Best Portable Hard Drives

Review & Comparison, Last Update September 14, 2018
Have no idea where to store gigabytes of your data? That's simple - a portable hard drive! Thanks to this small device, you will be able to store and play your favorite movies, enjoy music, keep all your photos, and so on. We have selected 5 best portable hard drives, so go ahead and pick one! ...Read more ...Read less
BEST 2018
PROS
CONS
OUR VERDICT
CAPACITY
INTERFACE
OS COMPATIBILITY
BACKUP AND DATA PROTECTION
SIZE&WEIGHT
Warranty
 
PROS
WD My Passport Pro portable hard drive comes with a 3-year warranty and ensures quite a high data transfer rate. The device is available in a variety of colors (the power cord is of the same color as the device).
CONS
The light indicator on the casing seems too bright for some users.
OUR VERDICT
WD My Passport Pro portable hard drive is a really worthy device that not only backs up your data but encrypts it as well. If total security is your priority - Western Digital is the best pick!
detailed parameters
CAPACITY

4TB (1TB, 2TB, 3TB)

INTERFACE
USB 3.0 (USB 2.0 compatible)
OS COMPATIBILITY
Windows, Mac OS (reformatting required)
BACKUP AND DATA PROTECTION
Optional 256-bit AES hardware encryption, Automated local and cloud backup
SIZE&WEIGHT

4.3" x 3.2" x 0.6"

0.32 lbs

Warranty

3-year limited

PROS
Seagate is a fantastic portable hard drive that not only offers incredible storage space but also saves energy due to a sophisticated power management. The power cord is very long (18 inches).
CONS
No cloud backup capabilities.
OUR VERDICT
Seagate is an excellent portable hard drive for backing up the whole storage drives. A perfect solution for safe data storage.
detailed parameters
CAPACITY

4TB (1TB, 2TB)

INTERFACE
USB 3.0 (USB 2.0 compatible)
OS COMPATIBILITY
Windows, Mac OS (reformatting required)
BACKUP AND DATA PROTECTION
Local Backup
SIZE&WEIGHT

4.61" x 3.15" x 0.82"

0.5 lbs

Warranty

2-year

PROS

With this model, you get access to the free trial of WD SmartWare Pro. It helps you store your backups on the external hard drive itself and in the Dropbox.

CONS

The user manual could be more informative. 

OUR VERDICT

The WD Element HDD transfers data very fast with the USB 3.0 (100 Mb/s). And with its capacity, this model can store large video/audio libraries as well as expand the storage room of your gaming console.

detailed parameters
CAPACITY

2TB (1TB, 3TB, 4TB, 6TB, 8TB, 10TB)

INTERFACE

USB 3.0 (USB 2.0 compatible)

OS COMPATIBILITY

Windows® 10, Windows 8, Windows 7 (reformatting required for other operating systems)

BACKUP AND DATA PROTECTION

Automatic local and cloud backup with WD SmartWare Pro

SIZE&WEIGHT

4.35" x 3.23" x 0.59"

0.29 lbs

Warranty

2-year limited

PROS

Seagate Dashboard app allows performing backup at a single click. You can send lots of media files to social networks and share them with all your friends and contacts.

CONS

You need a special NTFS driver for using this external hard drive both with Windows and Mac OS computers.

OUR VERDICT

You will receive200GB of cloud storage after registering at Seagate.com. Not only will you get a superb external hard drive, but you will also save up about $95. Real bargain!

detailed parameters
CAPACITY

2TB (1TB, 4TB, 5TB)

INTERFACE

USB 3.0 (USB 2.0 compatible)

OS COMPATIBILITY

Windows, Mac OS (reformatting required)

BACKUP AND DATA PROTECTION

Automatic local and cloud backup

SIZE&WEIGHT

4.6" x 3.1" x 0.8"

