Guide

External Hard Drive: The best to buy

Buying an external hard drive is a wise choice in many cases, especially for making a backup of data. For example, by focusing on a laptop with integrated SSD, we risk being left without space for personal data (documents, music, video) given the reduced capacity of solid-state drives. The capacity problem can also arise on a desktop PC, particularly if the integrated hard drive is not adequate for the amount of data we store every day.

These and other scenarios is good thing to point immediately on a good external hard drive so you can save all documents, photos, music and anything else in an outdoor space.

Let’s see together all the features that must have an external hard drive to be taken into consideration, with the inevitable guide to the final purchase in which we will see closely the external hard drives better than the moment.

Capacity, Power and Speed

The first differences can be found based on the format of external hard drive chosen. A 3.5-inch external hard disk can be used next to a fixed PC, given their poor handling. On the other hand, it is possible to obtain better skills and speed, given the use of desktop disks adapted for use as an external hard drive.

Instead, choosing a 2.5-inch external hard drive we can count on compact solutions, easily connected to a notebook, a TV, a TV Box or any device with a USB port and able to read hard disks.

The capacity and speed are lower than the 3.5-inch hard drives, but a lot also depends on the type of connectivity used (as we will see in the next chapter).

Almost all models now have a USB 3.0 connection, capable of providing sufficient power supply for the operation of the hard disk. On old disks, it was not uncommon to see the Y-cable with two USB 2.0 sockets for a single disk: one dedicated to power supply, the other to data exchange. These sockets have now fallen into disuse.

USB Speed

External drives have long been equipped with USB 3.0 sockets, faster than USB 2.0 sockets but backward compatible with the latter (an external hard drive with USB 3.0 can be connected to a USB 2.0 port without problems). What changes between USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 is the theoretical transmission speed:

  • 4.8 Gbps Theoretical (600 MBps) for USB 3.0
  • 480 Mbps Theoretical (60 MBps) for USB 2.0

The two versions of USB can be easily recognized by the color of the ports and sockets: blue for USB 3.0 sockets and white (rarely black) for USB 2.0 sockets.

The USB 3.1 is also gaining momentum, with much higher top speeds depending on the generation it is associated with:

  • 5 Gb/s theoretical (625 MB/s) for the first generation USB 3.1
  • 10 Gb/s theoretical (1,250 MB/s) for the second generation USB 3.1

USB 3.1 is often associated with the Type-C form factor, but it is not a fixed rule.

Form factors

The form factor of the USB connection for an external hard drive is traditionally the Type-A, the classic USB socket that everyone knows, as seen in the image below.

Lately the Type-C form factor begins to spread, as well as being smaller and thinner. It has a double insertion direction (it can be inserted into a Type-C socket without fear of making a mistake towards insertion, a common error with the Type-A). Below an example of a Type-C socket.

The Type-C is not automatically synonymous with maximum transmission speed: there are USB 3.0 Type-C sockets, USB 2.0 Type-C sockets and USB 3.1 Type-C sockets; better to check in advance the speed of the chosen USB port and the cable supplied.

Thunderbolt connectivity

Besides the USB connection, it is possible to find external drives with Thunderbolt connection, less common than USB but very appreciated on Apple devices. Also in this case we have different transmission speeds based on the Thunderbolt generation considered:

  • Thunderbolt 1 offers a theoretical maximum speed of 10 Gb/s (1250 MB/s)
  • Thunderbolt 2 offers a theoretical maximum speed of 20 Gb/s (2500 MB/s)
  • Thunderbolt 3 offers a theoretical maximum speed of 40 Gb/s (5000 MB/s)

Discs with Thunderbolt can only be connected to PC that have Thunderbolt ports, which can have two form factors.

For Thunderbolt 1 and 2, the form factor is identical to the Mini DisplayPort, as shown below.

Thunderbolt Cable

For Thunderbolt 3, the form factor is identical to the, as shown below.

