If you’ve never used an external hard drive before, you may be surprised at how valuable it can be. An external drive can help you back up and protect files that are extremely valuable and irreplaceable, as well as large projects. Ideally, you would keep those files on that drive so that they could be retrieved even if your laptop, Chromebook, or PC were to fail.
There are some amazing secure drives as well as portable SSD drives that can add some extra security to your files, as well as have incredibly fast reading and writing speeds. Still, the wirecutter external hard drives come at a reasonable price, so you can spend more on the extra storage. You may find them to be the perfect solution if you don’t need the quickest speeds or something that is durable enough to survive being dropped in a bag.
The wirecutter external hard drives make it easy for you to backup important files on the go, and you can store a lot of data on them. There’s no better time to check out the wirecutter external hard drives than now, as Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just around the corner, along with all the sales that come along with them.
Top 10 Wirecutter External Hard Drive
1. Seagate Backup Plus Slim 2TB External Hard Drive
- Store and access 2TB of photos and files on the go, with Seagate Backup Plus Slim, an external hard drive for Mac and Windows
- Simply plug this external hard drive for Mac and Windows into a computer via the included USB 3.0 cable to back up files with a single click or schedule automatic daily, weekly, or monthly backups. Reformatting may be required for use with Time Machine.
- Edit, manage, and share photos with a one-year complimentary subscription to Mylio Create and a two-month membership to Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan
- This portable external hard drive features a minimalist brushed metal enclosure, and is a stylish USB drive
- Enjoy long-term peace of mind with the included two-year limited warranty
2. Seagate Portable 2TB External Hard Drive
- To get set up, connect the portable hard drive to a computer for automatic recognition no software required
- Designed to work with Windows or Mac computers, this external hard drive makes backup a snap just drag and drop
- Easily store and access 2TB to content on the go with the Seagate Portable Drive, a USB external hard drive
- This USB drive provides plug and play simplicity with the included 18 inch USB 3.0 cable
3. WD 2TB Elements Portable External Hard Drive
- High Capacity; Compatibility Formatted NTFS for Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 7; Reformatting may be required for other operating systems; Compatibility may vary depending on user’s hardware configuration and operating system
- Refer to the PDF attached below in Technical Specification for the Installation. WD Elements portable hard drives with USB 3.0 offer reliable, high-capacity storage to go, fast data transfer rates, universal connectivity and massive capacity for value-conscious consumers.
- Improve PC Performance
- USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 Compatibility. Fast data transfers
4. Toshiba Canvio Basics 2TB Portable External Hard Drive
- Compatible devices: Desktop
- Plug and play; Easy to use with no software to install. Requires reformatting for Mac OS v10.12 /OS X v10.11 / v10.1
- Sleek profile design with a matte, smudge resistance finish
- USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 compatible with no external AC power cord needed
- Quickly add more storage capacity to your PC and other compatible devices
5. WD 12TB Elements Desktop Hard Drive
- Fast data transfers
- High-capacity add-on storage
- Plug-and-play ready for Windows PCs
- WD quality inside and out
6. WD_BLACK 5TB P10 Game Drive
- Available in capacities up to 5TB that can hold up to 125 games, so that you can save old favorites and still have room for new titles (As used for storage capacity, one terabyte (TB) = one trillion bytes. Total accessible capacity varies depending on operating environment. Number of games based on a 36GB average per game. The number of games will vary based on file size, formatting, other programs, and factors.)
- Premium HDD with 3-year limited warranty, purpose-built for gamers based on WD_BLACK quality and reliability
- Portable form factor with sleek metal top covering that provides fast access to your growing game library
- Comes with an 18-inch (457mm) USB Type-A to Micro-B cable with SuperSpeed interface up to 5Gbps (Cable length may vary.)
