Top 10 Portable Hard Drives in 2020 | Reviews & Buyer’s Guide

Digital storage changes. External storage drives get bigger, cloud storage gets cheaper and USB drives get less popular. But that doesn’t necessarily negate the need for a good external hard drive — in fact, they are the best way to go sometimes.

Buying the right portable hard drive isn’t as easy as buying the first one you see (or the cheapest). For example, you ‘re going to want to decide between a hard drive and a solid-state disk, each providing some significant benefits and drawbacks. You will also want to think about drive speed, hard drive format, connectivity, and special features for protection.

See our complete list of the best external hard disks below.

Top 10 Portable Hard Drives 2020

1 SAMSUNG T5 Portable SSD 2TB

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The Samsung T5 Portable DDS is on the pricey side (especially in the larger capacities), but it’s worth it for those looking for lasting performance, speed, and protection with it. The all-metal, shock-resistant enclosure weighs less than 2 ounces and is very portable. What really distinguishes this system is its super-fast transfer speed, with up to 540 MB / s thanks to the SSD architecture, making it perfect for transferring giant files like 4 K videos. Our tester agreed, raving about its unbeatable pace. With its USB 3.1 Type-C and Type-A connectors, the T5 also connects to just about anything and operates with Windows, Mac, and Android devices.

PROS:

  • Compact design
  • Lightning-fast transfer speeds
  • Compatible with multiple devices

CONS:

  • Smaller storage space
  • Outdated aesthetic
  • Pricey

2 ADATA SD700 3D NAND 256GB

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Most hard drives just assert mechanical operation reliability and durability over time, however, the SD700 SSD drive from ADATA provides more comprehensive security. This travel-ready external hard drive uses 3D NAND technology to cram loads of space into a compact form factor allowing for quick entry and removal of the pockets. With the rubber bumper, it looks a little wild, particularly on the yellow model, but that’s essential to an engineering job that resulted in water and dust resistance IP68, plus shock safety from bad drops.

The storage space choices for the ADATA SD700 top out at 1 TB, which might not be suitable for those looking to store a large multimedia collection. For those employed in the field, this makes it a more niche choice, or even to shield themselves from their own clumsiness. No matter the use case, thanks to its solid-state existence you can have blazing speeds. ADATA claims to read and write speeds of up to 440MB / s — about four times as fast as regular hard drives — and you’re only waiting seconds to load data. Connectivity to USB 3.1 functions in the equation to optimize transfer speed, and provides control over the same cable as well. There’s a limited three-year warranty to back you up, but you may never need it with the way ADATA designed the external hard drive.

PROS:

  • Military-grade protection
  • Pocket-sized
  • Blazing SSD speeds

CONS:

  • Low capacity
  • Expensive

3 Seagate Backup Plus Hub 6TB External Hard Drive

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If costs are not of concern, we suggest that you take a close look at the Seagate Backup Plus Centre. It houses SMR (Shingled Magnetic Recording) drives, allowing for more physical memory bits in the same space without reducing the size of the bit. This drive provides plenty of capacity — available in versions 3 TB, 4 TB, 6 TB, and 8TB — and is fast and versatile.

PROS:

  • Massive capacity
  • Great value for the size
  • Solid speed

CONS:

  • A few interrupted connections
  • Must reformat for Mac OS

4 Toshiba (HDTC930XR3CA) Canvio Advance 3TB

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Not much larger than a card deck, Toshiba’s portable hard drive Canvio Advance offers 500 GB, 1 TB, 2 TB, and 3 TB versions to load up with as much media as they can accommodate. Using USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 it plugs into your Mac or PC. Some customers report seeing a throughput of about 110 Mbps while using a USB 3.0 port. This also features an internal shock sensor that guarantees that the data is not compromised when the drive is being jostled while in operation. Users delight in this little portable drive’s small size, quick transfer speeds, and cool running temperature.

