Backing up your data is something you should never compromise on, and one of the best ways to do it is investing in external hard drives.
External drives provide you with a portable option to move your data around anywhere you like. If your drive or computer fails or is invaded by a virus, you’ll always have a backup to restore after a wipe or on a new computer.
Data in the modern world is invaluable, and it’s often worth investing in an external hard drive to preserve it.
Best External Hard Drives in 2018
We’ve handpicked 6 external drives that we think outperform the rest. These external drives not only offer good speeds and a robust build but tend to have failure rates far less than other options in the market.
Failure is the number one major problem in external hard drives, so we’ve carefully picked the ones with the least amount of failures based on user and professional reviews.
To help you make a better purchase, we’ve also included a buyer’s guide at the end of the external hard drives reviews so you spend your money wisely.
Samsung T5 Portable SSD
Fast and Compact, But Also Expensive
Samsung T5 is the future of external drives, as it offers unparalleled speeds of up to 540MB/s, a compact design that fits in the palm of your hand, and state of the art connectivity options using USB Type-C.
When it comes to pure performance and portability, it’s just not possible to beat the Samsung T5. This is a solid state external drive that beats other external hard drives and SSDs out of the park. Just make sure you have plenty in your wallet for one.
Seagate Backup Plus 2TB
Ideal for More Conventional Use
The Seagate Backup Plus is an ideal offer for more regular users looking for a solidly built, fast, and reliable external hard drive. This external drive is consistently faster than other external hard drives in the market. It also comes in a solidly built casing that will protect your data.
It’s understandable if you can’t afford the Samsung T5 even though you want to. With the Seagate Backup Plus 2TB, you get a fast yet slim hard drive with plenty of storage and great reliability.
Solid State drives cost much more per GB than normal hard drives, but they are far better in overall performance much sturdier by default due to a lack of moving parts. Samsung’s T5 Portable SSD takes advantage of these features of SSDs to offer the best performing external drive you can buy.
The T5 portable SSD is unparalleled in performance, portability, and speed. It is considerably faster than even other portable SSDs out there, beating competition left and right. Utilizing USB 3.1 Gen 2 technology, this external drive uses a Type-C port for connectivity to deliver data transfer speeds up to 540 MB per second.
The drive is also incredibly sturdy, possessing an all-metal design that is able to protect it from physical damage. It also comes with AES 256-bit encryption to protect your data from possible hackers. All that comes in the size that will fit the palm of your hand.
This drive is ideal for individuals who will store very large essential files and require quick transfers. You will pay a premium price for this external drive, but you will get the best possible external storage out there as well.
- Incredibly fast
- Compact and lightweight
- AES 256-bit encryption
- Incredibly durable
- Very expensive
The Seagate Backup Plus external hard drive offers a fine balance between speed, performance, and cost-effectiveness. We like the 2TB version the most, as it is slim (the 4TB and 5TB versions are bulky) and offers great cost per GB.
Out of the many external hard drives out there, Seagate’s Back Plus 2TB external hard drive is one of the slimmest, most elegant looking drives out there. It is consistently faster than the competition when it comes to file transfer, though it obviously can’t compete with SSDs.
Bast on the thousands of reviews on Amazon, it has an average failure rate of 9 percent, which is acceptable. This Seagate external hard drive comes with Seagate’s customized backup software as well, but even without the software it is incredibly easy to use
The metallic external build is rugged and able to withstand abuse. It utilizes a USB 3.0 port to transfer data, and it does so at great speeds.
- Fast for a HDD
- Great, compact design
- Reliable performance
- Port wobbles when cable is moved around
- User’s have complained about Seagate’s customer service
For more conventional users, external hard drives using HDD technology are the way to go. Out of those, we love the Western Digital My Book the most. It’s a beefier version of WD’s famous My Passport external hard drives that have been dominating the mainstream market for years.
This Western Digital external hard drive is a lot heavier than most slim external hard drives, but this is because it offers a huge amount of space. The small My Book you can get is a whopping 3 TB, and the options go as far as 10 TB with the My Book Duo (two drives in one product), ensuring you have all the options you could ever hope for.
Data is transfer through USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports to allow for connection to a wide range of computers. Of course, you can’t expect SSD level read/write speeds, but the WD drives often tend to be the fastest among regular external hard drives, and My Book is no exception. It also comes with 256-bit AED hardware encryption.
This isn’t a very portable hard drive as other external drives though due to its bulky encasing, which is designed to offer rugged protection to the moving discs inside. You get a great $0.03 per GB value from the 8TB version of this drive, indicating the cost effectiveness despite the seemingly hefty price tag.
- Fast for an external HDD
- Robust and durable build
- Incredible storage capacity
- Low failure rate
- Bulky and heavy
Buffalo focuses on security and durability with the MiniStation Extreme. If you want an external hard drive that can withstand a lot of physical abuse yet still stay secure, this might be the one you’ll buy.
The Buffalo MiniStation Extreme is compatible with both Mac and Windows machine and provides a lot of flexibility. Right off the bat, you’ll notice its robust construction that utilizes military grade material to offer dust and water resistance. In this case are a built-in USB 3.0 cable which we love.
In addition to physical toughness, Buffalo has also ensured digital security through multiple means. It is secured with AES 256-bit encryption. However, the selling point of this drive is its NFC security. With the drive comes an NFC smart card that you can tap on the external drive’s body to lock/unlock the drive to access your data.
