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The 10 Best External Hard Drives - May 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 758 external hard drives, 6,870 reviews and 1,190 prices. Last updated 23 May 2017.

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Rugged USB-C 2TB
#2 in External Hard Drives

LaCie Rugged USB‑C 2TB

tweaktown.com - Best Value AwardDigital Versus - 5 Star01net.com - 4 StarLes Numeriques.com - 5 Star
28 Reviews + 8 Awards
Yes
2TB
Orange
USB Powered
Hard Drive Capacity
Colours
  • $159.99
    Adorama
    Save $20.00 (11%)
    View Details
My Passport Ultra
#2 in External Hard Drives

Western Digital My Passport Ultra

tweaktown.com - Editor's Choice01net.com - 4 Starhard-h2o.com - Great BuyExpert Reviews - Best Buy
139 Reviews + 19 Awards
Yes
3TB
Blue
USB Powered
Hard Drive Capacity
Colours
  • $109.00
    Amazon US
    Save $58.33
    View Details
  • More shops: 3
  • $110.97 Tech For Less
  • $119.99 Focus Camera
Mercury Elite Pro 6TB
#3 in External Hard Drives

OWC Mercury Elite Pro 6TB

15 Reviews + 2 Awards
Yes
6TB
Silver
USB Powered
Hard Drive Capacity
Colours
  • $329.75
    Adorama
    View Details
Armor A60
#3 in External Hard Drives

Silicon Power Armor A60

nikktech.com - Goldalmodi.org - Recommended BuyBjorn3d.com - Seal of Approvalhitechlegion.com - Gold Award
21 Reviews + 9 Awards
Yes
4TB
Black
USB Powered
Hard Drive Capacity
Colours
  • $117.52
    Overstock
    View Details
Mercury Elite Pro 3TB
#4 in External Hard Drives

OWC Mercury Elite Pro 3TB

15 Reviews + 2 Awards
Yes
3TB
Silver
USB Powered
Hard Drive Capacity
Colours
  • $199.75
    Adorama
    View Details
Portable 4TB
#4 in External Hard Drives

Seagate Portable 4TB

apcmag.com - Editor's Choiceoverclockersclub.com - Hard Drive Of The YearPC Mag - Editor's ChoiceExpert Reviews - Best Buy
612 Reviews + 21 Awards
Yes
4TB
Silver
USB Powered
Hard Drive Capacity
Colours
  • $119.99
    Adorama
    View Details
Mercury Elite Pro 2TB
#9 in External Hard Drives

OWC Mercury Elite Pro 2TB

15 Reviews + 2 Awards
Yes
2TB
Silver
USB Powered
Hard Drive Capacity
Colours
  • $169.75
    Adorama
    View Details
Store Go 1TB
#9 in External Hard Drives

Verbatim Store Go 1TB

zeden.net - Approvedmetku.net - Goldapcmag.com - Highly Recommendedpcfoster.pl - Recommended
39 Reviews + 9 Awards
Yes
1TB
Blue
USB Powered
Hard Drive Capacity
Colours
  • $79.55
    Overstock
    View Details
SoloPRO
#10 in External Hard Drives

ioSafe SoloPRO

tweaktown.com - Best Features Awardcomputershopper.com - Editor's ChoicePC Mag - Editor's Choicemaximumpc.com - Kick Ass Award
26 Reviews + 9 Awards
No
6TB
Black
USB Powered
Hard Drive Capacity
Colours
  • $413.03
    Overstock
    Save $15.68 (4%)
    View Details
Mercury Elite Pro 4TB
#11 in External Hard Drives

OWC Mercury Elite Pro 4TB

15 Reviews + 2 Awards
Yes
4TB
Silver
USB Powered
Hard Drive Capacity
Colours
  • $249.00
    Adorama
    View Details

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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.

Logo Brand Number of External Hard Drives Price Range Average Rating
LaCie logo LaCie External Hard Drives 31 $55 - $600 92%
Seagate logo Seagate External Hard Drives 25 $55 - $253 93%
Other brands Other External Hard Drive Brands 78 $70 - $850

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.

Capacity

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

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.

Power

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.

Extras

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 $13 to $850 and in total we found prices for 149 external hard drives. The average price of a new external hard drive is $178 and the 80% of external hard drives are priced between $75 and $330. The Western Digital My Book Pro 12TB is the most expensive external hard drive that we found at $850, and the Verbatim Store Go 4TB is the cheapest at only $14.

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 start at $562 and the most expensive DataLocker external hard drive costs $562.

IoSafe external hard drives range in price from $413 to $413, and the second highest average external hard drive price out of all brands is ioSafe external hard drives with an average price of $413.

The %8highest average external hard drive price out of all brands is BUSlink external hard drives with an average price of $284. BUSlink external hard drives start at $284 and the most expensive BUSlink external hard drive costs $284.

External Hard Drive Brands - Average Ratings

We have analysed 837 expert reviews and 3,391 user reviews for external hard drives written online and used this information to determine the average rating for each brand of external hard drive. The top three external hard drive brands are Seagate, Maxtor and LaCie. Seagate has an average rating of 91%, Maxtor has an average rating of 91% and LaCie has an average rating of 86%.

Biggest External Hard Drive Retailers

We found 78 current offers for external hard drives from Adorama making it the biggest external hard drive retailer. That is significantly bigger than the second biggest retailer, Amazon US for whom we found 54 current offers for external hard drives. The third biggest retailer is Focus Camera with 53 current external hard drive offers.

When Are Most New External Hard Drives Released?

We looked at the release dates for new external hard drives over the last 3 years, but couldn't see any evident trend. In June 2016 38 new external hard drives were released making it the biggest month that year for new external hard drive releases. 81 new external hard drives were released in September 2015 making it the biggest month that year for new external hard drive releases. In 2014 most new external hard drives were released in February, with 91 new external hard drives released that month.

How Fast Do External Hard Drive Prices Drop After Release?

On average external hard drives drop in price by 5% in the first 6 months after release. That means a saving of $9 on a typical $178 new external hard drive if you wait 6 months before buying.

Hard Drive Capacities

Across the range of 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 has the biggest hard drive capacity. This external hard drive is a 20TB capacity external hard drive and is priced at $283.57. The BUSlinkCipherShield Dual Key USB 3.0 512-bit 20TB, which is priced at $81.26, has the smallest hard drive capacity and is a 160GB capacity external hard drive.

USB Powered

Of the 569 new external hard drives currently listed on Kagoo, the vast majority are USB powered external hard drives. 73% of external hard drives are USB powered external hard drives.

Weights

The weights of external hard drives range from 41g to 6.8kg. The weights of most external hard drives range from 41g to 340g. The ioSafeSoloPRO, which is priced at $413.03, has the heaviest weight and is a 6.8kg external hard drive. The ioSafeSoloPRO has the lightest weight. This external hard drive is a 100g external hard drive and is available at $159.99.

Biggest External Hard Drive Retailers

The biggest external hard drive retailer by number of products currently for sale is Adorama. We found 78 current external hard drive offers from Adorama. The second biggest external hard drive retailer is Amazon US with 54 offers. That means Adorama is significantly bigger than Amazon US when it comes to external hard drives. Focus Camera is the third biggest retailer with 53 current offers.

Which Are the Cheapest Retailers for External Hard Drives?

The cheapest retailer by number of external hard drive for which they offer the cheapest price is v with the cheapest price on 49 external hard drives.

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 62.8% of its external hard drives.

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