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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. Read more  
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.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

59 Models Considered
10 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
107 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best external hard drives under $100

Computers are expensive pieces of machinery, and no one wants to see any components in their computer break down. But if a breakdown does happen, you’ll quickly realize that although a computer is expensive to replace, lost data is far more valuable.

You might have little control over whether a computer crash occurs, but you can take steps to avoid losing data in a crash. With an external hard drive, you can create backup copies of your data on a regular basis to ensure you always have an up-to-date copy of your data separate from the computer.

External hard drives are available in one of two technologies and offer a choice of multiple storage capacities. This means you should be able to find an external hard drive that fits your budget and performance requirements, even if your budget is at $100 or less. In this guide, we explore the external hard drives you can buy on a budget.

external hard drives under 100
Regardless of the cost of your external hard drive, take the time to encrypt the data so no one else can see the files if they find or steal the hard drive.

Key considerations

As mentioned, external hard drives utilize one of two possible technologies: HDD (hard disk drive) and SSD (solid state drive) technology. When shopping, note which type is offered so you are sure to get what you need.

HDD

HDD technology is an older technology that uses spinning platters to store data. A read/write head inside the HDD hardware stores the data on the platters.

Due to its older technology, external HDD costs less per GB of storage than SSD.

Because of the moving parts in a HDD, data transfer speeds range from about 150 MBps to 250 MBps. Notably, an average SSD delivers about 10 times the data transfer speed of an average HDD. This speed difference is noticeable for consumers with high-end computing needs.

SSD

SSD technology has no moving parts, as it uses individual integrated circuits to store data. This makes it more reliable than the spinning platters of an HDD. Data transfer speeds for SSDs may be between 0.5 GBps and 3 GBps, far faster than HDD speed. Should you drop an SSD, there is far less chance of breakage than there would be with an HDD, too.

SSD technology costs more than HDD technology, which translates to far fewer SSD offerings in the sub-$100 price range.

SSD technology also appears in USB thumb drives and memory cards.

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Features

Here are some of the most important features you’ll find in an inexpensive external hard drive.

USB ports

An external hard drive connects to a computer through a USB port. The fastest drives use USB-C or USB 3.0 technologies, which is backward-compatible with USB 2.0. Some older external hard drives may make use of USB 2.0 only, which could limit your transfer speed options.

Power

Some external hard drives run via power through a USB cable; others require a separate power adapter. Large-capacity HDDs need extra power to spin the platters, so power adapters are more often needed with these items. Smaller-capacity external hard drives in the sub-$100 price range rarely need a power adapter, as they can pull enough power over the USB cable.

Color

External hard drive cases are available in a variety of colors, but black is the most common. Some people choose different colors to help them sort their files more efficiently.

What you can get for your $100 budget

With a $100 maximum budget for your external hard drive, you may not receive all of the features you want, but the majority of units in this price range deliver a nice level of performance and durability.

Pros of sub-$100 external hard drives

  • Good speed: Even with a limited budget, you’ll still receive a high level of speed from an inexpensive hard drive. It won’t differ that much from pricier units.
  • SSDs are available: For those who want SSD technology in an external hard drive, a few units are available in the $100-and-under price range.
  • Fastest connection speeds: Even sub-$100 hard drives often provide the latest USB connections, including USB 3.0 and USB-C, which deliver excellent transmission speeds.
  • Reliability: Although external hard drives that cost more than $100 will be slightly more reliable than sub-$100 hard drives, the difference is minimal, so consumers on a budget still receive a strong piece of hardware.
  • Good value: Even if you don’t have more to spend, external hard drives in the sub-$100 price range usually give users years of solid performance.