0.5 lbs

Warranty

2-year

PROS
Toshiba Canvio Basics portable hard drive is quite a fast device that boasts an average seek time of just 12 ms and a cache buffer of 8MB. An internal shock sensor protects data in case you accidentally drop the unit.
CONS
The power cable is rather short, though it's enough if you use it with a laptop.
OUR VERDICT
Toshiba portable hard drive is an optimal solution for people who are always on the go and need a reliable and smudge-resistant device.
detailed parameters
CAPACITY

1TB (500GB, 2TB, 3TB)

INTERFACE
USB 3.0 (USB 2.0 compatible)
OS COMPATIBILITY
Windows, Mac OS (reformatting required)
BACKUP AND DATA PROTECTION
Internal shock sensor
SIZE&WEIGHT

4.6" x 3.1" x 0.5"

0.5 lbs

Warranty

1-year limited

Western Digital WD My Passport

Capacity and Transfer Speed

WD My Passport Ultra portable hard drive is a great option for storing gigabytes of your data. This device is available in several capacity options: 1TB, 2TB, 3TB and 4TB. We have selected 1TB portable hard drive but you can choose the other one. Such capacity is sufficient for storing a lot of movies or some graphic files (created in AutoCAD, for example), whereas 500GB version is enough for music and photos storage. The data transfer speed is up to 5 Gb/s (in case of USB 3.0 connection) and 480 Mb/s for USB 2.0. However, the real transfer rate is lower since the spindle rotation speed of this portable hard drive is 5,200 RPM.

Review of Western Digital WD My Passport Portable External Hard Drive

Connection and Compatibility

WD My Passport Ultra portable hard drive uses a USB 3.0 connection and it's clear that it's backward compatible with USB 2.0. Out-of-the-box can the unit work with Windows computers and no drivers are required. The reason is simple - the NTFS file management system. Windows Vista, 7, 8, 8.1, and even 10 are absolutely fine for this 1TB portable hard drive. If you are a devoted Mac user, just reformat this drive right after you buy it - and you will be able to use it with your iMac or MacBook.

Western Digital WD My Passport Portable External Hard Drive in the use

Design and Protection

This portable hard drive is compact and fits into any pocket of a standard laptop bag or backpack. The device is just the same size as your passport: 4.3 x 3.2 x 0.6 inches. Since the 1TB portable hard drive weighs just 0.3 pounds, you can easily carry it wherever you go. If you wish to get a device of your favorite color, the choice of available colors is as follows: black, blue, white, orange, red and yellow. The surface of the unit is matte, so the casing looks elegant and rich. Now we've come to the most important advantage of WD My Passport Ultra portable hard drive - your data protection. Unlike other devices, this one boasts a 256-bit AES hardware encryption, so all your files can be securely password-protected. Moreover, we recommend you to use WD Backup software - it will help you backup different files and save them to the portable hard drive or to a Dropbox™ cloud storage (Dropbox account required).

Detailed review of Western Digital WD My Passport Portable External Hard Drive

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer


VIDEO
WD My Passport 2TB Black Unboxing and SpeedTest

What customers say about this product

Features

USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 compatible

Key Specs

High Capacity Available - Up to 4TB (The older model when released had up to 3TB capacity, up until a 6/28/16 release of a short lived 4TB model)
 

Seagate Expansion

Capacity and Transfer Speed

Seagate Expansion portable hard drive we have tested boasts the largest storage capacity among other devices on our shortlist - 4TB. Therefore, you can store lots of files: movies, music, images, PC games, documents, and so on. If you want to save up, you are welcome to choose one of less 'roomy' options: 1TB, 2TB, or 3TB. As for the data transfer speed, it's quite mediocre - up to 120 MB/s. However, it's not that little and you won't need to wait for hours till your Full HD video is copied to this portable hard drive.

 

Review of Seagate Expansion Expansion Portable External Hard Drive

Connection and Compatibility

Seagate Expansion portable hard drive connects to computers and other devices via a long 18-inch cable and a USB 3.0 interface. No need to mention, USB 3.0 is way faster than USB 2.0. But we would like to draw your attention to the cable. Its length makes it convenient for connecting this portable hard drive to a PC. Very often portable HDDs have short cables so users have to place the device close to a system unit, which means they need to bend down, which is really uncomfortable. As for OS compatibility, Seagate Expansion portable hard drive is pre-formatted in NTFS, so you can connect it to any Windows-operated computer. Mac OS X is also supported (10.7 and higher) but a reformatting is required.

