Drive external: The Best External SSDs for 2023

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The Best Rugged Hard Drives and SSDs for 2023

What’s the best way to be sure your external drive won’t suffer an early demise due to rough handling? Keep it in a climate-controlled room, wrapped in bubble wrap, resting on a feather pillow, and plugged safely into a stationary desktop PC.

Excellent! But…wait, you can’t do that? Oh, well. Looks like you’re going to need a drive designed to withstand the rigors of the real world.

Now, any ordinary external drive has some degree of toughness. But there’s everyday tough, and then there’s rugged. “Rugged” comes in many grades, though. Some rugged drives are built to withstand forces that would kill any bare-naked internal drive: strong impacts, water immersion, even fire. Drives designed for more casual abuse are often marketed as “ruggedized,” but that’s an inexact term. It’s also something of a misnomer, as the actual drive mechanism inside the tough shell is usually a normal, off-the-shelf storage component, just like you’d find in any laptop or desktop. What makes a drive rugged is the casing around it, which allows these drives to withstand shock, dousing, and the like. The level of survivability often depends on how much money you want to spend.

In general, how much torture a given drive can take varies according to the nature of its enclosure. Some will let you drive a car over them. Others might be designed to handle just a short fall off a desk, and not much more.

In this guide, we gather up the most impressive hard drive and SSD models we’ve reviewed, then walk you through the features most commonly found in rugged drives. If you’re the type of person who’s suffered a drive failure “in the field” before—whether that’s in your office, or climbing Kilimanjaro—these devices should keep you from suffering that pain again.

Deeper Dive: Our Top Tested Picks

ADATA SE800

Best Rugged SSD for General Use

4.5 Outstanding

Bottom Line:

The ADATA SE800 external SSD is everything you want in a shirt-pocket solid-state drive: sleek, tough, affordable, and snappy. It will make an excellent addition to your kit.

PROS

  • Small, light, and fast.
  • Highly durable.
  • Reasonable cost per gigabyte.
  • USB-C and USB-A cables included.

CONS

  • The provided cables are on the short side.

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ADATA SE800 Review

SanDisk Professional Pro-G40 SSD

Best Rugged SSD for Mac Users

4.5 Outstanding

Bottom Line:

The Mac-centric SanDisk Professional Pro-G40 SSD, an external drive with sizzling speeds over a Thunderbolt 3 connection, is built to withstand anything the elements can throw at it. It doesn’t come cheap, but costs less than the nearest comparable drive we’ve reviewed.

PROS

  • Blistering speeds over a Thunderbolt 3 connection
  • Extremely rugged
  • Handsome design
  • Thunderbolt 3 cable included

CONS

  • High cost per gigabyte
  • Tricky to reformat for Windows use
  • Slower over a USB-C connection

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SanDisk Professional Pro-G40 SSD Review

LaCie Rugged SSD Pro

A Solid Alternative to the SanDisk Professional Pro-G40 SSD

4. 5 Outstanding

Bottom Line:

The LaCie Rugged SSD Pro external drive is designed for professional videographers and others who work in the field with Thunderbolt 3-equipped computers (most often Macs). Small, light, and even mailable, it earns the right to add “extremely” in front of “fast and rugged.”

PROS

  • Field-leading speed
  • Also works with USB-C 3.1 Gen 1 and Gen 2 ports
  • Extreme ruggedness against dust, water, drops, crush pressure
  • Five-year warranty

CONS

  • High price per gigabyte
  • Cable is a bit short

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LaCie Rugged SSD Pro Review

Samsung Portable SSD T7 Shield

Best Rugged Security-Minded SSD for Mainstream Use

4.0 Excellent

Bottom Line:

Samsung’s Portable SSD T7 Shield is an external solid-state drive that’s impervious to dust, rain, and tumbles. It’s a durable and secure choice for outdoor workers and travelers, if on the slow side compared to non-rugged SSDs.

PROS

  • Provides protection from rain, dust, and drops
  • AES 256-bit hardware-based encryption
  • Offers the raw speed of a USB 3.2 Gen 2 drive
  • Comes in capacities up to 2TB

CONS

  • Relatively short three-year warranty
  • Not the fastest external SSD for everyday storage tasks

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Samsung Portable SSD T7 Shield Review

iStorage DiskAshur M2

Best Rugged SSD for Extreme Data Security

4.0 Excellent

Bottom Line:

The iStorage DiskAshur M2 portable SSD packs a wealth of security features to protect your data—and it’s a proper value, too. It is impervious to the elements, can survive being run over, and costs less than similar security-focused SSDs.

PROS

  • AES-XTS 256-bit full-disk hardware encryption
  • IP68 ruggedness rating
  • Compatible with Windows, macOS, Linux, Chrome, Android, and more
  • Supports an administrator PIN, plus separate user PINs
  • No software to install
  • Aggressively priced for a security-focused SSD

CONS

  • More expensive per gigabyte than standard external SSDs
  • Much slower transfer rates than less-security-minded drives

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iStorage DiskAshur M2 Review

SanDisk Extreme Pro Portable SSD V2

Best Rugged SSD for Athletic Activities

3. 5 Good

Bottom Line:

Geared to content creators, SanDisk’s Extreme Pro Portable SSD V2 offers some of the fastest read and write speeds we’ve seen from an external solid-state drive. But you’ll likely have to buy and install an expansion card on a desktop PC to attain them.

PROS

  • Stellar read and write speeds
  • Five-year warranty
  • Password-protected with 256-bit AES hardware-based encryption
  • Durable

CONS

  • Port that enables drive’s full speed barely exists in the wild
  • 2×2 expansion card will cost extra, and is only an option on desktops

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SanDisk Extreme Pro Portable SSD V2 Review

ADATA HD710M Pro External Hard Drive

Best Rugged Hard Drive for Budget Buyers

4.0 Excellent

Bottom Line:

Love or hate its camouflage look, the ADATA HD710M Pro external rugged hard drive provides on-par performance and fine durability at a competitive price.

PROS

  • Durable in drop tests.
  • Good dollar-per-gigabyte ratio.
  • Trim enclosure.
  • Lightweight for a ruggedized unit.
  • Cable storage around the edges.

CONS

  • Camouflage exterior may not be for everyone.
  • Plastic housing only.

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ADATA HD710M Pro External Hard Drive Review

LaCie Rugged RAID Shuttle

Best Rugged Hard Drive With RAID Speeds

4.0 Excellent

Bottom Line:

LaCie’s two-drive Rugged RAID Shuttle offers the choice of high capacity and fast performance (in striped mode), or of half the capacity with all data mirrored on the second disk. It’s ideal for anyone who works in the field and produces oodles of data.

PROS

  • Flat, easily mailable chassis.
  • Can set to RAID 0 for higher speed and capacity, or to RAID 1 for drive mirroring.
  • Bundled cables for USB Type-A and Type-C on PC side.

CONS

  • No tab over Type-C connector to protect it from dust and water.
  • High price per gigabyte, due largely to ruggedization and RAID design.

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LaCie Rugged RAID Shuttle Review

SanDisk Professional G-Drive ArmorATD

Best Rugged Hard Drive for Mac Users

4.0 Excellent

Bottom Line:

The SanDisk Professional G-Drive ArmorATD is an attractive, cost-effective portable hard drive, best for Mac users, that provides some protection from the elements but lacks a software suite and hardware-based encryption.

PROS

  • Rugged enough to protect from the elements, with rubberized sheath and port cover
  • Attractive design
  • Ideal for use with macOS
  • Both USB-C and USB-A cables bundled
  • Competitive pricing

CONS

  • Lacks software suite and hardware-based encryption
  • Requires reformatting for use with Windows

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SanDisk Professional G-Drive ArmorATD Review

Buying Guide: The Best Rugged Hard Drives and SSDs for 2023

Buying a rugged drive involves a lot of the same decision points you’d face with an ordinary external drive. Let’s break them down.

