Back up your precious digital files with the best external hard drives available.
Extreme Pro Portable SSD V2 2TB
Professional G-Drive Pro
Rugged USB-C 2TB
Backup Plus 5TB
SD700 External SSD
My Book Duo 4TB
Rocket XTRM-Q SSD (1TB)
(Image credit: Samsung)
The best external hard drives and the best SSDs (solid-state drives) are vital tools of the trade for creatives for whom storing, moving and backing up hefty digital files is part of the job. These days, there are computers with massive internal storage space, but that still won't usually cut it when it comes to storing a big library of work, but then there's also the issue of security. Even if you keep most of your files on your computer, backing them up is very, very advisable. The best external hard drive can provide peace of mind so you have your most important files safely secured in case the worst happens.
Choosing the best external hard drive can be a difficult task, however. They come in many formats, sizes and builds, offer varying connectivity options and some offer a host of additional features. To make it easier for you to pick the best external hard drive or the best SSD for you, we've chosen a selection of our favourite options for both PCs and Macs. We've rated them for build quality and durability, portability, capacity, transfer speed, connectivity options and value for money based our own reviews and recommendations from our network of contacts. We've included options that should suit every need, whether you're looking for a great value hard with a big capacity, a zippy SSD or enhanced security.
If you need help on what to look for when choosing the best external hard drive for you, scroll down to the questions section at the bottom of the guide. You'll need to decide what capacity of storage you need (this is measured in gigabytes (GB) or terabytes (TB)), and what kind of hard drive you want: either a traditional external hard drive (HDD) or a faster solid-state drive (SSD) – again see the explainer at the bottom to learn more about the difference.
Our guide below lists the best external hard drives and the best SSDs, outlining the specs and the pros and cons of each. We also provide links to the retailers with the best current prices online. If you're looking for a device specifically for gaming, see our guide to the best SSD for PS5, and remember you can also back up files with the best cloud storage. If you're looking for more accessories, you might also want to take a look at our pick of the best power banks.
If you're looking for plenty of reliable storage at a good price, it's hard to go wrong with the Western Digital My Passport range. This popular storage option is one of the best external hard drives around and provides plenty of capacity, from 1TB to 5TB, and if security matters to you then its 256-bit AES encryption should appeal. It's also perfect if you want regular backups; it comes with WD's own backup software so that you can set it up and leave it to get on with keeping your data secure.
Data transfer speeds are impressive. And while this can't match the speeds of solid-state drive devices (SSDs), it hits a great balance between high storage and quick file transfers, without knocking the price way up. That makes this our pick as the best external hard drive available today for those seeking a sweet spot between value, speed and reliability. If you need something faster though, Western Digital does offer SSD and Ultra versions: check our selection of WD My Passport deals for the best prices.
02. SanDisk Extreme Pro v2
The best SSD overall for fast transfer speeds and lots of space
HDD or SSD? : SSD
Interface: USB 3.2 Gen 2x2
Transfer speed: 2,000MB per second
Warranty: 5 years
Size: 1.04 x 5.79 x 11.07cm
Reasons to buy
AES 256-bit encryption and password protection
Weather-resistant rugged design
Reasons to avoid
Aimed at professionals SanDisk’s Extreme Pro v2 is a super fast SSD with a solid, durable build. While it doesn't have a Thunderbolt 3 connection, it can achieve comparable speeds working with recent devices. The rigid aluminium chassis is protected by impact-absorbing silicone for extra robustness, and the drive is IP55 water and dust-resistant. It offers security features too with AES 256-bit full-disk encryption and password protection to lock access to your files. It's an expensive drive, but if you want speed and peace of mind, it's the best we've found to date.
03. Samsung T7 Touch
The best SSD overall for a balance of speed and value
HDD or SSD? : SSD
Interface: USB 3.2 Gen2
Transfer speed: Read / write: up to 1,050 / 1,000 MB per second
Speed can be off the essence if you have gigabytes of big image or video files and don't want to be stuck watching the progress bar crawl along at a glacial pace. That's when an SSD is the smart option over an HDD. They're more expensive, but a lot faster. And the Samsung T7 Touch is a great value option, with the added bonus of fingerprint security (this is the difference from the standard Samsung T7)
The built-in fingerprint scanner backed up with AES 265-bit encryption, and once you set that up nobody except you will be able to access your files. You can also use password protection if you prefer. You can load, edit and save 4K video directly on the T7, something that can be painfully slow with a USB hard disk. You can install applications onto it, and you could even run an entire alternative operating system off it at full speed if you wanted to.
We've been impressed with this range of Samsung SSDs ever since our Samsung T3 review years ago. Like the earlier drives in the range, the T7 is compact, lightweight and robust, with a shock-resistant aluminium housing that means it can withstand drops of up to two metres. The T5 is still widely available, but the T7 is twice as fast, with read/write speeds up to 1,050MB/s and 1,000MB/s. And we've seen some great discounts on the Samsung T7, so get in there if you want to save big on one of the best SSDs around.
