The 10 Best Encrypted Drives

Updated May 22, 2018 by Christopher Thomas

10 Best Encrypted Drives
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You don't have to work for the Feds to want to keep all your sensitive information out of the hands of unwelcome virtual intruders. These encrypted drives connect conveniently to your computer via USB ports and are designed to keep any form of data safe. All the items on our list meet the requirements put forth in Federal Information Processing Standard document number 140-2. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best encrypted drive on Amazon.

10. iStorage DatAshur Pro

The iStorage DatAshur Pro uses verified-safe algorithms to encrypt its multi-layered NAND flash, and all the information therein. It automatically locks after a set idle time, and it becomes unreadable in the case of a brute force hack, to keep prying eyes off your files.
  • meets fips-140 level 3 standard
  • reads at over 100 megabits per sec
  • setup can be a bit tricky
Brand iStorage DatAshur Pro
Model pending
Weight pending
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

9. StarTech External

The StarTech External is an aftermarket enclosure that provides any 2.5-inch SATA storage with 256-bit AES encryption. This system employs a touchpad for access, and requires no software, though you will have to format the drive before use.
  • comes with usb cable and case
  • no brute force fail-safe
  • does not include the actual drive
Brand StarTech
Model S2510BU33PW
Weight 9.1 ounces
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

8. Buffalo MiniStation Extreme

Featuring a shock-resistant chassis with moderate dust and water protection, the Buffalo MiniStation Extreme is built to take a beating and keep on reading. Its NFC connectivity allows users to unlock it using the matching card, or with certain mobile devices.
  • a durable fixed cable
  • a great value for its size
  • user interface is rather clunky
Brand Buffalo MiniStation Ext
Model pending
Weight pending
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

6. DiskAshur SSD

The DiskAshur SSD combines the latest in flash technology with a pristine fit and finish, resulting in one of the finest secure storage devices on the market. It's currently certified to meet European standards, and it should receive its US Level 3 approval soon.
  • encased in ultra-strong resin
  • up to 1 terabyte capacity
  • extremely high price point
Brand DiskAshur SSD
Model pending
Weight pending
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

5. Kanguru Defender Elite30

The Kanguru Defender Elite30 operates using a USB 3.0 connection and can read at over 100 megabytes per second, as well as write at just under half that rate. It's encased in rugged aluminum with a high-impact backing, and comes with pre-installed antivirus software.
  • tamper-proof design
  • physical write-protect switch
  • well-priced for a thumb-style model
Brand Apricorn
Model ASK-256-16GB
Weight 2.4 ounces
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

4. Apricorn Aegis Padlock Fortress

The Apricorn Aegis Padlock Fortress is a high-capacity portable storage device that's powered by a USB port rather than a wall adapter. Built according to US Military specifications, it's quite popular among government contractors and white-hats.
  • sized from one-half to 2 terabytes
  • compact design is ideal for travel
  • lots of room at a reasonable price
Brand Apricorn
Model A25-3PL256-1000F
Weight 15.2 ounces
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

3. Aegis Solid-State

If you're faced with large files as well as a busy schedule, the Aegis Solid-State could be the answer, reaching speeds as high as 180 megabytes per second in user tests. It's an excellent cross-platform solution, as it requires no software to activate or access.
  • ip56 dust and water protection
  • resists extreme conditions
  • great value for an ssd
Brand Aegis Solid-State
Model pending
Weight pending
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

2. Apricorn Secure Key 3Z

The Apricorn Secure Key 3Z is equipped with a security keypad built into its face, for easy access every time. One of the few that meet Level 3 federal standards, it actively responds to physical tampering by blanking out its hardware keys, permanently disabling access.
  • waterproof down to 1m
  • full cross-platform compatibility
  • separate user and admin profiles
Brand Apricorn
Model ASK-256-32GB
Weight 2.4 ounces
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

1. iStorage DiskAshur Pro2

The iStorage DiskAshur Pro2 is crafted with an excess of durable epoxy resin to prevent physical tampering, in addition to the 256-bit security protecting its data. It claims to be compatible with anything that has a USB port, including obscure and proprietary systems.
  • under an inch thick
  • 5-terabyte maximum size
  • exceptional shock resistance
Brand iStorage DiskAshur Pro2
Model pending
Weight pending
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

More Than Just A Substitute

Imagine, for a moment, that you'd written the next great American novel. Its pages contain the very essence of contemporary humanity, spelled out with such acuteness and alacrity that to call it a guaranteed success would be to miss the point. This book has the potential to change the way we see our world, to make monsters out of angels and sheep out of devils.