INTERFACE TYPE. The industry has settled on two main interfaces in external portable drives these days: USB 3 of various flavors (very common) and Thunderbolt (much less common). Which one is best for your needs depends on the ports on the computer or computers you are using. Also, these interfaces, in their latest iterations, actually overlap in terms of physical connectivity. We’ll explain that in a moment.

You might be asking: Thunderbolt? Thunderbolt is no longer a specialized connector meant mainly for Mac users, though Mac usage still dominates. The latest iterations, Thunderbolt 3 and 4, make the interface much more mainstream. The version of Thunderbolt common from 2013 to a few years ago, Thunderbolt 2, offered four times the theoretical bandwidth of USB 3.0 (20Gbps for Thunderbolt, versus 5Gbps for USB 3.0). But adoption was limited, and on top of that, no single hard drive-based external drive can even begin to approach the limits of either interface. Platter-based hard drives just aren’t fast enough for it to matter much which interface you use.

(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)

If you have a older Mac with an original Thunderbolt or Thunderbolt 2 port and want a Thunderbolt drive to use with it, go ahead and pull the trigger. A few makers of rugged drives, such as LaCie, still offer rugged drives with the legacy Thunderbolt interfaces, but know that those older interfaces are a very dead end for future computers. Just make sure the drive and system use matching and compatible versions of Thunderbolt, and don’t assume it’ll be any faster than what USB 3.0 offers.

That said, both of these interfaces are evolving, which leads us to…

USB 3 AND THUNDERBOLT (IT’S A TANGLE). Newer and faster versions of both USB and Thunderbolt have been rolling out in some external drives over the last couple of years. They offer twice the potential bandwidth of previous implementations. You’ll need ports to match them on your computer to get the most speed out of these drives, but depending on the drive, the real-world speed ramifications may not be as big a deal as they might sound.

On the USB front, the latest interface is called USB 3.2, implemented mainly on USB Type-C ports, and it first made headlines by appearing in the super-thin 2015 version of the Apple MacBook. It’s common on current Windows PCs, and a staple in all the latest MacBook Air and Pro laptops (in the case of the Macs, paired with support for Thunderbolt 3 or 4 on the same ports). USB Type-C is a slim, oval-shaped port with a cable that you can insert in either of two directions.

To complicate matters, though, “USB Type-C” technically refers to the shape of the plug, while USB 3.2 is the spec having to do with the speed over that interface. You’ll find that some ordinary “Type-A” USB ports (the rectangular USB ports we are all used to) in recent-model systems also claim support for USB 3.2. Some late-model external drives that support USB 3.2 come with two cables, one with a Type-A connector at the system end, and one with a Type-C.

(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)

Beyond that, USB 3. 2 (the speed specification) comes in two primary (and one rarer) flavors as of this writing: “Gen 1” and “Gen 2.” The iteration called “USB 3.2 Gen 2” has a maximum theoretical interface speed of 10Gbps. (Few single external devices can saturate that interface, even most solid-state drives.) “USB 3.2 Gen 1,” on the other hand, is identical in maximum potential speed to old, familiar USB 3.0. (Confusing, we know.) There’s also the uncommon 20Gbps “USB 3.2 Gen 2×2,” an interface found in some high-speed external SSDs and using USB Type-C ports exclusively. To get its full speed benefits, you need a computer that specifically supports it, or else need to get a compatible expansion card or motherboard.

To make this matter even more confusing, the naming convention for USB 3.2 is relatively new. It was gradually moved to USB 3.2 Gen 1 and USB 3.2 Gen 2 from various flavors of “USB 3.1,” thanks to some (in our opinion) ill-advised branding shenanigans by USB’s governing body. (See our explainer. )

When you’re dealing with an external platter-based hard drive, it makes little difference which USB interface you get, as long as it works with your PC; the speed of a hard drive won’t challenge any of the modern USB 3.x flavors. Bottom line, when looking at rugged drives with a USB interface, you just need to be sure your PC or Mac has a physically compatible USB port—that is, can you simply plug it in, and does the drive say it works with PCs, Macs, or both? This physical compatibility is what matters most, as a USB device will dial down to the slower speed of the two elements in play (the host system or the drive).

Muddying matters further, though, are the most recent versions of Thunderbolt, Thunderbolt 3 and 4—specifically, in how they are implemented. These Thunderbolt versions use the same reversible connector as USB Type-C. Also, support for USB 3.2 is baked into Thunderbolt 3 and 4. In essence, all Thunderbolt 3 and 4 ports are USB Type-C ports, though not all USB Type-C ports support Thunderbolt.

(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)

As a result, any new drive with a USB Type-C interface should just work if you plug it into a Thunderbolt 3 or 4 port or to a “plain old” USB Type-C connector. The possible wrinkle is plugging a Thunderbolt drive into a USB Type-C port that doesn’t support Thunderbolt; you’ll want to check if the drive maker supports that. (In our experience, sometimes it works, sometimes not.)

As mentioned earlier, with hard drives, you won’t see a huge speed benefit from USB 3.2 vs. Thunderbolt 3 or 4 vs. plain old USB 3.0. Thunderbolt 3 and 4 claim potential bandwidth up to 40Gbps, but again, your typical external hard drive won’t push data anywhere close to that limit. That said, some newer SSDs employing cutting-edge, hopped-up internal components are starting to make better use of USB 3.2 and Thunderbolt 3 and 4 bandwidth. On these external SSDs, look for “USB 3.2 Gen 2” branding and peak transfer rates from 1,000MBps to 3,500MBps. These external SSDs are based on the same PCI Express/NVMe internal bits that today’s fastest internal SSDs use; older external SSDs tended to top out around 550MBps because they were based inside on older Serial ATA technology. (For more on the nuances of this speed uptick, see our guide to the best external SSDs.)

ROTATIONAL SPEED. If you’re talking about a rugged platter hard drive, as opposed to an SSD, drive rotation speed matters—a little. It’s the rate at which the physical platters inside the drive spin, and it used to be a significant determining factor in overall performance. But these days, many models spin at a modest 5,400rpm or thereabouts, or have a variable spin rate, rather than the 7,200rpm that used to signify performance-oriented drives.

In a bigger-picture sense, SSDs (which have no moving parts) have largely made the notion of a “fast” hard drive a bit old-fashioned. Even the slowest external SSD is faster than a 7,200rpm hard drive, often several times over, depending on what you’re transferring and measuring.

If you really need extra performance but can’t dole out the bucks for a portable SSD due to cost or capacity concerns, a few 7,200rpm external rugged hard drives are available, but they are not often clearly advertised as such. In most cases, we wouldn’t make rotational speed a prime factor in a purchase.

EXTERNAL SSD VS. EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE. SSDs are not only taking over the notebook and personal computer market, but they’re also edging into external storage. It’s easy to imagine a future in which all external drives will be solid-state, because SSDs’ advantages over spinning hard drives make them perfect choices for real-world knocks. Not only do SSDs have no moving parts, making them much more durable, but they also make no noise and produce very little heat.

The only problem with SSDs? They are still expensive compared to hard drives of the same capacity. The roomiest portable hard drives today can store up to 5 terabytes (5TB) per drive mechanism, but external SSDs aren’t as spacious. That’s changing, though, as we’ve seen SSDs creeping into the multi-terabyte range—albeit at a hefty price premium. Check out our explainer for more on hard drives versus SSDs.

(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)

Most portable external SSDs aren’t expressly advertised as rugged, though ADATA, LaCie, SanDisk, and a few others do offer such drives, with caps to cover their ports to protect their innards from moisture. But in a general sense, any portable SSD should hold up to drops and being jostled around in a bag better than any traditional portable hard drive. If that’s the extent of the extra protection you’re after, a portable SSD, rugged or not, is enticing, particularly if you don’t need lots of storage space.

