In times when many people call a laptop their own, an external hard drive becomes increasingly important. As a backup medium or for memory expansion, external hard drives are particularly good. In addition, they prove to be a useful extension of the often scarce storage volume of the laptop. Not only businesses and the self-employed, but also numerous private households use the plates. But which hard drive is best?
Questions about the size, capacity and connections should be answered in advance of the purchase. Meanwhile, the selection of external hard drives is huge, because there are numerous manufacturers who woo their customers with their models. For this reason, we would like to introduce you to the 10 best hard drives in this comparison. We take into account factors such as disk space and encryption options. Afterwards we would like to give you tips, what you have to consider when buying an external hard drive and which properties of the storage medium should set their value.
Best external hard drives in detailed comparison
1. WD Elements Portable, 2 TB external hard drive and USB 3.0
This mobile hard drive impresses with its compact format. Despite its small size, the disk has a storage capacity of three terabytes and provides enough space for your movies, music, photos and other files. Another feature of the WD: The hard drive has a USB interface. Through the USB 3.0 input, the data is transferred to the hard drive at lightning speed. In addition, the interface is usable for USB 2.0. The WD hard drive is compatible with Windows 7 to Windows 10. It must be reformatted for the Apple operating system.
When formatting you have to pay attention to two main points:
- The hardware configuration
- The operating system
The file systems exFAT and FAT32 play a crucial role in formatting. If the hard disk is to be connected to and read and written to a PC or Mac, it may only be pre-formatted with these two systems. The manufacturer’s own WD Elements system is already preconfigured for use in a PC. The delivery does not include any software. If you are using a Mac, you should format the hard disk with either ExFAT or HSF + J. For this you can use the Disk Utility app or download the manufacturer’s WD Drive Utilities software from the Apple Store.
Further technical details in a nutshell:
- Size: 2.5 inches
- Memory Type: DDR3 SDRAM
- Hard disk technology: HDD
- Power: 1 watt
- Hard drive size: 2,000 gigabytes
- Weight: 454 grams
- Batteries required (1 lithium polymer)
2. Toshiba Canvio Basics 2 terabytes portable hard drive with SuperSpeed
The Toshiba Canvio Basics transfer files at high speed from your PC or laptop. Toshiba refers to the fast data transfer with SuperSpeed USB 3.0. Overall, it has a storage capacity of three terabytes. If you work with Windows, you can connect the disk directly and get started. The delivery set includes a USB cable. Other cables or power supplies are not required for use.
An advantage of the Toshiba plate: it is compact and handy. In addition, the Toshiba Canvio is compatible with older computers through USB 2.0. With the plug-and-play feature, you simply plug it in and pull the data from your notebook or PC, whether it’s movies, music or photos. For the security of the data you do not need to worry about Toshiba. The hard drive has a built-in shock sensor and is equipped with ramp-load technology that protects your data. Toshiba does not disclose how the use of the external hard drive looks when used with a Mac and other devices running the iOS operating system. Preformatting is not excluded. You can find out more at Toshiba Germany or in specialist shops.
3. Intenso Memory Case 2 terabytes of preformatted hard drive
The hard disk memory case of the manufacturer Intenso has a storage space of two terabytes and a USB 3.0 port. The data transfer takes place very fast. According to Intenso, the transfer speed is even up to ten times faster than with a USB 2.0 port. When the data is read, the hard disk reaches up to 85 megabytes per second. At a rate of 75 megabytes per second, they are written to disk.
A special feature of the memory case: The file system FAT32 is already preformatted. No matter if you use Windows or Mac: After the connection, it is immediately ready for use. The Intenso Memory Case can also be connected to the TV or receiver to record or play movies. Sufficient storage capacity is available on the hard disk.
More technical data in a nutshell:
- Weight: 186 grams
- Size: 2.5 inches
- Hard Disk Technology: HDD5400 rpm
- Memory Type: DDR3 SDRAM
The scope of delivery includes not only the hard disk but also a USB cable. A special software can encrypt the hard disk. You can also connect the Intenso plate to the Xbox.
4. Toshiba HDTB420EK3AA Canvio Basics portable external hard drive
The Canvio Basics convinces with its USB 3.0 interface and a storage capacity of three terabytes. It is compatible with USB 2.0 and you can also connect older devices to the hard drive. Plug-and-play, you connect to the hard drive, without having to make pre-formatting. It is compatible with Windows operating systems 10, 8,1 and 7. If you’re using a Mac, you may need to pre-format the hard drive. Toshiba does not give any details. In general, preformatting is recommended with the FAT32 file system. Nevertheless you should inquire in the specialized trade for more exact information.
5. Seagate STEA2000400 Expansion Portable 2 terabytes – external portable hard drive
The SEAGATE STEA2000400 Expansion Portable Hard Drive offers you up to two terabytes of storage space. Another important feature of the hard disk: It has the USB 3.0 interface. Thus, your data is transmitted quickly and without long waiting times. In addition, the hard drive is available immediately after connection. With drag-and-drop you can save the data on the external hard disk.
