15 Recommended External Hard Drives for Everyday Use

7Share

Storage space in the digital realm is similar to a reality TV show about people who hoard too many belongings—a computer’s internal storage is crammed with so much data that an external storage drive is necessary for providing additional space. The myriad choices can be a bit overwhelming for the average digital pack rat, and squirreling away images of every angle of your kid’s fourth birthday cake can quickly escalate to an unmanageable situation in your computer’s internal drive.

These days, more consumers favor tablets as their main computer, but the lightweight slates sometimes come with less capacity than their older laptop and desktop siblings. Only a handful of popular tablets have up to 64GB of internal storage, while many laptop computers range between 128 and 512GB. This dilemma can be addressed easily with the addition of a stand-alone external hard drive that connects to your computer and/or tablet through a cable or a wireless signal. An external drive can be used to store the thousands of pictures you take with your smartphone, the music and video files you download from the Web, or for backing up important documents—without the worry of filling up your internal drive.

Portable Wireless Drives

Gaining popularity among tablet users is the ability to connect to an external device wirelessly. Users can now stream several HD movies at one time through the wireless 802.11N protocol with their iOS, Android, Kindle Fire, Windows, or Mac devices. Each wireless drive has a rechargeable battery installed that provides up to 10 hours of use. Since the iPad, for example, does not come with either USB of Thunderbolt, a wireless drive is the best alternative for additional storage.



 

 
 

 
 


Seagate Wireless Plus Mobile

2TB capacity
USB 3.0 port
Built-in Wi-Fi
USB cable and charger included
Stream HD wirelessly
No SD card slot


WD My Passport Wireless

2TB capacity
USB 3.0 port
SD Card Slot
Stream to eight devices
Compatible with iOS, Android, Windows and Mac
Works with Wi-Fi cameras


SanDisk Connect

32GB capacity
SDHC/SDXC card slot
No connector port
Aluminum housing
USB cable included for charging
Budget-friendly price


There are several factors that differentiate external drives, including capacity, physical size, connector type, and even color. Before deciding on what to get, it’s best to understand what your personal situation is and how the external drive will be used.

The first step is to determine if you plan on carrying the drive outside of your home or office, or keeping it permanently installed at your workstation. A portable drive is a small, lightweight unit that can draw power from a computer without the need for an external power supply. In contrast, desktop drives are often larger, heavier, and require AC power.

The next factor to consider is how much capacity you need. Remember that multi-angle birthday-cake scenario? Ten digital pictures of that cake could occupy 40MB of storage space. Now, include the other 200 images from that same party and you get to fill up to 800MB just from one day! And nothing gets deleted, because we are all digital hoarders.

Portable USB 3.0 Drives

Ten times faster than its USB 2.0 predecessor, USB 3.0 is capable of transferring data of up to 5Gbit/s, or 625MBps. On superficial examination, the USB 3.0 connector looks identical to USB 2.0 but, on closer inspection, a second row of five pins can be seen. The similar connector enables USB 3.0 devices to be plugged into older USB 2.0 ports, but without the faster throughput. USB can be found on most tablets and all laptop and desktop computers.


WD My Passport Ultra

2TB capacity
USB 3.0 port (cable included)
Many positive online reviews
Bus powered (AC not required)
Formatted for Windows


Toshiba Canvio Basics 3.0

2TB capacity
USB 3.0 port (cable included)
Internal shock sensor
Bus powered (AC not required)
Compact size
Formatted for Windows


Seagate Backup Plus Slim

2TB capacity
USB 3.0 port (cable included)
Slim design, silver color
Bus powered (AC not required)
Budget-friendly price
Formatted for Mac





My Passport Ultra Secure

3TB capacity
256-bit AES Hardware Encryption
USB 3.0 port (cable included)
Bus powered (AC not required)
Formatted NTFS for Windows


My Passport for Mac

3TB capacity
256-bit AES Hardware Encryption
USB 3.0 port (cable included)
Bus powered (AC not required)
Formatted HFS+ for Mac


Thunderbolt Drives

The fastest connector available in portable drives is called Thunderbolt. Co-developed by Intel® and Apple, Thunderbolt is currently available in two different speeds: 10 Gbit/s (gigabits per second) and 20 Gbit/s for the newer Thunderbolt 2 interface. Most Thunderbolt drives have an additional USB 3.0 port that is backward compatible with USB 2.0, for those situations when older computers are the only accessible units nearby. Thunderbolt ports can be found on current Apple Macintosh computers and some Windows-based laptops and motherboards. This interface is currently not available on tablets.



