The Best External Hard Drives for the iPad

Expand Your Storage With WiFi External Hard Drives

An external hard drive is a great way to expand the storage of an iPad, but unfortunately, you cannot hook up just any external drive to the iPad. As with Flash drives, any external drive that requires a USB connection won't be recognized by the iPad, even if you have the camera connection kit hooked up to your tablet. The key to buying an external hard drive for the iPad is built-in WiFi, which allows the drive to connect with an app on the iPad.

Another downside is the inability to launch apps from an external drive. But you will be able to stream music and movies, and because external drives can hold so much more than even the highest model iPad, most will be able to access their entire music or movie library.

For most people, the best external hard drive for the iPad is the Seagate Wireless Plus. Offering 1 TB of storage, the Wireless Plus is a USB 3 external drive, which means you can hook it up to a PC with a USB 3 slot and transfer data much faster than normal external drives. But the biggest feature for the iPad is the ability to connect via WiFi. And because WiFi is built into the drive, you don't need an Internet connection to use it. The iPad and drive communicate by creating their own WiFi network. The Wireless Plus also supports AirPlay, which means you can stream media to your Apple TV.

The free Seagate Media app is used to connect and communicate with the drive, allowing you to stream your media library, view photo albums or read documents. You can also transfer photos and videos from your iPad to the Wireless Plus, freeing up precious storage space on your iPad.

The Wireless Plus replaces the GoFlex Satellite in Seagate's lineup. While the GoFlex Satellite doesn't allow you to upload files from your iPad, it's a cheaper alternative to the Wireless Plus. However, because it is no longer being manufactured, it may be more difficult to find in store or online.

An alternative to the Wireless Plus, Seagate Central creates local cloud storage that can be accessed by your PCs or your iPad. This means you can access your storage through your Internet connection, which means you can connect to the Seagate Central through any WiFi hotspot or with your 4G connection. This makes it great for a backup solution, and an excellent way to get at your entire music collection, but if you are streaming movies, you'll want to be careful to only do so if you are connecting to the Internet via WiFi. It's easy to use up all the data on your 4G data plan with just a few movies.

The cheaper price compared to the Wireless Plus is also a bonus, but remember, this drive doesn't connect directly to your iPad via WiFi. Instead, you are using your home network or using the Internet to connect to it. This means you'll need an iPad with a 3G or 4G data connection to get access to your external data when you aren't at home or near a WiFi hotspot.

The LaCie Fuel is the best alternative to the Seagate external drives, though with Seagate in the process of purchasing LaCie, this will only be true for a short while. The LaCie Fuel uses the same Seagate Media app to communicate with the iPad, so you'll get a similar set of features compared to the Seagate Wireless Plus, including AirPlay compatibility to stream music and movies to your Apple TV.

The LaCie Fuel is also capable of sharing its data connection, which means it can connect to the Internet via a nearby WiFi hotspot and then share that connection with your wireless devices. However, this could open up the files stored on the Fuel to anyone on the WiFi hotspot's network, so it isn't recommended. It is also important to set a password on the device in order to secure it from anyone else accessing it.

While not an external hard drive, the AirStash does provide a storage solution for those who do not need 500 GB of external storage. The AirStash is essentially a Flash drive reader that connects to your iPad via WiFi, similar to the external drives on this list. The advantage of this solution is that you can choose the size of your Flash drive, or even use multiple Flash drives to supplement your external storage. The downside is that Flash storage is more expensive, and if you want to come close to the storage of an external drive, you'll need multiple cards.

Still, AirStash is a rather cool solution that offers benefits beyond an external drive. You can use AirStash to transfer photos from a friend or relative's camera or transfer important documents from work. Because it can read any standard Flash drive, it creates a more versatile solution to storage.


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