REMOVABLE OR FIXED ENCLOSURES. A permanent shell is the most common design among rugged drives, with a sealed chassis around the drive. Materials and design vary, but the exterior for a platter hard drive is typically a hard plastic or rubber, which allows the drive to absorb impact. These enclosures may or may not also provide seals to keep the elements—dust, dirt, and water—out of your drive. (More on that in a moment.) Rugged external SSDs will typically have a metal shell, since shock absorption is less crucial.

(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)

A few drives feature secondary enclosures that are removable, adding another layer of protection between the drive and the casing. These are typically sealed with O-rings all the way around, allowing the drive inside extra moisture protection. In other cases, the removable element might just be a rubber or silicone wrapper around an outer metal or plastic external-drive casing.


What Exactly Makes a Drive Rugged? Quantifying Drive Protection

A key spec to seek out for rugged outdoor use is compliance with IP67 or IP68. IP stands for “International Protection” as well as “Ingress Protection,” and the IP spec describes a drive’s level of waterproofing and dust/debris resistance. The related specs are governed by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)(Opens in a new window), a nonprofit standards-creation body. We have an in-depth primer on what the various IP levels mean and how to interpret the figures; check out Waterproof? Dust-Resistant? Making Sense of Gadget Ratings, which defines how long a drive can be submerged, and more.

Quantifying the allowable vertical drop resistance is hazier. Most rugged drives, especially SSDs, can handle a fall from your desk and keep on chugging. Standard external platter-based hard drives are less resilient, especially if a drive happens to be running when it took a dive.

(Credit: PCMag)

Since your basic external hard drive has a hard-plastic shell, when an impact occurs, the chassis transfers the shock energy to the hard drive within, possibly causing the read and write heads to crash into the hard drive platters. That is, for certain, A Very Bad Thing. (Modern drives have acceleration sensors, which detect a fall and rapidly “park” the heads in a safe place before impact, but even that’s not foolproof.) When a drive is encased in a material with more “give,” or with a soft bumper, the enclosure absorbs more of the impact. However, not all enclosures are designed for maximum shock resistance; a rugged drive might have a metal shell, to provide crush protection as well as some safety in case of a drop. As a result, you’re mostly at the mercy of the drive vendor to tell you the rated maximum drop distance for the drive.


So, Which Rugged Drive Should I Buy?

See below for our top picks in rugged drives according to usage case. Also, since many ruggedized drives also provide data encryption and other security features, check out our picks for best secure SSDs and hard drives. If you’re looking for a more ordinary external hard drive or a portable SSD, we’ve got best picks for those, as well, at the links.

This story has been produced in partnership with our sister site, Computer Shopper.

Best external drives 2023: Reviews and buying advice

External USB/Thunderbolt drives are a super convenient way to quickly back up your vital files, as well as store any data that might overflow your internal storage. They’re also a handy way to transport said data between locations and devices.

But backup is the reason your rig is not complete without one (or more). Why? Chances are that you have important data on your PC that you don’t want, or can’t afford, to lose. To protect that data you’ll of course want to store it off-site on the cloud if possible and back it up to an external drive for sure.

Restoring from local storage is generally far, far faster than pulling your data down from the cloud, hence an external drive should be your primary hedge against disaster.

As to overflow, files continually increase in size and number, especially when it comes to video, so many users are all but guaranteed to eventually need more storage. External drives are the easiest way to expand capacity, in addition to covering your toukus in case of disaster.

PCWorld constantly tests new external USB/Thunderbolt drives. Comparing the results, we provide expert recommendations for everything from blazing-fast performance, to the most frugal options, to portability, while considering every factor in between. The winners join the curated list below.

If you want to bone up on the whys and wherefores of external storage shopping, you’ll

Samsung T7 Shield – Best performance USB drive

Pros

  • Fast 1GBps sustained transfers
  • Excellent real world performance
  • Vast 4TB capacity
  • Svelte and handsome

Cons

  • Not cheap
  • Small 4K performance glitch under CrystalDiskMark 8 writing 4K files

We’re fans of the original Samsung T7 Shield, but we’re ever bigger fans of the larger capacity 4TB version (See what we did there?). With far more room for stuff than the previous 1TB and 2TB versions, it still plays to the company’s excellent track record of speed and durability established by earlier iterations.

The T7’s predecessor, the Samsung Touch distinguished itself with a fingerprint reader for data security, but the Shield models lean towards physical protection, with IP65 ratings against particulate matter and water spray. Going hiking with your data? A T7 Shield is a good choice, and you can secure it with software-based password protection in lieu of a fingerprint.

While the 4TB model is capable of handling the largest end-user data sets, it’s also a bit pricey. If you don’t need that much storage, go with the more affordable 1TB or 2TB capacities–all T7 Shields boast 10Gbps transfer speeds, which is always a nice speed boost over older 5Gbps external drives.

Read our full

Samsung T7 4TB review

SanDisk Extreme Pro Portable SSD – Best performance drive runner-up

Pros

  • Overall fastest USB SSD currently available
  • Relatively affordable
  • IP55 rated against dust and mild streams of water

Cons

  • Slightly slower reading files than Samsung’s T7

While we’ve demoted SanDisk’s Extreme Pro Portable SSD (1TB) to runner-up status in light of the Samsung T7’s newly improved write speeds, make no mistake–it’s still one the fastest, handsomest USB 3. 1 Gen 2 (10Gbps) external SSDs we’ve tested to date. It’s slightly more expensive than the T7 Shield, at $190 for 1GB and $300 for 2GB, and it’s rated at “only” IP55, meaning there’s slightly less protection from the elements. But it’s still an excellent product.

Note: There are faster USB 3.2 2×2 (also known as SuperSpeed 20Gbps) SSDs available, such as the WD Black P50 and Seagate Barracuda Fast SSD. However, SuperSpeed 20Gbps and USB4 ports are still rare, so it might not matter to you.

Read our full

SanDisk Extreme Pro Portable SSD review

WD Black P50 Game Drive SSD (1TB) – Best for gaming

Pros

  • Up to 2GBps with SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps
  • Distinctively militaristic styling

Cons

  • Pricey compared to SuperSpeed 10Gbps drives
  • Requires the extremely rare SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps port for full performance

Today’s games can soak up 50GB or 100GB of storage and more. If you’re looking for a drive to quickly load those larger games (as well as subsequent levels) from your gaming laptop, we recommend WD’s Black P50 Game Drive. And no, not just because it’s literally called “Game Drive,” but because we prefer launching games from an SSD to glean every competitive advantage available. Comparatively, hard drives are plodders.

You’ll need a 20Gbps USB port for the Black P50 to hit its 2GBps high notes, but it’s fast (1GBps) even over 10Gbps USB. (Learn more about how we evaluate the best external SSD for gaming.)

Read our full

WD Black P50 Game Drive SSD (1TB) review

Crucial X6 Portable SSD (2TB) – Best budget option

Pros

  • Ergonomic design
  • Good everyday performance
  • Very affordable for an external SSD

Cons

  • Performance tanks when cache runs out

The Crucial X6 Portable SSD is square to be hip (search Huey Lewis). Or placed in your hip pocket, at any rate. In a sea of portable SSDs whose shape and sometimes sharp edges makes them a literal pain when situated in your shirt or trousers, the thin, rounded-edge X6 is a sigh of relief. It’s not state-of-the-art fast, but it’s fast enough for most users and extremely affordable.

Read our full

Crucial X6 Portable SSD (2TB) review

Teamgroup M200 – Best budget speedster

Pros

  • Fast everyday performance
  • Available in up to 8TB (eventually) capacity
  • Attractively styled

Cons

  • No TBW rating
  • Company will change components if shortages demand
  • Writes slow to 200MBps off cache

Rated for 20Gbps and selling for $140 with 1TB of storage, the Teamgroup M200 is an attractive (in a military fashion) external drive for the budget conscious performance enthusiast.

