Amazon External Hard Drives Best Buy
The best external hard drives are essential devices for all PC users. This is especially true if you own several computers but have a slow local connection. That's because an external hard drive makes it easy to quickly and seamlessly transfer large files between your machines. This not only saves you time but potentially money as well.
amazon external hard drives best buy
Whether you're working from home or at the office, carrying an external hard drive in your backpack or pocket gives you continuous access to your files. The same is also true if you need to back up your computer regularly. A large HDD-based external hard drive will do the trick for that, but if you need to create a second backup for peace of mind and keep that in a separate location, an SSD-based drive will suit you.
Thankfully, these aren't the slow, heavy external drives of the past. Every model listed here uses at least the USB 3.0 standard, which offers read and write speeds many times faster than the old USB 2.0 drives. Many use the even faster USB 3.1 and 3.2 standards, and one even sports the super-speedy Thunderbolt 3 standard. Some of these drives, especially the smaller SSD ones, have eye-catching designs and colors that could almost be considered fashionable.
It may be shaped like a monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey, but our tests found that the WD My Book is the best external hard drive for the money. It offers hardware-based 256-bit AES encryption and WD Backup software, and it gives you 4TB of HDD space for about $100. Plus, capacities up to 18TB are available.
We hooked up each external hard drive to a current-generation Dell XPS 17 laptop, using the best connection interface available to that drive, always in the same port, to minimize performance differentials.
In an era when many gigabytes of cloud storage storage cost a mere few dollars per month, and trim, slim external SSDs are getting cheaper, external hard drives, based on spinning platter disks, might appear less essential than they once were. But modern ones are faster, more stylish, and often more durable than their counterparts from a few years ago. They're ever more capacious for the money, too. For about $50, you can add a terabyte of extra storage to your laptop or desktop by just plugging in a USB cable.
Choosing an external drive isn't as simple as buying the most expensive one you can afford, however. The drive capacity is the most important factor to consider, and it can increase or decrease the cost dramatically depending on your needs. Other factors include the physical size of the drive (is it designed to be carted around, or to sit on your desk?), how rugged it is, the interface it uses to connect to your PC, and even what colors it comes in. This guide will help you make sense of these and many more questions that arise while you're shopping for an external hard drive.
First off: We've outlined below our top picks among external hard drives we've tested. Read on for our labs-tested favorites, followed by the buying basics you should know when buying an external drive. Our article concludes with a detailed spec breakout of our top choices.
Just how much faster is it to access data stored in flash cells? Typical read and write speeds for consumer drives with spinning platters are in the 100MBps to 200MBps range, depending on platter densities and whether they spin at 5,400rpm (more common) or 7,200rpm (less common). External SSDs offer at least twice that speed and now, often much more, with typical results on our benchmark tests in excess of 400MBps. Practically speaking, this means you can move gigabytes of data (say, a 4GB feature-length film, or a year's worth of family photos) to an external SSD in seconds rather than the minutes it would take with an external spinning drive.
Still, while external SSDs are cheaper than they were a few years ago (see the best we've tested at the preceding link), they're far from a complete replacement for spinning drives. Larger external drives designed to stay on your desk or in a server closet still almost exclusively use spinning-drive mechanisms, taking advantage of platter drives' much higher capacities and much lower prices compared with SSDs.
And portable hard drives can be a great value if what you need is raw capacity above all else. You can find a 2TB portable hard drive with ease (possibly even a 4TB one, depending on the day) for less than $100. A 2TB SSD, though? Expect to pay at least two to three times as much as you would for that 2TB hard drive. And let's not even talk about the cost of 4TB and 8TB external SSDs.
A desktop drive with a single platter mechanism will typically use a 3.5-inch drive inside and comes in capacities up to 12TB, though a few 16TB, 18TB, and 20TB single drives in external chassis have started to emerge. Most are roughly 5 inches tall and 2 inches wide. In addition to storing large media collections, these drives can also serve as inexpensive repositories for backups of your computer's hard drive that you schedule, using either software that comes with the drive or a third-party backup utility.
At the other end of the physical-size spectrum are portable drives. Hard drive-based portables make use inside of the same kinds of platter-drive mechanisms used in laptops. These are called generically "2.5-inch drives," though they are actually a smidge wider than that. Any portable platter-based hard drive should fit easily in a purse or even a coat pocket. As a rule, portable drives get their power from the computer to which you connect them, through the interface cable, so there's no need for a wall outlet or a power cord/brick.
The best way to gauge relative value among similar portable drives is to calculate the cost per gigabyte, dividing the cost of the drive in dollars by the capacity in gigabytes to see the relative per-gig price. Example: A $60 1TB (1,000GB) hard drive would run you about 6 cents per gigabyte, while an $80 2TB (2,000GB) drive would work out to about 4 cents per gigabyte.
How an external drive connects to your PC or Mac is second only to the type of storage mechanism it uses in determining how fast you'll be able to access data. These connection types are ever in flux, but these days, most external hard drives use a flavor of USB, or in rare cases, Thunderbolt.
You'll only see the speed benefits of Thunderbolt 3, however, if you have a drive that's SSD-based, or a multi-drive, platter-based desktop DAS that is set up in a RAID array. For ordinary external hard drives, Thunderbolt is very much the exception, not the rule. It tends to show up mainly in products geared toward the Mac market.
A desktop hard drive with a single platter-based mechanism inside, or a portable hard drive, is far more likely to make use of plain old USB instead. Almost every recent drive we have reviewed supports USB, and the same goes for laptops and desktops. USB ports are ubiquitous, and many external drives now come with cables with both rectangular USB Type-A connectors and oval-shaped USB Type-C ones to enable adapter-free connections to PCs that have only one type. If the drive includes only a single cable, you may need an adapter, depending on your computer's available USB ports. Be mindful of that.
In addition to their physical shape differences, USB ports on the computer side will variously support USB 3.0, 3.1, or 3.2, depending on the age of the computer and how up to date its marketing materials are. You don't have to worry about the differences among these three USB specs when looking at ordinary hard drives, though. All are inter-compatible, and you won't see a speed bump from one versus the other in the hard drive world. The drive platters' own speed is the limiter, not the flavor of USB 3.
The only case with hard drives where the USB standard matters much is if you connect a drive to an old-style, low-bandwidth USB 2.0 port, which is better reserved for items like keyboards and mice. (Also, if it's a portable drive, that USB 2.0 port may not supply sufficient power to run the drive in the first place, so the speed shortfall may be moot.) Any remotely recent computer will have some faster USB 3-class ports, though.
Also know that you can find external drives that do way more than just store your data. Some include SD card readers to offload footage from a camera or drone in the field, while a few specialized models have built-in Wi-Fi and can double as a little media server, able to connect to more than one device at a time.
To get you started in the right direction, below are the best external hard drives (platter-based models) we've tested of late, at a variety of prices and capacities. They're a fine starter mix for your research. Bear in mind that most of them come in a range of capacity options, so know that even if the specific model we tested is too big or small for your needs, the drive maker may well offer it in a more fitting size. And if you want to explore the best external SSDs, as well, click on the preceding link.
It's also a good time to look for savings on the best external drives you can use for backup or for transferring data between all your devices. If you don't already have a large external hard drive or SSD, you really should get one in order to do full system backups or just keep your important files somewhere besides the cloud.
Below, we've listed the best SSD and hard drive deals that are available from major retailers such as Amazon and Newegg. We're also tracking the best monitor deals, best CPU deals, best gaming laptop deals, best 3D printer deals and the Best PC hardware deals overall.