04. SanDisk Professional G-Drive Pro external hard drive
The best external hard drive for Macs
HDD or SSD?: HDD
Capacity: 4TB, 6TB, 12TB, 18TB, 20TB
Interface: 1 x USB-C 3.2 Gen 1; 2 x Thunderbolt 3
Transfer speed: Read / write: 1,050 / 1,000MB per second
Size: 13 x 21 x 4.55cm
Reasons to buy
Daisy chain six other units
Reasons to avoid
Needs reformatting for PC use
This SanDisk hard drive is huge, and it comes Mac-ready (though you can format it to work with any PC). The eye-watering capacities (up to a whopping 20TB!) aren't its only appeal. We love the clean aluminium design, the fast 1,050MBps and 1,000MBps read and write speeds, and the USB-C plus two Thunderbolt ports. In fact, if you're looking for a massive external hard drive for work, this is a brilliant option for digital creatives.
Be warned - if you're looking for a cute, portable little hard drive, the G-Drive Pro is not that. Whether you go for the 4TB or the 18TB version, the big, metal case is something of a beast. The fact that you can daisy chain up to six of these together tells you this is aimed at professionals and small businesses that create a large amount of digital work that needs backing up on the regular.
Of course, with the Thunderbolt ports, you can either use the mains plug that the G-Drive Pro comes with, or you can just plug into your Mac / PC and power up that way. This allows for a bit of portability, but this is by no means a pocket-friendly pickup and go option – unlike the next choice on our list of the best hard drives...
05. LaCie Rugged USB-C External Hard Drive
The best external hard drive for rugged protection
We're not entirely enamoured with that bright orange rubber casing, but one thing we are certain about is that the LaCie Rugged USB-C is an excellent choice if you're after the best external hard drive for durability. Lacie's rugged hard drives can take some rough treatment. In fact, the company says they can survive the pressure of a one-ton car and withstand up to 1.2-metre drops.
They're rain-resistant too. So if you want plenty of storage to take on a camping trip or into a mosh pit, this is the ideal option. The bright casing makes it quite difficult to lose this hard drive too. The transfer speed is a rather sluggish, especially if you need to transfer heavy files, but if you need something faster, Lacie also does a range of rugged SSDs with a similar look, and which can withstand even rougher handling.
For a reliable backup solution that you can set up and forget about, the Seagate Backup Plus is just the ticket. It comes with its own backup software and can be set up to safely store data from just about all your devices. So not only will it move files from your computer, it can also grab data from your phone, cloud storage and social media accounts if you want.
Again, as an HDD you don't get mega fast speeds, but you do get a good choice of storage capacity from 1TB-5TB at a good price, and it's a good looker with an attractive slim metal design that's also nice and portable. Bear in mind that if you're a Mac user you'll find that it's formatted for PC, however if you install the Mac NTFS driver you'll be able to use it on both platforms without the need for reformatting.
There are plenty of external hard drives that secure your data with 256-bit AES encryption, but if you want to take security to the next level then check out the iStorage diskAshur2. You might mistake it for an SSD given the price and amount of storage available, but it's actually an HDD. What you're paying for is some serious security.
The key feature of this external hard drive is its built-in keypad that enables you to set your own 7-15 digit PIN. Without that, the diskAshur2's 256-bit AES encryption ensures that nobody can see what's on your drive. And if you're extra-sensitive about security, there's also the option to create a self-destruct PIN that'll wipe the drive when entered. There are plenty of storage and colour options, and if you want extra speed, iStorage also does a range of similarly secure external SSDs (with prices to match).
SSD storage is fast, but it's expensive compared to a hard disk. If you want the cheapest possible external SSD, you can build your own (see our guide further down the page). But if you'd rather just buy an external SSD, the Adata SD700 is one of the most affordable we've found. It's got a rugged design too.
While SSDs can take more punishment than hard drives, this one goes a further: it's water-resistant for up to 30 minutes, and it's also IP68 rated, which means that it can withstand dust, dirt and sand. Perfect if you enjoy working on the beach! The starting capacity isn't enormous, and the write speeds aren't the fastest for an SSD (compare them with the Samsung options we mention above), but this is great value.
If you work regularly with 4K or 8K video or massive 3D scenes, you're likely to need a bit more storage than most of the best external hard drives can provide. In fact, you might need something like the WD My Book Duo, which delivers storage options up to a staggering 36TB. While that might seem like overkill for any individual, there's a good reason why you might choose this over smaller external drives.
Instead of using all the storage normally, you can choose to set up the My Book Duo's drives as a RAID 1 backup, which means your data's duplicated across two drives. This means that if one of them fails, everything's still safe on the other drive. It makes this the ideal choice for anyone who doesn't want to leave anything to chance where their files are concerned.