Seagate Expansion Expansion Portable External Hard Drive in the use

Design and Protection

This 4TB portable hard drive looks very stylish. It has a rough surface with lots of small sharpened triangles. Note that this device is made of plastic, so be careful and try not to drop it. Remember that all HDDs (and portable drives are no exception) are quite fragile due to the use of a small magnetic disc inside. Some people think that the higher the capacity of a portable hard drive is, the bulkier it is, but it isn't quite true. This Seagate model has the dimensions of 4.61 x 3.15 x 0.82 inches. Thus, it's an excellent device for those who need to store a lot of files that can be accessed right away.

Detailed review of Seagate Expansion Expansion Portable External Hard Drive

Additional Info

    Manufacturer


VIDEO
FIX for clicking Seagate Expansion external USB hard drive

What customers say about this product

Key Specs

It's pretty solid HDD.

Features

I purchased this to use with my 8 year old Netbook as an external portable hard drive. When out and about, and where power is not available, I can plug this into my Netbook and transfer photos and files to/from it.

Size & Weight

The portability of this drive is so convenient, not only size wise but in the way it doesnt require any other power source aside from the USB connection.

Included

The drive comes packaged with the drive itself, a shortish USB 3.0 cable.
 

Western Digital Elements

Plug and Transfer

The WD Element can rightly be called one of the most reliable external hard drives on the market. It is quite compact for the model with a storage space of 2 TB and fairly affordable for the HDD of its range. Plus, the manufacturer offers you more and less capacious models (1TB / 2 TB / 3 TB / 4 TB) so that you could get the one that meets your individual needs.

As any other portable hard drive in our review, this one is powered through the USB cable. You can either use USB 3.0 or 2.0, but as you know, data transfer is faster with the former: it is 100 Mb/s with USB 3.0 and about 38 Mb/s with its alternative. Speaking in terms of time, to burn a 1GB video file on your WD, you will need to wait for either 10 or 40 seconds with USB 3.0 or 2.0 respectively.

The Element HDD is compatible with most OSs: Windows 7 and higher, Mac, and Linux. For Windows users, it is ready to use right from the box, just plug it into your PC and you are ready to go. The external hard drive is NTFS pre-formatted for Windows. If you reformat your hard drive in FAT-32 for example, it will work on any system. Gamers can also benefit from this model since this WD hard drive can easily expand storage on Xbox One, PS4, and other gaming consoles. A great opportunity to have all the important data at hand 24/7.

Review of Western Digital Elements Portable External Hard Drive

Intuitive Control

As we have mentioned before this model is user-friendly and it starts working right after you plug it in. It’s like using a flash drive, though no flash drive will give you so much storage space at this price. But there is more!

The Element hard drive comes with the WD SmartWare Pro. It allows you to back up your data in Dropbox thus expanding your data storage options greatly. The installation app is on the HDD, you just need to run it on your PC and follow several simple instructions. However, don’t forget to save it elsewhere before formatting the hard drive.

Western Digital Elements Portable External Hard Drive in the use

Made to Last

Being made of high-quality materials, the WD Element pleases its user with a pretty durable construction. It is wear-proof and can withstand accidental drops and hits, thus protecting the hard drive and all your data reliably.

The front and back sides of the housing have a matte finish so it is not a fingerprint magnet. That is a clever touch considering how annoying fingerprints on a glossy surface can be. Otherwise, the design is pretty simple, no bells and whistles. If you care little about your HDD being eye-catching and more about its functionality, that wouldn't be much of a problem, though. Finally, this 2TB model is pretty compact, so there is no need to carry your briefcase for the HDD only. Just drop it in your pocket.

