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A hand reaches an external hard drive that's connected to a laptop on a desk. Credit: Getty Images

The Best External Hard Drives of 2022

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A hand reaches an external hard drive that's connected to a laptop on a desk. Credit: Getty Images

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Product image of G-Technology G-Drive USB-C (4 TB)

G-Technology G-Drive USB-C (4 TB)

This fast, aluminum encased desktop-class drive will look great at your workstation. However, it can be a little noisy. Read More

Pros

  • Fast Transfers
  • USB-C connect can power computer

Cons

  • Noisy
Product image of LaCie d2 Professional (6 TB)

LaCie d2 Professional (6 TB)

The LaCie D2 Professional offers fast data transfer speeds but takes time to spin up after sitting idle. Read More

Pros

  • Fast data transfer
  • Comes with international power adapters
  • USB-C or USB 3 connectivity

Cons

  • Drive takes time to spin up after sitting idle
Product image of LaCie Mobile Drive (1 TB)

LaCie Mobile Drive (1 TB)

The LaCie Mobile Drive is incredibly portable, but it can get hot while running. Read More

Pros

  • Compact Available in multiple colors
  • Two Year rescue/recovery warranty

Cons

  • Runs hot: not idea for use in warm climates
Product image of Seagate Basic Portable Drive (1 TB)

Seagate Basic Portable Drive (1 TB)

The Seagate Basic Portable Drive offers slow transfer speeds and questionable built quality. Read More

Pros

  • Ideal for overnight computer backups

Cons

  • Slow transfer speed
  • Questionable build quality
Product image of Toshiba Canvio Flex (1 TB)

Toshiba Canvio Flex (1 TB)

The Toshiba Canvio Flex offers lackluster performance in a very portable package. Read More

Pros

  • Incredibly compact
  • Ideal for overnight backups

Cons

  • Slow transfer speeds
  • Fragile port design
  • Not able to provide true USB-C speeds

Investing in an external hard drive is the easiest way to add extra storage to your Windows PC or Mac to back up up your important files, adding extra capacity for games and media content, or creating a complete backup of everything on your computer.

After a months of digging, we found the best external hard drives on the market. However, not everyone works at a desk. If your lifestyle necessitates a portable hard drive, we recommend the G-Technology ArmorATD (available at Amazon), which is designed to take the beating that comes with being used on the go. Impact, water, and dust-resistant, it’s a fast external drive designed to stand up to casual abuse.

Editor's Note

The recommendations in this guide are based on thorough product and market research by our team of expert product reviewers. The picks are based on examining user reviews, product specifications, and, in some limited cases, our experience with the specific products named.

Product image of G-Technology G-Drive USB-C (4 TB)
G-Technology G-Drive USB-C (4 TB)

The G-Technology G-Drive USB-C is a fast desktop-class external drive, available in capacities of up to 18TB. It comes packed into a tough aluminum case that will look great alongside a Mac or metal-clad PC. We found that the G-Drive USB-C was the fastest drive in many of our tests, taking just 11.5 seconds to copy our 2.7GB test file. We loved that its USB-C cable can also be used to power a laptop, making it just a little bit easier to keep your work area looking neat and tidy.

You should know, however, that the G-Drive USB-C can be a little noisy, making an audible whirring sound when it spins up after sitting idle for a while. Additionally, Like the other desktop-class external hard drives in this guide, it requires an external power adapter in order to be used.

Pros

  • Fast Transfers

  • USB-C connect can power computer

Cons

  • Noisy

Product image of LaCie d2 Professional (6 TB)
LaCie d2 Professional (6 TB)

The LaCie D2 Professional was the fastest portable hard drive we tested, copying our 2.7GB test file in just over 13 seconds. When you are working on tasks that involve reading and writing lots of data such as 4k video editing, the kind of speed offered by the D2 can make your workflow easier and smoother.

Available in capacities up to 14TB, the D2 is a desktop-class external hard drive that requires an external power adapter in order to use. Frequent international travelers will be pleased to know that the drive comes with six electrical plug adapters making it possible to use, no matter which continent you find yourself on. The D2 can be connected to your computer using eittheir its included USB-C or USB 3 cables.

