Need some additional storage space for important family photos and documents?
We’ve got you covered.
The ability to digitally store information is second to none, but unlike physical files, computer storage is limited. While most systems offer between 500 GB and 1 TB of storage, enough for most people, some professions require much more additional space.
External hard drives aren’t just an extension to internal hard drives. Additionally, they allow you to backup important data, and if you pick up a portable drive, you can ensure files are safe on-the-go. Learning how to use an external hard drive is a hefty skill that will help you once you lock-down the perfect model.
Best External Hard Drive
To accommodate the needs of professionals, we here at Game Gavel have included some external hard drives with a capacity of up to 5 TB. While for those who just require a bit of extra space for dog pictures and memes, we have discovered some drives with a storage size as low as 500 GB.
We’ll show you plenty of options that feature a range of storage sizes for you to choose from. If you’re looking for a specific type of external HDD, let’s say a one more suited for consoles, check out the best external hard drive for Xbox One.
Best Choice: Western Digital 4TB Elements WDBU6Y0040BBK-WESN
Pros & Cons
- Slim design
- Cheaper 1/2/3 TB options
- Very durable
- The software isn’t the best
- The installation process on Mac
- Capacity: 4 TB
- Connectivity: USB 3.0/2.0
- Size: 4.4 x 3.2 x 0.82 in
- Weight: 0.52 lbs
Western Digital 4TB Elements WDBU6Y0040BBK-WESN Review
Western Digital sells some of the best hard drives on the market, which is why the WDBU6Y0040BBK-WESN is our best choice external drive. For just under $100, you get a drive that features a massive 4TB of storage, as well as high transfer speed, making this a suitable piece of equipment for videographers.
The slim, aluminum design allows the WDBU6Y0040BBK-WESN to fit into a pair of trousers or a backpack side pocket, without the worry of it getting crushed to pieces. Imagine losing 4TBs of storage over a flimsy design, ouch! I’d cry too.
Now, if you require more space than our chosen capacity size, then keep scrolling, as this Western Digital HDD only goes up to 4TB, even though we consider it the best external hard drive for gaming.
Premium Pick: SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD
Pros & Cons
- Water, dust, shock, and vibration-resistant
- Thin design
- Hole to add it to a keychain or D-ring
- 3-year warranty
- 250/500GB and 1/2TB options
- Pricey for a 1TB SSD
- Capacity: 1 TB
- Connectivity: Type-C/USB-A
- Max Speed: 550 Mb/s
- Size: 3.79 x 1.95 x 0.35 inches
- Weight: 0.09 lbs
SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD Review
SanDisk is known for their USB sticks and memory cards, but did you know that they sell some pretty sturdy external hard drives too? Our best quality external hard drive is the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD, a robust drive that you can trust with even your most important files.
Unlike most of the external drives on our list, this SSD features rounded corners and a textured surface, allowing for a comfortable grip to ensure it doesn’t slip out of your hands. For even further security, SanDisk included a colorful cutaway in the top-right corner for attaching the drive to a keychain or a bag.
Not only will you feel comfortable gripping the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD, but you can also relax knowing that the drive is water, dust, shock, and vibration-resistant, making this a perfect travel drive. Unfortunately, falling just short of $200, it is a very pricey external hard drive for just 1TB of storage. But like many drives on our list, sometimes it’s worth forking out a little extra for a sturdier design.
Best Value: Samsung Portable SSD T5
Pros & Cons
- Fast read/write speeds
- Strong, metal body
- Small, pocket-sized SSD
- Optional password protection with AES 256-bit hardware encryption
- Expensive for just 500 GB
- Capacity: 500 GB
- Connectivity: USB 3.1 Type-C
- Max Speed: 540 MB/s read, 520 MB/s write
- Size: 2.3 x 0.4 x 3 inches
- Weight: 0.1 lbs
Samsung Portable SSD T5 Review
If you’ve ever read our list of the best external hard drives for Mac, you’ll know that the Samsung T5 SSD was featured there too. It’s backward compatible, and we just can’t get enough of this durable SSD that balances performance and price perfectly.
