The 7 Best External Hard Drives to Buy in 2017

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

So, you ran out of storage your computer or phone and you need somewhere to store your photos, music and other files. Now what? Depending on your individual needs, there are a number of types of external hard drives you can select. A professional photographer or videographer may need something with a large capacity, whereas a student may need something portable. And someone running a small business may depend on storage capacity, durability and transfer time. If you're still unsure about which one to buy, read on to find the best external hard drives of 2017.

1
Best Overall: Seagate Backup Plus Desktop Drive

Seagate Backup
Courtesy of Amazon.com

This drive offers a lot of capacity (2 TB, 3 TB, 4 TB, 5 TB, 6 TB and 8 TB versions are available), and it’s fast, flexible and affordable. It’s compatible with Mac and Windows right out of the box and includes the Seagate Dashboard backup utility. The included software suite allows social media users to get the most out their media libraries, uploading photos to Facebook or Flickr or videos to YouTube. It can also download photos and videos from those sites. Seagate Dashboard allows users to set up automatic backups when the drive is connected.

The look is straightforward and standard for a single external drive storage device, slightly larger than a standard 3.5-inch internal hard drive. The chassis is made of plastic, but feels quite solid. There are ventilation holes on the side and bottom for easy air flow.

This drive boasts a spindle speed of a 7,200 RPM, write speeds of 95.5 MBps and 127.0 MBps read speeds. Overall, the Seagate Backup Plus Desktop Drive is a great all-around option with simple functionality, easy setup, zippiness and a price point that makes it affordable to nearly everyone. Buy from Amazon »

2
Best for Fast Transfers: Western Digital My Passport

My Passport
Courtesy of Amazon.com

My Passport is an inexpensive drive, but 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. Buy from Amazon »

3
Best for MacBooks: Seagate Backup Plus 4TB

Seagate Backup Plus 4TB
Courtesy of Amazon.com

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. Buy from Amazon »

4
Best Portability: Seagate Backup Plus Slim

Seagate Backup Plus Slim
Courtesy of Amazon.com

Inexpensive, faster, slimmer and lighter than its competitors, the Seagate Backup Plus Slim is the best portable external drive, suitable for the needs of most users. It includes great backup software and a free two-year subscription for 200 GB of Microsoft OneDrive online storage. It weighs just 5.6 ounces and is less than a half-inch thick. It’s available in 500 GB, 1 TB, 1.5 TB, 2 TB and 4 TB capacities, more than enough space for your entire home music or video library. It’s available in black, silver, blue or red. An aluminum case makes it solid but light. It’s bus-powered with a micro USB 3.0 port that handles data transfer and power. The NTFS file system is compatible out of the box with Windows, but a download for compatibility with Mac is available.

The Seagate Dashboard backup software is downloadable and offers options for PC backup, mobile backup and social media. You can customize backups, or use preset defaults. Backups are automatic each time you connect the Backup Plus Slim to your computer or device. A social media features allows you to share media easily on social networking sites, or back up those sites to the portable drive.

A single volume drive with USB 3.0 read and write speeds are 121 MBps, and copy speeds are 114 MBps, making it a top performer in the single drive category. In testing, this drive emitted no noise, vibrations or heat. This drive is a great option for on-the-go, and offers large enough capacity to work well even with desktops. Buy from Amazon »

5
Best Durability: LaCie Rugged Raid (4 TB)

LaCie 4TB Rugged RAID
Courtesy of Amazon.com

Used by professional surf photographers, the distinctive orange bumpers suggest this drive is indeed rugged. It’s dust resistant, water resistant and can withstand a five-foot drop. It has a 4 TB capacity with two hard drives, USB 3.0 connection and 240 MBps transfer speeds. Unfortunately, ruggedness requires a little bit of bulk. This drive weighs 1.8 pounds, and is 5.7 x 3.5 x 1.2 inches. There’s a brushed aluminum finish on the main body and orange bumper cover along the edges. There’s a light above the mini USB port indicating when the drive is transferring or writing files and two small lights to the right of the port indicating which RAID configuration is being used. There’s also an AC adapter port and a Thunderbolt connection, which is tucked into the cover.

Built-in software allows users to configure the device. RAID 0 configurations allows for a 240 MBps write speed and 230.2 MBps read speed. RAID 1 configurations allows for 125.1 MBps write speed and 104.4 MBps read speed.

This drive is a great option for adventurous spirits who need to work in the field and can’t worry about the safety of their hard drive. It’s worth noting that in a crush test, a crossover SUV rolled over this drive and while it was not fully operational after the test, all files on the drive were still fully retrievable. Buy from Amazon »

6
Best Large Capacity: CalDigit T4 RAID

CalDigit
Courtesy of Amazon.com

The CalDigit T4 Raid TB multi-disk RAID system is perfect when you’re needs go above that of a single hard disk drive. Multiple hard drive setups are available from 4 TB up to a massive 20 TB, but the most cost-effective system configured with 8 TB offers an expansive 6 TB of formatted drive space, more than adequate for large 1080p and 4K video projects, major music and/or photo and graphics collections and small business databases.

The silver metal chassis is compact, at 6 x 5.5 x 9.5 inches, weighing just 13 pounds. There are cooling fins molded into the side and the four drive sleds can be accessed via the front panel. Drives are secured by two-step locks to prevent inadvertent popping of the drive sleds. Two Thunderbolt 2 ports on the back allow daisy chaining with other Thunderbolt 2 equipped drives. There’s a built-in cooling fan, AC adapter port and a Kensington lock port on the back panel.

The four 2 TB drives are pre-formatted for a total of 6 TB drive space. Drives can be swapped out in the event of failure, or if you just want to swap drives. A five-year warranty is included.

The T4 RAID is speedy, transferring a 1.2 GB file in just five seconds. There’s a read speed of 527 MBps, and a write speed of 502 MBps. This time is just a tiny bit slower than the faster external drive available, the SSD equipped LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2, but still the speed is outstanding for a hard drive based RAID, and combined with the spaciousness of the T4, it’s hard to beat. Buy from Amazon »

7
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Toshiba Canvio Connect II 2TB Portable Hard Drive

Toshiba Canvio Connect II 2TB Portable Hard Drive
Courtesy of Amazon.com

While Seagate and Western Digital get all the external hard drive glory, Toshiba's Canvio Connect II 2TB portable drive is not too far behind. The Canvio measures just 4.3 x 3.1 x .08 inches and weighs just .5 pounds. Sizes range from 500GB to 3TB (just in case you need as much storage as possible), and it works with both Mac and Windows hardware.

Setting up the drive is simple: there’s just one USB port for connection to the computer and for powering up. Read speeds on the 5400rpm drive are 98MB/s for small files and 103 MB/s for medium-sized files, while write speeds are 112 MB/s for small and medium files. Larger files read at 109 MB/s and write at 112.4 MB/s.

Securing your backup is easy with password protection. And accessing your data on-the-go is offered via cloud backup with a bonus 10 gigabytes of online storage. The portable hard drive also comes with a two-year warranty. Buy from Amazon »

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