Best external hard drives 2024: Top HDD and SSD models

Multiple of the best external hard drives on an orange background
The best external hard drives keep your photos and videos safe and free up space on your devices. (Image credit: SanDisk, LaCie, Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba, Samsung, Transcend, Future)

One of the best external hard drives can be an important piece of kit for anyone who works with photographs or other media. They provide a secure way of backing up all your data so you won't be left in the lurch if anything goes wrong with your laptop or PC. They're especially useful for photographers who like to spend long days or nights out shooting where you might not have a steady internet connection to use cloud storage for backup, and they have the advantage of being a one-off purchase that won't lumber you with any ongoing subscription fees.

External hard drives come in a range of different models. Those who want to back up very large amounts of data at home may wish to consider an HDD drive since they can offer masses of storage at an affordable price. Others may prefer the efficiency and reliability of an SSD drive since they don't need to be connected to mains power and don't involve any moving parts that can be prone to degradation over time. SSDs also tend to be smaller and more convenient for taking out and about with you. We've included a whole range of options on this list, including models that offer waterproofing and shock resistance.

For those who are new to photography or looking to upgrade their kit, we also have guides to the best cameras, the best tripods and the best power banks for keeping all your equipment charged up while you're on the go. 

Amazon Prime Day is coming up on July 16 and 17, and it's a great time to bag fantastic deals on new kit from cameras to hard drives. We'll be keeping track of all the best offers here at Space.com, so keep checking back to make sure you don't miss out on a bargain. Take a look at our Amazon Prime Day space deals page to see existing offers and get a taste for what the shopping event has in store.

The quick list

Tantse
Tantse Walter

Tantse Walter is a photographer and adventurer who has 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 SSDs 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 so tiny, it's almost small enough to use on a keyring.

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 great too. ★★★★★

The SanDisk Extreme easily comes top of our list thanks to its high performance, durability and reliability. This small and compact SSD features an IP55 rating, meaning it's resistant to both water and dust, and its rugged exterior makes it excellent at absorbing shocks as well, so it's an ideal drive for anyone who may find themselves caught outside in inclement weather. The SanDisk Extreme also features a convenient clip hole which lets you keep it handy at all times by attaching it to your backpack or belt loop when you're out and about.

But it's not all about the looks and design: We were impressed by the SanDisk Extreme's performance, too. It has fast write speeds so it won't slow you down when you're trying to edit or transfer high-resolution photos or 4K videos. It easily connects to any USB-C or USB-A device and offers password protection with 256-bit AES hardware encryption to keep all your files secure.

You can choose from four different capacities: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB and 4TB, as well as three different colors, Black, Sky Blue or Monterey. We've found this to be an incredibly reliable device, and it comes with a five-year warranty for added peace of mind — what's not to love?

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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: Unlike many models on this list, this has no waterproof rating.

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. ★★★★½

This tiny and light SSD is designed really well. It's a tough nut to crack, boasting a robust exterior that's fully shockproof, which means you can carry it around with you without worrying about damaging it. It's worth noting that while it's durable, it doesn't have a waterproof rating, so you may wish to look into an alternative if you're mostly spending time outdoors.

The Seagate Toolkit software makes on-demand and scheduled backups a breeze, and it is compatible with both Windows and Mac. You could leave it plugged in and set it to back up your computer at the end of every working day, for example.

Included with your 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+. USB-C and USB-C to A cable are also provided with the hard drive.

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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's photos, movies or games. ★★★★

The FireCuda Gaming Hub is a larger-than-life device; the high spin speed means you can load games quickly. It also makes transferring and working on large files fast and more efficient for creatives such as photographers and video editors. 

It features customizable RGB LED lighting that fits neatly into decorative gaming or workstation setups. Depending on how you manage your space, you can position it vertically or lying flat on your desk thanks to its four rubber feet.

The main downside of the FireCuda is that it isn't portable at all: It requires a power source to run and weighs over a kilo, making it unsuitable to carry around with you on photography expeditions. However, if you're looking for a powerful external hard drive that can live next to your desktop computer, this is the one for you.

