Cloud storage may have made external hard drives less relevant than they used to be, but there is still wisdom in keeping an offline backup of important files. There are numerous security risks attached to cloud storage - primarily questions about data privacy and the potential of leaks/hacks exposing your data to bad actors.
With that in mind - if you want to make absolutely sure that your important data is secure - an external hard drive is still the best option. It’s also good for transporting very large files and for accessing your data when travelling, especially in areas with poor net access. So let’s take a look at 4 of the best external hard drives you can buy right now:
Let’s start strong, with the ‘My Passport Ultra’ from Western Digital. The newest model of HD on our list, it benefits from very strong 256-AES encryption, making sure your files are as safe as they can possibly be. It also has very good transfer speeds - not the fastest going, but good enough to copy large video files or a photo library without you getting bored and wandering off to make a cup of tea.
All of this is wrapped up in a smart-looking frame with small footprint and a light weight. This makes the My Passport Ultra a great choice for small backups, or for taking important files on the go with you - this thing will slip inside a laptop bag no problem.
Unfortunately it’s not the cheapest model going - compared to the Seagate Backup Plus, it offers less capacity for more money. Additionally the case - while looking very smart - is made of plastic, so it’s as sturdy as the LaCie metal Porsche. However the powerful encryption and a full suite of extras (including Western Digital’s online backup storage, so you choose to have your data backed up to the cloud when you transfer to the HD) are worth the extra expense.
If you want something that is just as reliable as the My Passport but a touch cheaper, then Seagate’s Backup Plus is a good choice. The form factor is similar to the My Passport Ultra, though it’s a shade heavier because it has an aluminum body instead of plastic. You’ll barely notice the difference in your bag though.
The data transfer rates aren’t as strong as the other hard drives on this list, but the Backup Plus has 2 things going for it - reliability and price. The Backup Plus is an extremely reliable drive, generally considered to be one of the least error-prone of the standard consumer backup drives. Secondly, the price is the cheapest of anything on this list - you’re paying less money for an extra terabyte of storage.
There is a lot to like about this model - it’s reliable, well-built and competitively-priced. If you don’t mind slightly slower transfer speeds and a lack of shiny bundled software, this is an excellent choice.
Seagate Backup Plus Portable
4.5 / 5
Sturdy metal body
Slower transfer rate
Lacks full application suite of Western Digital HDs
External hard drives are normally utilitarian things, built to do a job and little more. However, why can’t they look good too? That was thinking behind LaCie’s Porsche Design HD - a partnership with the famous car makers to make a hard drive as beautiful as it was functional.
And damn, this thing looks good. An all-metal body with a sleek design, it’s designed to be left on your desk, not hidden away in a drawer. It’s not just a pretty face though - it boasts extremely fast transfer speeds and a USB-C interface, as well as password-protection for extra security.
However, as you may guess, this doesn’t come for cheap. Given the relatively average capacity, the Porsche Design is significantly more expensive than comparable Western Digital or Seagate drives. Moreover, the all-metal design adds a lot of weight, though it’s still small enough to slip into a bag.
That said, you’re not buying this to hide it in a bag - this is a luxury statement purchase, so if you like the design, go with it!
Finally, let’s go a bit bigger. The other hard drives on this list have been portable, designed to marry a light weight with smaller capacity. However if you’ve got a lot of files to backup, a mere 2-4Tb drive may not cut it. In that case, you’re gonna need Western Digital’s Back D10 - an 8Tb monster that will hold as much data as you could possibly want to backup.
This is a fully-featured drive: not only does it come with an enormous capacity, but it has extremely fast transfer speeds, an extremely durable chassis, and ‘Active Cooling’ technology to stop it overheating during heavy use!
As you might imagine, this isn’t really designed as a portable drive. Physically it’s the biggest and heaviest of the drives on show today - so it would be inconvenient to travel with, and it requires a dedicated power supply to function. It’s also very expensive - but given what you’re paying for, the price seems fair.
This is a drive for people who want to make absolutely sure all their data is backed up securely - it is aimed at gamers with a large library of video games, but would also suit anyone working in digital design, music mastering, video editing, etc - anything that involves large video/image/audio files you can’t risk losing. That piece of mind is worth the extra price - just make sure to clear a space on your desk for it!