USB Type-CWe can recognize the presence of Thunderbolt doors or sockets from the lightning-shaped symbol imprinted near the sockets and doors.

SSD or HDD

Among the external hard drives, the most widespread technology is surely that of hard drives (or HDD), which guarantee good durability, good speed and security in data storage. But among the external hard drives, we can also find compact SSDs with USB sockets.

External hard drive sold best of the moment

Having seen some of the features that an external hard drive can have, we see together the top 10 of the most sold external hard drives currently on Amazon. The ranking is constantly updated automatically, every day.

External Hard Drive: Our choice

Below is our selection of external hard drives, those that we deem worthy of attention and that could interest you the most.

External 1 TB Hard Drive

Toshiba HDTB310EK3AA 1TB Canvio Basics USB 3.0 2.5' Ext HDD - Black
3 Reviews
Toshiba HDTB310EK3AA 1TB Canvio Basics USB 3.0 2.5" Ext HDD - Black
  • 1TB USB powered portable hard drive
  • USB3.0 interface - also backwards compatible with USB2.0
  • Toshiba Canvio Basics Series guarantees great value for money
  • Pre-formatted for use with Windows (NTFS) - needs re-formatting for use with Mac
  • Easy Plug & Play operation
WD 1TB Elements Portable External Hard Drive - USB 3.0 - WDBUZG0010BBK-WESN
3,072 Reviews
WD 1TB Elements Portable External Hard Drive - USB 3.0 - WDBUZG0010BBK-WESN
  • Ultra-fast USB 3.0 data transfers
  • For Mac compatibility this Hard Drive requires reformatting. Refer to...
  • Massive capacity
  • Free trial of WD SmartWare Pro auto and cloud backup software
19%
Toshiba Canvio Advance 1TB Portable External Hard Drive USB 3.0, Black (HDTC910XK3AA)
3,846 Reviews
Toshiba Canvio Advance 1TB Portable External Hard Drive USB 3.0, Black (HDTC910XK3AA)
  • Compact design with four vibrant color options to fit your lifestyle
  • Up to 3TB of storage capacity to store your growing files and content. Transfer...
  • Toshiba Storage Backup Software (downloadable) to easily back up your content...
  • Toshiba Storage Security Software (downloadable) to help prevent unauthorized...
  • System Requirements : Formatted NTFS for Microsoft Windows 10, Windows 8.1,...

External 2 TB Hard Drive

Seagate Backup Plus Slim 2TB Portable Hard Drive External USB 3.0, Silver + 2mo Adobe CC Photography (STDR2000101)
18,045 Reviews
Seagate Backup Plus Slim 2TB Portable Hard Drive External USB 3.0, Silver + 2mo Adobe CC Photography (STDR2000101)
  • Portable external hard drive offering one-click, on-demand backup as well as...
  • USB powered-no power supply necessary
  • Quick file transfer with USB 3.0 connectivity
  • Works interchangeably on Windows and Mac computers without needing to reformat
  • Includes 2-month complimentary membership to Adobe Creative Cloud Photography...
20%
WD 2TB Elements Portable External Hard Drive - USB 3.0 - WDBU6Y0020BBK-WESN
3,072 Reviews
WD 2TB Elements Portable External Hard Drive - USB 3.0 - WDBU6Y0020BBK-WESN
  • 2TB storage capacity
  • USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 compatibility
  • Up to 5 GB/s data transfer speed
  • Formatted for Windows 8, 7, Vista & XP
  • Easily reformat Drive for Mac
Toshiba HDTB320EK3AA 2TB Canvio Basics USB 3.0 2.5' Ext HDD - Black
3 Reviews
Toshiba HDTB320EK3AA 2TB Canvio Basics USB 3.0 2.5" Ext HDD - Black
  • 2TB USB powered portable hard drive
  • USB3.0 interface - also backwards compatible with USB2.0
  • Toshiba Canvio Basics Series guarantees great value for money
  • Pre-formatted for use with Windows (NTFS) - needs re-formatting for use with Mac
  • Easy Plug & Play operation
27%
WD 2TB Black My Passport  Portable External Hard Drive - USB 3.0 - WDBYFT0020BBK-WESN
602 Reviews
WD 2TB Black My Passport  Portable External Hard Drive - USB 3.0 - WDBYFT0020BBK-WESN
  • Auto backup with included WD Backup software
  • Password protection with hardware encryption
  • Reimagined design
  • Trusted drive built with WD reliability
  • USB 30 port; USB 20 compatible SYSTEM COMPATIBILITY: Windows 10, Windows 8,...
23%
Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Slim 2TB Portable External Hard Drive, USB 3.0 Platinum + 2mo Adobe CC Photography (STEH2000100)
480 Reviews
Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Slim 2TB Portable External Hard Drive, USB 3.0 Platinum + 2mo Adobe CC Photography (STEH2000100)
  • The thinnest 1TB and 2TB portable hard drive on the market with a uniquely tough...
  • Complements all your other mobile devices-available in contemporary gold or...
  • Create easy customized backup plans with the included Seagate Dashboard...
  • The external hard drive is USB-powered, meaning no extra power supply is...
  • Includes 2-month complimentary membership to Adobe Creative Cloud Photography...