It's worth noting that although the Seagate FireCuda Gaming Hub is fast for a spinning external hard drive, it doesn't compete with most external SSDs. That said, 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

Stock photo of the SanDisk Professional G-Drive hard drive

The SanDisk Professional G-Drive is stackable and mountable (Image credit: Amazon)

SanDisk Professional G-Drive

This conventional HDD is a great means of extending your storage space

Specifications

Read speeds up to: 280 MB/s
Connectivity: USB-C
Waterproof rating: None
Operating temperatures: 41 - 95°F / 5-35°C
Available as (capacity): 4TB, 6TB, 8TB, 12TB, 18TB, 22TB
Warranty: Three-year
Size: 5.24 x 8.27 x 1.61 -inches / 133 x 210 x 41 mm
Weight: 4TB: 3.06 lbs / 1.39 kg, 18TB: 2.93 lbs / 1.33 kg

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent build quality
+
Anchor points for attaching to a DIT cart/mounting plate

Reasons to avoid

-
Requires power supply
-
Needs reformatting to use with Windows
Buy if:

✅ You want mounting options: There are two anchor points on each side to attach to a DIT cart or mounting plate to customize your workstation.

Don't buy if:

❌ You want something that doesn't need external power: This needs to be plugged into power as well as your computer.

The bottom line:

🔎 SanDisk Professional G-Drive: An excellent storage solution for creative professionals who need a high-performance, durable hard-drive. ★★★★

The SanDisk Professional G-Drive is a hard drive well suited for anyone regularly storing movies, RAW files and photos beyond the narrow confines of a laptop or desktop computer hard drive. Creative professionals handling large media files will particularly appreciate it.

Overall, this is a well-engineered conventional HDD with excellent build quality. We love that it is stackable and mountable to suit your individual workstation. There aren't any software facilities, but in our experience, many portable hard drive users often don't need that anyway.

Being a Desktop Drive, like the FireCuda Gaming Hub, the G-drive is relatively slow compared to a typical SSD drive and could be considered to be one of the more expensive ways to expand your storage. And though it comes pre-formatted for Mac, this hard drive can easily be reformatted for Windows.

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Test Results
AttributesNotes
DesignAngular aesthetic, high quality construction
FunctionalityStackable and mountable
PerformanceEasily handles demanding workloads

Best lightweight option

Stock photo of the Samsung Portable SSD T7 hard drive

The Samsung Portable SSD T7 hard drive (Image credit: Amazon)

Samsung Portable SSD T7 hard drive

The tiny Samsung T7 is a comparable length and width to a credit card

Specifications

Read speeds up to: 1050 MB/s
Connectivity: USB-C
Waterproof rating: None
Operating temperatures:
Available as (capacity): 500GB, 1TB, 2TB
Warranty: 3 year
Size: 85 x 57 x 8.0mm
Weight: 58g / 0.13 lb

Reasons to buy

+
Password protection
+
Tiny and very light

Reasons to avoid

-
No waterproof rating
Buy if:

✅ You want high security: The SSD T7 features 256-bit AES hardware encryption, though there is a 'touch' version that offers biometric security.

Don't buy if:

❌ You need something waterproof: This SSD doesn't come with an IP rating, so it hasn't been tested for dust and water resistance, though it is shockproof.

The bottom line:

🔎 Samsung SSD T7 is a popular, lightweight and small external hard drive with high security thanks to the 256-bit AES hardware encryption. ★★★★

The Samsung T7 SSD is extremely slim and lightweight; it's around the size of a credit card and weighs only 58g, so it easily fits in the palm of your hand or a pocket. It has a sleek but sturdy aluminum body that enables the T7 to withstand drops of up to 6.5 feet (2 meters), and also helps it regulate its temperature and prevent overheating.

The T7 comes preformatted in the exFAT format and is compatible with Windows, Mac and Android straight out of the box. It offers fast write speeds for transferring large amounts of data, and it features password protection with AES 256-bit hardware encryption. If you want even more security, you can opt for the Samsung T7 Touch, which offers biometric security via fingerprint.

It's worth noting that there's no waterproof rating on this device, but it comes in three appealing colors: Titan Gray, Indigo Blue and Metallic Red. You can buy it in 500GB, 1TB and 2TB versions, and it comes with a three-year warranty for peace of mind.

  • Need a camera backpack to carry your kit? Look no further than our handy guide.
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Test Results
AttributesNotes
DesignTiny, pocketable
FunctionalityData encryption, works straight of the box
PerformanceFast data transfer

Best desktop hard drive

Stock photo of the Western Digital My Book hard drive

The Western Digital My Book is best kept on your desk rather than being taken out and about (Image credit: Amazon)

Western Digital My Book

Keep this on your desk to schedule backups of your important photos and videos

Specifications

Read speeds up to: Not specified but around 200 MB/s
Connectivity: USB-A to Mini B
Waterproof rating: None
Operating temperatures: 23°F to 95ºF / -5°C to 35°C
Available as (capacity): 4TB, 6TB, 8TB, 12TB, 14TB, 16TB, 18TB, 22TB
Warranty: Three year
Size: 139.3mm x 49mm x 170.6mm
Weight: 2.2 lbs (less for smaller capacity models)

Reasons to buy

+
Scheduled backups
+
256-bit AES hardware encryption
+
Affordable

Reasons to avoid

-
Spinning drive not as reliable as SSD
-
Requires external power
-
USB-A to Mini B not desirable
Buy if:

✅ You want to expand your computer storage capacity: There is a vast range of capacities available, all the way up to a ginormous 22TB.