- Compatible with Xbox Series X/S (play and store Xbox One games, archive Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S games) and PlayStation 5 (play and store PS4 games, archive PS5 games) consoles
7. WD 5TB My Passport Portable External Hard Drive
- 3-year limited warranty
- SuperSpeed USB port (5Gbps); USB 2.0 compatible
- Software for device management and backup with password protection. (Download and installation required. Terms and conditions apply. User account registration may be required.)
- 256-bit AES hardware encryption
- Slim Design
8. Toshiba Canvio Flex 2TB Portable External Hard Drive
- Formatted exFAT for cross-device compatibility (2).
- Designed for PC, Mac, and Tablet (check compatibility at Toshiba's Consumer HDD website).
- Versatile design. Includes USB-C and USB-A cables.
- USB-C ready, USB 3.0 compatible.
9. Seagate Game Drive for Xbox
- LIGHT IT UP A built-in LED bar illuminates your gaming center in Xbox green
- BUILD YOUR GAME VAULT 2TB of capacity to build the ultimate Game Vault without sacrificing titles
- WARRANTY Enjoy peace of mind with the included 3-year Rescue Data Recovery Services and 1-year limited warranty
- BRILLIANT DESIGN A bold and refined design, crafted to compliment your Xbox
- XBOX-CERTIFIED Compatible with Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, and all generations of Xbox One
10. SAMSUNG T5 Portable SSD 2TB
- Top to bottom metal design that fits in the palm of your hand
- Optional password protection and AES 256-bit hardware encryption
- Superfast read-write speeds of up to 540 MB/s
- Includes USB type C to C and USB type C to A cables. Shock resistance
What Is An External Hard Drive?
External hard drives are lightweight, portable, high-capacity data storage drives. In general, they cannot work autonomously, so they must be connected externally to another device such as a computer, a mobile phone, or a game console, among others.
Among the different uses that can be made of external hard drives are to make backup copies, save and move or move documents or files of any kind. They can also be used to play multimedia content directly from that device.
Advantages and Fields of Application of External Hard Drives
Hard drives allow you to store a large number of large files. Therefore, they are the best solution if you need an additional storage unit for your computer or need to move large files between different devices.
You may also need an external hard drive to back up your most important files. Additionally, multimedia hard drives are used to play content, such as movies, videos, and music, on smart TVs or computers.
What Kind of External Hard Drives are There?
Mechanical External Hard Drive or HDD
Mechanical hard drives or HDD ( Hard Drive Disk, in English) use magnetic fields to record information and are made up of mechanical parts. Hence they are called mechanical hard drives.
Other Similar Technology Comparisons
In general, they are cheaper than SSD drives, so they tend to offer more storage capacity. However, they have slower transfer speeds and are more vulnerable to shocks. They are also louder. However, they are the best option if you do not want to spend a lot of money on an external hard drive and / or do not need to save or transfer very large files at high speeds very often.
External SSD Drive
SSDs ( Solid State Disks ) are much faster than traditional hard drives, offering much higher read and write speeds. And although its price is also higher, the truth is that in recent years its cost has dropped considerably. They do not have moving parts, which makes them less vulnerable to shocks or falls and also less noisy. In addition, its size is usually smaller.
Wi-Fi External Hard Drive
Wi-Fi external hard drives are storage units with wireless connectivity over Wi-Fi networks. Therefore, they can be connected to other devices without the need for cables, making them much more convenient to use. In particular, they are especially practical for playing multimedia content on several devices at the same time. They usually have a battery, although there are not many models of external hard drives with Wi-Fi connectivity.
Main Brands and Alternatives
Here are some of the wirecutter external hard drives that you can find on the market today. We have chosen them from the opinions of previous buyers and after reading different reviews and comparisons of the most important models of the main manufacturers.
My Passport From WD
The WD My Passport is a 2.5 ″ (inch) format mechanical external hard drive. With it, you ensure a device that is light, small (fits in the palm of your hand), reliable, and very safe. It has the option to protect the content with password and hardware encryption. This way, you can rest easy knowing that your files are completely safe. It comes with WD Backup, so you can easily make backups.
