If you’re running out of storage space on your laptop or if you need to back up your data, an external hard drive can solve your problem. However, with hundreds of options that vary from dirt cheap to very expensive, how do you know which one is right for your needs? This article provides a guide to the best portable storage drives for different use cases, including incremental backups, field backups, and gaming.
For incremental backups, the Western Digital Elements desktop hard drive is recommended due to being one of the cheapest and most reliable drives available. It has a wide range of storage options going up to 20 terabytes. The Seagate Portable 8-TB HDD and the Western Digital Elements 5-TB Portable HDD, which is more portable and doesn’t require external power, are also recommended.
For field backups, the Crucial drives are the author’s favorite. The Crucial X6 Portable SSD is reasonably priced and speedy, and the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD is the fastest drive the author has tested. The OWC drives are recommended for people who need a drive that can stand up to life in a backpack. The Elektron is the author’s choice and is easy to unscrew to swap the drive inside the aluminum casing. The Envoy Pro FX is a larger drive that is even faster and comes in sizes up to 4 TB, but the 2-TB model is pricey at $400.
For gaming, the Western Digital P40 is a solid choice. It has some cool RGB lights on the bottom, but the author’s testing showed inconsistent speed results.
If you want to put a bigger SSD in your laptop, a bare drive is recommended, which is generally cheaper than the drives with enclosures listed above. The author’s experience shows that the most common form factor is M.2 2280, which is the long thin drive.
In conclusion, selecting an external hard drive depends on your use case, budget, and storage needs. The list provided in this article has been tested by the author and is a good starting point to guide you in finding the best portable storage drives for your workflow.