The 10 Best External Hard Drives - June 2017
Every week we analyse the technical specs, reviews and prices of every external hard drive on the market in the US to determine our top 10 list.
In total we compared over 772 external hard drives, 6,500 reviews and 1,420 prices. Last updated 20 June 2017.
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External Hard Drive Brands
Find out how external hard drive brands compare. The average rating for each brand is based on the rating of all of their external hard drives. Click on a link to compare all external hard drives made by your favourite brand.
Choosing the Best External Hard Drive
External hard drives are portable and used to backup files and data from your computer, so they’re safeguarded in case of accident or for retrieval at a later date. While Cloud-based backups are being used more and more for backups, external hard drives still have several important benefits compared to online backups:
- Peace of mind: many people don’t 100% trust the Cloud yet, and having their data stored in some unknown, invisible server somewhere leaves them worried about the long-term safety of their data. External hard drives offer tangible, physical objects to safely backup your files, without having to rely on 3rd-party companies.
- Backing up and restoring files is far faster, especially with newer models that use USB 3 for transferring data.
- Data can be retrieved without needing a net connection, making them useful if travelling or if you find yourself somewhere without a solid net connection.
- High-level security options - such as fingerprint scanners, palm vein scanners and number pads - offer vastly increased security and peace of mind when storing very important files. Moreover, there is the increased security of being able to physically lock away the hard drives away from prying eyes.
- Finally, USB hard drives are still one of the best methods for quickly moving very large files between different computers. It is frequently easier (as long as the computers aren’t too far apart) to simply transfer the file to the drive, plug it in to the second computer, and transfer rather than having to deal with slower upload/download speeds from services such as Dropbox.
The main important consideration when choosing an external hard drive is the capacity. This Is a measure of how much data the drive can hold, and is measured in gigabytes (Gb) or terrabytes (Tb) . A gigabyte is 1000 megabytes, and a terabyte is 1000 gigabytes. Our drives range from relatively small portable 120gig drives to enormous 5Tb drives, which can safely hold all the data from multiple machines at once. Generally speaking the higher the capacity the better, but it does depend on what you’re going to be backing up. If you only use your computer to store documents, low-res photos and the like, a 2-500 gig drive should be enough. On the other hand, large capacity drives are useful for storing RAW photos, video editing or Photoshop files.
Size & Portability
Hand in hand with the capacity of the drive is its size. Generally speaking, the larger the capacity of a drive, the bigger it is. Small-capacity drives are extremely portable, being no larger than a mobile phone, so can be transported very easily. On the other end of the scale, the very large capacity drives are not meant to be portable, and usually sit in or under your desk as a safe deposit for all your data. Portability and weight will only become a real issue when choosing the very high-capacity drives, but it is worth paying attention to if you plan on transporting the drive frequently.
Read & write speeds measure how quickly data can be written from & to the external hard drive. This is measures in bytes per second - the higher the speed, the faster large files (such as movies) will be transferred onto or from the drive. The read-write speeds are also affected by the USB version supported - USB 3.0 supported drives allow far higher transfer rates than USB 2 drives, so it is worth seeking out the newest drive you can for the fastest data transfer speeds.
On the subject of USBs, external hard drives are powered by 2 main methods: via USB or externally power lead. Smaller drives will be powered via USB - this means that the same lead that transfers the data also powers the device. This means no battery, no extra leads, and they are far more portable. Larger drives may be so big and powerful that USB alone can’t provide enough power - in which case they may need an external power connection to properly function. This means that extra consideration has to be made for a spare power socket and the required leads - making them less use when on the go.
Finally, there are a wealth of extras that can be found in more advanced models of external hard drives. Some of these may only be useful in specific situations, and you will usually pay more for them, but the utility may well be worth the extra cost. Some examples of extra features include:
- Integrated card reader: a built in card reader in the drive allows the device to also read/write to SD cards.
- Fingerprint scanner: an optical fingerprint scanner drastically increases the security of your device, by meaning only specific fingerprints can unlock the device and access the files. For even greater security, a ‘palm vein’ scanner detects the blood pumping through the unique arrangement of veins in your hand, meaning that the scanner cannot be fooled by severed fingers - the owner has to be there in person and alive.