You can choose from different storage capacities: 1TB ( terabyte ), 2TB, 4TB, and 5TB. In addition, it is available in several colors and there are specific versions for PC and Mac. It has a three-year warranty.
Advantages and Disadvantages of External Hard Drives
External hard drives offer a host of benefits, but they also have some drawbacks. They are lightweight, inexpensive, and easy to use, making them the ideal travel companions and the perfect complement to laptops, desktops, and game consoles, among other devices. Unfortunately, its small size also makes us forget or lose it more often than is desirable.
Here is a more complete list of the most important advantages and disadvantages of external drives. We have produced it from the opinions of buyers.
- They have a large storage capacity.
- They are light and easy to transport.
- Its price is not very high.
- They are very easy to use, plug and play.
- They are compatible with a multitude of devices.
- They have very high data transfer speeds.
- They can be stored practically anywhere.
- Information can be password protected.
- They need to be connected to another device in order to use them.
- They can be easily lost.
- If they fail, you can lose all the information.
- They can break down if they fall heavily.
- They are vulnerable to liquids.
- In some cases, they need to be formatted in order to use them.
- Some have not very attractive designs.
- Not all brands offer the same levels of quality.
What to Look Before Buying an External Hard Drive
Obviously, one of the most important purchase criteria when buying an external hard drive is its storage capacity. The larger its capacity, the more files you can store in it. To this day, although it is still possible to find 500 GB external hard drives, the truth is that the minimum capacity you should look for is 1 TB. Unless you opt for an SSD drive.
However, if you want it to store games, movies, HD videos or any other type of large file, then you will need a larger space, so, in that case, you should consider purchasing a 2 TB or 4 TB. In addition, the price difference is usually not very high.
Data Transfer Speed and Connectivity
The data transfer speed is a criterion that you must take into account especially if you are going to use the external hard drive with very large files, such as those containing 4K videos or video games. The best option if you need a fast device are SSD drives. If you opt for an HDD drive, make sure it has USB 3.0 or higher connectivity. In that sense, more and more drives have USB 3.1 connectivity (USB 3.1 Gen 2). Although if you want even more speed, you may be interested in one with a Thunderbolt 3 connection.
Did you know that the first hard drive in history had a capacity of 5 MB ( megabytes ) and weighed no more and no less than a ton?
Security and Management Software
It is possible that the data that you are going to save on the hard drive is confidential or has personal information that you do not want anyone to access. To prevent this from happening, many external hard drives have different password security systems. However, they are not all the same. Therefore, if you want to ensure a high level of protection, you should choose a disk that has AES 256-bit hardware encryption.
Weight, Dimensions and Durability
If you want the external hard drive to back up your most important files and then put it in a drawer, then you probably don’t have to worry about its weight and size. However, if you are looking for a disc to take with you regularly, it is essential that you choose one that is light, easy to transport and, above all, that it equips a shock-resistant casing. For this use, SSD drives are undoubtedly the best option, since having no moving parts they are more durable.
External Hard Drive Vs NAS
The external hard drive has to be connected to different computers to transfer files, so for many, it becomes an unsafe device. However, the external hard drive does not need an Internet connection to work, so the speed of the Internet does not affect its speed in transferring files.
On the other hand, the NAS is a device where you can connect many hard drives at the same time, being able to access the information of each one of them at any time and place, from a computer or telephone with the Internet. In addition, through the NAS you can make backup copies of all the files and have them in the cloud in case there is a problem with the hard drives connected to it.
In short, the NAS is where you connect all the storage devices to more easily find the files you need at the moment and external hard drives are always at hand for those times when you do not have an Internet connection, but that you need to access some specific data.
All this means that if you are one of the people who constantly stores and shares important information, it is best that you buy both products, NAS and external hard drive so that you have much more facilities.
