?

Most external hard drives don’t require additional setup before use. However, when pre-formatted for a specific operating system, the only way to use them is by reformatting them using the Windows disk management or Mac disk utility feature.

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