It might not be as cheap as the Crucial X6, but for the extra outlay you get outstanding everyday performance—it’s the fastest 20Gbps drive we’ve ever tested. At just 4.13-inches long and 2.18-inches wide and weighing under 3 ounces, it’s also extremely portable and its slick styling will appeal to gamers.

Read our full

Teamgroup T-Force M200 20Gbps USB SSD review

Adata Elite SE880 SSD – Most portable external drive

Pros

  • Very fast, over-20Gbps USB connection
  • Extremely small form factor
  • 5-year warranty

Cons

  • Slows considerably during long contiguous writes
  • Somewhat low TBW rating

No external SSD we’ve seen can match Adata’s Elite SE880 for portability. Indeed, measuring only 2.55 inches long, 1. 38 inches wide, and 0.48 inches thick, it reminds you more of a USB thumb drive than your standard external SSD. It also weighs a mere 1.1 ounces, so it vanishes from your consciousness in the pocket.

In real-world 48GB transfer tests, the Elite SD880 beat out quite a few of its competitors, though it lost significant ground in the longer 450GB write test. Photo and video pros with large files to transfer might want to consider speedier options.

Read our full

Adata Elite SE880 SSD review

Kingston XS200 USB SSD – Most portable high-capacity drive

Pros

  • Super svelte
  • Good 20Gbps performance
  • Available in up to 4TB in capacity

Cons

  • Slower than much of the competition
  • Not much of a looker

The Kingston XS2000 is an admirable blend of size, capacity, speed, and affordability. With up to 4TB in capacity, it is one of the most capacious drives that still fits in smaller pockets.

The XS2000 is a 20Gbps USB drive, and while it lagged as a reader compared to most of the 20Gbps competition, it beats the pants off of the 10Gbps drives in synthetic benchmarks and our 48GB transfers. The 450GB write was very slow, but overall, it’s a decently fast SSD and a solid product that offers a ton of storage in a very small form factor.

Note: Kingston sent us a updated version that solved its slow read performance in synthetic benchmarks. The 450GB write remained slow.

Read our full

Kingston XS200 USB SSD review

SanDisk Pro-G40 – Best USB/Thunderbolt combo

Pros

  • Both 10Gbps and Thunderbolt 3/4 connectivity
  • Fast, especially over Thunderbolt
  • IP68 weather and dust resistant

Cons

  • Pricey

For anyone who wants Thunderbolt’s scintillating 40Gbps performance as well as the ability to connect via ubiquitous USB (10Gbps), the SanDisk Pro-G40 is the drive to buy–it’s the fastest dual-bus drive that we’ve ever tested. The drive dominated the competition when connected via Thunderbolt with outstanding 48GB and 450GB transfers, and via USB was on par with the fastest 10Gbps drives.

The Pro-G40 is also rated at IP68 for weather and dust resistance, meaning it should be able to handle outdoor adventures if you decide to travel with it in your backpack. It’s a rather pricey drive, but Thunderbolt drives are never “cheap”. They are, however, absolutely worth it if pennies don’t matter as much as minutes. A fantastic drive.

Read our full

SanDisk Pro-G40 SSD review

WD My Passport 5TB – Best for backups

Pros

  • Excellent cost per gigabyte
  • Nice styling
  • Comprehensive software suite

Cons

  • Slower than average with large files

You want to know why we chose WD’s My Passport 5TB for backups? It’s right there in the name—that extra 1TB can be invaluable in this age of 4K/8K.

Read our full

WD My Passport 5TB review

Seagate Backup Plus Portable – Best for backups runner-up

Pros

  • Up to 5TB in a 2.5-inch package
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Slow writing small files and folders

Like the WD above, Seagate’s Backup Plus Portable is a USB 3.1 Gen 1 (5Gbps) drive—5Gbps is plenty enough bandwidth for the hard drive inside–about three to four times what the HDD is capable of. Capacity tops out at 5TB, but the drive is also available in 1TB, 2TB, and 4TB capacities. 

In our tests of the 4TB version, we found the Backup Plus Portable to be slightly faster than the WD My Passport 5TB with large file transfers (think movies), but slower with small file transfers (think Office documents). All in all, a worthy runner-up. Choose between the two by price.

Read our full

Seagate Backup Plus Portable review

What you need to know before you buy

Yes, USB4 will provide the same massive throughput as Thunderbolt 3 at lower prices eventually, and likely far more products too.

Capacity versus price

For most consumers, the primary shopping criteria for external storage are capacity and price. However, while you might think that the lowest-cost drives provide the most value–they don’t. In fact, dollar for dollar, cheaper low-capacity drives have always been the worst deal in terms of price per terabyte.

You can see the phenomena in the charts below where we compare the popular WD Elements desktop hard drive’s available capacities and prices. You’re paying more than twice as much per terabyte for the lowest-capacity drive versus the next step up. It’s almost as bad on the WD Elements Portable drive.

The worst value for an external hard drive is typically the lowest-capacity drive.

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The best “value,” as you can see, typically means the most capacious hard drives. But it also means higher total cost, and not everyone needs maximum capacity.

How much capacity do you need?

So how much storage do you actually need? For backup, we recommend a drive that’s at least twice the capacity of the total amount of data residing on your PC’s internal storage.

If you have 1TB of storage in your PC, a 2TB drive allows you to make a full backup while keeping previous versions, as well as additional differential and incremental backups. I.e., the larger the capacity, the more backups over a longer period of time you can keep, or the more PCs you can back up to the same drive.

While a desktop hard drive (read 3.5-inch) provides far more capacity (up to 26TB currently if you’re a data center), it also requires a power cable, weighs more, and generally won’t be as shock resistant as a portable 2.5-inch hard drive. The latter is designed to take bumps in a laptop, even when powered up. Then again, if you really want rugged–go the SSD route.

Interface

The vast majority of external drives today are USB drives. However, USB comes in many speeds: 5Gbps, 10Gbps, 20GBps, and—eventually with USB4—40Gbps as with Thunderbolt 3/4. Ignore the version number (3.x) and look for the speed.

The USB Forum has changed its nomenclature to indicate throughput speed—SuperSpeed USB 5Gbps (formerly USB 3.x gen 1), SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps (formerly USB 3.x gen 2), and SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps (formerly USB 3.2 2×2). For the sake of brevity (and our sanity), we generally shorten those to, for example, USB 10Gbps, 10Gbps USB, 10Gbps etc.

All USB hard drives use a slower standard, typically USB 5Gbps. No hard drive, unless combined with other drives in RAID 0 or above, can saturate even the 5Gbps interface (roughly 500MBps real-world after overhead). Because of that, you’ll never see one rated higher.

Where SuperSpeed 10Gbps/20Gbps, USB4, or Thunderbolt are of value is with the aforementioned RAID hard drive setups, or more likely—an SSD. USB 10Gbps is fast enough for most users, and getting cheaper by the week. A 10Gbps Samsung T7 Shield can be had for $100 in a 2TB capacity.

Faster USB 20Gbps (Gen 2×2) basically doubles speed but moves you into a higher-price bracket, with the Seagate Firecuda Gaming SSD costing $90 for only 500GB of storage. Although far faster than 5/10Gbps, there still aren’t a lot of USB 20Gbps/USB4 ports out there.

Thunderbolt 3 and the newer Thunderbolt 4 (almost exactly the same thing with stricter implementation requirements) are the highest-performing interfaces for external storage. The key negatives are the premium pricing and a general lack of compatibility with the far more popular USB.

That said, there are dual Thunderbolt/USB SSDs available such as the Sandisk Pro-G40. The G40 is pricey at $160 for 1TB, but a fantastic drive for those who can afford it. Pure Thunderbolt external SSDs can be even pricier, as they’re almost all sold by Mac-oriented boutique vendors such as OWC and Sabrent.

