Guide to buying the best external hard drive in 2019

Updated 20th September 2019

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Introduction

External hard drives have for a long time been part of many peoples every day lives, with more and more information and media becoming increasingly digitised and readily available, there has never been more content to capture and store, let alone create. …and external hard drives are the perfect tool to store, transfer and transport it all.

Despite the abundance of cloud based storage facilities  hard drives have remained our preferred storage device and method, as they simply provide us with more control and comfort in knowing that your valuable information is physically in one place where we can see it. …and of course does not require an internet connection to access it.

In this article we look at:

  • What is an external hard drive, why are they useful and what are they used for?

  • What type of hard drive should i buy?

  • What makes a good hard drive 

  • Storage capacity / What size do i need?

  • HDD or SSD?

  • Connections and transfer speeds

  • Reliability

  • Desktop or portable

  • Hard drives for mac

  • A round up of the best external hard drives for 2019

The short answer to best options…

We’ve searched through all of the “best of’s” and “top 10’s”, “tops 6’s” and even the “top 8’s”! and can conclude that the below external hard drives are currently the best on the market for 2019…


Best overall external hard drive - Western Digital my passport

Item Dimensions - 11 x 8.15 x 1.35 cm | Connectivity - USB-C | Compatible with - Mac | Max Storage - 2 TB | Weight - 5.92 ounces | Shock/Drop Resistant - Yes | Pressure Resistant - No | Data Transfer Rate - 626 MB per second | RPM - 5,300 rpm | Power Source - USB

The Western Digital My Passport external hard drive is the perfect solution for both PC and Mac users. It offers reliable storage in the palm of your hand with its trusted system. Compatible with Mac Time Machine back up’s, My Passport offers 2TB of storage space, enough for all your photos, videos, music, and documents. 

My Passport helps you keep all your files safe and ensures you don’t accidentally lose any critical data. You can store essential work documents or school assignments without having to worry about a shortage of space. It’s compatible with USB-A and USB-C devices which makes it easy to integrate into your line-up of technologies. 

This external hard drive works right out of the box and is specially designed to work with your Mac. Drag and drop files in and out, or set up regular backup routines using Apple’s Time Machine software. Security won’t be a concern thanks to My Passports’ built-in 256-bit AES encryption and WD Security software that ensures your information stays well protected.


Best external hard drive for mac - LaCie rugged mini

Item Dimensions - 8.6 x 1.9 x 13.5 cm | Connectivity - USB-3 | Compatible with - PC/Mac | Max Storage - 5 TB | Weight - 8 ounces | Shock/Drop Resistant - Yes | Pressure Resistant - Yes | Data Transfer Rate - 5,120 MB per second | RPM - 5,400 rpm | Power Source - USB/Lithium Battery

LaCie’s Rugged mini external hard drive is the most popular of the LaCie line-up, and with good reason! This external drive packs an array of impressive features into its slender frame. It’s both shock and pressure-resistant you won’t need to worry about accidental damage because it withstands an immense amount of wear without failure. 

The Rugged Mini offers the same speeds as a USB 3.0 but is still compatible with USB 2.0 as well. This innovation means you can use this external hard drive with practically any computer. It will transfer a 700MB video file in under seven seconds! 

Keep your data secure with the Rugged Mini’s secure password protection software. This security feature is pre-installed and protects your most important information for peace of mind. The LaCie Rugged Mini works with both Mac and PCs! It’s easy to use and offers an automatic backup system, so you never lose any of your essential data. 


The best hard drives provide reliable, secure, fast and large storage capabilities, however before we delve into our ‘best of’ list, lets look at the some of the key criteria we used to evaluate the below products, and highlight what to look out for. 

What is an external hard drive?

Essentially a hard drive is a digital store, that is accessed via computer (be it a PC, laptop or hand held device) and holds any type or format of digitised information or media, and to determine what makes a product worthy of being one of the best, it is simply measured by its ability to this as well as possible.   

why are useful?

Their principle usefulness is their convenient portability and the ease in which they allow stored information to be transported.