We chose the 500GB version of the Samsung T5 for our list as it’s a decent enough size for most people in the market for an external drive. What’s also a great size is the body of the drive, measuring in at just 2.3 x 0.4 x 3 inches, it’ll fit into anyone’s back pocket. For this reason, the T5 is perfect for you travelers who require some additional storage for all of those sunset and beach photographs that you just can’t wait to upload to Instagram.
Now, although this is our favorite value external SSD due to the fact that it balances power and cost well, it is an expensive buy for just 500GBs of storage. Yet, sometimes it’s worth spending some extra cash for a powerful and portable solid-state drive.
Best Value Runner-Up: WD Elements Portable 4TB
Pros & Cons
- Password protection
- 2-year warranty
- 1/2/3/4TB options
- No free backup or security software included
- Capacity: 4 TB
- Connectivity: 2.0/3.0 USB
- Max Speed: 5,400 rpm
- Size: 4.4 x 3.2 x 0.82 inches
- Weight: 0.52 lbs
WD Elements Portable 4TB Review
Another value external hard drive is the WD Elements portable 4TB HDD. Western Digital is another brand renowned for it’s quality external drives that balance cost and capacity very well.
Though this isn’t a solid-state drive, the amount of storage space you get for under $100 is insane. Not only is the drive well priced, but the sleek body of the WD Element is also well constructed, while the Windows and Mac setup is very simple. For this reason, this drive is great for college, work, and even those who aren’t so tech-savvy.
Sadly, there’s no free backup or security software included, only a short trial of WD SmartWare, meaning the WD Element drive won’t automatically backup your data. Though, for under $100, the included 4TB of storage space should last you a while.
Best Features: WD My Passport Portable Storage
Pros & Cons
- Auto backup
- Easy setup
- Password protection with hardware encryption
- 1/2/3/4TB options
- Thicker than the 1/2TB options
- Capacity: 4TB
- Connectivity: 2.0/3.0 USB/Type-C
- Max Speed: 5,400 rpm
- Size: 4.33 x 3.21 x 0.85 inches
- Weight: 0.54 lbs
WD My Passport Portable Storage Review
Two Western Digital external hard drives in a row? Indeed! WD sells some very affordable HDDs, so we couldn’t resist putting another one onto our list.
You may have noticed that many of our chosen external drives come in multiple color options, and you won’t be limited on colors with this one either. The WD My Passport comes in 7 different colors with varying prices, and for $78.99 you can purchase a Homer Simpson yellow version that you’ll never lose. And if you do, then doh!
Another convenient feature is the auto backup, as well as password protection with hardware encryption to ensure all of your important data is safely stored away.
We chose the 4TB version of the WD My Passport as the cost/storage space balance is incredible. However, it’s much thicker than the 1TB and 2TB version of the Western Digital My Passport.
Best External Hard Drive: Buying Guide
Portability: Necessary for Travelling
If you’re someone who’s often out-and-about or you simply wish to purchase an external hard drive for your travels, then size is everything. When looking to purchase an external hard drive for school, vacation, or traveling in general, product dimensions shouldn’t be overlooked. Find something that will fit in your backpack or even your pocket when on-the-go—and if you can fit the drive into a case, perfect!
If you don’t care for portability, there are plenty of desktop external hard drives on the market that boasts a large storage capacity. This type of hard drive is best for those of you who work from home or in an office where you can keep the drive on top of a desk. This way, you don’t even have to worry about losing it.
Connectivity: What kind of connectivity should You look for?
Most external hard drives connect to your PC or laptop via a USB 2.0 or 3.0 cable. This way, you don’t have to set anything up or install special software in order to utilize the external hard drive. All you need to do is plug it into your computing device and it will install automatically so that you can use the drive within minutes.