External 3 TB Hard Drive

Toshiba Canvio Basics 3TB Portable Hard Drive (HDTB330XK3CA)
5,292 Reviews
Toshiba Canvio Basics 3TB Portable Hard Drive (HDTB330XK3CA)
  • USB 3.0-powered portable add-on storage.
  • Easy to use with no software to install.
  • Plug and play operation.
  • Accommodates large digital files with spacious storage capacity.
  • Compact, smudge-resistant design
WD 3TB Elements Portable External Hard Drive - USB 3.0 - WDBU6Y0030BBK-WESN
3,072 Reviews
WD 3TB Elements Portable External Hard Drive - USB 3.0 - WDBU6Y0030BBK-WESN
  • Ultra-fast USB 3.0 data transfers
  • Massive capacity
  • Free trial of WD Smart Ware Pro
  • WD quality and reliability
41%
Toshiba Canvio Premium 3TB Portable External Hard Drive USB 3.0, Silver (HDTW230XS3CA)
202 Reviews
Toshiba Canvio Premium 3TB Portable External Hard Drive USB 3.0, Silver (HDTW230XS3CA)
  • Stylish design with premium aluminum finish, includes USB Type-C
  • Interface transfer rate up to 5 GB/s (USB 3.0), up to 480 MB/s (USB 2.0)
  • Toshiba Storage Backup Software (downloadable) to easily back up your content...
  • Toshiba Storage Security Software (downloadable) to help prevent unauthorized...
  • Includes Toshiba 3-year standard limited warranty
10%
Seagate Expansion 3TB Portable External Hard Drive USB 3.0 (STEA3000400)
65 Reviews
Seagate Expansion 3TB Portable External Hard Drive USB 3.0 (STEA3000400)
  • Easy and simple to use - plug it in and go
  • Fast file transfers with SuperSpeed USB 3.0
  • Compatible with USB 3.0 and USB 2.0
  • Powered by USB port
  • Drag and drop file saving for Windows, right out of the box. Please note:...
WD 3TB Black-Gray My Passport Ultra Portable External Hard Drive - USB 3.0 - WDBFKT0030BGY-WESN (Old Generation)
359 Reviews
WD 3TB Black-Gray My Passport Ultra Portable External Hard Drive - USB 3.0 - WDBFKT0030BGY-WESN (Old Generation)
  • Brilliant design, pairing metal and matte finishes
  • Included WD Discovery software for social media and cloud storage import, backup...
  • 3-year limited warranty
  • Trusted drive built with WD reliability
  • USB 3.0 port; USB 2.0 compatible