Detailed review of Western Digital Elements Portable External Hard Drive

Good Value for Money

Without a doubt, the WD element hard drive is a pretty simple and user-friendly model that can store hundreds of video files, thousands of audio tracks, and so many more for you securely. And at the same time, it won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Does it sound like the hard drive you are looking for? Then the WD HDD is right up your alley.

Western Digital Elements Portable External Hard Drive application

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer


 

Seagate Backup Plus Slim

Expand Your Data Storage Capabilities

The new series of Seagate external hard drives not only got larger capacity (up to 4TB) but also became more compact. However, today having a large capacity only is insufficient - there are lots of other manufacturers of external hard drives and their devices might provide the same storage space and that's why software comes to the fore. No secret that any user has gigabytes of important files that need to be kept safe. And if you could use a couple of flash drives several years ago, an external hard drive is required to do the same thing today. This Seagate external HDD is rather compact and you can carry it with you (in a pocket of your jacket, for example) and use whenever you need to. The durability of any external hard drive depends on the material it's made of. The casing of this Seagate external hard drive is made of metal, which ensures a decent shock- and scratch-resistance. If a color matters to you, you are welcome to choose one of four available colors: black, blue, red or silver. In all, this is a really worthy device that will backup all your important files and you will never lose them.

Review of Seagate Backup Plus Slim External Hard Disk

Back up and Save Up

The first thing you should do after purchasing this amazing external hard drive is install the Seagate Dashboard app. The Protect function allows you to make a backup with a single click or you can create your own backup schedule and the software will do it automatically. If you deal with lots of data, back it all up with the help of this function and you will never get in trouble. Moreover, nearly everybody uses smartphones today and social networks have become a part of our everyday life. Millions of people take pictures and upload them to Facebook and other similar networks. However, most smartphones have a limited storage space and that's why you can use Seagate Lyve app that will move the images from your device right to the external hard drive. Moreover, Seagate gives every user 200GB of free OneDrive storage. And believe our experience, keeping your most important files in a cloud storage ensures the maximum safety.

Seagate Backup Plus Slim External Hard Disk in the use

Useful Tip

Install NTFS driver for Mac and use this disk with both PC and Mac devices without reformatting.

Detailed review of Seagate Backup Plus Slim External Hard Disk

More Products to Consider

USB hubs will help you charge several gadgets at a time!

Seagate Backup Plus Slim External Hard Disk application

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer


VIDEO
Seagate Backup Plus Slim 4TB PORTABLE External Hard Drive - (Black) USB 3.0/2.0

What customers say about this product

Key Specs

It is amazingly small and compact, not much bigger than my cell phone. It is an attractive blue color. It is good value for the money in terms of a full 4TB of storage. The packaging is very easy to open--no clamshell plastic.

Features

Very small, much smaller than I thought, was thinking it was a larger form factor like the older archive drives I have. Nice.
 

Toshiba Canvio Basics

Capacity and Transfer Speed

Just like other portable hard drives, this model is available in several capacity options. If you wish to backup images of your system drive, use the smallest 500GB portable hard drive. If you need a device for storing your photos and music tracks - a 1TB version will be enough. And if you wish to store high-resolution movies, consider getting a 2TB or 3TB portable hard drive. The spindle rotation speed is 5,400 RPM and the average seek time is 12 ms. The cache buffer is 8MB. Thanks to the above-mentioned features, copying an HD movie will take just about 3-4 minutes. Pretty fast! As for the maximum transfer speed supported by the connection interface (USB 3.0), it's 5Gb/s.

Review of Toshiba Canvio Basics Portable External Hard Drive

Connection and Compatibility

Just like a top-notch Toshiba Canvio Connect II portable hard drive, this unit has a USB 3.0 connection interface. We hope you remember that any USB 3.0 is backward compatible with USB 2.0 interface. Toshiba is pre-formatted in the NTFS file system and that's why it can work with all modern Windows versions (Vista, 7, 8, 10, etc.) without any drivers. Mac users must perform a reformatting of this portable hard drive in order to make it compatible with iMacs and MacBooks.

