As a filmmaker or photographer, a reliable storage device is essential for your work. Nothing spells disaster more than working for hours only to lose footage due to a faulty drive or theft. In this comprehensive guide, we cover the best external hard drive that you can purchase with a reasonable budget.

They say that if you have your data is stored on two devices, then you really only have one reliable place where it is safe. If you have your data on one drive, then you have none. You don’t want to be that guy. So the question now is,

“How do I back up my data?”

While cloud storage is truly wonderful and occupies no physical space, it’s not always guaranteed to be within reach when you need it. In that case, we recommend storing your data on an external hard drive. So then the question becomes,

“What is the best external hard drive?”

There’s really no simple answer. As with all tech, the “best” one for you is entirely dependent on your needs, budget, and several other things.

That’s why today we compiled a handy guide on how to pick an external hard drive so that no matter your needs you’ll find something here that’ll work for you. With that said, let’s dive right in.

There are a few considerations like portability, but these three things will cover all the basics. Next up let’s talk about some recommendations for the best external drives on the market.

The Best External Hard Drives

Let’s take a deep-dive into external drives and which we consider the best purchases you could make.

1. Western Digital My Passport Ultra

Western Digital released their latest version of their My Passport Ultra line of external hard drives. So how does it fare against the competition?

The storage capacities of these drives range from 1TB up to 4TB. They are, in our opinion some of the finest external hard drives on the market at the moment. They come with a cloud storage feature. In addition, 256-AES encryption is offered.

Moreover, Western Digital has designed their software suite which you can use to browse and transfer files more easily.

In terms of performance and data transfer speed, My Passport Ultra functions competently if unimpressively. You won’t get the speed expected from the fasted SSDs. That still doesn’t take away from the affordability and wealth of features packed here.

So, if you want a drive with plenty of storage space, cloud storage, and a reliable software suite at a decent price, then the Western Digital My Passport Ultra is the drive for you. If not, let’s move on to our next recommendation.

Sale
WD 4TB My Passport Ultra Blue Portable External Hard Drive HDD, USB-C and USB 3.1 Compatible - WDBFTM0040BBL-WESN
  • USB-C and USB 3.1 compatible
  • Innovative style with refined metal cover
  • Password protection with 256-bit AES hardware encryption
  • Formatted for Windows 10
  • 3-year manufacturer's limited warranty

2. Buffalo MiniStation Extreme NFC

For some people speed of transfer isn’t nearly as important as security and reliability. We think that these people have a match made in heaven with the Buffalo MiniStation Extreme NFC.

The build quality is as solid as they get. This rugged external drive can take plenty of punishment and still perform. So the worry of your drive getting damaged, won’t happen here.

The Buffalo MiniStation Extreme NFC utilizes 256-bit AES encryption security. In essence, this means that your data will always be secure. There’s no risk of anyone accessing your drive if you lose it. This is important if you’re keeping secret info on your drive.

Are there any setbacks that come with owning this drive? Well, as we mentioned before, the transfer speed won’t blow your mind. However, for its security features and reliable build quality, the Buffalo MiniStation Extreme NFC is a solid recommendation.

Sale
Buffalo MiniStation Extreme NFC USB 3.0 1 TB Rugged Portable Hard Drive (HD-PZN1.0U3B),Black
  • USB PC Compatible plug-and-play. Compatible w/ Mac after formatting.
  • Ruggedized (mil-spec)
  • Hardware Encryption
  • NFC technology
  • Water and Dust Resistant

3. SanDisk Extreme Pro Portable SSD

If instead of security, you’re more interested in transfer speed, SanDisk has you covered. Their Extreme Pro Portable SSD external hard drive offers impressive speeds, storage capacity at an affordable price.

The 1TB version offers a transfer speed of 1,050MBps which is a little over 1GB per second. You can copy a 4GB file to the Extreme Pro Portable in about 8 seconds. While there are faster drivers, we think this more than enough speed.

The Extreme Pro Portable is formatted for both Mac and Windows. It’ll take a little bit of abuse but not as much as our previous recommendation so keep it safe.

Speed is important to professionals who handle large files. So we highly recommend SanDisk Extreme Pro Portable SSD to photographers and video professionals.

Sale
SanDisk 2TB Extreme PRO Portable SSD - Up to 2000MB/s - USB-C, USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 - External Solid State Drive - SDSSDE81-2T00-G25
  • Save time storing and transferring data with powerful NVMe solid state performance featuring up to...
  • A forged aluminum chassis acts as a heat sink to deliver higher sustained speeds in a portable drive...
  • Up to 2 meter drop protection and IP55 water and dust resistance (3), and a handy carabineer loop...
  • Help keep private content private with the included password protection featuring 256‐bit AES...

4. Seagate Backup Plus Slim

Seagate is catering to customers who prioritize portability with their new Backup Plus Slim. In terms of design, it’s impressively thin and surprisingly reliable in build quality. It’s also lightweight which is always a plus.