Don't buy if:

❌ You are relying on it as your sole means of long-term back up: An HDD will fail eventually; if you're looking for something that will last longer than five years, consider an SSD instead.

The bottom line:

🔎 Western Digital My Book is a convenient and affordable desktop storage solution for storing large files like photos and videos. ★★★★

As you'd come to expect from one of the biggest names in the market, the Western Digital My Book is an excellent hard drive. 

This device is best used as an HDD storage system to regularly back up your files and media at home, rather than expanding your storage while you're on the go. It's bigger and bulkier than its SSD rivals and requires a dedicated power source, so it's not particularly travel-friendly. 

The plus side of this older technology is that it provides a cheaper way of backing up large amounts of data, offering capacities as high as a whopping 22TB.

The My Book can be password protected and linked to a particular laptop or desktop computer, meaning it only asks for the password when you connect it to a new device. You can also install Western Digital Utilities, which provides options for scheduling backups and data encryption, keeping your files extra secure.

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Test Results
AttributesNotes
DesignDesktop HDD
FunctionalityRequires power supply, password protection
PerformanceReliable scheduled backups

Best for in the field

Stock photo of the LaCie Rugged hard drive

There are a range of LaCie Rugged hard drives to choose from offering different functionality. (Image credit: Amazon)

LaCie Rugged

Lacie have a series of Rugged drives for worry-free portability in the field

Specifications

Read speeds up to: 130 MB/s to 2800 MB/s depending on model
Connectivity: Depends on model
Waterproof rating: IP67
Operating temperatures: 41° F to 95° F (5° C to 35° C)
Available as (capacity): 2TB, 4TB, 5TB, 8TB
Warranty: Three or five years (model dependent)
Size: Depends on model
Weight: Depends on model

Reasons to buy

+
Extremely durable
+
Compact
+
No external power

Reasons to avoid

-
Choice of models is confusing
-
Some models very expensive
-
Some models aren't SSD
Buy if:

✅ You'll be using your hard drive out in the field: With IP67 waterproofing and a durable layer of silicone around the outside, this model can withstand all your outdoor adventures.

Don't buy if:

❌ You want a quick and easy choice: The number of different models on offer can make it difficult to decide.

The bottom line:

🔎 LaCie Rugged: The rugged build and waterproofing on this drive make it a great choice for photographers who are looking to take it on outdoor shoots or camping trips. ★★★★½

As the name would suggest, LaCie has designed its series of Rugged drives to be extremely resilient and durable, destined for use out in the field. They all come encased in a thick layer of silicone (typically in their signature orange color) and can withstand drops of between three and four feet. 

These hard drives also feature crush resistance of between one and two tonnes (the weight of a car) and come with an IP67 rating, which means they're completely protected against dust and can even be safely submerged in water of up to one meter in depth. Since the Rugged drives can handle basically anything you throw at them, they're great for taking along on outdoor shoots.

There are various models of the LaCie Rugged with different features on offer, including options with encryption, embedded SD card slots as well as Thunderbolt 3 connections that offer up to 2,800 MB/s transfer speeds. You can even get some as hard drives and some as SSDs, depending on your needs and budget.  

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Test Results
AttributesNotes
DesignRugged and waterproof
FunctionalityVaries per model
PerformanceCumbersome setup, depends on model

Best shockproof hard drive

Stock photo of the Transcend StoreJet 25M3C hard drive

Transcend StoreJet 25M3C has a three-stage shock protection system. (Image credit: Amazon)

Transcend StoreJet 25M3C

The best palm-sized, shockproof hard drive

Specifications

Read speeds up to: 10Gbps
Connectivity: USB Type C to USB Type A/USB-C to USB-C
Waterproof rating: None
Operating temperatures: 41°F - 131°F (5°C - 55°C)
Available as (capacity): 1TB, 2TB, 4TB
Warranty: Three year
Size: 4TB: 5.10 x 3.18 x 0.95- inches (129.5 mm x 80.8 mm x 24.1 mm) and smaller
Weight: 294g and less

Reasons to buy

+
Extremely durable
+
One-touch backup function

Reasons to avoid

-
Hard drive (not an SSD)
-
No IP rating
Buy if:

✅ You want ultimate data control: The Transcend Elite software helps you to carefully manage your data, with options for backup, restore, cloud backup, encryption and disk locking.