PROS:

  • Compact
  • Stays cool
  • Good speed

CONS:

  • Must reformat for Mac OS

5 WD 8TB My Book Desktop External Hard Drive

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Western Digital’s My Book Desktop External Hard Drive, though big, suits the bill for business owners in need of serious space: It comes in 3, 4, 6, 8, or 10 TB varieties and provides Windows users Western Digital’s own backup solution. It is also compatible with Mac users with Time Machine (though you may need to reformat). For strong security, it has 256-bit AES hardware encryption and has USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports to connect to a wide range of computers. You’ll have to rely on the device’s wall-based power supply, but that’s worth the trade-off for this spacious vault that houses your precious digital info, according to our tester.

PROS:

  • Automatic backup system
  • Fantastic storage capacity
  • Above-average transfer speeds

CONS:

  • Needs external power to function
  • Limited portability

6 WD 10TB Elements Desktop External Hard Drive

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A 2 TB hard drive is good for documents, music, and a bit of light gaming, but storage needs will burst in no time if you’re a heavy user, particularly if you add 4 K video to your folders bottomless nests. That’s why items such as the Elements drive at Western Digital are amazing. The 10 TB model costs just over $160, which is not a throwaway investment but reflects an outstanding value in the supplemental storage domain.

This is a bulky thing — it weighs a hair over two pounds and measures out like a meaty book — but that bulk can be a positive thing depending on who you ask. In the end, a more spacious interior allows heat to dissipate more easily. There’s also the USB 3.0 interface (it still fits for USB 2.0 devices, but not as quickly) and the 12V DC power port in there. Flip it up to the front and all you’ll find is a lone LED bulb to let you know it all works as intended. We also like Western Digital’s shying away from bundling too many auxiliary functions, a blessing for those searching for true simplicity and flexibility in plug-and-play.

PROS:

  • Tons of space
  • Relatively cheap
  • Simple to use

CONS:

  • Bulky design
  • Needs external power

7 Western Digital 1TB My Passport

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The Western Digital My Passport is inexpensive but, thanks to a 3.0 USB port and an excellent disk controller, it offers outstanding performance which rivals that of pricier competitors. This drive allows 174 MBps to read maximum transfer speed, and 168 MBps write maximum. It comes in sizes ranging from 1 TB to 4 TB. Our tester thought it was fantastic overall market value, with good read/write speeds outmatching the majority of rivals in the same price range.

PROS:

  • Excellent storage capacity for the price
  • Encryption built-in
  • Automatic backup

CONS:

  • Slower than a portable SSD
  • No fancy features

8 Silicon Power Black 1TB Rugged Portable External Hard Drive

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Offering a tough, drop-proof (up to 4 feet) exterior with a shockproof design and IPX4 water-resistant protection, Silicon Power’s Armor A60 external hard drive in 1, 2, or 5 TB versions is no joke. The textured casing with a silicone bumper around the sides is also scratch- and slip-proof. Thanks to the USB 3.0 cable, which conveniently connects to the drive itself, the A60 reads and writes super fast, and is compatible with the FAT32 file system’s Mac and PC devices courtesy. While there may be higher performing everyday options, the A60 is a perfect choice for photographers and others looking for an adventure-compatible device.

PROS:

  • Water-resistant
  • Drop-proof and shockproof
  • Reasonable price

CONS:

  • A little bulky

9 LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt USB-C 2TB External Hard Drive Portable HDD

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Look at LaCie’s Rugged Thunderbolt USB-C portable hard drive if you are looking for a Mac-friendly external hard drive that is built for durability. The drive offers to drop resistance up to 5 feet with its distinctive rubber bumpers and brushed aluminum chassis, crush resistance that can withstand up to 1-ton car, and water and dust resistance IP54. Neither will you worry about losing your connecting cable, as this series of hard drives, available in 2 to 5 TB capacity, has a USB cord attached to your favorite flavor (USB-C, USB-C Thunderbolt, Thunderbolt, or USB 3.0). It’s also fast, with the SSD version up to 510MB / s, and the HDD version up to 130MB / s.