...and with the right product, it is a very safe and reliable method of storage.

Uses?

Aside from the above, one of the major uses for an external hard drive is to expand your storage capabilities for your PC and/or Mac. Laptops in particular are getting smaller and lighter, however the pay off is often a smaller amount of on board storage, and so this is where a bit of extra comes in very useful.

As described below, SSD’s in particular are even fast enough to run programmes straight off of them, meaning that you only need to install your most used items of software directly, and keep the rest of your built-in memory as free as possible.

Another primary use is backing up. Backing up your files is vitaly important in any circumstance, be it personal or professional, as files can get infected, deleted, lost or even stolen, and so safeguards against the loss of priceless information and memories.

What type of hard drive should i buy?

There are three basic types of external hard drives to initially choose from, desktop drives, portable hard disk drives (HDD's) and portable solid state drives (SSD’s).

However in short, an HDD is generally the most popular chose, as it provides the best overall performance and function as a reasonable price.

Desktop drives:

Desktop drives are by far the largest product out of the three, and as the name suggests generally permanently sit on top of the desk or workspace, as they often require a separate power supply. This not only means that they are very impractical to transport around, but also makes them very large and inconvenient in general.

However if portability and ease of transportation are not important and/or required, then these hard drives do in fact provide the best balance between price, capacity and speed, when weighed up against the other two HD and SS drives.

They are based on providing function over anything else, which as a result gives them a slightly cumbersome appearance but in turn provides a lot of storage space for your money.

Portable SSD’S:

SSD’s are the most expensive, but also the fastest in transferring data out the three types available, which is primarily due to the SD card commonly also found in cameras, phones and tablets that they use for their flash memories.

This results in them requiring fewer internal moving parts, and are therefore smaller, lighter, quieter, more robust and less power hungry than other options. 

However this does result in a limited amount of memory available, that means they are not the best option for backing up data and/or transferring large file and folder sizes.

They are best suited for storing small amounts of information and programmes that are required quickly and on a temporary basis, such an item of software that isn’t used on a regularly.

Portable HDD:

As mentioned, portable HDD’s tend to be the most popular chose, and this is due to their overall well balanced storage, portability and speed capabilities followed by cost.

As with SSD’s they do not require a separate power source, and power and transfers are all taken care of through one singular USB connection.

As a result, generally speaking they are the size of an average phone (although thicker), making them the perfect travelling companion to say a laptop or in a bag for everyday use and access.

They do however still use a physical spinning disk, which as described below means that they take longer to copy files (when compared to an SDD) but have much larger scope for increased memory.

To summerize:

  • Desktop drive - Best for cheap and large amounts of storage that dont need to be transferred to different physical locations.   

  • SSD - Best for fast and portable storage on the go.

  • HDD - Best for storing large amounts of portable data.

What makes a good hard drive?

Ultimately the best external hard drive is one that is portable and reliable, with reliability being the most important factor. 

Portability

To an extent, portability is slightly subjective as different users will have different expectations and requirements, however fortunately most, if not all are capable of fulfilling most peoples needs.

Reliability

For reliability, we recommend that as we show below, you stay with the main and well known brands that have been tried and tested.

Durability

Durability is also very important, as they are often stored in a bag or on top of a desk, where they can be dropped or knocked off. Again most of the primary models can withstand a certain amount of abuse, however for occasions where impacts are common, there are shock absorbent covers and cases available.

Capacity

Next is capacity, but as there is such a large variety of memories available, its very rare that you will struggle to find one that suites.

Transfer rate

…and lastly is transfer rate, this becomes important if you plan to run programmes and view files directly, as appose to coping them over first.

Storage capacity / What size do i need?

On average memory sizes range between 250GB to 4TB, for anything smaller than 250GB then a USB drive will prove to be more cost effective in the short term, and for anything larger than 4TB (which is a lot of storage!) you are really looking at more permanent storage solution, that is less transportable.

