Don’t wait until you’re running out of space on your computer to get a good external hard drive. External hard drives are more affordable than ever, and our eight favorite drives fit all needs, like a hard drive that can survive the elements or a powerful solid-state drive (SSD) that can store multitudes.
Best Overall: Elements External Hard Drive
If you’re looking for a ton of storage that’s still portable, this 4TB WD Elements drive is tough to beat. While it can’t compete with the speed of an SSD, it should be plenty fast for most uses and includes USB 2.0 and 3.0 connectivity. You can also step down to 2TB or 3TB models in the same line, but the price-per-megabyte makes the 4TB drive the most compelling of the bunch, and gives you room to grow even if you don’t need all of that space right away.
Extreme Portable External SSD
SanDisk’s Extreme Portable SSD started out expensive but is now more affordable than ever. Its rugged design means you can go just about anywhere and it comes with a hole purpose-built for a carabiner. That toughness is further backed up by three-year warranty for some added peace of mind.
Expansion Portable External Hard Drive
Seagate’s Expansion drive is another popular option for a basic, inexpensive external hard drive. It’s the overall bestselling external hard drive on Amazon where it also gets consistently good customer reviews. While it does work with Mac, its compatible with Windows out of the box, so you’ll need to reformat.
My Book Duo (20TB)
Most of us only need a terabyte or two, but more demanding users need more. Western Digital’s My Book Duo series of drives might be worth a look. They’re available in a range of sizes from 4TB all the way up to 20TBs. That enormous capacity means the drive will up a lot of desk real estate, but at least it makes the most of its hulking presence by doubling as a USB hub with a pair of USB 3.0 ports.
T5 Portable SSD
Samsung’s T5 is an affordable option if you need speed but not a ton of storage. In addition to featuring the speed you get from an SSD, these Samsungs also are some of the most portable drives around, boasting a palm-sized, all-metal design.
Canvio Connect II
For most users, a 1TB drive will be all the storage they’re likely to need. That will give you plenty space to back up an average laptop with plenty of room left over. Toshiba’s Canvio Connect II is one singled out by Laptop Mag as a great, inexpensive drive that offers speedy performance and compatibility with both Mac and Windows.
Backup Plus Slim
It’s neither as fast nor as portable as an SSD drive like the Samsung T5, but Seagate’s Backup Plus Slim is a fair bit thinner and lighter than many standard external hard drives. That, combined with its reliability and overall performance, helps make it the Wirecutter’s pick for best portable hard drive.
HD830 External Hard Drive
Built to withstand the elements like SanDisk’s extreme drive, you’ll make trade-offs in weight, speed, and portability with ADATA’s HD830, but PCMag found that it was able to easily withstand being dropped and submerged in water. It can even survive being run over by a car (though hopefully that never happens).
My Passport 4 TB
We just tested the 4 TB version of WD’s smaller My Passport Series, which packs a ton of storage into a handheld size. My Passport comes with its own software to simplify the process of auto backup and to let you password-protect the drive. We found it easy to set up and use, even on a Mac, which requires a couple of extra steps.