Whether it’s Gray Thursday, Black Friday, Cyber Monday or Begrudgingly-Back-to-Regular-Retail-Prices Tuesday, purchasing a computer can be quite daunting. Chances are, the notebook and desktop computers on sale are prebuilt and have limited flexibility when it comes to specs. This means that the hard drive may or may not have sufficient enough storage space for your needs. Instead of having to unscrew the hatch on your notebook computer or pay a premium just to increase the size of the manufacturer's original hard drive, an affordable and practical alternative is to purchase an external hard drive.
If you bought or received a notebook computer recently, you’ll know that hard drive storage space can get limited (and expensive) after 1TB. If you opt for an Ultrabook computer, they can sometimes have solid-state drives. While solid-state drives are faster and more reliable than traditional hard drives, they cost much more for considerably less storage space. Most Ultrabook computers with a solid-state drive will have less than 500GB (usually 128GB and 256GB). Instead of paying a premium for hard-drive storage from laptop manufacturers, you can get a portable external hard drive with more storage space, and for less money. Below are some options to consider.
First up is the G-Technology 1TB G-Drive Mobile USB 2.0 Portable Hard Drive. It has USB 2.0 connectivity and a 5400 rpm drive speed, all housed in a compact aluminum enclosure. If you’re looking for USB 3.0 compatibility, which has a transfer rate of 5 Gbps (twice the speed of USB 2.0), then you’re better off going with the G-Technology 1TB G-Drive Mobile USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive. Both G-Tech portable hard drives are bus powered via USB so there’s no need for an additional power adapter. Both hard drives also come formatted for Mac and Time Machine right out of the box. You can reformat to NTFS if you wish to use either of these drives with Windows PCs.
If you’re looking for a portable hard drive that works with Windows straight out of the box, the Western Digital 1TB My Passport USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive is a convenient, high-capacity option. With USB 3.0 Plug-and-Play compatibility at 5 Gbps, this hard drive has 1TB stored inside a compact chassis with a sleek black finish, which is bus powered via USB. While the aforementioned drive can technically be reformatted to be compatible with a Mac, you can opt for the Western Digital 1TB My Passport for Mac USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive. As its name suggests, this hard drive is formatted specifically for Mac computers and is Time Machine ready right out of the box. Like its Windows counterpart, this drive also has 1TB stored inside a compact chassis with a sleek silver finish, which is also bus powered via USB. It can also be used with Windows PCs after a quick reformatting.
If you want extra security to ensure your personal information is safe and secure, the Western Digital 500GB My Passport Edge USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive and the Western Digital 500GB My Passport Edge for Mac USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive may be a better fit for you. Both have 500GB of storage space in a compact enclosure. Both drives are bus powered via USB and feature USB 3.0 connectivity at 5 Gbps. Both hard drives come with Western Digital Security, which allows you to set password protection and hardware encryption to help protect your files against unauthorized access. As the names suggest, the former is formatted for Windows and the latter is formatted for Mac. They can also be reformatted to work with their respective counterparts as well.
The Western Digital 1TB Elements SE USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive offers USB 3.0 connectivity in a compact, lightweight enclosure with up to 1TB of storage space. The LaCie 1TB Porsche Design Mobile Hard Drive offers the same USB 3.0 connectivity and 1TB of storage space, but it also features an iconic aluminum design, thanks to the collaboration between LaCie and Porsche Design. While the LaCie hard drive looks stylish, it doesn’t sacrifice protection in the process. With 3mm of strong aluminum casing surrounding the hard drive inside, your data is solidly protected. Both hard drives come formatted in NTFS so they work with Windows PCs right out of the box. However—don’t worry Mac users—you can easily reformat these hard drives to work with your beloved Apple computers.
If portability isn’t really an issue for you, then you might want to opt for an external desktop hard drive. External desktop hard drives tend to be bigger and require a power outlet to run, but they also offer more storage space for less.
A good choice is the HGST, a Western Digital Company, 4TB Touro Deskpro 7200 rpm External Desktop Hard Drive. With a fast USB 3.0 interface and an enormous 4TB capacity, the Touro Deskpro is designed for storing large files, such as high-definition videos and photos as well as whole music libraries. While not exactly portable, the Touro Deskpro isn’t as bulky as other external desktop hard drives and doesn't take up too much space on your desk. Measuring about 2” thick, this external desktop hard drive can fit on your desk easily without adding to the clutter. If you decide to get more than one, you can stack them on top of each other to save space. The Touro Deskpro is both Windows & Mac compatible. Reformatting will be required when switching from one operating system to the other.