- Ruggedized outer layer: for those who frequently take drives outdoors or in harsh conditions, a hefty rubber or metal basing protects the device from damage, keeping your files intact through even the worst conditions.
External Hard Drive Retailers, Prices and Features
External Hard Drive Prices
External hard drives range in price from $9 to $850 and in total we found prices for 152 external hard drives. On average, a new external hard drive costs $182 and 80% of external hard drives are priced between $67 and $380. The Western Digital My Book Pro 12TB is the most expensive external hard drive that we found at $850, and the Asus Leather is the cheapest at only $10.
External Hard Drive Brands - Price Range
The average price of DataLocker external hard drives is $562 which is the highest average price of all external hard drive brands. DataLocker external hard drives range in price from $562 to $562.
The average price of ioSafe external hard drives is $413 which is the second highest average price of all external hard drive brands. ioSafe external hard drives start at $413 and the most expensive ioSafe external hard drive costs $413.
The average price of BUSlink external hard drives is $284 which is the third highest average price of all external hard drive brands. BUSlink external hard drives range in price from $284 to $284.
External Hard Drive Brands - Average Ratings
We have analysed 782 expert reviews and 3,261 user reviews for external hard drives available online and used this information to determine the average rating for each brand of external hard drive. Seagate is the top rated external hard drive brand with an average rating of 91%. Maxtor is the second best brand with 91% and LaCie is the third best brand with 87%.
Biggest External Hard Drive Retailers
The biggest external hard drive retailer by number of products currently for sale is Adorama. We found 80 current external hard drive offers from Adorama. The second biggest external hard drive retailer is Focus Camera with 50 offers. That means Adorama is much bigger than Focus Camera when it comes to external hard drives. Amazon US is the third biggest retailer with 45 current offers.
When Are Most New External Hard Drives Released?
We couldn't see any obvious pattern in the release dates for new external hard drives over the last 3 years. In June 2016 37 new external hard drives were released making it the biggest month that year for new external hard drive releases. In 2015 most new external hard drives were released in September, with 80 new external hard drives released that month. February was the biggest month in 2014 for new external hard drives, with 91 new external hard drives released that month.
How Fast Do External Hard Drive Prices Drop After Release?
New external hard drives drop in price by an average of 6% in the first 6 months after they wer first released. That means a saving of $10 on a typical $183 new external hard drive if you wait 6 months before buying.
Hard Drive Capacities
Comparing all external hard drives, the hard drive capacities range from 1GB to 60TB. The hard drive capacities of most external hard drives range from 1TB to 2.1TB. The BUSlinkCipherShield Dual Key USB 3.0 512-bit 20TB, which currently retails for $283.57, has the biggest hard drive capacity and is a 20TB capacity external hard drive. The BUSlinkCipherShield Dual Key USB 3.0 512-bit 20TB, which is available at $119.99, has the smallest hard drive capacity and is a 500GB capacity external hard drive.
The vast majority of the 580 new external hard drives currently listed on Kagoo are USB powered external hard drives. 425 out of 580 are USB powered external hard drives.
The weights of external hard drives range from 41g to 6.8kg. The weights of the majority of external hard drives range from 41g to 340g. The external hard drive with the heaviest weight is the ioSafeSoloPRO, which is a 6.8kg external hard drive and is available at $413.03. The external hard drive with the lightest weight is the ioSafeSoloPRO, which is a 100g external hard drive and is available at $134.95.
Biggest External Hard Drive Retailers
We found 80 current offers for external hard drives from Adorama making it the biggest external hard drive retailer. That is much bigger than the second biggest retailer, Focus Camera for whom we found 50 current offers for external hard drives. The third biggest retailer is Amazon US with 45 current external hard drive offers.
Which Are the Cheapest Retailers for External Hard Drives?
With the cheapest price on 47 external hard drives, Adorama is most frequently the cheapest external hard drive retailer.
Proportion of External Hard Drives for Which Each Retailer is Cheapest?
The retailer that most frequently offered the cheapest price on external hard drives is Adorama and offers the cheapest price on 58.8% of its external hard drives.