Th D2's drive is designed to spin down when it is idle. This means that there is a slight pause when the drive starts back up, which could create a hiccup in your workflow and, in some cases can cause your computer to momentarily freeze while the drive's contents are being re-registered.

Pros

  • Fast data transfer

  • Comes with international power adapters

  • USB-C or USB 3 connectivity

Cons

  • Drive takes time to spin up after sitting idle

Product image of LaCie Mobile Drive (1 TB)
LaCie Mobile Drive (1 TB)

The LaCie Mobile Drive is a small, well-designed USB-C bus-powered external hard drive that offers relatively limited storage space, in a pocket-sized package.

It’s available in capacities ranging from 1TB to 5TB and isn’t much bigger than a pack of cards. Its sleek aluminum drive enclosure isn’t much larger than a pack of playing cards and comes in three colors: 2.5-inch drive is wrapped in a sleek angular aluminum case that comes in three colors: moon silver, silver, or space gray. This external hard drive comes with LaCie Toolkit, which allows users to format their drive to be used with Mac OS or Windows 10, as required.

The LaCie Mobile Drive comes with a 2-year rescue recovery service. So, if the drive fails while under warranty, LaCie will do its best to recover your data. We didn’t have the opportunity to test this service, but it is nice to know it is there, should you need it.

You should know that during use, the Mobile Drive’s case gets a little warm as it has no ventilation holes built into it. However, it never became hot to the touch. While this may not be a worry for most users, those looking for an external hard drive to use in hot environments may want to consider a different option.

Pros

  • Compact Available in multiple colors

  • Two Year rescue/recovery warranty

Cons

  • Runs hot: not idea for use in warm climates

Product image of Seagate Basic Portable Drive (1 TB)
Seagate Basic Portable Drive (1 TB)

The performance of the Seagate Portable Drive drive isn’t anything to write home about: it took over 26 seconds to copy our 2.7GB test file to it. That’s not much slower than the G-Technology ArmorATD. However, the ArmorATD's outstanding build quality makes it far more loveable than the Seagate. The drive's slower transfer speeds make it less than ideal for regularly shuttling large files back and forth between the drive and your computer. However, if you’re looking for an external hard drive to back up your computer, it could be an ideal device: Simply schedule your computer’s backup to start overnight and, by the time morning rolls around, the operation should be complete.

You should know that during testing we were unimpressed with the build quality of this drive’s enclosure. If your hardware is routinely subjected to casual abuse or, if you have a serious case of butterfingers, consider a more robust drive, like the G-Technology ArmorATD or Adata HD830, instead.

Pros

  • Ideal for overnight computer backups

Cons

  • Slow transfer speed

  • Questionable build quality

Product image of Toshiba Canvio Flex (1 TB)
Toshiba Canvio Flex (1 TB)

The Toshiba Canvio Flex is a small, portable drive that will fit easily into a pocket. The performance of this drive isn’t much to write home about, but it offers great capacity for the price. We found that it took just over 24 seconds to copy our 2.7GB test file to this drive. As with the Seagate Portable Drive, the Canvio Flex's lack of speed makes it an adequate solution for the storage of small files or slowly backing up a computer.

We were unimpressed by the fact that Canvio Flex comes equipped with an older style Micro-B USB 3 port. Micro-B USB 3 has a wider, more complicated plug than more recent connections do, which can make it more prone to breaking. This may become an issue if you frequently plug and unplug the drive from its cable. Toshiba describes the drive being as USB-C ready. This means that you can use it with its included USB-C to USB 3 Micro-B cable to connect to USB-C equipped computers. However, because of the USB 3 Micro B connection, you won’t get the fasts speeds that a native USB-C connection can provide.

Pros

  • Incredibly compact

  • Ideal for overnight backups

Cons

  • Slow transfer speeds

  • Fragile port design

  • Not able to provide true USB-C speeds

Product image of Fantom Drives GForce 3 External Hard Drive (2 TB)
Fantom Drives GForce 3 External Hard Drive (2 TB)

Like the Western Digital My Book, the Fantom GForce 3 is a large, 3.25-inch desktop-class drive enclosed in a portable case. The case is made of aluminum and includes a clip-on stand that allows the drive to sit horizontally or vertically on a flat surface. As with the other desktop-class external drives in this guide, the GForce-3 requires power from a wall socket in order to work.