PROS:

  • Extremely durable
  • Integrated connecting cable
  • Large capacity

CONS:

  • Expensive
  • Easily disconnects

10 WD Black 5TB P10 Game Drive Portable External Hard Drive 

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One of the most recognizable names in the persistent storage game, the rock-solid Blackline from Western Digital is back with a gaming-centric hard drive that promises exquisitely supporting the habit. The WD Black P10 Game Drive provides solid performance in a chassis that looks outwardly suited for a battlefield. The rugged exterior — complete with industrial screws that really bring the look home — makes it easy for you to fly, so don’t sweat it to the house of a friend.

A regular hard drive in a 2.5-inch case, you can get the WD Black P10 as small as 2 TB, but if your gaming style is more diverse than most, it may be worth extending it to 5 TB. You’ll get HDD to read speeds of up to 130MB / s, which doesn’t come close to the capability of an SSD but shouldn’t hamper the load times of your games. Western Digital, speaking of consoles, offers this thing in both generic and Xbox-branded varieties, the latter being just as suitable for any other console or PC. The difference is that the Xbox version comes with two months of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, offering tons of free PC and Xbox One games, including multiplayer access.

PROS:

  • High capacity options
  • Bold rugged design
  • Fast performance

CONS:

  • Pricey

The Ultimate Portable Hard Drive Buying Guide

Digital storage changes. External storage drives get bigger, cloud storage gets cheaper and USB drives get less popular. But that doesn’t necessarily negate the need for a good external hard drive — in fact, they are the best way to go sometimes.

Buying a hard drive isn’t as easy as buying the first one you see (or the cheapest one). There are a number of factors to consider when buying an external storage drive, and the type of drive you eventually end up buying could dictate what you can do with that drive.

So what’s in store for you? For example, you ‘re going to want to decide between a hard drive and a solid-state disk, each providing some significant benefits and drawbacks. You will also want to think about drive speed, hard drive format, connectivity, and special features for protection.

There are a couple of words you should learn before plunging into our guide. You’ll most likely decide between a multi-gigabyte (GB) drive, or multiple terabytes (TB). One terabyte is 1,000 gigabytes, and 1 gigabyte is 1,000 MB. An MP3 file takes about 3.5MB, which means one gigabyte can store some 285 songs. One HD film takes up about 3.5 GB — meaning that one terabyte will hold 285 HD films.

Here’s everything to consider when buying an external drive.

Storage Size

The biggest thing you need to remember is the size of your drive. We ‘re not thinking about how large physically but how much room you want. Recommending a storage size is hard because it varies from person to person and depends largely on what you plan to store. Nonetheless, a good rule of thumb is to decide how much room you think you need, and then buy a double-disk drive.

If you are just planning to store documents, you probably don’t need much more than 80 GB. When you are storing a set and images of small to medium tracks, then it should be perfect up to 256 GB. To store movies and other video material, the amount you need may range into multiple terabytes, especially if the movies are in 4K. Ultimately, getting more storage is always good than you think you’re going to need-even if it means shelling out more money.

Types Of External Drives

First, it’s time to determine what sort of hard drive you would want. There are two main types of external storage drives and while they ultimately serve the same purpose, they differ markedly in the way they store files.

Hard Drive (HDD)

Traditionally it meant buying a hard disk drive if you wanted a storage drive. This has some benefits and some disadvantages. Hard disk drives have been around for quite some time, to begin with, so they have become relatively cheap. They work by storing files on an electromagnetic disk that spins and is read by a moving arm.

They ‘re much more likely to break with a lot of movement because of those moving parts. The speed of a hard disk drive is basically determined by how rapidly the electromagnetic disk spins and is usually slower than the drives of the solid-state. (We ‘re going to get deeper into the various speeds later.) Hard disk drives are the way to go, especially if you want a lot of storage at a decent price and don’t expect a lot of driving.