250GB storage capacity even at the lower end of the memory scale, can still hold a vast amount of files, and for context, 1GB is capable of holding up to 500 iPhone photos or approximately 200 iTune songs.

For ‘normal’ daily use we recommend 500GB, but for backing up files and for large sized photos and videos start at 1TB.

Which is best? HDD or SSD?

When deciding on whether to buy an HDD (hard disk drive) or an SSD (solid state drive), it simply comes down to whether or not you plan to run and open programmes and files directly from the hard drive, or simply use it as a storage and transportation device.

As described above due to their method of memory storage, SSD’s can be up to 4 times faster than HDD’s, and are therefore far more capable of running programmes, games and media directly without hesitation.

However for this reason, SSD’s are more expensive and on average have a maximum storage capacity that is far less than an HDD.

If speed isn’t an important factor, and if you have a large number of files to backup and store, then we recommend that you go for an HDD for maximum storage and cost efficiency, but for speed and small to medium file transfers, an SSD could prove to be a more reliable and faster storage tool.

Connections and transfer speeds

Many external hard drives use USB 2.0 connections, but for faster speeds you should aim for a USB 3.0 or the newer USB Type-C connection. You will need to firstly ensure that your PC and/or laptop has a USB Type-C port, as many still only have USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 connection.

Transfer rates are dependant on the connection type of both the hard drive and computer, choosing the device that has the latest connection (USB C) will put you in best possible position however.

For comparison, a USB 2 connection has a maximum speed of 480Mbps, whereas a USB 3 port can go as fast as 5Gbps (more than 10 times as much).

Key features to look out for

Reliability

In short, if you stay with a tried and trusted brand (as our recommendations are below) and avoid the cheaper manufactures, then reliability is a very rarely an issue.

Like with most things, you get what you pay for, and when transporting and storing precious information, you dont want to risk loosing it.

Desktop or portable

Most people looking for an external hard drive want one that is easily transported, stored, and unobtrusive. So this means portable.

Hard drives for mac

Its fairly rare to find a product that isn’t compatible with both a PC and/or Mac, but be sure to double check the specifications before buying.

Back up tool:

Some hard drives come with automatic back up functions, this is much more reliable than manual method drag and drop

Date protection:

Secondly, some also come with a password protection, that could become invaluable if the hard drive is lost or stolen and contains important / sensitive info


A round up of the best external hard drives for 2019…

03 - Seagate expansion external hard drive

Item Dimensions - 8 x 11.7 x 1.48 cm | Connectivity - USB 3.0/2.0 | Compatible with - PC & Mac | Max Storage - 4 TB | Weight - 0.31 ounces | Shock/Drop Resistant - No | Pressure Resistant - No | Data Transfer Rate - 4,915.2 MB per second | RPM - 5,400 rpm | Power Source - USB

The Seagate Expansion external hard drive offers a full 4 terabyte of storage space which is plenty of room for keeping all your files. This option works with both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 to bring faster download speeds and compatibility with practically any pc system. 

Seagate Expansion has no additional software needed, which means you plug it in and it’s ready to use. This external hard drive gives you extra storage for your Xbox or Playstation games and lets you store all your favorites without the worry of losing them. The portability means you can take your entire gaming library with you no matter where you go. 

The Expansion external drive is nice and compact so that you can keep it right in your back pocket. You can use this drive with your pc or Mac computer, and it seamlessly integrates with any gaming console. The downside with this option is that it doesn’t offer shock or pressure protection, so be gentle with it!


04 - Samsung T5 SSD external hard drive

Item Dimensions - 1 x 7.4 x 5.7 cm | Connectivity - USB 3.0 | Compatible with - PC/Mac | Max Storage - 2 TB | Weight - 1.79 ounces | Shock/Drop Resistant - Yes | Pressure Resistant - Yes | Data Transfer Rate - 540 MB per second | RPM - SSD | Power Source - USB

Samsung’s T5 SSD external hard drive offers a compact design that makes it extremely easy to carry with you while you’re on the go. It is light enough to keep right in your pocket and gives you up to 2TB of additional storage. This external drive comes in several stylish colorways, including Rose Gold, Metallic Red, Black, and Blue. 