The top drive uses the older, slower Mini-USB interface. The second drive features the connector that replaced it: Micro B SuperSpeed. The Orange drive features both a SuperSpeed Micro B and Thunderbolt 2 (mini DisplayPort connector). The bottom drive features USB-C or USB Type C.

Ports

External drives come with a variety of ports, though they’re gradually (and thankfully) consolidating on the orientation-agnostic Type-C connector. Here’s the list of connectors you might see on your drive:

USB 3 Micro-B — This wider, flatter port is still very common on many lower-cost portable and desktop external hard drives. It’s actually the same Micro USB port used on your phone, but with more data lines to hit USB 3.0 speeds. It’ll do 5Gbps and is fine for hard drives and SATA (internally) SSDs. Micro-B cables are generally Type-A on the PC end.

USB 3 Type-B is the larger, squarer version of USB 3.0 Micro B. Type B ports are becoming rare, though you might find one on older 5. 25-inch enclosures, printers, and scanners. It supports speeds up to 5Gbps and cables are generally Type-A on the PC side. 

USB Type-C or simply Type-C is the latest USB connector and the one the world is standardizing on. It’s small, easy to insert, and you don’t have to worry about which side faces up as with Type-A.

Keep in mind that Type-C refers only to the connector itself. What is carried over the wires varies greatly: USB 2.0 High Speed (480Mbps) to USB 3.2 SuperSpeed 20Gbps, as well as USB4 and Thunderbolt 3 and any combination of them.

USB Type-A You won’t find this familiar rectangular port on any drive, but you will still find it on plenty of PCs and laptops as well as the male version on the other end of most Type-B and Type-C adapter cables.

Thunderbolt 2 is dead at this point. It’s found on older Macs, but even Apple put it out to pasture in 2017. There’s no need to invest in a Thunderbolt 2 drive unless it’s for legacy support issues. That said…

…Apple sells a bi-directional Thunderbolt 1/2 to 3 adapter if you need to connect the one generation to the other. The adapter does not, however, carry power, so bus-powered external drives (no power jack) will require a powered dock.

eSATA is another legacy port that’s disappeared from newer tech. Created for attaching external storage to your computer’s SATA bus, eSATA was a cheap way in its day to move beyond the toddling 60MBps performance of USB 2.0.

5Gbps USB 3.0 put the last nail in eSATA’s coffin. As with Thunderbolt 2, the only reason to invest in an eSATA drive is for use with older computers.

Two drives for backup?

There’s a fundamental maxim in backup, appropriately named the Rule of Three. It states that you should always maintain three copies of your irreplaceable data: the original data, a backup, and a backup of the backup.

Preferably, the two backups are kept in separate locations, one being offsite (online, or another location). Keeping a copy online is great for smaller amounts of data and certainly meets the offsite criteria.

However, for vast photo, audio, and/or video collections, external drives in pairs (or more), are a far faster solution. Especially with most broadband still being relatively limited in upstream speed.  

For guidance on building out the best backup plan possible, see our roundups of the best cloud backup services and best Windows backup software.

How we test

Some of the older reviews you might find here feature results gathered on an Intel Core i7-5820K/X99 motherboard with 64GB of Kingston DDR4 memory running Windows 10. A discrete Gigabyte Alpine Ridge Thunderbolt 3 card and Ableconn USB 3.2 2×2 20Gbps card (Asmedia 2142 controller) were used for connecting the external drives. An Asus USB 3.1/10Gbps (Asmedia 1142 controller) card was employed for some of the really old drives on the chart. 

Subsequently, drives were tested using Windows 11 64-bit running on an MSI MEG X570/AMD Ryzen 3700X combo with four 16GB Kingston 2666MHz DDR4 modules, a Zotac (Nvidia) GT 710 1GB x2 PCIe graphics card, and the Asmedia ASM3242 USB 3. 2×2 card. Copy tests utilize an ImDisk RAM disk using 58GB of the 64GB total memory.

Currently, we’re using Windows 11 64-bit running on an X790 (PCIe 4.0/5.0) motherboard/i5-12400 CPU combo with two Kingston Fury 32GB DDR5 4800MHz modules (64GB of memory total). Both 20Gbps USB and Thunderbolt 4 are on the board and Intel integrated graphics are employed. The 48GB transfer tests utilize an ImDisk RAM disk taking up 58GB of the 64GB of total memory. The 450GB file is transferred from a Samsung 990 Pro 2TB which also runs the OS.

We run various synthetic benchmarks including Crystal Disk Mark 6/7/8, AS SSD 2, and Iometer. We also perform real-world transfer tests using a 48GB batch of small files and folders, as well as a large 48GB and 450GB files. The testbed boots from a NVMe drive, but the real-world (Windows) file transfers are performed to and from a 58GB RAM disk.

Note that all review charts feature results garnered from the same test bed.

External drive FAQ


1.

What is the difference between an SSD and an HDD?

HDDs (hard disk drives) have been around for more than 50 years. They are essentially boxes containing spinning platters with read/write arms that skim across them to detect the orientation of, or re-align particles in, the magnetic material that coats the platters. 

SSDs (solid state drives), on the other hand, use flash memory and have no moving parts inside the drive. Data is instead stored in cells—aka, voltage traps—which are interconnected in a matrix. The matrix approach allows for data to be pushed or pulled to/from many different places at once and significantly increases both read and write speed. On the order of 100 times faster these days.

Generally speaking, SSDs are a better bet for your external drives due to their smaller size, faster speeds, and far superior ruggedness and durability. The main drawback to SSDs is that you pay quite a bit more per terabyte of storage. As technology and production techniques improve, the price of SSDs has and will continue to drop.

rating of the top best, inexpensive hard drives with prices and reviews according to the KP version

External hard drives are portable storage devices. They are available in compact plastic, metal or combination cases. Scope – storage of any kind of data. For example, archives with photos and amateur videos, catalogs with software, movies and games. They are also used to store backup copies of important data and operating systems. By their properties and purpose, they resemble USB flash drives, differing in their solid capacity – it is up to 20 TB and more, while the capacity of flash drives does not exceed 1 TB.

External hard drives do not require additional power (with the exception of 3.5-inch drives, where external power is still required). Using them is as easy as a regular flash drive – just plug it into a free USB port. No driver installation is required, all devices support Plug And Play technology (plug and play without any settings).

Editor’s Choice

Western Digital WD Elements Portable

Western Digital WD Elements Portable. Photo: market.yandex.ru

A popular model of an external hard drive that has been produced by Western Digital since 2013 with almost no changes. The buyer can choose the volume from 500 GB to 4 TB. Inside the box is a 2.5-inch WD10JMVW-11AJGS1 hard drive running at 5400 rpm and with an 8 MB buffer.

The connection provides a USB 3.0 port, which in theory can give a data transfer rate of 500 MB/s. But, in fact, you can’t count on speeds above 120 MB / s. True, this model has one unpleasant feature – for some users, it completely unexpectedly ceased to be recognized by the computer. The manufacturer’s warranty works well and the money will be returned to you in this case, but lost data cannot be reimbursed.

Pros and cons

Time-tested model, compact size

Random in quality – some work for years, others face a breakdown a week after purchase

Top 11 best external hard drives rating

Transcend TS1TSJ25M

Transcend TS1TSJ25M. Photo: market.yandex.ru

A family of portable hard drives, the first representatives of which were released back in 2012. The choice of storage capacity is not the widest here – 1 or 2 TB. The model is quite massive against the background of competitors, with a weight of 212 g. Some confidence in the design of the box is given by its rubberiness.

Many users believe that this is what can save the hard drive when it falls. However, experimenting, especially with a running hard drive, is not worth it, because the manufacturer does not declare shock resistance in the characteristics. By the way, please note that in the family of these hard drives there are models with USB 3.0 connectors, as well as with universal USB Type-C, which will please owners of modern devices.