Modern external hard drives, on the other hand, tend to come with smaller connectors—such as a micro USB or the newer Type C cable. Regardless of which USB type the drive comes with, you can still plug it right into your computer without the need for any fancy software. Of course, the transfer speeds are determined by the USB that your external hard drive comes equipped with. Therefore, we recommend using the latest USB C to ensure you get the best performance possible.
Speed: HDD vs SSD
On the topic of performance, there are two different types of storage devices to choose from that you may have come across when looking for an external hard drive: a solid-state drive (SSD) and a hard disk drive (HDD).
When it comes to aesthetics, they look very similar—but in reality, they are very different:
- Allow for faster backup for data
- More reliable due to fewer failures
- Faster than HDDs
- More expensive than an HDD
- Typically cheaper than an SSD
- Higher storage capacity
- Slower backup rates
- Not as fast as SSDs
Now, even though the best gaming SSDs have more advantages compared to HDDs, this mostly comes down to performance speed. Therefore, if you just wish to move over some family photos and important videos to an external drive, the high speeds of a solid-state drive aren’t exactly necessary. So, don’t be put off by an HDD—after all, they are much more affordable than SSDs.
Storage Space: How Much Is Too Much?
Some professionals—such as photographers and videographers—require more than 500GB storage capacity for their photographs and videos. On the other hand, those who don’t require an external hard drive for work or their hobbies can most likely get away with a 1TB or even 500GB external hard drive.
With that said, before you go and purchase an external hard drive, ensure that the storage capacity is large enough for your requirements.
Build Quality: Durable Design
One of the most important things to consider when buying an external hard drive is the built quality. After all, external hard drives are often used to store important files—files that you don’t want to lose over a poor-quality drive. When looking to purchase an external hard drive for your photographs and videos, aim for a drive that is made from metal or even a solid plastic.
For further protection, some of the drives on our list are shock and vibration-resistant, a handy feature that ensures your hard drive will last. For further protection, we advise you to get a case for your drive and to store it in a cool, dry place.
External Hard Drive: Frequently Asked Questions
When shopping for an awesome gaming HDD, tons of customers have various questions. Let’s look at some of the most common ones:
What Is an External Hard Drive Used For?
External hard drives are a fantastic and very convenient way to store photographs and other important files. Furthermore, they can also be used to backup files and free up your computer’s disk space with ease. In addition to the basics, there are plenty of advantages of an external hard drive that shouldn’t be overlooked:
- Portability: Depending on the size
- Convenience: Plug-and-go design
- Extra security: Password protection with hardware encryption
How Long Do External Hard Drives Last?
Like anything you purchase, an external hard drive will last through the years as long as you look after it. That means no throwing it around as you do with your phone, and more importantly, don’t throw it into your backpack without a case. Storing an external hard drive in a cool, dry place will also ensure that your external hard drive lasts. Furthermore, you could format your hard drive often to make it last longer.
Now, generally speaking, external hard drives are said to last around three- to five-years on average. Albeit, as we’ve previously mentioned, that totally depends on how well you look after it.
Can You Play Games on an External Hard Drive?
Absolutely! While you can’t play games from the hard drive itself, you can install games onto the external hard drive and play them on your PC. However, boot and load times may be significantly slower depending on the speed of the external hard drive.
You see, most external hard drives on the market are only 5,200rpm, meaning they won’t load as fast as your computer’s internal HDD. What’s more, is that if your drive disconnects during gameplay, it’s game over for you. Saying that, it’s a very handy way to play games on-the-go.
What Is the Best External Hard Drive for Photographers?
If you’re a professional photographer who depends on an external hard drive, chances are you require more than a terabyte of storage. If you already know how much storage space you use up per month/year, you can make an informed decision on which drive to buy. If you’re new to the game, chances are you require a 1- to 2TB capacity external hard drive to get you started.
Regardless of which external hard drive you choose to purchase, you must ensure that it offers enough space for your important files. If you still can’t find one that suits your personal storage requirements and you need extra storage for a console, why not take a look at our guide to the best external hard drives for PS4? You may just find the perfect external hard drive for all of your games and DLC.