The Elite SE880 is also very fast at everyday tasks but slows down during long writes. In real-world 48GB transfer tests, the drive displayed outstanding marks, even beating out some other competitors on this list. But it lost significant ground in the longer contiguous write tests, showing that photo and video pros with large files to transfer might want to consider other options.
Thunderbolt 3 and the newer Thunderbolt 4 typically are the highest-performing interfaces for external storage, with the key limitation being a premium price and a general lack of compatibility with the far more popular USB 3.2 ports in the world. Still, if you want the most performance, you can get it in drives such as our recommended portable, the Samsung Portable SSD X5, which is $200 for 500GB of capacity. For comparison, a slower 1TB Samsung T5 on USB is only $125.
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.
USB 3 Type-B is the larger, blocky version of USB 3.0 Micro B. Type B ports are becoming rare, though you might find one on enclosures supporting 5.25-inch hard drives or optical drives. It supports speeds up to 5Gbps.
A discrete Gigabyte Alpine Ridge Thunderbolt 3 card and Ableconn USB 3.2 22 20Gbps card (Asmedia 2142 controller) are used for connecting the external drives. An Asus USB 3.1/10Gbps (Asmedia 1142 controller) card was employed for some of the older drives on the chart.
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 single 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.
HDDs (hard disk drives) have been around for more than 50 years and rely on spinning disks to read and write data. They are essentially composed of spinning metal platters with magnetic coatings where the data is stored and a read/write arm that moves across the platters to access the data.
SSDs (solid state drives), on the other hand, use flash memory and have no moving parts inside the drive. Data is instead stored on flash memory microchips which are interconnected with one another. This interconnectedness allows for data to be pulled from many different places at once and significantly increases memory read speeds.
Generally speaking, SSDs will be a better bet for an external drive due to their smaller size, faster speeds, and overall durability. The main drawback to SSDs is that you will pay more money for the same storage capacity as HDDs. As technology improves however, the price of SSDs will continue to drop.
If you have your external hard drive connected to your computer at all times, it is a good idea to automate the backup process and have the drive back up your data every hour or so. If you disconnect or travel with your external hard drive, you should try to remember to back up your data onto it every time you change your data or at least every day.
Another reason that actual storage may appear less than advertised is that hard drives have to be formatted to read and write data properly. When formatting, a portion of the storage space on the drive is allocated in order to catalog the data.
The average lifespan of an external hard drive is about three to five years. However, this is highly dependent upon the make and model and the conditions of usage and storage. The more you use an external hard-drive, the less reliable it becomes.
There are a number of ways that an external hard drive may fail. They are especially susceptible to failure due to frequent mishandling, outdated drivers, connecting and disconnecting, and unsafe or forced ejections. To ensure that you keep your hard-drive working properly, keep it stored in a safe place, try not to drop it, update your drivers, and make sure that you connect and disconnect from devices properly.
Keeping your drive plugged in all of the time can also have some benefits. If you have your data set to automatically update then keeping it plugged in will allow more frequent backups. Additionally, keeping the external drive plugged in will allow for more convenient access to all of your data.
As much as we try to prevent it, it happens. Our computers crash (knock on wood), and we lose our files. Of course, things are much different now than they were a few years ago. Now there are external hard drives that can protect all of your files and content in another place, so you do not risk losing your most important files.
First, though, you need to know which external hard drives are the best --and that's where we can help. We conduct in-depth research and scour the market for the best external hard drives for your home and office computer, so that you can save time and money.
For our pick, the Seagate Backup Plus wins the best external hard drive overall. The device is ultra portable for easy carry, and it offers a straightforward design that works with both Windows and Mac. The USB 3.0 drive gives easy access to your files, and you also have the ability to set up automatic backups, whether it is daily, weekly, monthly, or on-demand. As a bonus, with your purchase, you'll receive a two-month membership to the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan, plus a two-year warranty.