Pros and cons

Well established model, USB Type-C version available

Competitors offer cheaper models

Toshiba Canvio Ready

Toshiba Canvio Ready. Photo: market. yandex.ru

A relatively recent model that entered the market in 2016. You can choose from 500 GB, 1 TB, 2 TB, and 4 TB storage options. Toshiba uses hard drives of its own production of the MQ01 series in this model, which adds confidence in a long and happy life of the device. The drive is connected using a USB 3.0 connector, which means that the speed, although high, is not a record one.

The model is of rare quality for an external hard drive – it almost does not feel vibration. But the “crazy hands” of Toshiba Canvio Ready will not like it – a hard drive with a soldered USB connector, which means that another 2.5-inch drive cannot be inserted into the case.

Pros and cons

Good build quality and stable operation, no annoying vibration

If the hard drive fails, it cannot be replaced

Seagate STEA

Seagate STEA. Photo: market.yandex.ru

Portable hard drive from industry giant Seagate. The series is distinguished by an interesting (but impractical) design and a large number of modifications, up to models positioned as a solution for Xbox consoles. The volume of the line is extensive – from 500 GB to 4 TB. The Winchester is quite compact and has a mass of 170 g, but it also has a minus – many complain about the flimsy plastic case, which noticeably creaks.

There are questions about the quality of the hard drive itself, there are reviews about drives that stopped showing signs of life a few months after purchase. But there is a two-year warranty.

Pros and cons

Affordable price, two year warranty

Can suddenly stop being recognized by the computer

3QHDD

3QHDD. Photo: market.yandex.ru

Pretty simple 500 GB hard drive for any needs and undemanding users. For example, to store movies, photos, software, work files. The disc is made in a plastic case, but it looks quite stylish. A 2.5-inch HHD disk is installed inside it, the read-write speed does not exceed 120-140 Mbps – it loses compared to an SSD. Connection interface – USB 3.0.

The hard disk has a low noise level. Also, its advantage is a matte body – less visible scratches and roughness. The color of the case is chosen by customers, blue, white and gray options are provided. There is an LED on board to indicate operation.

Key Features

900 73

Form Factor 2.5”
Capacity 500 GB
Interface USB 3.0
Read/Write Speed ​​ About 120-140 Mbps
Weight 164g
Plus pros and cons

Impact resistant, matte finish, low noise, three color options

Rough design, slow read/write performance compared to SSDs

Silicon Power Armor A65

Silicon Power Armor A65. Photo: market.yandex.ru

Another external hard drive for most user needs. It will become a reliable storage of any data – from a home photo archive to a software catalog for a system administrator or a computer repairman. The developers focused on maximum security – the drive received a waterproof case made of plastic and rubber, protected from impacts according to the American military standard MIL-STD-810G 516.6 Procedure IV.

Additional protection provided by an internal shock absorber system. This makes the drive an ideal choice for active users.

1TB or 2TB drive capacity, 2.5″ form factor. SP HDD Lock Utility is provided to protect stored data. If the disk is disconnected and reconnected, the software will ask for a password. Users noted the stylish appearance and really good impact protection. They also pointed to a too tight cover covering the connector, and a significant weight (277 g).

Key Features

90 073

Form Factor 2.5”
Capacity 1 or 2 TB
Interface USB 3.2 Gen
Read/Write Speed ​​ About 120-140Mbps
Weight 277g
Pros & Cons

Waterproof, password protected, shock and drop resistant, stylish design

Tight rubber cover, quite heavy

Netac K338 Aluminum+Plastic 2TB

Netac K338 Aluminum+Plastic 2TB. Photo: market.yandex.ru

Before us is another universal hard drive. It is designed to store gaming applications, archives with movies and photos, backups. The disk is made in a protected case made of plastic and aluminum alloy. Aluminum gives the device impact resistance and ensures efficient heat dissipation. The design is stylish and strict.

The disk capacity is 2 TB. Netac also produces models with a capacity of 1, 3 and 4 TB. The connection interface is USB 3.0, compatible with USB 2.0. Real users liked the design of the drive and read / write data speeds up to 120-140 Mbps. Some of them did not like the Micro-B Male connector used in USB 3.0 interfaces – using an arbitrary cable with a micro-USB connector will not work. There are complaints about the thickness of the case – almost two centimeters.

Key features

9006 8

Form factor 2.5”
Capacity 1, 2, 3 or 4 TB
Interface USB 3. 2 Gen
Read/Write Speed ​​ Approx. 25 g
Pros and cons

Stylish case design, shock resistant, good read/write speed, capacity up to 4 TB

Cons – Micro-B Male to USB 3.0, 19mm thick case

ADATA HD330

ADATA HD330. Photo: market.yandex.ru

The line of original external hard drives stands out against the background of monotonous competitors. Let’s start with the fact that the case has a durable and voluminous silicone shell, which can really protect the hard drive, for example, when carrying. However, you have to pay for this with increased dimensions and a weight of 317 g.

Unlike competitors, the HD330 uses a USB 3.1 interface. Externally, the port does not differ, but the speed in real use can reach 200 MB / s. This, of course, is not an SSD, but significantly more than the competition. By the way, this drive has an extended version of 5 TB.

Pros and cons

Rugged design, fast USB 3. 1 interface

Relatively high price

Smartbuy N1 Drive SB128GB-N1S-U31C (SSD) USB 3.1

Smartbuy N1 Drive SB128GB-N 1S-U31C. Photo: market.yandex.ru

A distinctive feature of this drive is its small size. It is a cross between an SSD drive and a traditional USB drive (flash drive), but much larger. The device is useful for users who need compact storage of medium capacity. storage capacity is 128 GB. Smartbuy also releases modifications with a capacity of 256 GB, 512 GB and 1 TB.

The device has a high read speed of up to 560 Mbps, which opens up the possibility of watching 4K video without first downloading the files. Pleased with the high declared recording speed, reaching 500 Mbps. In reality, the indicators may be lower (100-120 Mbps). Thanks to the USB 3.1 interface, the drive can be connected to any PC and multimedia devices. The body is made of durable ABS plastic.

Key features
Form factor 1. 8”
Capacity 128 GB to 1 TB
Interface USB 3.1
Read/Write Speed ​​ 560/500 Mbps
Pros and Cons

Rugged, compact, common USB 3.0 interface

Real read/write speed less than advertised, rustic appearance

Samsung X5 SSD

SSD Samsung X5. Photo: market.yandex.ru

The Samsung X5 SSD portable hard drive is aimed at professional use. Its purpose is to store video content with Full HD, 4K or 8K resolution, the storage capacity is from 512 GB to 4 TB. A key feature is the Thunderbolt 3 connection. To use the drive, you need a computer with the appropriate port, resulting in a read speed of 2,800 Mbps and a write speed of 2,300 Mbps. This speed is of particular importance when working with “heavy” content.

An indisputable plus will be the impact-resistant case, which ensures the integrity of the device when dropped from a height of up to two meters. An optional password protection with a key length of 256 bits is responsible for the integrity and confidentiality of data. The duration of the factory warranty is three years from the date of purchase. The manufacturer claims that there is no overheating, but user reviews say otherwise – the drive heats up even in standby mode.

Key features

9Interface Thunderbolt 3 (40Gbps) Read/Write Speed ​​ 2800/2300Mbps Weight 150 g

Pros and cons

Heavy content handling, shock resistance, password protection

Heats up, requires a PC with Thunderbolt 3

Western Digital My Passport

Western Digital My Passport. Photo: market.yandex.ru

The well-known series of external hard drives from WD enjoys constant attention from buyers, although it is not without flaws. As an asset of the model, you can write down a nice appearance and as many as six color options. You can also choose the size of the hard drive – 1, 2, 3 or 4 TB.

Then the nuances begin. For example, some users come across instances that make a noticeable noise during operation. Others experienced a sudden failure, due to which not only the device died, but also the data was irretrievably lost. All this is “seasoned” with a soldered USB connector to the case board and a noticeable heat during operation.