Cons of sub-$100 external hard drives

  • Cost per GB of storage: Compared to pricier external hard drives, you actually end up paying a bit more per GB of storage when you stick with a drive that costs less than $100.
  • More HDDs than SSDs: Although some SSDs are in the sub-$100 price range, as we have mentioned, you will find far more HDDs in this price range. If you’re only in the market for an SSD external hard drive, you will end up with far fewer choices than if you have a larger budget available.
  • Slightly lesser features: Although sub-$100 models are close to more expensive external hard drives in terms of performance, reliability, and speed, they don’t quite offer the same level of performance. Average users may not notice these slight differences, but users who need the highest level of performance will.

What features will be hard to get for $100 or less

  • Storage capacity: If you need a huge amount of storage in an external hard drive, such as 6 TB or more, you will not find models in this price range.
  • No hybrid drives: With a limited budget of $100, you will not find any external hard drives that contain both HDD and SSD technology. The majority of hybrid drives are internal-only drives, so this is not a common configuration in external drives anyway. However, some hybrid models exist, and they are pricey.
  • Less durability: Although a few ruggedly designed external hard drives fit in this lower price range, the majority of rugged drives have a higher price. If you’re worried about difficult environmental conditions or frequent drops, it’s a good idea to spend greater than $100 for the highest level of coverage.
external hard drives under 100
DID YOU KNOW?
A typical external hard drive, regardless of whether it has SSD or HDD technology in it, is similar in size to a couple of decks of playing cards sitting next to each other.
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External hard drives under $100: prices

Lower range: For $15 to $40, you can find an HDD external hard drive with a storage amount of 500 GB or less. Finding any SSD external hard drives in this price point is unlikely.

Middle range: In the mid-range price zone of $40 to $70, you'll have both SSD and HDD external drives to choose from. The HDD size will be up to 2 TB at this price range, while the SSD size will be up to 250 GB.

Upper range: In the $70 to $100 price range, you should find SSD external drives in sizes up to 1 TB and HDD external drives in sizes up to 5 TB.

Over $100: For those who have a budget of more than $100, you can find large external drives of 4 TB or more for SSD and 12 TB or more for HDD. Extremely large drives can cost $500 or more.

Cheaper external hard drives may not have the legacy USB ports required to connect to older computers.

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Tips

  • Leave some space free. Hard drives perform better when they have some free space available. An SSD drive begins to lose performance at around 80% of capacity. HDDs start to lose performance at around 90% of capacity.
  • Don’t drop it. Although some drives are rugged in nature and can survive the occasional drop, try to avoid dropping the external hard drive. Any time you drop an inexpensive hard drive, it could break.
  • Don’t unplug it early. Avoid unplugging the external hard drive while it’s copying data to and from the computer. Doing so could damage it.
external hard drives under 100 3
An internal hard drive carries a lower price per GB of storage than an external hard drive, but the difference in cost is significantly smaller than it was several years ago.

FAQ

Q. Do inexpensive external hard drives have issues with speed and performance?

A. A cheaper external drive may have slight problems with speed as compared to expensive hard drives, but the majority of consumers are unlikely to notice the difference. External hard drives perform slightly slower than internal hard drives too, regardless of price.

Q. What are the chances of a sub-$100 external hard drive failing?

A. All hard drives could fail at some point. The majority of drives last at least three to five years, and SSD drives may last 10 years or more with proper care. A cheap hard drive may not last quite as long as an expensive hard drive, but the difference is negligible.

Q. How do GB and TB compare to each other in an external hard drive’s storage capacity?

A. A GB, or gigabyte, is roughly equal to 1,000 MB (megabytes). A TB, or terabyte, is roughly equal to 1,000 GB. If you are comparing a hard drive with 4 TB to a drive with 500 GB, the 4 TB hard drive will have about eight times more storage space than the 500 GB drive.

Q. Do external hard drives that cost less than $100 come with warranties?

A. Quite a few of them may offer a 12-month warranty. However, the warranty will have significant limitations. If you drop the hard drive, it may void your warranty. Additionally, a warranty only protects you from failure of the hard drive itself. It will not help you recover your data or reimburse you for lost data.

 

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