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Best External Hard Drives

Updated September 2023
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Best of the Best
LaCie Rugged External Portable Hard Drive
Rugged External Portable Hard Drive
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Durable & Rugged
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A bright orange LaCie external hard drive is an easy way to shield your data from the elements and potential accidents.


Drop-resistant, water-resistant, and dust-resistant. Lightning-fast data transfer speeds. Rugged rubberized bumper. Includes reversible USB-C/USB-A cable. Available in 500GB and 1, 2, 4, and 5TB.


Water-resistant but not waterproof.

Best Bang for the Buck
Transcend Storejet 2TB Portable USB 3.0 Hard Disk
Storejet 2TB Portable USB 3.0 Hard Disk
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Excellent Value
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If your daily life is rougher on your sensitive electronics than the average user, a rugged Transcend external hard drive is a must-have.


Convenient auto-backup button. Premium anti-shock protection. Deleted data tracking software tool. Slim, lightweight, and portable. Available in 1, 2, and 4GB. Made in blue and purple.


Its extremely short connection cable can be annoying.

SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD
Extreme Portable SSD
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Trusted Brand
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Nature photographers and anyone who needs to protect their data from the elements should trust this ultra-rugged SanDisk external hard drive.


Extreme drop protection. Water-resistant and rust-resistant. Convenient carabiner loop. Lightweight. Data encryption. Fast read and write speeds. Available in 500GB and 1, 2, and 4TB sizes.


Gets a little warm at times.

Seagate Expansion External Hard Drive
Expansion External Hard Drive
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Best for Everyday Use
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The Seagate Expansion desktop hard drive is a sturdy and reliable way to store tons of data from your PC or favorite videogame console.


Plug-and-play installation. Compatible with Mac and Windows. Comprehensive data loss prevention software. Sturdy. Blazing-fast data transfer speeds. Available in 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, and 20TB.


Far too large to be a portable external hard drive.

Western Digital Black D10 External Portable Hard Drive
Western Digital
Black D10 External Portable Hard Drive
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Great for Gaming
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This durable external hard offers ample storage space and compatibility with several top gaming systems.


Compact design. Compatible with PS4, PS5, and Xbox. Offers 8TB storage. Speedy performance with built-in cooling technology. Includes an installation guide, SuperSpeed cable, AC adapter, and plug.


Somewhat noisy. A few faulty hard drives passed quality control.

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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. About BestReviews  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.About BestReviews 

We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Buying guide for Best external hard drives

We’ve all been there: that moment your laptop or desktop computer tells you it’s running out of hard drive space. In some circumstances, this can be panic-inducing because a lack of space can prevent you from creating or saving new files. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be. If your computer is running out of storage space, you can always add more with an external hard drive.

External hard drives are small, nondescript boxes with extra storage that connect to your computer via one or more USB cables. While they may not look like much, they can be essential tools for keeping your files backed up, and they’re ideal for transporting files that are too large to transfer over the internet.

Most external hard drives look the same, but there are some big differences when it comes to capacity, stability, and speed, so it pays to know what to look for ahead of time.

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If you buy a portable external hard drive, make sure to password protect any sensitive files on it in case the drive is ever stolen or lost. For more information, search the web for different ways to encrypt your files.

Key considerations

If you’re unsure which external hard drive to buy, answering these questions can help narrow your search considerably:

Will you be using your external hard drive for gaming?

Using an external hard drive with a gaming PC or a video game console can be a little tricky because games need fast access to a lot of data and it can be tough to find one that’s up to the task. If you’re buying an external hard drive specifically for video games, search for models that are explicitly compatible with your setup. For example, hard drives that can work with the Xbox One are usually branded or contain explicit “works with Xbox One” language in the product title or description.

How much storage do you think you’ll need?

The big question with external hard drives is always how big you should go, and we believe that bigger is better. Before you start shopping, take an inventory of how much space you currently have or need so you’re certain to get a drive with enough space. When in doubt, get the biggest drive you can afford.

Expert Tip
Establish a regular backup schedule and use your device’s built-in backup tools. For example, if you’re running a Mac, connect your external drive to the Time Machine app and let it walk you through setting up a regular time for automated data backups.
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Do you need portable storage?

Portable drives are handy for taking your files with you anywhere, but as you might expect, they’re more expensive and often less capacious than their non-portable equivalents. If you plan on parking your external hard drive somewhere, you can save money by avoiding portable options. On the other hand, if portable storage is key, you might need to adjust your expectations around cost (or compromise and buy a smaller drive).

External hard drive features

It can be a challenge to tell different external hard drives apart. Here’s a cheat sheet to the most important differences between models.