Pros and cons

Well-known brand, attractive appearance

High probability of running into marriage

ADATA DashDrive Durable HD650

ADATA DashDrive Durable HD650. Photo: market.yandex.ru

Another model from ADATA. The case has a silicone coating, which not only protects against impact, but also dampens vibrations that occur during the operation of the hard drive. True, the weight of the device is 201 g. Now there are modifications for 1, 2 and 4 TB, as well as versions with USB 3.0 or 3.1 connectors. The latter provides much faster data transfer, provided that your computer is equipped with such a port.

Failures are rare, but if something goes wrong, the failure will be connected to the connector. If the warranty expires by then, the hard drive itself can easily be moved to another case compatible with 2.5-inch hard drives.

Pros and cons

There is a version with fast USB 3.1, thoughtful design

Possible connector marriage

Leaders of the past years

Toshiba Canvio Premium

Toshiba Canvio Premium. Photo: market.yandex.ru

“Premium” version of an external hard drive from the Japanese Toshiba. It differs from its more affordable counterparts not as much as it might seem, looking at the price tag. Firstly, aluminum is used in the case, but only the top flat panel is made of metal. Secondly, in the designer packaging you can find a velvety bag that acts as a carrying case and a rather strange adapter from a “large” USB to a trendy Type-C.

It looks even weirder because the hard drive itself has a microUSB-compatible USB Type-B port. Why it was impossible to place Type-C on the case is a mystery. Otherwise, this is a high-quality external hard drive that delivers a stable 120 MB / s and a capacity of 1 to 3 TB.

Pros and cons

High quality workmanship, stable operation

Aluminum body

Lacie STFD

Lacie STFD. Photo: market.yandex.ru

An external hard drive from the French brand Lacie, which is not very well known in Russia. However, it was French until 2014, when Seagate bought it and, in fact, began to produce its products under this name, but with certain features. For example, at a high price and with design solutions. The Lacie STFD bears the proud “Porsche Design” inscription on the body, for which you will have to pay.

But the main thing here is the USB 3.1 Type-C connector. So, if you have a computer that supports Thunderbolt 3, then the drive is capable of writing and reading speeds of 200 MB / s.

Pros and cons

High transfer speed if you have a computer with USB 3. 1, stuffing from Seagate

High price

Silicon Power SP010

Silicon Power SP010. Photo: market.yandex.ru

Another model of an external hard drive, in which attention is paid to protection from external influences. Perhaps, Silicon Power SP010 in this matter is even better equipped than its competitors. The case here is sealed, made of rubberized material and certified according to the IP67 standard. The USB 3.0 connector is covered with a cover, but some will be annoyed by the constant need to close and open.

By the way, the connector here is not quite ordinary, this model uses a cable with USB 3.0 Type-A connectors at both ends. If we talk about the main functionality, namely data storage, then the base model offers a 1 TB drive, and the SP020 version has a 2 TB hard drive. The hard drives here are from Seagate. The data transfer rate is quite standard – no higher than 120 MB / s.

Pros and cons

True dust and moisture protection, high quality workmanship

Dust constantly sticks to the rubber of the case

How to choose an external hard drive

We need external hard drives when we need to store or transfer a large amount of information. Storage devices have a variety of functions. When choosing, pay attention to the following parameters:

Drive type

There are two types of external hard drives on the market today: HDD and SSD:

  • HDD (Hard Disk Drive – hard disk drive) writes information to a 2.5-inch magnetic disk. The work is done with the help of moving elements: reading heads and spindle. Due to the constant movement of internal elements, the hard drive makes noise and heats up during operation. In addition, such a device is quite fragile, and it should be protected from drops and shaking. Often, after mechanical damage, the HDD cannot be repaired. The undoubted advantage of the drive is the volume – there are models on the market with a capacity of up to 24 TB;
  • The SSD (Solid State Disk) uses chips to write and store data. Simply put, this is a modern type of flash drive with increased volume and high speed (up to 500 Mb / s). An SSD is many times faster than a hard drive. And because of the absence of moving elements, it does not make noise, heats up a little and is much more reliable and durable. However, the maximum capacity of the device is 2 TB.

Form factor

The most common external hard drive sizes are 1.8″, 2.5″, and 3.5″. The higher the number, the larger the weight and size of the device. There are two types of HDD: 2.5″ and 3.5″:

  • 2.5″ media is mobile. The size of the palm of your hand, you can easily take it with you on a trip or to work. But storage is limited to 5TB;
  • 3.5″ discs look like a big and heavy book. The amount of memory already reaches 24 TB, but since it is inconvenient to transfer them, it is better to use them stationary.

Solid state SSD has two options – 1.8″ and 2.5″:

  • 1.8″ drives are great for travel because they take up little space and even fit in your pocket. However, the volume is limited to 2 TB;
  • The 2.5-inch drive is slightly larger and holds 5 TB.

Capacity

The main parameter that influences the choice of model is the amount of memory. It all depends on your needs. For personal use and storage of documents and photo files, 2 TB is enough. If you plan to work with video or you need to save a collection of films, then you should choose a larger volume. For example, 10 TB is 2,500 films.

Connection interface

Even a very fast drive will not work at maximum intensity if it is connected to a bad connector. External drives are characterized by the USB system, which has several specifications:

  • USB 2.0 was actively used 10 years ago and is now considered obsolete. Data transfer rate – 60 Mb / s, which is much less than more relevant counterparts;
  • USB 3.0 and 3.1 are the most popular. Their bandwidth is 5 Gb / s and 10 Gb / s, respectively. For external hard drives, 5 Gb / s is enough for high-quality data transfer.

The most common two types of USB connector: Type-A and Type-C:

  • USB-A is the most popular and reliable, but large for most modern devices;
  • Type-C is universal in this regard, with the ability to connect to a computer, TV and other equipment. In addition, the Type-C connector supports the Thunderbolt standard, which was originally intended for Apple owners. Now it can be used on a Windows computer.

Protection

If you’re purchasing an external drive for outdoor use, consider the option of drop protection. Rubber or silicone inserts in the case can reduce impact.

Additional protection against moisture will not be superfluous either. The waterproof rating is rated IPX4/5/6 for drip and splash protection. The more serious IPX7/8 standard is selected if the drive is likely to be dropped into water.

Expert review of external hard drives

Bukanov Denis , leading specialist of Evraztekhnika IS LLC shares his personal experience on the use and selection of external hard drives :

“Several factors play a role for me when choosing an external drive. The first is the device type. Since I have dealt with the fact that HDDs often fail many times, I would opt for an SSD.

The second item is the volume of the desired device. Given that at the moment it is easy to purchase a flash drive with a capacity of up to 1 TB, it will not be advisable to buy an external drive less than 2 TB.

The connection interface plays an important role. For example, I use an external drive to store movies. Therefore, it is important that by connecting it to a PC or TV, you can play the video without waiting for downloading and without downloading the movie to the device. To do this, the USB connection type must be at least 3. 0.

Popular Questions and Answers

Denis Bukanov , Leading Specialist at Evraztechnika IS, answers popular questions from readers about external hard drives.

What can and can’t you save on when buying an external hard drive?

External hard drives are not subject to the “more is better” rule. Therefore, just choose the required volume (at least 2 TB) and interface (at least 3.0). And for more confidence, buy a separate drive and box for it. Then the warranty on the disk itself will not be 12 months, as with a ready-made solution, but 36. In addition, the brand of the device and its exact parameters will be known.

Can I use an external hard drive instead of the main one?

The drive can be used instead of the main disk, but then it is better to connect it not via USB interfaces. Since there will be a noticeable loss in performance compared to connecting directly to the motherboard.

What should I do if my computer does not recognize the external hard drive?