The GForce 3 was decent took roughly 14.5 seconds to copy our 2.7GB test file. That’s a little faster than our Best Overall pick. However, we thought it unfortunate that the only connection that the GForce 3 can use is USB 3.0. This means that, if you use a modern laptop that only includes USB-C ports, you are going to need an adapter.

Pros

  • Reasonably fast

  • Aluminum enclosure

  • Clip-on stand allows for smaller footprint

Cons

  • USB 3.0 connection

  • Requires dongle for use with USB-C

What You Should Know About Buying an External Hard Drive

Many people use hard drive as a blanket term for computer storage. However, there are some important differences, between hard drives and solid-state drives:

Hard drives store the data on a spinning metal-coated glass disk (called the platter) with a read-write head that moves around the drive, reading the magnetic data or writing new data. The biggest advantage that hard drives have over solid-state drives is that they cost significantly less, per gigabyte. However, they're comparatively fragile: the platter of a hard drive can be damaged if the drive is bumped or moved quickly while operating. Solid-state drives do not have this issue.

Solid-state drives (SSDs) store data in a computer chip, like a camera memory card. The advantage of SSDs is that they are faster and less liable to be damaged from rough treatment because there are no moving parts. While they have been around for a number of years now, SSD storage is still expensive, in comparison to the per-gigabyte cost of a hard drive.

Know Your Ports

Currently, there's no single standard for connecting an external hard drive to a computer. These are the ones that you're most likely to run into:

  • USB 3.2 Gen 1: USB 3.2 devices of both generations use USB-C sockets, which are small with rounded edges. If you have an older computer with old-style rectangular USB ports, USB 3.2 devices are still compatible with an appropriate cable. Most portable hard drives include cables for both USB-C and USB ports.
  • USB 3.2 Gen 2: The latest and fastest standard for how computers connect to external devices such as portable hard drives. USB 3.2 devices (like many of the portable hard drives we tested here) can send or receive data at up to 10 GB/sec, twice as fast as the previous standard
  • Thunderbolt 3 & 4: Another standard for how computers connect to devices. Thunderbolt 3 and 4 devices are compatible with USB 3.2 ports, as they use the same USB-C type port.

A Word on Hard Drive Speeds

Hard drives are complicated products, and there are a number of factors that can affect how quickly data can be read from or written to the drive. These include the type of data and the speed of the connection. It is slower, for instance, to write a lot of small files to a drive than a single large file, because the computer has to do a lot of background tasks to keep track of the small files.

The connection that the hard drive has to the computer can also make a big difference. If, for instance, you have a USB 3.2 Gen 2 drive connected to a computer that only has USB 2 ports, the data will take longer to copy because the USB 2 port will limit the speed at which data can be sent. While testing the external hard drives featured in this guide, we used a computer that supports USB 3.2 Gen 2 and Thunderbolt 3 so that we could see the best speeds that the drive is capable of. If your external hard drive is running slower than you think it should, check that it is plugged into the fastest port available, or consider upgrading your computer.

One of the most commonly mentioned features you’ll see associated with a hard drive is its revolutions per minute (rpm). This is a measure of how fast the platter that holds the hard drive’s data spins around. Some drives run at 5400rpm, others at 7200rpm. The latter can read and write data faster because of the higher speed.

2.5-Inch Hard Drives vs. 3.25-inch Hard Drives

There are two types of hard drives, indicated by the diameter of the hard drive platter that holds the data: - 2.5-inch drives are designed for use inside laptops: they are small and don’t need much power. It’s these drives that you’ll find in most portable external hard drives. An external 2.5-inch drive can operate on nothing but the power supplied by the USB port it’s plugged into. The downside to using a 2.5-inch drive is that they can’t hold as much data as a 3.25-inch drive, with their larger platters, can. - 3.25-inch drives were designed for use inside desktop computers, They are larger and more power-hungry. External hard drives that use 3.25-inch disks, such as the WD My Home, require an external power adapter in order to operate: a USB port simply can’t deliver enough power to run them.

Meet the tester

Richard Baguley

Richard Baguley

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Richard Baguley is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.

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