The most important feature on an external hard drive is how much storage it has, so prioritize capacity and get the biggest drive you can afford. Just remember that your actual storage will be less than the amount noted on the box (based on the existing files it needs to function), so if you want to know what actual storage different drives have, subtract about 20% from the advertised capacity.

Data transfer speed

Another key differentiator is how fast a drive can transfer files back and forth. Transfer speed relies on several different things, including the speed of your computer, but the connectivity options are the biggest factor. If you need the fastest external hard drive available, look for one that can connect via USB-C (if you have a spare USB-C port). If you need to work with the older physical USB standard, stick to external hard drives that support USB 3.0, which is faster than, and backward-compatible with, USB 2.0 devices as well.

Expert Tip
Be gentle when you’re connecting cables. The ports on external drives are pretty durable, but they’re not indestructible, and if you break the port, you might lose access to your data. Always take care to slide cables carefully in and out of your drive.
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Taking data with you can be critical, so if you’re looking for a mobile storage solution, you’ll need to limit your search to portable models. Portable external hard drives are a little pricier than their desktop, plug-in equivalents, but they can fit in your pocket, and in some cases transfer data just as fast. Consider your own needs, and if you need to take your data with you anywhere, get a portable external hard drive.

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Testing external hard drives
After spending nearly 36 hours researching over 100 external hard drives we purchased our top pick and tested in our office, storing hundreds of GBs of data.

External hard drive prices


Most basic external hard drives cost between $50 and $100. In this price range, you’ll find drives around the 1TB to 2TB range, which can be perfect for users who typically deal with smaller files. Many of the drives in this price range are portable, so you can still find a deal even if you need to take your data to lots of different places.


If you look in the $100 to $200 range, you’ll see increased capacities and more portable options. Drives at this price typically have capacities ranging from 4TB to 8TB, and often come in multiple colors. If you need enough storage to last you for at least a year or two, you’ll need to spend at least this much.


Between $200 and $300, you’ll encounter external hard drives that have the highest storage capacities. Some models in this range justify the price by including an extra-rugged enclosure, but the truth is that most of them are simply overpriced. Avoid overpaying for your external hard drive, and only spend this much if you absolutely need the space.

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Expert Tip
Never leave your external hard drive in a location where it might get too hot. Avoid leaving yours in direct sunlight or poorly ventilated areas. Overheating can lead to data loss.
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  • Always buy more storage than you think you need. When you’re shopping for an external drive, it’s important to plan for both your current and your future needs, so buy one that gives you room to grow. Our recommendation is to buy a hard drive with enough room for all the data you have today and a few terabytes to spare.
  • Never unplug an external hard drive while it’s transferring files. All external hard drives have the same weakness: they have big problems if you disconnect them while they’re sending or receiving data. When it’s time to disconnect your external drive from your computer, eject it in the operating system first, or power down your computer entirely, before pulling the cable out. Doing it any other way can result in data loss or other malfunctions.
  • Don’t bother with the software that comes with your external hard drive. Most hard drive manufacturers include applications that are designed to help you use your drive. These applications aren’t required; in fact, your computer’s operating system will do a better job of interacting with your drive. Your hard drive will likely include software setup files on the drive itself, but those can be safely deleted.
Expert Tip
If you think you might have duplicate files taking up space you want back, consider looking up an application to help you identify duplicates. There are great apps for both Windows and macOS.
BestReviews Electronics Expert
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Before you buy a specific external hard drive, check that your computer has the necessary available ports. Some hard drives require multiple USB ports, and you may already have other peripherals taking up your computer’s existing ones.


Q. Will most external hard drives work with my Mac?

A. Yes. External hard drives typically come in OS-agnostic formats, so you can plug them into any computer and start using them right away. In some rare occasions, you may find an external drive that comes in a Windows-only format, but you can use your Mac’s Disk Utility software to reformat the drive to a compatible format. (If you do reformat your drive, do so with caution because the process will completely delete any data saved on it.)

Q. Are external hard drives noisy?

A.Some of them are, but it’s rare. Most external hard drives operate silently, but some models, particularly those that have multiple physical drives inside and are made to plug into the wall, have built-in fans to keep them from overheating. Fans like these aren’t typically very loud, but they’re persistent, leading some users to prefer fanless models.

Q. Why do some external hard drives use two USB ports to connect to a computer while others just use one?

A. Some external hard drives plug into the wall with an AC adapter to get power, while others can receive a charge over USB. If you find an external hard drive that requires two USB ports, that means one of the connections is used to transfer data while the other transfers power.