Solid-State Drive (SSD)

Solid-state drives do away with the moving electromagnetic disk, and replace it with what’s called “flash storage.” That’s the same kind of storage used in smartphones, RAM in computers, and many of the internal storage drives in computers these days. Solid-state storage basically uses microchips to store information, and as a result, no moving parts are present. That means the failure rate is lower, the speed is higher and the overall performance simply better. That means they are great particularly for running off software or an operating system.

Of course, all of those advantages are downside — and that’s the price. Solid-state drives are much more expensive than hard disk drives and you simply can not get multi-terabyte solid-state drives without spending at least a few hundred dollars while they’re going down in price.

Performance

There are a few things that can affect a hard drive ‘s performance beyond just what kind of hard disk it is. That’s more true of a hard disk drive than a solid-state drive, but there are still performance-related metrics to solid-state drives you should pay attention to.

Transfer Speed

The transfer speed of a hard drive is largely related to the type of connector that comes with the hard drive. New link requirements have higher transmission velocities. Technically, the word “transfer speed” is a bit misleading, because it does not really determine exactly how quickly a hard drive can transfer files to and from your computer. Actually, it informs you how easily a hard drive will potentially transfer data, depending on the link protocol used by the hard drive.

In the past, the connector was the key restricting factor on how easily a drive could transfer files: in the real world, USB 2.0 hard drives could transfer data up to 20 MB / second, while FireWire 800 drives limited things to 85 MB / second. The new USB 3.0 standard nowadays allows up to 460 MB / second data transfer, while Thunderbolt allows speeds of more than 1GB / seconde. Regardless of this, the form of a link is not the bottleneck. Rather, speed is determined by how easily the hard drive can read and write data, which is called the read/write speed.

Read/Write Speed

Read/write speeds refers to how easily a hard drive can access the files that are stored within it — not how quickly those files are transferred to or from a computer. The speed of “read” refers to how fast a hard drive can access a stored file, while the speed of “write” refers to how fast a drive can save a new file. Read/write speeds are a much better measure of how fast your hard drive can actually transfer files than “download speed,” particularly when it comes to hard disk drives, given the advancement in transfer protocols.

Read/write speeds vary a lot depending on whether it’s an HDD or SDD, so there might be some variance even within those categories. As stated, HDDs have a spinning disk within them, and how quickly the disk spins depends on the rate at which drives can access the data. Commonly, drives spin at 5,400RPM, or rotations per minute, and drives at that speed are typically about 100MB / s read/write speed. Some HDDs have a physical speed of 7,200RPM which enables a read / to write speed of 120MB / s to be slightly faster.

Read/write speeds with SSDs can vary a lot but usually range from 200MB / s at the slowest to several GB per second at the fastest. If all you’re doing is moving data, then either of those speeds would be more than enough, but if you’re using your drive to store software or your operating system, it could be helpful on the fast end. Look for velocities of 500MB / s or more in that case.

Security

External hard drives that come with features designed to keep files more secure, which may be useful if you intend to store confidential information using yours. Some hard drives, for example, offer password protection by default, which means you can easily set a password to keep all of your files safe. Some also provide high-level encryption, making your files useless to those who don’t have your password, even if they manage to hack into the drive-in some way.

Final Thoughts

While there’s plenty to keep in mind when you purchase an external hard drive, hopefully, this will help you narrow down your choice. Our recommendations? Go for an HDD if you want lots of room at a fair price and don’t want to push your hard drive around a lot. If you want fast performance and either you don’t need a lot of storage or you’re willing to spend more, an SSD is your choice. In both cases, finding a drive that supports USB 3.0 or later is a good idea, and a USB-C port may be of help depending on whether your computer has a USB-C port.

A few brands, including Western Digital, SanDisk and Seagate, have developed a reputation for quality external hard drives. The purchasing of a hard drive from a reputable manufacturer is also worthwhile, as smaller firms can not provide much in support of defective drives.

 

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