Toshiba Canvio Basics Portable External Hard Drive in the use

Design and Protection

Toshiba Canvio Basics portable hard drive is among the most compact devices of this type - the dimensions are 4.6 x 3.1 x 0.5 inches. We would like to stress that you can carry the drive right in a pocket of your jacket since it weighs just 0.5 pounds. The casing of this device is made of plastic with a matte surface, which isn't going to slip out of your hands. Toshiba offers this 1TB portable hard drive in the following colors: black, silver, and white. Thus, you can pick the one to fit your laptop or computer. As far as data protection is concerned, this portable hard drive has an internal shock sensor that prevents data loss even if you accidentally drop the drive.

Detailed review of Toshiba Canvio Basics Portable External Hard Drive

Additional Info

    Manufacturer


VIDEO
Toshiba Canvio Basics Portable Hard Drive Review & Disassembly 2TB

What customers say about this product

Features

Small rubber feet on the bottom of the hard drive case prevent slippage

Key Specs

This 2tb Toshiba worked perfectly just plug it in and its a simple set it up in your system storage settings and your ready to go. I currently have 20 games on mine and have only 33.4% used with 1.4 tb left
 

What Is a Portable Hard Drive?

All computer users sooner or later face a problem of data storage. New formats make video files extremely 'bulky' and new PC games take dozens of gigabytes. Storing your stuff on CD and DVD discs makes no sense since they provide quite a small storage space. That's why portable hard drives are used. These devices are designed for storing and backing up a lot of data and they are very compact. Thus, you can take a portable hard drive with you wherever you go! It's particularly useful for people who travel a lot and need to have some important files at hand. Connecting a portable hard drive to a computer is simple and no drivers are required. You just use a USB cord and that's all. However, making the right choice is still quite difficult, particularly for people who don't know much about computers and hardware. That's why we have picked 5 best portable hard drives and compared them according to their most important features.

If portability isn't your priority and you just need a super-capacious drive, take a look at our shortlist of the best external hard drives. While if you wish to reach stunning data transfer rates - our review of the best external solid state drives will certainly come in handy.

Best Portable Hard Drives

What Features to Compare

Capacity and Transfer Speed

The first feature you should consider is the capacity of a portable hard drive. This parameter tells you how much digital information a device can store. Portable hard drives usually have at least 500GB of storage space, though most customers prefer models offering larger space (from 1TB to 4TB). If these bare figures tell you nothing, here are some details: 1TB stores up to 1,000 hours of digital videos, up to 250 hours of 2-hour DVD movies, up to 320,000 photos or 16,660 hours of music playback. Next, don't forget to check the maximum data transfer rate (speed) each device supports. This rate denotes the amount of data that is transferred within 1 second. There are quite a lot of issues that impact the transfer speed: spindle rotation speed, connection interface, buffer cache, etc.

Connection and Compatibility

Any peripheral device must be somehow connected to a computer. As usual, most portable hard drives have a USB interface - either USB 2.0 or USB 3.0. The best devices have a brand-new USB 3.0 interface which is several times faster than USB 2.0, ensuring the highest data transfer rate possible. The maximum data transfer rate for the USB 3.0 interface reaches 5 Gb/s. Some portable hard drives offer other connection interfaces such as eSATA and FireWire, but they are quite rare on the market. Also, you should know what operating systems each portable hard drive is compatible with and what file management system it has. FAT32 is a popular system used for many years but it puts a limit on the maximum file size (4GB). FAT32 is compatible with most Windows operating systems (starting from XP), Mac OS, and Linux. Newer portable hard drives are formatted in NTFS file management system - it doesn't limit the file size and allows you to encrypt the data. However, there's a drawback - NTFS can't work with Mac-operated computers. If you wish to use a portable hard drive with your iMac or MacBook - you will have to reformat the portable HDD. It will erase all your files, so do it right after the purchase.

