If you need more computer storage, the best external hard drives are a great way of getting more space, quickly and easily. In a nutshell, HDDs are cheaper, and SSDs are quicker. Most external drives are plug-in and go models, that connect to your laptop or PC via a USB connection. They come in all sizes - from smaller 128GB models, all the way to 10TB hard drive space, which will require an external power source.
Best performing hard drive
Western Digital, or WD Elements, is one of the most trusted models. It offers both a PC and Mac version in sizes from 500GB to 5TB, The Elements is compatible with Playstation and Xbox consoles too and can be used as a primary storage drive for game saves and installs. It plugs into devices via a USB 3.0 connection. It’s slim and easy to fit into the pocket of a rucksack or laptop bag, and it’ll even fit comfortably into smaller camera bags too.
HDD drive with loads of storage
The Seagate Expansion is a larger HDD, and it requires an external power source, meaning you need to plug it in. You get up to 6TB of storage space in a single device, and standard HDD read and write speeds too. It is fully compatible with PS4 and Xbox One. It also works with Macs and PCs, connecting via a USB 3.0 cable.
Slick HHD for games consoles
If you’re looking for a way to extend the storage on a video game console then the Toshiba Canvio line is perfect. It performs perfectly when used as an external HDD that simply stays plugged into a PS4 or Xbox One. It works fine with PCs too, and comes with a USB 3.0 connection and some fine read and write speeds.
The Samsung T7 is essential for anyone working with a lot of video editing because the read and write speeds are superior and it shaves hours off the time it takes to copy large video files from one device to another. It has USC to C and A connectivity and supports USB 3.2, so is fully compatible with all modern laptops, PCs, and smartphones. It has back-up encryption using AES 256-bit encryption to protect your data and a fingerprint scanner for extra security.
Tough little drive
The LaCie Rugged has a divisive design, but it’s a tough little HDD that you can 100% trust with your back-ups and files. This HDD is tough, and it’s designed to be bashed around inside rucksacks and luggage. It is shock and drop resistant up to 4 feet and can withstand over 2200 pounds of pressure. Copy and read speeds are decent and the LaCie can be connected with either a USB 3.0 A connector or a USB-C connector for more modern devices.
Choosing an external hard drive
Choosing the best external hard drive or SSD for your needs should come down to what you'll be using it for. You can plug most external HDDs and SSDs into video game consoles, to get more space for downloadable games, but you'll need to make sure you get one with a USB-A connection. For gamers, we recommend a 2TB HDD or above, as we don't think the added speed of SSD makes enough of a difference to justify the added expense.
For computer and laptop use, we recommend SSDs if you're working with large files (like videos etc), to cut down on transfer time. If you're confident enough to do it, you can buy an SSD to boot Windows from, which will really speed up an older PC if your budget is tight. And if you travel regularly, we recommend SSD too - they have no moving parts, so SSDs are far sturdier.
If you're just looking to store files at home, a regular HDD - from 1TB to 4TB - will serve most needs.
What is the difference between HDD and SSD?
You’ll see HDDs and SSDs referenced regularly, and they essentially do the same thing, so what’s the difference? A Hard Disk Drive (HDD) is an older style storage drive, which includes moving parts (a platter that spins at a certain speed when data is read or written). This not only limits the speeds at which it can copy or read files, but it also means that it is more liable to malfunctions or corruptions, as the spinning platter can be damaged or dislodged. More modern HDDs have ample protections to stop this happening - especially the better quality ones - but there is always a chance that the drive will fail the older and more beaten it gets. This technology is far cheaper, so HDDs are less expensive to buy.
A Solid State Drive is… exactly as it sounds. There are no moving parts here, so it’s far more difficult to damage. It also means that you get quicker read and write speeds - up to nine times faster than regular HDDs - although there are other factors that influence exactly how quickly your files transfer (such as the USB connection you use), so you may not quite get the same performance as manufacturers boast on the box. SSDs are, as a result, much more expensive - between two and three times that of regular HDDs. So think carefully about whether you need that extra performance and reliability because you do pay for it. Increasingly, laptops and modern PCs are using internal SSDs, which are slightly cheaper, as either primary storage or drives to boot their operating system.