This drive provides two additional USB ports on the rear, so you can easily insert flash sticks. The device has 256-bit AES hardware encryption, and automatic backup software (WD SmartWare Pro). It's also worth noting that the enclosure used is fully serviceable, and that WD ships the drive already pre-formatted for Windows users (NTFS). So you will need to reformat it to work with your Mac.
10. Sabrent Rocket XTRM-Q external SSD
A super fast SSD available in QLC and TLC versions
HDD or SSD?: SSD
Interface: USB Type-C, USB 3.2, Thunderbolt 3
Transfer speed: Up to 2700 MB/s via Thunderbolt 3 on Mac
Warranty: 1 year
Size: 4.49 x 10.49 x 1.40cm
Weight: 129g - 520kg
Reasons to buy
Super fast, portable and lightweight
Compatible with Thunderbolt and USB 3.2
Comes in QLC and TLC versions
Reasons to avoid
Gets expensive with high capacities
The Sabrent Rocket XTRM-Q external SSD is very aptly named. It's super fast and goes up to a massive 16TB capacity, while offering great heat dissipation in a compact and durable case. There's no messing with ports – there's just the one TB3 / USB 3.2 connection. You can get an incredible transfer speed of up to 2700 MB/s with Thunderbolt 3 and a still very decent 900 MB/s via USB.
You also have two choices of flash memory: QLC, which is best for read-intensive workloads, and TLC, which is better for write-intensive requirements. The ability to choose is a great move from Sabrent so you can go for the option that best meets how you'll use the device.
When choosing the best external hard drive for you, you need to choose an option that has enough storage space for all your data, ideally with room to spare. A 500GB drive will probably do the job if you want to clear project files off your main computer, but if you regularly work with video then you'll probably need more than that. We'd recommend working out roughly how much storage space you need, then doubling it to be on the safe side.
You'll need also to be sure you can actually connect the drive to your PC or Mac. The early generation of rectangular USB-A ports has largely been superseded by the riversweeps 777 online casino apper, smaller reversible USB-C ports, which now dominate modern laptops. Make sure you know which slots your device has, and that the external hard drive or SSD supports one of them.
External storage should also be fast and responsive, ideally as fast as moving things about on your normal computer. The external hard drives on this list are all pretty nippy, but if you want something even faster, a solid-state drive (SSD) offers the ultimate in speed, even though these devices are also more expensive. For more on this, keep reading below.
Hard drive vs SSD: which is best?
When you're buying an external drive, you have a choice between two types of drive: a hard disk drive (HDD) or a solid-state drive (SSD). Hard drives have been around for a very long time and are built around a spinning platter. SSDs are a comparatively recent development. They store data using flash memory, which means they have no moving parts. It also means that SSDs are lighter, faster and use less power, however the downside is that they inevitably cost more.
If you want to store huge amounts of data while keeping prices low, a HDD is the way to go. They offer big capacity for accessible prices. The downside is that they're relatively slow and their moving parts make them more susceptible to damage, since they can become unreliable if they get knocked or dropped. This means you shouldn't use an HDD as your only back up, especially if you carry it around with you.
SSDs are faster and more reliable since they don't have delicate moving parts. They come at a higher price, but if speed is your top priority, and especially if you move a lot of large files or want to run programs off the drive, then they're often worth paying extra for.
Alternatively, you can always use a smaller SSD for files that you need to access or move around often, and then store the data that you use less often on a higher capacity HDD.
We’ve included both types of device in our selection of the best external hard drives. Right now, our top pick for best external hard drive is the Western Digital My Passport 4TB, which is a mechanical hard drive. We think it offers creatives the perfect balance of speed, reliability, portability and price for both Mac and PC users.
Can I make my own external hard drive or SSD?
Yes, if you don't mind getting a little hands-on, you certainly can. It's possible to save money by buying an internal hard drive or SSD and a suitable enclosure and putting it together yourself; it'll take five minutes, tops. For the best performance, go for an NVMe SSD and enclosure, but bear in mind that to get top speeds out of it you'll need to plug it into a USB 3.1 Gen 2 port. For less speed at a better price, seek out a SATA SSD and a compatible enclosure; it's also easy to find hard disks and enclosures for maximum storage at the lowest prices.
Note that you won't benefit from any useful automated backup software that you might get with a ready-made external drive, so if that matters to you, you'll either need to source your own or settle for one of the options above.
It's also worth knowing that if an external drive fails on you, it's possible that the fault's in the enclosure rather than the drive. So if your external drive dies, it's worth finding a cheap enclosure and swapping the drive into that to see if it comes back to life; it's worked for us before!
Want some more great deals on the best external hard drives and SSDs? Here's a selection of the best prices in your region.
Beren Neale is the deals editor at Creative Bloq. After editing several creative and design magazines - including the graphic design mag Computer Arts - he found his riversweeps 777 online casino app on the biggest global art and design website, helping digital creatives get the best deals on the kit that they need.