You have one editor that you trust at one publishing house across the pond in England. At some point, you need to get him a copy of the book, and he needs to take it to his printers. Somewhere along those lines, though, it could be compromised.

To guard against this, you keep the typewritten pages locked in a safe in your home, but the digital copy needs a shell of security at least this strong. That's where an encrypted drive will keep your materials exclusively in the hands of those whom you trust.

Modern encryption is non-linear. Linear encryption systems worked in their most rudimentary form as systems of substitution: a=b, b=c, c=d, etc. In that particular system, wherein each letter encodes as the next letter in the alphabet, a word like 'cat' becomes encrypted as 'dbu.' Such systems are much easier to hack with today's digital technology.

While that technology has opened up simpler systems to attack, it's also provided us with a means for the incredibly advanced, non-linear encryption that the devices on our list use. It starts with the fact that, in binary code, the letter A is not simply the letter A, but a binary representation of A which reads as 01000001. Even with a linear substitution system, the available combinations of zeroes and ones for the alphabet alone would make cracking a binary-based code significantly more difficult.

Of course, any modern encryption device takes these binary codes and sends them through a significant number of non-linear systems that take additional variables into account, like letter and word position. Even that concept is relatively basic when you get into the nitty-gritty of encryption mathematics.

It Helps To Have A Key

Taking a close look at the encrypted drives on our list, you'll see that a handful of them use a physical interface on the hard disk itself to lock and unlock your drive. That might leave you to wonder how the other disks know who's using them, and the answer to that question ought to help you decide which disk you want to take home.

All of the disks on this list encrypt as you write to them. The process seems invisible, and so it's often referred to as transparent encryption. They write the data onto the disk already encrypted, without a single bite of data stored in its original form. In the reverse order, transparent encryption devices decrypt data as you read from them, provided you have the proper key.

If you feel a greater sense of comfort with a physical unlocking mechanism, rather like the lock on a good home safe, you'll probably want a drive that comes with its own little keypad. Some manufacturers have incorporated such physical mechanisms on their thumb drives, so your options aren't limited to the big boys just because you like punching numbers.

The other drives on this list operate with a simple shadow disk at the front of their operating order. When you plug one of these in, an extraordinarily simple operating system pops up, asking you for the key phrase to unlock the rest of the disk. Be careful with these, however, as some will format the disk after enough failed attempts to log into it.

The only other variable that will guide you toward your decision is size. You ought to have a good idea bout how much data you plan to encrypt in storage. Most of these drives come in a variety of sizes, and our ranking system takes specific sizes into account when evaluating overall value, so after you click on a given link, check out your size options, and choose accordingly.

Keep It Secret, Keep It Safe

Secrets are among the few things that make us uniquely human. Conspiracy and concealment dot the history of human interaction like celestial bodies on a crystal clear desert night. More often than not, the secrets we keep have some merit at their cores.

Sometimes we hide information from those we love for their protection or their emotional comfort. Sometimes we hide truths about ourselves for our own safety in a hostile environment. Whatever our need for personal or professional secrecy, we've long applied our tools and intellect to the obfuscation of sensitive information.

Upon close examination, language itself is a form of cryptography, turning one understanding of our sensory experience (the non-linguistic one) into a specifically coded language. Of course, the purpose of this encryption is to increase understanding and communication, not to decrease it.

Encryption requires a written source text to become something more than a substitute language. It makes sense then that the first encryption we find in history lived in the Old Kingdom of Egypt nearly 4,000 years ago. Ciphers gained complexity as language evolved, and exploded in complexity under the Greek and Arabic mathematicians.

It was Alan Turing, however, who advanced the art of cryptography into the computer age. That revolution continues on today, as governments and standards organizations scramble to gain security in a landscape of brilliant young hackers and a rapidly approaching singularity.

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Last updated on May 22, 2018 by Christopher Thomas

A traveling chef, musician, and student of the English language, Chris can be found promoting facts and perfect copy around the globe, from dense urban centers to remote mountaintops. In his free time he revels in dispelling pseudoscience, while at night he dreams of modern technology, world peace, and the Oxford comma.

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