The T5 connects to a variety of devices, including PCs, smartphones, and Macs. It includes a Type C to C USB cable and Type C to A included which enables you to connect without having to invest in additional wires seamlessly. Your data stays secure thanks to the built-in password protection, and its durable design means you won’t accidentally break it. 

Samsung’s T5 offers speeds up to 4.9 times faster than most external hard drives which means you can spend less time transferring and more time enjoying. It integrates with its mobile app and offers intuitive software that gives you the latest firmware updates and more.


05 - Buffalo MiniStation external hard drive

Item Dimensions - 8 x 1.6 x 11.5 cm | Connectivity - USB 3.0 | Compatible with - PC/Mac | Max Storage - 2 TB | Weight - 5.92 ounces | Shock/Drop Resistant - Yes | Pressure Resistant - Yes | Data Transfer Rate - 5,120 MB per second | RPM - 5,400 rpm | Power Source - USB

The Buffalo MiniStation is a compact and easily portable external hard drive. It offers SuperSpeed USB 3.0 technologies that enable ultra-quick data transfer. Complete with a shock-proof chassis and Buffalo’s signature Lock-and-Go feature, the MiniStation keeps your data safe in more ways than one!

This external drive comes in both 1TB and 2TB sizes, and both black and red colors are available. It’s sleek exterior, and the modern-looking matte finish makes this the perfect choice for students. Your data is always secure thanks to the built-in password protection that keeps the drive locked until you enter the correct password, no matter what you try! 

Complete with 256-bit encryption, the MiniStation is one of the most secure options available. It offers the ideal combination of portability and safety, giving you peace of mind.


06 - Western Digital My Book desktop drive

Item Dimensions - 13.93 x 4.9 x 17.06 cm | Connectivity - USB | Compatible with - PC/Mac | Max Storage - 12 TB | Weight - 33.86 ounces | Shock/Drop Resistant - No | Pressure Resistant - No | Data Transfer Rate - 5,120 MB per second | RPM - 7,200 rpm | Power Source - Mains electric

The My Book external desktop drive by Western Digital provides trusted external storage. It offers a ton of storage space for all your files, videos, games, and more. My Book is equipped with social media and cloud storage import features, making it a current choice that seamlessly integrates with all your technologies.

Built-in password protection keeps all your data safe and secure for peace of mind. This drive pairs with WD Backup and Time Machine systems which means you can use it with both your PCs or Mac computers. 

With up to 12TB of storage space, My Book has enough room to hold everything you need and more! It’s perfect for gamers who want to store their entire library of games in one portable place. Not to mention, it’s ideal for students who wish to access their course materials on the go.


07 - Seagate Backup Plus Desktop Drive

Item Dimensions - 19.8 x 4.1 x 11.8 cm | Connectivity - USB | Compatible with - PC/Mac | Max Storage - 6 TB | Weight - 37.39 ounces | Shock/Drop Resistant - No | Pressure Resistant - No | Data Transfer Rate - 180 MB per second | RPM - 5,900 rpm | Power Source - Mains power supply

The Seagate Backup Plus Desktop Drive is an all-in-one solution to all your storage needs! It’s perfect for backing up your precious files and data thanks to its ample capacity storage space. An innovative feature with this drive is that it connects and recharges any USB device! That means you can charge your smartphone, camera, tablet, and more. 

Simple downloadable Seagate backup software makes PC backups a breeze! Its NTFS driver or Mac makes the drive work interchangeably between Windows and Macs without reformatting. This hub is a fair bit larger than some of the external drives available, but it is a worthwhile option for charging on the go. 

As a bonus, the Backup Pro Hub includes a two-months membership to Adobe Creative Cloud Photography. Its high-speed USB 3.0 ports allow for faster data transfer and speed charging for all your devices! This external hard drive is ideal for your home or office, though its less portable than other external drives available. 


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