The 9 Best External Hard Drives to Buy in 2018

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

WD 1TB Black My Passport Portable External Hard Drive
Photo from Amazon

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.

Best Overall, 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.

Best Splurge: Seagate Backup Plus Hub 6TB STEL6000100

Seagate Backup
Courtesy of Amazon.com

If cost is no obstacle, 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 (3TB, 4TB, 6TB and 8TB versions are available), 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.

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.

Runner-Up, Best Overall: Samsung T5 Portable SSD - 500GB

While the price of this Samsung portable SSD might not be for everyone, the speed and security will amaze the most demanding professionals out there. The all-metal design is extremely durable and portable, about as big as your palm and less than two ounces. It is built with a shock-resistant metal frame that will protect against bounces and drops. On top of the durable build is AES 256-bit hardware encryption that will keep your files safe if the drive is lost or stolen. But the most impressive part of this storage device, which ranges from 256GB to 2TB, is the whiplash transfer speed. Expect maximum transfer of up to 540 MB/s, 5x faster than external hard drives and the best tool for moving 4k videos and high-res photos. USB 3.1 Type-C and Type-A ports mean that Apple and Android users can use this blazing fast device. 

Best Portability: Toshiba Canvio Basics 1TB Portable Hard Drive (HDTB310XK3AA)

Slightly bigger than a deck of cards, the simply designed Toshiba's Canvio Basics portable hard drive makes it easy to take all your files with you on the go. It comes in 500GB, 1TB, 2TB and 3TB models and works just by plugging it into your PC via its USB 3.0 port. (To use it with a Mac, you’ll have to reformat the drive to an OS X-compatible format. Don’t worry; it’s pretty easy to do.) It yields much faster transfer speeds than those that use USB 2.0 technology, but it’s still backwards compatible. It hits rotational speeds of up to 5400 RPM and features an internal shock sensor and ramp loading technology to keep your files safe. It’s portable for sure, but it’s also dependable and easy to use.

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

Try as you might, Silicon Power’s Armor A60 external hard drive is hard to dismantle. Not only is it water-resistant (IPX4) and drop-proof (up to 122 centimeters), but it’s scratch-proof, slip-proof and shock-proof, thanks to a textured casing with silicon material on the sides and edges. Its impressive read/write speeds are complemented by the use of USB 3.0 technology to deliver blazing fast transfer times. Compatible with both Macs and PCs, it comes with SP Widget, a software that simplifies data backup and restore, AES 256-bit encryption and cloud storage for efficient data management. Versions are available up to a whopping 5TB and it’s covered by a three-year warranty that promises complete service and technical support.

Best for Business: Seagate Expansion 1TB Portable External Hard Drive USB 3.0

As a business owner, you’ll likely want a hard drive that has a large capacity and copies files quickly, not to mention one that doesn’t break the bank. The Seagate Expansion Portable Hard Drive meets all those requirements and more. It comes in 1TB, 2TB, 3TB and 4TB models, and out of the box, it’s formatted to work with Windows computers. If you use Macs, don’t worry; you can reformat it in just a few seconds. In fact, buying a drive pre-formatted for Windows can be a much cheaper way to get storage for your Mac than buying a Mac-designated drive, which are usually pricier.

Measuring 4.8 x 3.2 x .6 inches and weighing 6.4 ounces, it’s small and light enough to toss in your bag on the way to a business meeting. It houses a drive that spins at just 5,400 rotations per minute, as opposed to some faster 7,200rpm models, but it still delivers respectable performance: around 120MB/s for writing and 130MB/s for reading. On the up side, the slower speed also means it consumes less power.

Best for Gaming: U32 ShadowUSB Hard Drive

U32 Shadow 1TB USB 3.0 External Gaming Hard Drive
Courtesy of Walmart.com

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: AirPort Time Capsule

Apple - AirPort® Time Capsule®
Courtesy of BestBuy.com

Apple’s AirPort Time Capsule is tailor-made to work with OS X to automatically backup all of your files onto a 2TB storage unit. Powered by Wi-Fi 802.11ac technology, the AirPort automatically detects your connected MacBooks, iPhones, Apple TV, iPad and iPod devices to save your files in real-time. An impressive beamforming antenna array has long range and assures all your files are brought in for backup. You can also connect any device via USB, giving you flexibility to store files from old devices. In typical Apple fashion, the AirPort has a minimalist and modern design, blending in with any home or office.

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