An external hard drive or SSD is the Swiss Army knife of storage. It’s a pocketable device that lets you carry massive files (or lots of small ones) between computers, back up essential data, offload footage from your DSLR or drone while on the go, and more.
But with dozens of models on the market, how do you know which to buy? And should you opt for a faster, more rugged (and more-expensive) external SSD instead instead of a hard drive made up of fragile moving parts? To help you choose the best portable external drive for your needs, we thoroughly test and review key drives and publish our list of specific recommendations on this page.
External hard drives and SSDs
Quick Shopping Tips
When shopping for an external drive or SSD, consider the following:
Portable Hard Drive or SSD? Drives that have spinning storage platters inside are very affordable, with 1TB models often selling for under $50 (£40). But they’re also much slower and more fragile than solid-state drives. If you don’t need terabytes of storage and you often travel with your drive, a portable SSD is worth paying extra for. A portable SSD will also be much faster at reading and writing lots of data. But if you need cavernous amounts of external storage, a hard is a better option for most, as multi-terabyte external SSDs sell for several hundred dollars, but 4TB portable hard drives often sell for under $100 (£90).
Don’t Use a Portable Hard Drive as Your Only Backup: Portable hard drives are made up of spinning glass or metal platters, making them a poor choice as a primary backup of your data–especially if you carry them around. Portable SSDs are better here, but you should still keep your irreplacable data backed up on a desktop drive and / or on a…