Another good choice is the Western Digital 4TB My Book Essential USB 3.0 External Desktop Hard Drive. It also has a fast USB 3.0 interface and an enormous 4TB capacity. It also comes with the Western Digital Security utility, which allows you to set password protection and hardware encryption for your hard drive. Formatted to NTFS for compatibility with Windows PCs, this Western Digital hard drive can also be reformatted to work with Mac computers.
Remember those Western Digital My Passport hard drives we mentioned earlier? You might want to keep them protected, especially if you’re planning to bring them with you while you travel. Lucky for you, there’s a Western Digital Nomad Rugged Case, which was made specifically for the My Passport hard drives. The case is made of a hard polycarbonate and the inside is made of a shock absorbing elastomer cushion. The bottom line is that this case will protect your My Passport hard drive from the daily bump and grind of a morning commute or the dangers of the long, arduous journey of a business trip.
If you would rather buy an external hard drive with built-in protection from shock, pressure and even rain resistance, try the LaCie 1TB Rugged Mini Portable Hard Drive. This hard drive features the iconic orange design and a secure form factor that is shock resistant, drop resistant (up to 47.2”) and has a rubber sleeve for added protection. It still offers 1TB of storage space, a 5400 rpm drive speed and USB 3.0 connectivity. While both Windows & Mac compatible, reformatting will be required when switching from one operating system to another. The LaCie 1TB Rugged Hard Drive is similar to the LaCie hard drive mentioned above, but it has biometric authentication for up to ten users via a fingerprint reader. With 128-bit AES hardware encryption in a shock-proof design, this LaCie hard drive provides full data and hardware protection.
If the orange color isn’t working for you, the Transcend 1TB StoreJet 25H3P External Hard Drive is a nice alternative. Encased in a durable, purple anti-shock silicone outer shell and a built-in hard drive suspension damper, this Transcend hard drive provides adequate protection from momentary shocks and drops. It also has a one-touch Auto-backup button so you can safely and quickly back up your files to the 1TB of storage space via the USB 3.0 interface. While it's both Windows and Mac compatible, reformatting will be required when switching from one operating system to another.
Want to go even faster than the 5 Gbps data transfer rate that SuperSpeed USB 3.0 offers? Thunderbolt is here. While USB 3.0 is about ten times faster than the USB 2.0, Thunderbolt is 20 times faster than USB 2.0. Thunderbolt offers a data transfer rate of 10 Gbps, which is perfect for professionals who need to transfer large, raw video, music or photo files quickly and efficiently. Thunderbolt is prominent on most Apple computers, but they are also starting to show up on Windows PCs as well, such as select Acer Ultrabooks.
If you’re looking to test the waters with Thunderbolt, but don’t want to lose your USB 3.0 connectivity, the Buffalo 1TB MiniStation Thunderbolt/USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive offers the best of both worlds. Housed in a minimalistic aluminum body with 1TB of storage space, this Buffalo hard drive features both a USB 3.0 port with a 5 Gbps data transfer rate and a Thunderbolt port with a 10 Gbps data transfer rate. It can also be daisy-chained, up to six devices, via the Thunderbolt port. It’s also bus powered so you don’t have to worry about connecting to a power outlet. This drive comes pre-formatted for Mac and Time Machine, but can be reformatted to work with Windows. A Thunderbolt and a USB 3.0 cable are included so you can get started right out of the box.
For people who want to keep their investment in Thunderbolt safe and secure, the LaCie 1TB Rugged Thunderbolt/USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive provides added protection from drops and shocks that may occur while on the go. It offers 1TB of storage capacity. It has a 5 Gbps USB 3.0 port and a 10 Gbps Thunderbolt port for fast data transfers. The unit is bus powered so you don’t need any extra cables to keep it working. It works with both Windows & Mac computers as long as you reformat. A Thunderbolt and a USB 3.0 cable are included with the hard drive.
Looking to take full advantage of the 10 Gbps data transfer rate of Thunderbolt? Try the G-Technology 8TB G-RAID Thunderbolt External Hard Drive Array. With dual Thunderbolt ports, dual SATA III drive bays and RAID 0 technology, you’ll be able to experience fast performance because the data is evenly distributed between the two 7200 rpm SATA III hard drives. Formatted to work with Mac and Time Machine right out of the box, the G-RAID lets you back up any important files quickly and efficiently.
Another RAID hard-drive array is the Western Digital 2TB My Book VelociRaptor Duo Thunderbolt Desktop Hard Drive. With dual Thunderbolt ports and dual 10000 rpm hard drives, you’ll be able to experience the blazing 10 Gbps data transfer rate of Thunderbolt. This hard drive supports RAID 0 and 1 modes as well as JBOD capability. This hard drive is formatted to work with Mac and Time Machine out of the box.
