The 9 Best External Hard Drives of 2019

Back up your songs, photos and files with these external hard drives

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The Rundown

Our Top Picks

Best Overall, Best for Fast Transfers: Western Digital My Passport

My Passport
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My Passport is an inexpensive drive, but it offers outstanding performance that rivals that of pricier competitors thanks to a 3.0 USB port and excellent disk controller. This drive allows a maximum transfer speed of 174 MBps read, and 168 MBps write. It’s available in sizes ranging from 1 TB to 4 TB.

This offering weighs a little more than eight ounces and is roughly the same size as an actual passport, making it one of the smallest and lightest available. It is bus-powered, meaning a single cable is used for transfers and power supply. A single blue light illuminates when the drive is active, and four rubber feet keep it secure on any surface. Western Digital sought to lessen its carbon footprint by using recycled materials for the casing. While the casing is made of plastic, it is still surprisingly durable.

The features are tailored for simplicity. My Passport is pre-loaded with WD’s SmartWare software. It presents as two separate devices when plugged in — one drive with external storage space and one drive with factory-loaded software. The visual interface is intuitive and built-in software allows for easy installation and management of setting. Backup and retrieval options allow you to set up incremental backups to be performed each time you connect the drive to your computer or device. Files inadvertently deleted from My Passport are easily retrieved, as are older versions of files. The drive offers password protection and 256-bit data encryption.

Best Splurge: Seagate Backup Plus Hub 6TB STEL6000100

Seagate Backup
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If cost is no concern, we recommend taking a close look at the Seagate Backup Plus Hub. It houses SMR (Shingled Magnetic Recording) drives, which allowed more physical bits of memory in the same space without decreasing the size of the bits. This drive offers a lot of capacity — it's available in 3TB, 4TB, 6TB, and 8TB versions — and it’s fast and flexible. It’s compatible with both Windows and Mac; just install the NTFS driver for Mac and you can use it interchangeably between Windows and Mac computers without reformatting. Its two integrated high-speed USB 3.0 ports on the front let you recharge your other USB devices, and with Seagate Dashboard, you can schedule automatic or on-demand backups when the drive is connected. Despite not having a fan, it runs relatively cool and is conveniently quiet.

Runner-Up, Best for Apple: Seagate Backup Plus 4TB

Seagate Backup Plus 4TB
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This 4TB external hard drive from Seagate is compatible with Apple Time Machine, making it the perfect external storage options for those in the Apple ecosystem. Just download the Seagate Dashboard software on your laptop and you can drag and drop any movies, photos, songs, or other files. The device also has cloud connectivity and social media backup, which is great for YouTubers who have large files they want to backup or photographers with many pictures on Flickr.

A sleek portable silver design matches your Macbook and connects with high-speed USB 3.0 connectivity. There is also no need for any external power supply, it just needs to connect via USB. The lightweight box weighs about half a pound and is 4.5 inches long, making it easy to slide into a carrying bag. If you do not need the entire 4TB, you can also order one of three smaller sizes.

Best for Gaming: U32 ShadowUSB Hard Drive

U32 Shadow 1TB USB 3.0 External Gaming Hard Drive
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With the rise of downloadable games comes the need for extra storage. Xbox One users have found a friend in the U32 ShadowUSB Hard Drive, a USB 3.0 connective device that has plug-and-play compatibility with the Xbox One. Just plug the storage into a USB port on your console and you have access to all your files within seconds, or bring your game library with you to a friends house. The hard drive has a 1TB capacity, enough to hold over 650,000 photos, 250,000 songs, and over 500 hours of video. The small black device is stylish and even comes with a three-year warranty. 

Best for Apple: LaCie Rugged 2TB Thunderbolt USB-C Portable Hard Drive

If you’re looking for a rugged, Mac-friendly, super fast external hard drive that can handle plenty of bumps, dust, rain, and bounces, take a look at LaCie’s Rugged Thunderbolt USB-C portable hard drive. The distinctive orange rubber bumpers and brushed aluminum chassis stand out from the rest of the drives out there. The LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt drive offers drop resistance of up to five feet, crush resistance that can withstand up to a one-ton car, and IP54 water and dust resistance. You’ll never have to worry about losing your connecting cable, either, as this series of hard drives, available in 2 to 5 TB capacities, have an attached USB cord in your favorite flavor (USB-C, USB-C Thunderbolt, Thunderbolt, or USB 3.0). It fits neatly away in the rubber bumpers, too, so it keeps from fraying while not in use.

The LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt drive is fast, too, with up to 510MB/s with the SSD version (and up to 130MB/s with the HDD version). Use it for Time Machine on your Mac, back up your photos, music, and video media, or take it along with you on a photo shoot to make sure your data is always backed up and ready to go. 

Runner-Up, Best Overall: Samsung T5 Portable SSD

The Samsung T5 Portable DDS is a bit on the pricey side (especially in the larger capacities), but the speed and security it comes with are worth it for those looking for durable performance. Weighing less than two ounces and as small as the palm of your hand, the all-metal, shock-resistant enclosure is rugged and portable, making it safe to just stash in a bag on the go. Because it has no moving parts, it can also handle drops of up to two meters. With integrated AES 256-bit hardware encryption, your data is also kept safe if anyone else gets their hands on it.

What really makes the Samsung T5 stand out, however, is its super-fast transfer speed, with up to 540 MB/s thanks to the SSD design. That’s about five times as fast as a standard HDD, making it much faster to move giant files like 4K videos and high-resolution photos. The T5 connects to just about anything, too, with its USB 3.1 Type-C and Type-A ports, and works with Windows, Mac, and Android devices. 

Best Portability: Toshiba Canvio Advance 3TB Portable Hard Drive HDTC930XR3CA

Toshiba’s Canvio Advance portable hard drive comes in four colors — white, red, black, and blue — and offers 500GB, 1TB, 2TB, and 3TB models to fill with as much media as can fit. It’s not much bigger than a deck of cards — it's 4.3" x 3.1" x 0.77", to be exact — and plugs into your Mac or PC with USB 3.0 and USB 2.0. Some folks are seeing around 110 Mbps of throughput when using a USB 3.0 port.

Mac users will need to reformat the drive for use, but that’s not a big deal these days. It comes with a two-year warranty and backup software to keep your PC files safe from any sudden data or hardware catastrophe. It even has an internal shock sensor that will make sure your data isn’t corrupted if the drive is jostled while in use. Many users delight in the small size, fast transfer speeds, and cool running temperature of this little portable drive. 

Best Durability: Silicon Power 1TB Rugged Armor A60 Military-Grade

When you see the words “military grade” on any piece of electronic equipment, you’ll want to make sure it’s not just a marketing ploy. Silicon Power’s Armor A60 external hard drive is no joke, offering a tough exterior with a shockproof design andIPX4 water-resistant protection to boot. It’s also drop-proof up to 122 centimeters. The A60 carries its own USB 3.0 cable, which it affixes to the drive itself so you never have to worry about being without the transfer cable while you adventure. The textured casing itself is also scratch and slip-proof with a silicon bumper around the sides.

The Armor A60 reads and writes super fast thanks to USB 3.0, and is compatible with Mac and PC devices courtesy of the FAT32 file system. If, however, you plan to transfer files larger than 4GB, the manufacturer suggests you reformat to exFat for better speed. The drive also comes with SP Widget, a data backup and restore app that that simplifies keeping your stuff secure and backed up. There’s AES 256-bit encryption and cloud storage, as well as a three-year warranty with complete service and tech support options. You can grab your own version in 1, 2, or 5 TB versions.

Best for Business: WD 8TB My Book Desktop External Hard Drive - USB 3.0

If you’re a business owner, chances are you’ll want an external drive with plenty of space for backups, files, and more. You won’t worry too much about portability, so the larger My Book Desktop External Hard Drive from Western Digital fits the bill. It comes in 3, 4, 6, 8, or 10TB varieties to make sure you have enough storage, and offers Western Digital’s own backup solution for Windows users. It’s also compatible with Time Machine for Mac users, as well (though you may need to reformat to match Apple’s file system to do so). It has 256-bit AES hardware encryption for strong security and has both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports to connect to a wide range of computers.