FAQ: Wirecutter External Hard Drive
How to Install An External Hard Drive?
There is no doubt that more and more the amount of information that we must save on our computers is greater, so the hard disk fills up fast. Therefore, it is good to know how to install an external hard drive.
The first thing to do is connect the external drive to a power adapter, however, there are some that work through the power supplied by the USB cable. Next, connect the USB cable to the end of the disk and then to an empty USB port on your computer.
Then wait for the operating system to detect the hard drive and install the necessary drivers. Finally, check the computer to see if it has already read the information on the disc. If all this process goes well, it is possible to start using the external hard drive.
Can We Use The External Hard Drive as An Internal One?
Yes, you can, but not with all external hard drives. We recommend that you ask the seller of the external hard drive if this is possible.
In case the seller or the manufacturer assures you that you can use it as an internal disk of a desktop computer, the first thing you should do is remove the casing. To do this, preferably use debit cards or similar, so that you do not damage or scratch the external hard drive case. It is best that you leave it intact for when you decide to use the disk externally again.
Later, at one end you will find a kind of card with a USB connection, which you must remove by pressure. In this way, you will find the SATA connection, which in turn you will have to use to connect to the tower of the desktop computer.
Finally, the computer should recognize your hard drive. Now proceed to install an operating system, so that you can use the external disk as if you had bought an internal one.
What Are The Main Differences Between An External Hard Drive And A Pendrive?
Perhaps one of the most noticeable differences is the size. The first is made up of plates that rotate and a head that reads the data. On the other hand, pendrives are devices that have flash memory, which is a chip smaller than a postage stamp.
Likewise, pendrives are devices with a much lighter weight and their reading is faster than that of disks. However, if the latter has a USB 3.0 port, there will be no pendrive that surpasses them in speed.
On the other hand, there are models of external hard drives that offer up to 4 TB of storage, which is almost impossible today for a Pendrive.
Which Is Better, An External Hard Drive Or The Cloud?
The external hard drive is not eternal or no brand ensures that this is the case, that is, it could fail at any time so that the user would lose all the information they have stored on it.
Consequently, some people prefer to upload all their data to the cloud, for example, OneDrive, Dropbox, or other similar applications.
However, other people claim that uploading the information to the cloud implies having good Internet connectivity, especially if they are files of 500 GB or more. In this sense, they prefer to back up their data on external hard drives with 3.0 technology, to save the files much more quickly.
Many people even choose to purchase several external hard drives, to back up their most important work files on both devices. They do this in case any of the discs deteriorate.
Can The External Hard Drive Be Copy Protected?
Yes, most of the current external hard drives offer a security system that protects the files you have stored from outsiders who want to steal them. This is something you can enable or disable on your external hard drive when you first set it up.
Of course, since there are many models of external hard drives and each one has its own configuration ways, it is best to check the user manual or call the manufacturer for help.
The External Hard Drive Won’t Open
If the external hard drive, after being connected, does not open on the computer, it is recommended that you check if its drivers are installed. Although most discs are Plug and Play and do not require complex installations for the computer to recognize them, some do.
In addition, you may have to format the external hard drive, adapting it to the file format read by the computer with which you want to use it. To do this, it is also good that you check the original manual that comes with the hard drive or the brand’s website to do this process.
Another aspect that we can say is that not all discs are compatible with the operating system you have at home. Maybe you have an Apple MacBook Air and the drive will only read Windows and Linux computers, therefore you should review the product description before purchasing any hard drives.
As you have seen in our articles we find a great variety of external hard drives. From the smallest and most portable, to others with higher performance but larger for our desktop computer. It depends on our needs we will choose one of the preset options.
We recommend reading our article about the best hard drives on the market. And it may also be interesting to you: the best SSDs of the moment SATA, M.2 NVMe, and PCIe.
With this ends our article on the wirecutter external hard drives on the market, remember to share it on social networks so that it can help more users. What external HDD have you bought recently?