Best external hard drives 2024: Top HDD and SSD models

Best external hard drives: Jump List

The best external hard drives are vital for the backing up and secure storage of all kinds of digital files for space-loving fans, including astrophotography, astro video, and other data.

All photographers, videographers, content creators and creatives know how important it is to back up your data. Anything could happen — malware attacks, hardware failures, thefts, etc. 

As cloud storage has quickly become more accessible, affordable and reliable, many people are switching from physical to online backups. That said, there is still a huge demand for portable data storage and backup for those who deal with large amounts of data, like astronomers and skywatchers imaging the night sky.

There's a whole range of external, portable hard drives to choose from. We've selected the best available and compiled this handy guide so you don't have to do the legwork yourself.

We've featured larger desktop hard drives, portable drives that can fit onto a keyring, and secure models that are either almost indestructible or offer password protection and encryption.

As well as hard drives, we have guides for a plethora of products, from the best cameras, best telescopes and best binoculars to headlamps and power banks.


The quick list

Tantse
Tantse Walter

Tantse Walter is a photographer and adventurer that's spent seven years facilitating global adventurous expeditions. She loves getting into the nitty-gritty of sourcing and planning trips. Whether that be for astrophotography location scouting, or just for the love of exploration. Tantse enjoys taking creative, bright and bold photos of people, places, animals and the night sky.

Best external hard drives we recommend in 2024

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Best external hard drives we recommend in 2024

Best overall

SAndisk extreme solid state drive in the author's hands

The SanDisk Extreme hard drive is small, and rugged and one of the best SSD's on the market. (Image credit: Jase Parnell-Brookes)

SanDisk Extreme

Best overall, so good we own more than one ourselves

Specifications

Read speeds up to: 1050MB/s
Connectivity: USB-C
Waterproof rating: IP65
Operating temperatures: 42° F - 113° F
Available as (capacity): 500 GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB
Warranty: 5-year
Size: 9.6mm x 52.55mm x 100.8mm
Weight: 52g

Reasons to buy

+
Very small
+
Rugged design

Reasons to avoid

-
We can't find anything not to like!
Buy if:

✅ You want something pocketable: This thing is tiny, it is almost small enough to use on a key ring.

Don't buy if:

❌ We can't think of a reason to not buy this SSD: We've been using this ourselves for as long as we can remember and they have never let us down.

The bottom line:

🔎 SanDisk Extreme is one of the best portable SSDs on the market, and it looks the part too.

The SanDisk Extreme is the perfect choice for anyone who needs a small, high-performance portable SSD with a rugged exterior, capable of absorbing shocks and vibrations and one that's protected with an IP55 water and dust rating. No need to worry if you're caught in inclement weather and it would be perfectly happy being used 'out in the field.' It's smaller than most smartphones and therefore small enough to slip in your back pocket. You can attach a lanyard to it too.

Crucially, it has fast write speeds and is reliable, making it the perfect companion for demanding applications such as editing high-resolution photos or 4K footage. The speed will enhance your workflow as there will be little lag when editing or transferring data.

It's available in four capacities; 500GB, 1 TB, 2 TB and 4 TB, and in three colors; Black, Sky Blue and Monterey. It's backed by a three-year warranty too. What more could you ask for?

  • Looking for a rechargeable headlamp? Read our guide to the best headlamps.
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Test Results
AttributesNotes
DesignRugged, tiny
FunctionalityIP55 rated, fast read and write speeds
PerformanceWe can't fault it

Best for minimalists

Stock photo of the Seagate One Touch hard drive

The Seagate One Touch is fuss-free and professional-looking. (Image credit: Amazon)

Seagate One Touch

Best for minimalists — the eye-catching design will complement your laptop as well as being practical and durable

Specifications

Read speeds up to: 1030 MB/s
Connectivity: USB-C
Waterproof rating: None
Operating temperatures: Not specified
Available as (capacity): 500 GB, 1TB, 2TB
Warranty: Three-years
Size: 10.6 x 50 x 70mm
Weight: 1 lb/ 45g

Reasons to buy

+
Portable and lightweight
+
Plug and play operation

Reasons to avoid

-
No waterproof rating
-
More expensive than the competition
Buy if:

✅ You want scheduled backups: The Seagate Toolkit software can provide on-demand and scheduled backup options

Don't buy if:

❌ It's likely to get wet: There is no waterproof rating unlike many models on this list.

The bottom line:

🔎 Seagate One Touch is a practical portable hard-drive, with fast write speeds that is ready to go straight out of the box.

The Seagate One Touch is a minimalist's ideal design, it's tiny and light, but it is still robust, shockproof storage that you can throw in your bag and not be too precious about, though it doesn't have a waterproof rating like some models.

The Seagate Toolkit software helps make on-demand and scheduled backups a breeze, and it is compatible with both Windows and Mac.

Included in the purchase of the Seagate One Touch is a 6-month Dropbox Backup plan, which lets you back up the external hard drive onto Dropbox for added protection. You also get a six-month subscription to Mylio Photos+. A USB-C and USB-C to A cable are also provided.

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Test Results
AttributesNotes
DesignMinimalist, professional
FunctionalityRobust and durable, not waterproof
PerformanceFast transfer times, automated backups

Best for heaps of media

Stock photo of the hard drive

The Seagate FireCuda Gaming hub is a desktop-style hard drive that requires mains power. (Image credit: Amazon)

Seagate FireCuda Gaming Hub

Extend your home computer storage with this massive capacity external hard drive.

Specifications

Read speeds up to: Not specified
Connectivity: USB-C
Waterproof rating: None
Operating temperatures: Not specified
Available as (capacity): 8TB, 16TB
Warranty: Two-years
Size: 18 x 1.9 x 5 -inches
Weight: 2.7 lb/ 1.24 kg

Reasons to buy

+
Huge capacity
+
Stands vertical or horizontal

Reasons to avoid

-
Not as portable as some
-
Requires power supply
Buy if:

✅ You have a mega library of media: The huge capacity of this hard drive means you won't have to sacrifice any of your photos, videos or games.

Don't buy if:

❌ You want something that doesn't needs external power: If you're looking for something to keep plugged into your laptop while you're on the move, this isn't for you.

The bottom line:

🔎 Seagate FireCuda Gaming Hub: Despite the name, this  is a hard-drive for anyone who has copious amounts of data. Whether that be photos, movies or games.

The FireCuda is a simplistic desktop hard drive built with gamers in mind, featuring customizable RGB LED lighting to complement unique gaming or workstation setups. It can be positioned vertically or horizontally too, with four little rubber feet, in any orientation to protect your surfaces.

The high spin speed means you can load games quickly, but also, for creatives such as photographers and video editors, it makes transferring and working on large files fast and more efficient, speeding up workflow.

Although the Seagate FireCuda Gaming Hub is fast for a spinning external hard drive, it doesn't compete with most external SSDs, but the huge capacity makes up for that sacrifice.

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Test Results
AttributesNotes
DesignDesktop style, mains powered
FunctionalityHuge capacity for heaps of media
PerformanceFast, but not as fast as an external SSD

Best for mounting