Drobo features two Thunderbolt hard-drive arrays, one portable and one desktop enclosure. The Drobo Mini 4-Bay Enclosure is a portable hard drive enclosure with four drive bays for 2.5” SATA hard drives (not included) and one drive bay for an mSATA solid-state drive (not included). It has dual Thunderbolt ports for a fast 10 Gbps data transfer rate. There is also the Drobo 5D Enclosure that can hold five 3.5” SATA hard drives (not included) and one mSATA solid-state drive (not included). Both hard drive enclosures require a power outlet to be turned on and come with Thunderbolt cables. You’ll have to purchase the hard drives separately, though. By putting hard drives and solid state drives in the same enclosure, you can enjoy fast access speeds and large capacities for storage—the best of both worlds.
The LaCie eSATA Hub lets you connect an eSATA drive it to a Mac computer without using an ExpressCard/34 slot while still maintaining full eSATA speeds of 3 Gbps. Additionally, this eSATA hub allows you to daisy-chain Thunderbolt devices.
If you really want to take full advantage of USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt, you’re going to have to go with the fastest hard drives around, solid-state drives. Solid-state drives use NAND flash memory with no moving parts so they’re not only faster, but more reliable than traditional hard drives. In order to keep up with USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt, the hard drive has to be quick as well. Luckily, solid-state drives can keep pace.
B&H Photo put together two solid state drive kits for added convenience. The first one is the Crucial 256GB m4 2.5” Internal Solid State Drive & OWC/Other World Computing Mercury Elite Pro Mini Combo Interface Case Kit. As its name suggests, this B&H kit features a Crucial Technology 256GB m4 2.5” internal solid-state drive and the OWC/Other World Computing Mercury Elite Pro Mini combo interface case. It has an eSATA and a USB 3.0 port for a 6 Gbps data transfer rate. The other B&H kit is the OWC/Other World Computing 120GB PCI-e Solid State Drive Card with Mercury Helios Thunderbolt PCI Chassis Kit. This kit comes with an OWC 120GB Mercury Accelsior PCI Express Solid State Drive Card, which is the first bootable PCI Express solid state drive card for both Mac and Windows and sports a a blazing 758MBps Read and 743 MBps Write speed. The other item in this kit is the Mercury Helios Thunderbolt PCI Express Expansion Chassis with dual Thunderbolt ports for a data transfer rate of 10 Gbps. Both are Windows and Mac compatible, provided you reformat when switching operating systems.
USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt provide fast data transfer speeds, but they both require you to be tethered to a hard drive. Wireless hard drives that connect via Wi-Fi provide a more mobile alternative. They can also connect to multiple devices at the same time, for added convenience.
The Seagate GoFlex Satellite Mobile Wireless Storage Device has 500GB of storage capacity. It has 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi support. It has a USB 3.0 port that allows you to transfer music, photos and videos to the Seagate hard drive. Then you can unplug the USB 3.0 cable and wirelessly stream HD content to the device of your choice. You can stream to up to three different devices at the same time. It has a wireless range of about 30 feet.
The G-Technology 500GB G-Connect Wireless Storage provides up to 500GB of storage capacity. It can connect to the Internet wirelessly with 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi support or through its 10/100/1000 Mbps Gigabit Ethernet RJ-45 LAN jack. This G-Tech hard drive can stream HD content to up to three different devices and standard-definition content to up to five devices.
If you don’t require that much storage space and want something that is ultra portable, USB 3.0 flash drives are the way to go. They provide a fast, easy way to store additional data and transfer it to another device with ease.
The Lexar 32GB S73 USB 3.0 JumpDrive is a USB 3.0 flash drive with a storage capacity of up to 32GB. The Lexar 64GB Triton USB 3.0 Flash Drive is a USB 3.0 flash drive with a storage capacity of up to 64GB. Both Lexar flash drives are compatible with Mac and Windows computers and use the USB 3.0 interface.
The Transcend JetFlash 700 32GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive offers 32GB of storage via the USB 3.0 interface. It has an ultrasonic welded design that provides strength and durability. It also has a built-in LED indicator so you know the current status of the flash drive. The Kingston Data Traveler HyperX USB 3.0 Flash Drive offers 64GB of storage via the USB 3.0 interface. It has a durable metal-and-rubber casing with a solid lanyard loop for practical safekeeping.
Do you use external hard drives with USB 2.0 or USB 3.0? FireWire users, have you finally made the jump to Thunderbolt? Have you stuck with traditional hard drives or moved on to solid state drives? Let us know in the comments below! If you have further questions or concerns, please contact a B&H Sales Associate via live chat, over the phone or in the B&H SuperStore.