The Most Reliable Portable Storage Drives: An external hard drive can solve your problem if your laptop is running out of storage space or if you need to back up your data and store the backlog of videos you plan to edit someday(I am, I swear). The difficulty is that there are hundreds of drive alternatives ranging from dirt cheap to ludicrously costly; which one meets your needs? I’ve examined dozens of portable storage devices with a variety of use cases in mind to determine the best ones for your workflow.
The Most Reliable Portable Storage Drives
Check out our other guides, such as How to Backup and Transfer Your Photos Between Services, How to Backup Your Digital Life, and How to Backup Your iPhone.
Best For Backups
Western Digital Elements Desktop Hard Drive
Please bear with me even though this is clearly not a portable hard drive according to the tutorial. Portability isn’t your first priority while using incremental backups, which we advise. Additionally, since your backup programme normally runs overnight, speed is also not a major concern. This Western Digital Elements is the first drive I advise using because of this.
I’ve been using a WD Elements desktop hard drive in some capacity to create incremental backups of my data for more than ten years. These drives are some of the least expensive and most dependable ones I’ve used, despite being large and requiring external power. The maximum storage capacity is 20 terabytes. Just be cautious to compare pricing because occasionally a 10- or even 12-terabyte disc may be had for not much extra.
Best Portable Drive
Crucial X6 Portable SSD
My preferred portable drives are these Crucial drives. They are inexpensive (for a portable SSD) and quite quick. The SanDisk Crucial Portable SSD is the only disc I tested with faster read speeds (see below). These are perfect for when you’re working away from home because they’re lightweight. I have one that I use to save video clips, and it is quick enough to edit them directly off the disc.
The plastic construction is the only drawback. Expect it to break after a few drops. Grab a cushioned case if you’re concerned about it getting into your bag. There are many options out there, including this one for $14, but I haven’t tested any.
Best For Speed
SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD
All other portable drives I’ve examined pale in comparison to this new SanDisk disc. Because of its small weight and IP22-rated enclosures, it can withstand life on the go. Although it isn’t the most affordable drive, it is your best option if you need to quickly backup in the field. It’s less compact than some of these drives, which I enjoy because it makes it simpler to keep track of in my backpack.
Best Go-Anywhere Drives
OWC Envoy Pro Elektron SSD
OWC drives are the ideal option if you require a drive that can withstand being dropped into hard surfaces, being in a camera bag or backpack, or becoming wet. There are many excellent options, making it difficult to choose a winner, however benchmark tests showed that OWC’s Elektron drive edged out the competition. I also like that the drive within the aluminium case can be changed out (it unscrews easily), so in two years you can buy a quicker bare SSD and put it in the Elektron.
OWC’s Envoy Pro FX ($280 for 1 TB) is a wonderful option if you want a larger drive, both physically and in terms of storage capacity. Although the latter costs a startling $900, it is significantly speedier and has capacities up to 4 TB. Even though it costs $400, the 2-TB model is more than enough for most people. It is reasonably drop-proof and has an IP67 rating. (Take all claims of “military standard” with a grain of salt; this is not a criticism of OWC; every manufacturer of “rugged” drives makes claims similar to this.) But what I found most impressive about this drive is how unbelievably cool it stays even while under a lot of pressure (like editing 4K video footage straight from the drive).
When might a spinning drive be preferable to an SSD? Almost always, yes—but only if you have the money. But they’re particularly helpful for any drive you use frequently, including your primary boot drive, an external drive you use for document editing, and even backups if you need them to happen quickly.