LaCie 2TB Rugged Thunderbolt External Hard Drive
 


 

 


LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt

2TB capacity
Integrated Thunderbolt 1 cable
USB 3.0 port
Port cover protects from dust and water
5400 rpm speed
Portable form factor
Bus powered (AC not required)


G-Tech G-Drive Mobile

1TB capacity
Thunderbolt and USB 3 ports (cables included)
10 Gbit/s throughput
7200 rpm speed
Portable form factor
Bus powered (AC not required)
Formatted for Mac


LaCie d2 Thunderbolt 2

6TB capacity
2 x Thunderbolt 2 ports
1 x USB 3.0 port
Both kinds of cables included
20 Gbit/s throughput
7200 rpm speed
Desktop form factor
All-aluminum, fan-free design


Cloud Storage Drives

A more secure method of sharing and streaming data wirelessly is to set up your own personal cloud storage device. A personal cloud acts very much like a server, whereby multiple users can access a central storage device through an internal network. Several users under one roof can access a wide variety of digital content including photos, music, video, games, and files on their own secure network. Several different devices can access a personal cloud including PC, Mac, iOS or Android mobile device, and even Xbox and Playstation gaming consoles. A personal cloud is relatively easy to set up, and you can set specific times for automatic backup. Because cloud storage is connected to the Internet via a Gigabit Ethernet port, a remote access service is included for users to connect when offsite.


WD 2TB My Cloud Personal Cloud Storage
 

 
 

LaCie CloudBox 3TB Home Network Hard Drive
 


WD My Cloud

6TB capacity
Stream content to PCs, Macs, iOS and Android devices
USB 3.0 expansion port
Gigabit Ethernet port (cable included)
Requires AC power (adapter included)


Buffalo LinkStation 210

3TB capacity
USB 2.0 expansion port
Gigabit Ethernet port (cable included)
Compatible with PC, Mac, iOS, and Android devices
Set up from smartphone or tablet (computer not required)


Lacie CloudBox

4TB capacity
Gigabit Ethernet port (cable included)
Backup your Mac and PC
10 password-protected users
Compatible with Xbox 360 and Playstation 3
1 GHz processor


Desktop and RAID Drives

For those not looking to share data or toss more weight into their backpack, a desktop drive is an excellent alternative. Residing on a personal workspace, a desktop drive is perfect for file backup for creative professionals, for both Mac and Windows users.

A RAID drive is a “Redundant Array of Independent Disks.” In laymen’s terms, a RAID is one or more drives that appear as one large drive in an operating system, storing identical data on more than one drive. Therefore, if one drive fails, your data is secure on the second drive. Going over the many RAID levels is beyond the scope of this article, but we will cover the two more common variations.

RAID 0 is the method of striping the volume across two or more drives with no added redundancy for disk failures. If one of the drives goes down in a RAID 0, all the data is lost. The advantage of RAID 0 is an increase of throughput. A RAID 1 configuration is when data is written onto two or more drives, creating a mirror image of each volume. If one drive becomes defective, your data will be secure on the other drive.



 
 

LaCie 3TB LaCie d2 Quadra with USB 3.0
 


 


Seagate Expansion Desktop

5TB capacity
USB 3.0 port (4' cable included)
5.0 Gbps transfer rate
Formatted for Windows
AC power required
Budget-friendly price


Lacie d2 Quadra

5TB capacity
USB 3.0, eSATA, FW800 ports
All three cables included
Supports FireWire daisy-chaining
Quiet operation
3-Year warranty


WD My Passport Pro

4TB capacity
Thunderbolt 1 port
Integrated Thunderbolt cable
RAID 1
Bus powered (no AC required)
Formatted for Mac
Plug-and-play functionality


Whether you’re a parent obsessed with archiving, a creative professional, or a person with an absurdly large library of digital music, photos, and videos—an external drive becomes a necessary piece of hardware. Find a model that suits your needs, and routinely back it up with an additional drive. You need to make sure that you can revisit every conceivable angle of that birthday cake, for decades to come.

7 Comments

I purchased 8 WD Passport or Element 1T drives (because only 1T works with my WD Media Player).  3 out of 8 failed.  Warranty is 1 yr.  We all hope our external drives last longer than that.  Too expensive to fail at that rate.

Most people depend to store their data on personal computer rather than laptop thinking that is safer and accessible. But this is case where we need another device to backup our complete data and also see that it is much more safer. 

So to identify these devices I prefer to go with brands because not to take any chance of losing data on that external device.

Appreciate your article, since that is very much related to my post which I recently wrote on newandroidphones.in

According to my experience, some of the above products do not perform well. If you just want a portable wireless storage device like I do, I would say AirMore FlashDisk is worth considering. It has two storage options: 32GB and 64 GB. For me, it has two advantages: small and lght, steady performance. Though the storage room is limited, it's convenient to store small files like music, videos and documents, and I can view them at any time without occupying my iPhone storage.

The Western Digital My Cloud is the worst hard drive ever. A total waste of money. I can't connect to it from home, it drops off, and takes up to 5 -10 seconds to connect when I'm 10 paces away from it. I try to connect by cable, but it forces to over wifi and it next to useless. It is not a functional harddrive to work from or call files from when working. The only thing is does allow me to do is connect to my files when I'm not at home. However, I can put files onto the drive nor do I want to when I am at home work, so remote access has limited use. Don't buy this product. I did and wish I hadn't even time I sit down to work. 

In my experience, LaCie products lack durability.

I totally agree. I had to replace it several times.  

Agreed. Lost all my data on a LaCie.

Close

Close

Close