The Buffalo MiniStation Extreme focuses on protecting sensitive data through physical endurance and digital security, making it ideal for those who need the extra bit of data protection. Its speeds aren’t the fastest in the market though.
- Robust, rugged build
- Integrated USB cables
- NFC security
- AES data encryption
- Not as fast
Solid state drives will usually cost you an arm and a leg for how much durability and speed they offer, but the Adata SD700 comes in at a great price. The 512GB version of this rugged storage device comes in at around $120, which is excellent considering how much external SSD drives cost.
Adata doesn’t skimp on quality though. This robust external drive is perhaps the only one we’ve seen that comes with an IP68 dust and water resistance rating. The military-grade shockproof casing gives it the toughness of a bulletproof vest, and it is capable of supporting all major operating systems, including Android.
The read/write speeds of the Adata SD700 are faster than all external hard drives, though it isn’t the fastest overall SSD. Read/write speeds can go as fast as 440MB/s, which is commendable, though it does fall short of Samsung’s T5.
For the price, this is the best SSD external drive you can get due to its durability, performance, and good value (compared to other SSDs).
- Robust, rugged build
- IP68 water and dust resistance
- Fast speeds
- High failure rate for an SSD
When you want an external hard drive that will survive drops and is waterproof and dustproof, there aren’t many options better than the CalDigit Tuff. This incredibly durable external HDD is perhaps the toughest of its kind out there, rated to survive drops up to 4 feet in height.
CalDigit isn’t a name as popular as Western Digital, Samsung, or even Seagate, but the company is becoming more renowned now due to the Tuff. This is a 2TB external hard drive that comes with a multitude of connectivity options.
It features a USB 3.0 socket as well as a USB Type-C connection. The Type-C connection is Thunderbolt 3 compatible, allowing for fast transfers if your computer can utilize it.
The dust and water resistance capacity is limited to IP57, but it performs incredibly well. We’re also glad to see the CalDigit Tuff come with cables for both USB types, reducing the need to buy a separate cable if you use the less common but faster Type-C ports.
The speed of the CalDigit Tuff isn’t the fastest. It is rated at transfer speeds up to 130MB/s, whereas in reality it performs slightly slower. This is due to the slower 5400 rpm rotation speed of the discs.
CalDigit Tuff is designed for individuals seeking external hard drives that will withstand shock and physical abuse, and it offers that in deluge.
- Robust, rugged build
- IP57 dust and water resistance
- Shock resistant
- Multiple connectivity options
- Slower than many modern external hard drives
Most people have stopped using hard disc drives as the primary storage units in their computers and opt to use the speed, efficiency, and durability of solid state drives instead.
Though this is ideal for regular volumes of data, backing up an enormous amount of data requires much larger capacities. This is why external hard drives are still popular and relevant. External SSD drives like the Samsung T5 outperform external HDD in every category except the most important one: price per GB.
The cost of buying an external SSD is what has prevented them from overtaking external hard drives. If your wallet is burning a hole in your pocket, then we highly recommend future-proof external SSD drives like the Samsung T5. For everyone else, external hard drives are still ubiquitously available.
The build and construction of external drives is what makes them ideal backup storage units. Hard drives, in particular, are fragile because they comprise of moving discs that revolve at very high speeds.
Even the smallest impact can potentially cause catastrophic failure, corrupting a huge part of the precious data you may have stored in them. An external hard drive is even more susceptible to this as it is not mounted or installed in any computer or laptop casing.
For this reason, you should always look for an external hard drive that has a robust build. Many external hard drive manufacturers use shock resistant, strong external casings for their products, and that’s what you should be looking for.
The connectivity of your hard drive dictates the speed and also ease of use. Connectivity isn’t what determines the speed (the design of the drive does), but it is important in transferring data efficiently and effortlessly.
In modern times, you should buy a hard drive that has a USB 3.0 port instead of slower 2.0 ports. If your computer has a Type-C port, you should opt for an external hard drive with one, since Type-C ports allow for much faster data transfer than USB 3.0.
Do I need so much space?
If you’re old enough to remember the era of Pentium processors, you’ll know that at that time even 20GB seemed like a big deal. Nowadays, videogames alone are thrice the size of that.
Data usage and space is always growing rapidly. 1 terabyte of data seemed insane a decade ago, but now it’s quite normal. For this reason, having lots of space is never too bet as it makes your external hard drive future-proof.
If you need speed of transfer and accessibility more than space, you should consider buying a smaller but faster SSD external drive instead.
How important is data encryption and security?
We believe you shouldn’t compromise too much on security. However, that doesn’t mean you need to spend a few dozen extra bucks to get a few encryptions or unique security features.
Generally, most external hard drives will come with some form of encryption to protect your data. If your data is super-sensitive, consider investing in something like the Buffalo MiniStation Extreme for that added layer of NFC protection.
What benefits do external hard drives offer over normal flash drives?
The major difference between the two is form factor. It seems like an unimportant difference, but it isn’t. An external hard drive’s form factor is designed to protect the drive and, by extension, your data.
A flash drive, on the other hand, is designed to transfer data from one computer to another. You can do the same with an external hard drive too, but you get much more storage space in a more secure form factor. And that form factor is specifically designed to back up your data.
How much warranty should I look for?
Most external hard drives usually come with a warranty of one to two years. If you are a heavy user and expect a lot of moving around, you want a drive with three to five years of warranty, especially if you’re going for an HDD external drive. Drives can and will fail eventually, which is why investing in a more expensive one that offers more warranty is far better than investing in a cheap one that doesn’t.