Design and Protection

Finally, there are some other features that you should consider before buying a portable hard drive. Find out what material a device is made of since the durability will heavily depend on it. The best portable hard drives are made of metal - they are shock-resistant and don't melt down if exposed to fire. Plastic devices are cheaper and less durable. As for design, it's up to you to decide. Many manufacturers offer their portable hard drives in different colors and the casing of a device has either matte or glossy surface. It's self-evident that no fingerprints will be seen on a matte surface. The last but not the least, pay particular attention to the data protection features each device offers. Some models come with some backup software while the best portable hard drives boast a highly reliable 256-bit AES hardware encryption. Choose the latter if you wish to keep your data 100% safe.

Advantages of Portable Hard Drives

In our "What Is It" section, we have already covered a few basic advantages that an external/portable hard drive has over regular HDD. But most of it is just to give you a general perspective on their purpose and their use. So we thought it wouldn't be a bad idea to elaborate on that subject. After all, these types of hard drives may seem similar, but there's actually quite a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle differences between standard hard drives and portable ones. And we're here to help you figure out those differences.

Additional Storage Space

Sure, we have stated earlier that we would cover the differences between portable and standard HDDs. But that isn't always a fair or even a necessary comparison. After all, most people acquire these external hard drives not as a replacement for their main HDD but as an additional source of storage space. With that in mind, a much more adequate comparison would be between a portable HDD and CD, DVD, and Blu-ray discs. And more often than not, a hard drive like that is a much more sensible and practical choice than a set of any of those disks.

Lower Cost per Gigabyte

If you compare the prices of an external hard drive and a couple of disks, the latter are going to come out on top as a cheaper alternative. But that's not a fair comparison, is it? What you should be comparing is the cost per gigabyte. And when it comes to that, a portable hard drive is a clear and absolute winner. Even a Blu-ray disc costs about 3 bucks a piece and holds no more than 50 gigabytes.

Your average external HDD, on the other hand, will provide you with about 2 terabytes (2,000 gigabytes) of data for somewhere around 100 bucks or less. That means that this type of hard drive will give you 1 gigabyte of data in exchange for about 5 cents. Now, it may not sound like that much of a difference, but the price is not the only thing that portable HDDs have over discs.

Reliability

The life expectancy of any disk generally doesn't get higher than 3 years. After a certain period of time, there's a very real chance that the disk will suffer from some kind of error or physical damage and you will end up losing access to your data (or losing that data altogether). While the service life of a hard drive heavily depends on the hard drive and the user, an HDD will outlast a disk nine times out of ten, so your data will be more safe and secure with the former.

Space and Convenience

A typical portable hard drive will provide you with about 2 or more terabytes of data. It doesn't weigh more than half a pound and it is smaller than your average handbag. In order to store this much data, you will need almost a hundred Blu-ray disks or an absolutely copious number of DVD disks. So we don't have to tell you which option is more convenient.

Easy Replacement

Nobody wants to imagine the failure of his main hard drive. But sooner or later, it is going to happen. It is an unfortunate experience that will take a lot of time out of your busy schedule. But that's not the case with portable hard drives. It will take you no more than a couple of minutes to replace one of these things. You can use them as a replacement for your main HDD or as an additional source of storage space.

Sources:

1. Natalia Real HOW TO BUY AN EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE, DIGITAL TRENDS. December 9, 2012.

2. Ron Seifried 15 Recommended External Hard Drives for Everyday Use, B&H. 7,2015.

3. Dong Ngo Storage buying guide, CNET. November 20, 2015.

4. Michael Brown How to buy the best portable hard drive, PCWorld. December 5, 2012.

5. How to Choose the Right External Hard Disk Drive for You, eBay. March 10, 2016.

6. Justin Krajeski, Kimber Streams The Best Portable Hard Drive, The Wirecutter. November 14, 2016.

7. Lisa Johnston 3 Tips for Buying a Portable or External Hard Drive, Lifewire. September 3, 2016.

8. Karen Haslam How to add more storage to your Mac, Macworld. March 24, 2016.

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