Don't buy if:

❌ You're looking for an SSD: This is a standard hard drive, although it still has impressive transfer rates of up to 5Gbps.

The bottom line:

🔎 Transcend StoreJet 25M3C: Featuring extreme shock resistance and multiple ways to manage your data, this is a fantastic hard drive to keep on your desk at home without fear of knocking it off. ★★★★

Although the Transcend StoreJet 25M3C isn't the fastest device on the block compared to the best SSDs, it's a go-to model if you need a huge amount of additional capacity and don't mind milder transfer speeds. It offers fast transfer rates of up to 5Gbps for a hard drive. It's also available in different configurations, but we've highlighted the 25M3C, which includes a USB-C connection. You can also use it with a USB-C to USB-A converter.

The palm-sized device is 'supreme shock-resistant', featuring a three-stage shock protection system that Transcend proudly boasts has passed US military transit drop testing. The protection consists of a silicone rubber casing, an internal shock-absorbing suspension damper and a reinforced hard casing. No matter how clumsy you are, you certainly won't have to worry about this falling off your desk.

While using Transcend Elite software, you can utilize the 'one-touch auto backup' to instantly back up your data. The software also allows for advanced data management such as backup and restore, cloud backup, encryption and disk locking.

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Test Results
AttributesNotes
DesignSmall, robust
FunctionalityShock and drop proof, one touch backup
PerformanceQuick file transfers and efficient data management

Best tiny SSD

Stock photo of the Crucial X9 Pro hard drive

The Crucial X9 Pro is one of the smallest SSDs on the market. (Image credit: Amazon)

Crucial X9 Pro

A tiny SSD that you could even attach to a keyring

Specifications

Read speeds up to: 1050 MB/s
Connectivity: USB-C
Waterproof rating: IP55
Operating temperatures: 32 °F to 158 °F
Available as (capacity): 1TB, 2TB, 4TB
Warranty: Five year
Size: 0.3 x 2.6 x 2 inches
Weight: 1.5 oz (42.5g)

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight and very compact SSD
+
Ships in exFAT format

Reasons to avoid

-
Comparable models cost less
-
Doesn't include a Type-A adapter
Buy if:

✅ You want something small to carry around with you: This one is small enough to attach to your keyring and it's extremely lightweight.

Don't buy if:

❌ You want the fastest transfer speeds: The upgraded Crucial X10 Pro offers faster transfer rates, but also costs more money.

The bottom line:

🔎 Crucial X9 Pro: Ideal for attaching to a keyring or slipping into your pocket, this lightweight SSD is easy to carry around and offers basic water and dust protection. ★★★★½

You'll struggle to find an SSD more portable than the tiny Crucial X9 Pro — a rectangular, razor-thin, matte-gray SSD that's only 0.3 by 2.6 by 2 inches and weighs just 1.5 oz. This device is built from anodized aluminum with a block, rubberized base and a simple but aesthetically appealing finish. There's also room on one of the corners to thread through a lanyard if you so wish. 

It has an ingress protection rating of IP55 (which means limited protection from dust and low-pressure water jets) and drop protection up to 7.5 feet, so you don't need to worry if you drop it or inadvertently leave it out in the rain. It's protected with a five-year warranty, too.

This hard drive is the field photographer's best friend, being small and light enough to carry around without adding excess weight to your camera bag. Keeping weight low can be crucial when traveling with tripods, lenses and heavy cameras, so anything that cuts down on the overall gear burden is a win in our books.

The model that has superseded this one is the Crucial X10 Pro, which costs more but offers significantly faster file transfers than its predecessor.

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Test Results
AttributesNotes
DesignTiny, attractive
FunctionalityHighly portable, IP55 rated
PerformanceExcellent performance

Best no frills hard drive

Stock photo of the Toshiba Canvio Flex hard drive

The Toshiba Canvio Flex hard drive is elegant and stylish. (Image credit: Amazon)

Toshiba Canvio Flex

Best for iPad or tablet users, this hard drive doesn't disappoint

Specifications

Read speeds up to: 1050 MB/s (5Gbit/s)
Connectivity: Micro-B USB to USB-C/USB-A
Waterproof rating: None
Operating temperatures: Not specified
Available as (capacity): 1TB, 2TB, 4TB
Warranty: Three year
Size: 1TB & 2TB: 80 x 111 x 13.5 mm 4TB: 80 x 111 x 19.5 mm
Weight: 7.4oz (210g)