The 14 Best External Hard Drives

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With collecting music and movies so easy and popular these days, storage demands are constantly increasing. For saving all that entertainment and other data conveniently via USB, try one of these external and highly portable hard drives, which offer capacities of up to 8 TB and security good enough for classified files. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best external hard drive on Amazon.

14. Buffalo MiniStation Extreme

13. Western Digital My Passport

12. Aegis Padlock Fortress

11. Western Digital Elements

10. Toshiba Canvio Basics

9. Silicon Power Armor A62

8. Toshiba Connect II

7. Seagate Game Drive

6. Western Digital My Passport Go

5. Oyen Digital Novus

4. LaCie Mobile

3. Fantom GForce

2. Seagate Expansion

1. Samsung X5

When Driving Faster Is Better

Depending on the size of the transfer, files can often be moved in a matter of minutes.

An external hard drive is a external storage device that connects to your computer, usually via USB port. It uses flash memory and does not require a power source in order to retain the information.

Some advantages to using external storage as opposed to other external storage devices such as CDs and DVDs are that they are more durable and are generally small and lightweight, making them extremely portable. They transfer data much faster than other forms of external storage.

An external hard drive is a more advanced version of flash drives functioning as a hard drive for storing files and backing up entire computer programs. Some users utilize external hard drives for specific files such as work documents, photos, or music. Others prefer to use an external hard drive to backup their entire system on a regular basis.

Data transfers on external hard drives are simple often allowing you to utilize the basic drag and drop feature for transferring chosen files. Depending on the size of the transfer, files can often be moved in a matter of minutes. Some users choose to leave the external hard drive plugged into their laptop or desktop for continuous data backup.

External hard drives are great for storing software or other data that does not need to be accessed often and would only take up space on the computer. On the rare occasion that you do need to use this software, you can simply plug in your external hard drive to access it.

External hard drives are excellent for protecting your files against damage or theft. If something were to happen to your laptop, your external hard drive will still have all of your information safely stored, provided it is stored in a separate location.

Check Before You Buy

In a world where the Internet rules all and technology is advancing at lightning fast speeds, saving and protecting data is an important part of life. Even if you use the cloud, it’s still a good idea to back up data on an external hard drive. That is why it’s important to carefully consider what type will meet your needs before shelling out the cash.

Some external drives are only compatible with PCs, others with Mac, and others are compatible with both.

First, consider the storage capacity that you need. Are you planning to store a few files, or do you need regular backups of your entire system? Photos and videos tend to be larger than your average documents, so a hard drive with 1TB or 2TB of storage is a good idea. If you only need to back up a few photos and documents, something smaller will suffice.

Second, take a look at the transfer speed. You will need to compare the external hard drive’s transfer speed capabilities to that of your computer’s input. If the hard drive uses USB 3.0 to transfer files, but your computer only has USB 2.0 connections, you will not get the full advantage of fast data transfers.

Third, think about what type of portability you need. External hard drives that weigh more tend to cost a bit less than their streamlined counterparts. If you plan to stick close to home and are interested in saving money, a larger, cheaper model will probably work. However, if you are constantly on the go and need to take your files along, it is worth it to pay more for a slimmer device.

Next, check the compatibility. Some external drives are only compatible with PCs, others with Mac, and others are compatible with both. Always make sure that your chosen device is compatible with your computer.

Finally, find out how easy your external hard drive will be to use. Some require additional software installation before you can begin using them while others have the software built into the device. If you are just getting started with an external hard drive, go with the one with previously installed software to make your life easier. It’s also not a bad idea to pick one with a long-term warranty.

A Brief History of the External Hard Drive

The original hard drive was requested by the United States Air Force and created by IBM in 1956 and was called the RAMAC 305. These original computer hard drives had to be kept outside of the computer itself simply because they were too large. IBM wanted users to be able to save files and other work performed on a computer electronically, so they created this hard drive using fifty aluminum disks. It could only hold five megabytes of data.

These connect to computers often using the USB port and can transfer data quickly and easily.

In 1962, IBM released their 1301 hard drive model prompting other computer companies to begin selling their own external hard drives. In 1967, the floppy disk was introduced, revolutionizing the way files were stored externally. In 1982, Sony improved on the original floppy disk by making it smaller and more portable.

Over time, CD-ROM drives were developed and used to store files and software programs. Once flash memory was invented external storage was changed forever, prompting the creation of portable external hard drives. These connect to computers often using the USB port and can transfer data quickly and easily.

As time endures, people continue to need to store, send, and transfer data to various devices. Private citizens, businesses, and government institutions alike are all eager to backup their important data in a way that protects it from loss and theft. As a result, external hard drives continue to soar in popularity, and wireless external hard drives have even made an appearance.

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Jeff Newburgh
Last updated on May 21, 2019 by Jeff Newburgh

Jeff is a dedicated writer and communications professional from San Francisco with a bachelor of arts in anthropology from UC Berkeley. He began his career in computer consulting and later branched out into customer service. Jeff focuses on making complex topics easy to understand. With over 10 years' experience in research, his relentless curiosity fuels a love of writing and learning how things work, and has helped to build expertise in categories such as heavy-duty power tools and computer equipment. Jeff's passion for animals affords him a strong understanding of pet products, including dog houses, beds, and grain-free foods. When he's not writing, he prefers spending time with his family and three dogs, while kicking back and relaxing with a nice glass of red wine.

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