External 4 TB Hard Drive

9%
Seagate Backup Plus Portable External Hard Drive 4TB USB 3.0, Black + 2mo Adobe CC Photography (STDR4000100)
18,037 Reviews
Seagate Backup Plus Portable External Hard Drive 4TB USB 3.0, Black + 2mo Adobe CC Photography (STDR4000100)
  • Portable hard drive offers easy-to-use software for one-click, on-demand backup...
  • USB powered-no power supply necessary
  • Quick file transfer with USB 3.0 connectivity
  • Works interchangeably on Windows and Mac computers without needing to reformat
  • Includes 2-month complimentary membership to Adobe Creative Cloud Photography...
32%
WD 4TB Elements Desktop Hard Drive - USB 3.0 - WDBWLG0040HBK-NESN
905 Reviews
WD 4TB Elements Desktop Hard Drive - USB 3.0 - WDBWLG0040HBK-NESN
  • WD Elements Desktop storage with USB 3.0 offers reliable, high-capacity, add-on...
29%
WD 4TB Elements Portable External Hard Drive - USB 3.0 - WDBU6Y0040BBK-WESN
3,072 Reviews
WD 4TB Elements Portable External Hard Drive - USB 3.0 - WDBU6Y0040BBK-WESN
  • Fast data transfers
  • Massive capacity in a compact design
  • Downloadable free trial of WD SmartWare Pro
  • Plug-and-play ready for Windows PCs
  • WD quality inside and out
70%
WD 4TB Black My Passport  Portable External Hard Drive - USB 3.0 - WDBYFT0040BBK-WESN
1,915 Reviews
WD 4TB Black My Passport  Portable External Hard Drive - USB 3.0 - WDBYFT0040BBK-WESN
  • Auto backup with included WD Backup software
  • Password protection with hardware encryption
  • Reimagined design
  • Trusted drive built with WD reliability
  • USB 3.0 port; USB 2.0 compatible. SYSTEM COMPATIBILITY: Windows 10, Windows 8,...
Buffalo DriveStation USB 3.0 4 TB External Hard Drive (HD-LC4.0U3)
166 Reviews
Buffalo DriveStation USB 3.0 4 TB External Hard Drive (HD-LC4.0U3)
  • Plug-and-play connectivity provides easy setup and use
  • Use with your PC or Mac computer for file storage and backup
  • Stand upright or lay flat for easy placement and efficient use of space
  • Back up your files on your Windows PC with Buffalo Backup Utility
  • Eco-friendly operation shuts the hard drive down when the connected computer is...

External Hard Drive of 5 TB or more

16%
Seagate Backup Plus Hub 8TB External Desktop Hard Drive Storage + 2mo Adobe CC Photography (STEL8000100)
1,849 Reviews
Seagate Backup Plus Hub 8TB External Desktop Hard Drive Storage + 2mo Adobe CC Photography (STEL8000100)
  • External desktop hard drive offers two front-facing, high-speed USB 3.0 ports...
  • Formatted for Windows computers out of the box
  • Install the provided NTFS driver for Mac and use the drive interchangeably...
  • Downloadable Seagate Dashboard software enables one-click backup as well as...
  • Includes 2-month complimentary membership to Adobe Creative Cloud Photography...
Seagate Backup Plus Hub 6TB External Desktop Hard Drive Storage + 2mo Adobe CC Photography (STEL6000100)
1,849 Reviews
Seagate Backup Plus Hub 6TB External Desktop Hard Drive Storage + 2mo Adobe CC Photography (STEL6000100)
  • External desktop hard drive offers two front-facing, high-speed USB 3.0 ports...
  • Formatted for Windows computers out of the box
  • Install the provided NTFS driver for Mac and use the drive interchangeably...
  • Downloadable Seagate Dashboard software enables one-click backup as well as...
  • Includes 2-month complimentary membership to Adobe Creative Cloud Photography...

Product prices and availability are subject to change. Any price and availablility information displayed on Amazon at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of any products.

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