Best of all, the drive is relatively inexpensive, offering far more capacity than any more portable drive for far less cash; one review noted that the 8TB version offered a $.03 per GB value. You’ll need to power the My Book Desktop external hard drive with its own wall-based power supply, but that’s worth the trade-off for this voluminous vault containing your precious digital data. 

Tested by

How We Tested

Our reviewers spent 50 hours testing four of the most popular external hard drives available. To get the most comprehensive results, they used them at home and at work to transfer files of all sizes. We asked them to consider the most important features when using these external hard drives and we've outlined them here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.

What to Look for in an External Hard Drive

Capacity - The capacity you need really depends on your lifestyle. If you’re a photographer or videographer, for instance, you’ll want something with a large capacity that can store all of your RAW files. In that case, go for 4TB and above. If, however, you’re a student who just needs to back up some term papers and smartphone photos, 1TB should be plenty.

Transfer speed - Backing up your files takes time, no doubt. If you have a lot of data to copy, you could be looking at a couple hours at the least. If speed is important to you, buy an external hard drive with transfers speeds of at least 120MB/s for writing and 130MB/s for reading.

Portability - There are some pretty hefty hard drives out there, but if you’re often on the go, portability is key. Some devices are as compact as a deck of cards, which make them easy to toss into your bag for convenient backing up.

Test Results: Western Digital My Passport (Best Overall, Best for Fast Transfers)


What We Like

  • Password protection

  • Auto backup with WD software

  • Sleek design

What We Don't Like

  • Long setup for Mac OS

If you plan to use Western Digital’s My Passport with a Mac, your setup time will be a little longer than your PC-using friends. Our testers discovered that you’ll need to reformat the drive before you can transfer your files from an Apple product. It’s a slight inconvenience but worth the trouble if you want access to this drive’s impressive capacity and fast speeds. Our reviewers especially loved that you’re able to customize the frequency of your backups.

Test Results: Seagate Backup Plus Hub 6TB STEL6000100 (Best Splurge)


What We Like

  • Massive capacity

  • Great value for size

  • Solid speed

What We Don't Like

  • A few interrupted connections

  • Must reformat for Mac OS

Lifewire testers appreciated that this drive has two extra USB ports on the front where they can charge other devices while they work. And they felt the price was right for the amount of storage capacity they got: “It feels like a good value to me,” one person said. One of our reviewers reported that it took her 12 minutes to do a 9 GB transfer, which equates to a write speed of about 107 Mbps. She wished her transfer had gone “a little bit faster” but still gave this external hard drive close to five stars because it offers many other upsides.

Test Results: Seagate Backup Plus 4TB (Runner-Up, Best for Apple)


What We Like

  • Great amount of storage

  • Easy to use

  • Plug-and-play for all OS

What We Don't Like

  • Slower

Given how finicky some other drives are with Apple products, our testers with Macs were relieved to try the Seagate Backup Plus 4TB. Lifewire reviewers were able to use the drive right out of the box and loved that it automatically backs up all of your files. “Given the attributes I expect from a hard drive, this product meets both requirements: offering 4TB of storage and automatically engaging in backups once plugged in,” one person said. And the design isn’t too shabby either. The silver finish looks great next to a Macbook and the compact size makes it easy for you to take this external hard drive with you.

Test Results: U32 ShadowUSB Hard Drive (Best for Gaming)


What We Like

  • Compact

  • Good capacity

  • Great for Xbox

What We Don't Like

  • Limited color options

Our testers would recommend the U32 ShadowUSB Hard Drive to any Xbox One user who’s looking for a dependable place to store their games. One of our Lifewire reviewers stored Forza Horizon 3, Titanfall 2, Halo 5, Sea of Thieves, Fortnite, PUBG, and Madden 19 without a single issue. Plus, setup is fast. Our testers told us that the Xbox One recognizes the drive as soon as you plug it in. This external drive would have gotten a perfect five-star rating, but a few of our reviewers knocked some points off for the drive’s basic look. (You can’t win over everyone.)