If the PC or device can’t see the external device, plug the drive into a different slot. If the problem is not solved, then you can disassemble the box and connect the device directly to the motherboard.

Can I recover data from a damaged external SSD?

Data recovery in some cases is possible using third-party software. But provided that the failure is not mechanical.

What should I do if I keep getting the message “Disk needs to be formatted” when I plug in a drive?

Lots of options here. From the fact that the current file system is not supported by the selected system, to the fact that the data may be corrupted. And here it is initially permissible to check the device or, as suggested, “Format the drive”.

How to choose an external removable drive for your computer: an overview of removable external drives

Secure storage of information has become more relevant than ever. Many still prefer the internal hard drive of the computer, others choose the cloud on virtual servers. Another possible storage location is an external hard drive. It is ergonomic, mobile, easily connects to any computer, and most importantly, it can become the best place to store strictly confidential data.

Shop.by will tell you about all types of external hard drives and compare modern drive models.

Advantages of an external hard drive:

  • mobility and autonomy — you can store important files on an external hard drive and work with them anywhere you have a computer or laptop: in the office, at home, on a business trip, traveling, etc.
  • ergonomics – an external hard drive, as a rule, has small dimensions, and it is convenient to take it with you;
  • security – An external hard drive can be the best place to store highly sensitive data. Unlike the cloud, when your information is physically located on other people’s servers, and only the reputation of the service provider is responsible for confidentiality, the hard drive is always at hand. You can encrypt it, set a strong password, and only you can work with the data. Modern encryption algorithms are impossible to crack (unless you tell the password yourself).

Types of external hard drives

All modern external hard drives, like desktop hard drives, can be divided into three groups according to their device and principle of operation: HDD, SSD and Hybrid drive. Which hard drive is better? Let’s compare.

HDD (hard disk drive)

The most common, one might say, classic type of hard disk. Inside the case there are one or more disks coated with a special compound – a ferromagnet, and a reading head. The discs are constantly spinning and the read head is retrieving the information stored there.

Advantages of HDD:

  • price – these are the most affordable drives today;
  • large volume – you can buy a hard drive even for 10 TB;
  • durability – an external hard drive, with careful handling, can easily work for 10 years or even more;
  • reliability – in case of failures or data loss, there are good chances to recover information using special programs.

Disadvantages HDD

  • speed of work – an external hard drive HDD, especially thoroughly filled, runs slower than a stationary hard drive, flash drive and SSD drives. This disadvantage may be barely noticeable if you are viewing photos, videos, or editing a text document. But if you work with large files or in resource-intensive applications (computer graphics, video editing, layout, design systems), performance will noticeably decrease.
  • fragility – there are moving elements inside the HDD case. Therefore, impacts, falls from heights, and other mechanical impacts can damage the hard drive and result in data loss.
  • noise – over time, the HDD starts to make a slight crackle during operation.
  • weight – despite their compactness, some HDD models, especially large ones, can be quite weighty.

SSD (Solid-State Drive)

This is a modern type of drive that is gaining popularity. There are no moving parts inside. The data is recorded on special microcircuits. In fact, this is a flash drive, only a very large volume.

Advantages of SSD:

  • speed of work – such disks work 2 times faster than HDD, and files start 4 times faster. Using an SSD, you won’t even feel like you’re working with an external drive;
  • security – inside the SSD, as they say, there is nothing to break. Therefore, they calmly survive shocks, falls and other mechanical influences. Within reason, of course;
  • no noise – SSDs are absolutely quiet;
  • light weight compared to HDD.

Disadvantages of SSD:

  • high price – SSDs are several times more expensive than HDDs. For the same price, you can buy a much larger HDD than an SSD.
  • amount of memory – while you can buy an HDD for at least 10 TVs, the maximum amount of SSD is limited to 2 TVs.
  • data security – no hard drive is immune from failures and accidental data loss. And if in the case of an HDD, the chances of restoring information are quite good, then in an SSD it can be very difficult to do this.

Hybrid Hard Drive (SSHD)

These devices combine the advantages of HDD (large capacity and low price) and SSD (high speed) in one housing. Inside the SSHD are a magnetic disk, as in an HDD, microcircuits, as in an SSD, and a common controller. Information is constantly stored on a magnetic disk, and a cache of the most frequently used files is placed in the chips. Conclusion: If you need a hard drive mainly for long-term storage of files, the HDD will be the best choice – a large capacity without extra overpayments. If you need a more mobile device that is convenient to take with you often and work with files right on it, then you should buy an SSD drive.

How to choose a removable drive

Let’s dwell on some criteria for choosing an external hard drive. Which hard drive is best?

Memory size

The most important parameter for this type of device. It would seem that since an external hard drive is needed to store information, then the larger the capacity, the better. Not really. After all, as the memory capacity of the device increases, both its cost and its weight increase. Therefore, when choosing a hard drive, you should determine for yourself an acceptable capacity / price compromise. Judging by the experience for many users, an external 1 TB hard drive is enough.

Hard drive speed and clipboard size

As we said, the fastest external hard drives are SSDs. If you want great speed, buy them right away. If you opted for an HDD, you should know that the speed of such a hard drive directly depends on the speed of rotation of the magnetic disk inside it. If the device is planned for storing files, then it is quite enough that the magnetic disk rotates at a speed of 5400 rpm. Such drives are characterized by low noise level and low power consumption, which is especially important for laptop owners. If you plan to keep installed programs on the disk, then you should look at more productive hard drives with a speed of 7200 rpm or even 10000 rpm. The second important parameter responsible for performance is the size of the disk clipboard. The most frequently requested data is stored here. For comfortable work, the size of the clipboard should be in the range of 16-64 MB.

Dimensions or form factor

The form factor of an external hard drive determines its dimensions. The most common are:

  • 3.5 inches – the largest and most capacious hard drives, the volume of which can reach up to 16 TB. To provide such power, there is not enough energy from the computer, and such models come with a power supply from the network.
  • 2.5 inches – they are noticeably smaller in size, you can carry them with you, and they are powered exclusively from a computer via USB or through another port. Maximum capacity can go up to 5TB
  • 1.8″ and smaller models are easy to carry even in your pocket.

Interfaces

Interfaces define how an external hard drive is connected to a computer. Before buying, look at exactly which interfaces your computer has and which operating system supports.

  • USB is the most versatile interface. USB ports are available in every computer and laptop. They differ in standards. The most common today is USB 3.0, which supports data transfer rates up to 4.8 Gb / s. When buying, you should focus on this standard, even if your computer has an outdated USB 2.0 port. Devices with the latest USB standards are backward compatible. But be careful: USB 3.1 devices already use the new Type-C connector, so you can’t connect it to an old computer.
  • eSATA – they lose in USB speed, they are rare.
  • FireWire – they lose in USB speed, they are rare.
  • Thunderbolt is a high-speed interface for Apple laptops.

Model overview

Toshiba Canvio Basics

External HDD 1000 GB. This is a relatively compact model, made in the most popular 2.5-inch form factor. The only interface here is USB 3. 2 Gen 1 Type-A with data transfer rates up to 5 Gb / s. Type-A means that you can easily connect this device even to an old computer or laptop with USB 2.0.

Western Digital My Passport

2000 GB compact hard drive. The length is 10.7 cm, the width is 7.5 cm. Despite its huge capacity, the device weighs only 120 g. The interface here is the same as the previous model – USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, powered naturally from the USB port.

Seagate Expansion

Good external hard drive HDD popular form factor 2.5 inches, 1000 GB. USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A interface, magnetic disk rotation speed is 5400 rpm, which is enough for comfortable video viewing.

HyperX Savage EXO

Compact SSD. This is a 960GB SSD. It supports fast work technologies – flash memory type – TLC and TRIM support. Reading data on this drive is carried out at a speed of 500 Mbps, and writing 480 Mbps. The disk itself is physically protected enough. It can handle 2.17 Gs in operation and 20 Gs in storage.