As the name suggests, the LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt is the best rugged external hard drive for its tough design -- but it's fast, too. The incorporated Rugged Thunderbolt USB-C offers lightning-fast speeds of up to 130MB/s, giving you high-speed file transfers. Of course, the best part about this external hard drive is its durability. The tough, rugged design is built for life on the road, so it can outlast normal wear and tear. This unit is drop-, dust-, and water-resistant, so you can maintain peace of mind during every adventure.
There is no shortage of capacities for the WD My Book Duo. Its storage ranges from 4TB all the way to 36TB, offering the largest capacity of all the best external hard drives. However, you have to pay for all that storage with a higher price tag. It uses USB connectivity and offers a hard disk form factor of 3.5 inches, which is larger than other models. As a desktop unit, we also recommend this unit for gaming.
If you don't have a lot to spend, the WD My Passport is a dialed-down version of the external hard drive. It is compatible with desktops and gaming consoles, making it a versatile pick. However, you will have to deal with a lower hard disk form factor of 3.5 inches. It stores a maximum of 5TB, making it suitable if you have fewer files.
We recommend the WD Black P10 Game Drive as the best external hard drive for gaming. You get up to 5TB of storage, which can hold up to 125 games, plus USB 3.0 connectivity, albeit with a lower hard disk form factor of 2.5 inches. It uses USB Type-A compatibility, coupled with a Micro-B cable and SuperSpeed interface. You will also find that it's compatible with certain Xbox and PlayStation systems.
A solid-state drive (SSD) offers portability in its design, so you can take it on the go with you. An internal hard drive not only chains you to a specific device, but it also provides a greater amount of memory than SSDs.
In an era when many gigabytes of cloud storage storage cost a mere few dollars per month, and trim, slim external SSDs are getting cheaper, external hard drives, based on spinning platter disks, might appear less essential than they once were. But modern ones are faster, more stylish, and often more durable than their counterparts from a few years ago. They're ever more capacious for the money, too. For about $50, you can add a terabyte of extra storage to your laptop or desktop by just plugging in a USB cable.
Choosing an external drive isn't as simple as buying the most expensive one you can afford, however. The drive capacity is the most important factor to consider, and it can increase or decrease the cost dramatically depending on your needs. Other factors include the physical size of the drive (is it designed to be carted around, or to sit on your desk), how rugged it is, the interface it uses to connect to your PC, and even what colors it comes in. This guide will help you make sense of these and many more questions that arise while you're shopping for an external hard drive.
First off: We've outlined below our top picks among external hard drives we've tested. Read on for our labs-tested favorites, followed by the buying basics you should know when buying an external drive. Our article concludes with a detailed spec breakout of our top choices.
Just how much faster is it to access data stored in flash cells Typical read and write speeds for consumer drives with spinning platters are in the 100MBps to 200MBps range, depending on platter densities and whether they spin at 5,400rpm (more common) or 7,200rpm (less common). External SSDs offer at least twice that speed and now, often much more, with typical results on our benchmark tests in excess of 400MBps. Practically speaking, this means you can move gigabytes of data (say, a 4GB feature-length film, or a year's worth of family photos) to an external SSD in seconds rather than the minutes it would take with an external spinning drive.
Still, while external SSDs are cheaper than they were a few years ago (see the best we've tested at the preceding link), they're far from a complete replacement for spinning drives. Larger external drives designed to stay on your desk or in a server closet still almost exclusively use spinning-drive mechanisms, taking advantage of platter drives' much higher capacities and much lower prices compared with SSDs.
And portable hard drives can be a great value if what you need is raw capacity above all else. You can find a 2TB portable hard drive with ease (possibly even a 4TB one, depending on the day) for less than $100. A 2TB SSD, though Expect to pay at least two to three times as much as you would for that 2TB hard drive. And let's not even talk about the cost of 4TB and 8TB external SSDs. 59ce067264