In terms of transfer speed, the Backup Plus Slim will offer a fast transfer rate for its relatively affordable price. You will also have out-of-the-box backup software which ensures you won’t lose any files on this drive. It also offers plenty of storage space at 2TB.

We advise caution when handling this external drive. That’s because the USB port gets flimsy when under pressure and could easily break. Seagate offers a pretty long warranty, so you’re covered if something does happen.

Overall, we recommend this one to people who are constantly moving and need their files backed up at all times. It’s easy to store and will transfer your data quickly.

Sale
Seagate STHN2000400 Backup Plus Slim 2TB External Hard Drive Portable HDD - Black USB 3.0 for PC Laptop and Mac, 1 Year Mylio Create, 2 Months Adobe CC Photography
  • Store and access 2TB of photos and files on the go, with Seagate Backup Plus Slim, an external hard...
  • This portable external hard drive features a minimalist brushed metal enclosure, and is a stylish...
  • Simply plug this external hard drive for Mac and Windows into a computer via the included USB 3.0...
  • Edit, manage, and share photos with a 1 year complimentary subscription to Mylio Create and a 2...
  • Enjoy long term peace of mind with the included 2 year limited warranty

5. LaCie Rugged RAID Pro

With our final recommendation, we decided to show HDDs some love as well. So let’s see what LaCie has brought to the table with their Rugged RAID Pro.

For one the storage space you’ll get for the asking price is ridiculously large. 4TB is what LaCie is offering you with this external drive. In addition, you’ll get a 3-year warranty accompanied by a free Data Recovery system.

If that’s not enough to sell you on this drive, LaCie has included one month of free Adobe apps. The build quality is excellent. This is one external drive that won’t let you down in that regard.

If you’re planning on getting an HDD, there are really no better options on the market. The Rugged RAID Pro is much smaller than other HDDs. There aren’t many drives that offer the same storage capacity for this price. You can’t get the same features and data recovery service anywhere else.

So, if you’re a video professional in need of large storage space, free software that actually matters, and solid build quality, the Rugged RAID Pro is the HDD for you.

LaCie Rugged Raid Pro 4TB External Hard Drive Portable HDD – USB 3.0 Compatible – with SD Card Slot, Drop Shock Dust Water Resistant, for Mac and PC Computer Desktop Workstation Laptop (STGW4000800)
  • Rugged Raid Pro offers the best of all worlds raid versatility, an integrated SD card reader for on...
  • Shuttle large scale projects with 4TB of capacity, and directly ingest files with fast speeds of...
  • This portable external hard drive makes raid 0/1 configuration easy with the step by step wizard,...
  • Take advantage of a one month complimentary membership to Adobe Creative Cloud All Apps Plan for...
  • Enjoy long term peace of mind with the included three year limited warranty featuring rescue data...

Consider These Things Before You Buy

Let’s take a look at some of the things to consider when looking to find an external hard drive to buy.

Storage Capacity

This will be the key thing that everyone will focus on when purchasing an external drive. It stands to reason that you’ll want the biggest storage device on the market.

That’s not always the case, however. you wouldn’t want storage that’ll fill up quickly and leave you the choice of deleting things to store more or buy another one.

On the other hand, you wouldn’t want an expensive drive that has more storage than what you know what to do with.

What’s the perfect size then?

If you only need to store simple files like photos, music, and videos then a mid-range drive will do.

We reckon 50 to 64GB drives will be more than enough. On the other hand, if you’re going to store large files like film footage or thousands of professional images, you’ll want to go for a 1TB drive.

This is also the option that works best for long-term storage. If you don’t want to run out of space, you can go as high as 5TB. At that point, you will never need any other storage devices.

HDD or SDD

Hard drives come in these two types. HDDs are significantly slower but they’ll cost you less than an SDD.

In comparison, an SDD is much faster and slimmer yet sturdier than an HDD. An SDD is always more recommendable than an HDD except in a few cases.

Compatibility

When purchasing your hard drive make sure to read on the box which system they are formatted for.

Some external drives formatted Mac may have a problem connecting to your Microsoft Windows, and vice versa. In some cases, an external drive could be formatted for Linux

While this can be reversed by formatting the drive to your operating system, this may be a hassle for some.

So, if you don’t want to deal with that, ensure that your drive is compatible with your operating system.

Best External Hard Drives – Conclusion

So that concludes our comprehensive guide on the best external hard drives on the market. Remember to know what your needs are so you can find the drive that suits you.

To know what you need, keep in mind the three criteria. If you only need to store simple files like photos, music, and videos you won’t need much space.

If you’re a professional who works on video projects, then a bigger drive is mandatory. If you need faster transfer rates get yourself an SSD, if budget is a concern stick to HDDs. Lastly, make sure what you’re buying is compatible with your operating system.

Should you stick to the criteria and explore the recommendations we gave throughout the guide, which are compatible with most of your needs, then you will have no problem finding an external hard drive that will keep your data safe.

If you’re looking for an external hard drive for your Mac, then check out our specific guide for Mac external hard drives.