Further technical details of the model:
- Performance: 120 megabytes per second data transfer
- Size: 2.5 inches
- 4.5 watts
- Weight: 181 grams
To use the external hard drive for your Xbox one, USB 3.0 must be standard.
6. Maxtor 2TB portable external hard drive
This external hard drive from the manufacturer Maxtor offers you a storage capacity of two gigabytes. The practical and portable memory has a USB 3.0 interface as well as an AutoBackup. During data transfer, no important data is lost. A technical highlight of this hard drive: Through the SecretZone you encrypt your data on the storage medium. The data transfer rate is 480 megabytes per second. The hard drive speed is 7,200 revolutions per minute. Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks supports the Maxtor. If you use windows machine, you should format the hard disk with the systems exFAT and FAT32.
7. Transcend TS2TSJ25M3 StoreJet M3 external anti-shock hard disk 2 terabytes
One of the lesser known manufacturers of external hard drives is Transcend. The Store Jet M3 gives you two gigabytes of storage and a 3.0 USB interface that lets you easily and quickly plug and play data at 90 megabytes per second. In addition, the hard drive is usable for both Windows and Apple devices. With the latter, you just have to reformat the hard drive to Apple format. For Windows XP and Mac OS X 10.5 or higher, the hard disk is compatible. Even the Linux operating system is supported as of kernel 2.6.31.
According to Transcend, your data is offered triple protection. The sturdy hard drive housing and the silicone outer shell and an additional suspension system inside the housing compensate shocks. This reduces potential loss of data. As Transcend points out, there is no safer place for your data than this disk. Data backup takes place on the StoreJet M3 at the push of a button. With just one click you save your data and sync directories with your PC or notebook. You only have to set up this function once with a supplied software. Then you can backup the data easily.
Another feature of the hard disk: It has the sleep mode. Once you do not use it for ten minutes, it automatically switches to this mode. Thus, the power consumption is largely reduced and this gives you the ability to quickly reactivate all work processes. You can upgrade your computer with an appropriate expansion card from Transcend if it does not have a USB 3.0 interface. If you want to use the card, your PC should support PCle 2.0 or higher. If you have doubts about the compatibility, you should contact your PC manufacturer or inquire about it in the specialized trade.
8. Intenso Memory Drive 2 terabytes – external hard drive including bag
Intenso offers you the 2.5-inch hard drive with 2 gigabytes of storage space for your movies, music and photos. With a tenfold transfer rate via USB 3.0 compared to USB 2.0, your data can be transported quickly, easily and, above all, safely. Among other things, the protective cover in leather look contributes to securing the data. The hard disk can be connected directly to the PC or Mac via USB. In addition, it is already preformatted. Thus, it can be immediately connected to your TV or receiver.
In addition, you can use the hard disk as a backup medium. Thus, your data are well secured both externally and internally. In addition, Intenso’s Memory Drive is very fast, with data being read at 85 megabytes per second. At 75 megabytes per second, they are written to disk. The light weight of 175 grams speaks for the compactness of the device. The Intenso Hard Disk may not connect to any TV. However, this should not be a problem for new devices with PVR function.
9. Intenso Memory Center 2TB – external hard drive with LED
Intenso offers you several external hard drives. One of them is the Memory Center with a disk speed of 5,400 revolutions per minute and a size of 3.5 inches. In addition, the hard disk has a storage capacity of two terabytes and a USB 3.0 interface. The Intenso external hard drive achieves read speeds of 85 megabytes and writeing speeds of 75 megabytes per second. A blue LED indicates the active data transfer.
A special feature of the model: The external hard drive is downwards and can be connected without problems to older computers with USB 2.0. However, the fast transfer rates are not achieved as USB 3.0. With a weight of 650 grams, the Intenso Memory Center is lightweight and compact. There is also a power connection on the hard disk. Power is supplied via an external power adapter. The hard drive is compatible with Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8,1 and 10. In addition, you can use the model with your Mac from version 10.6. It is also compatible with Linux 2.4 and higher versions. With Mac, no further preformatting of the hard disk is necessary. In addition to the hard drive, the manufacturer provides a USB cable.
10. WD My Passport Mobile 2 terabytes external hard drive
The external hard drive from WD offers a storage capacity of up to 4 terabytes. The data is sufficiently protected by the automatic data backup. It is activated by the software that WD provides. In addition, WD’s external hard drive has password protection with hardware encryption. Your data is very safe in the storage medium.
The device can be used immediately thanks to the USB 3.0 interface. In terms of data backup, WD has some thoughts. The delivery set also includes the corresponding software WD-Backup and WD-Security. The backup on the hard disk runs automatically. In addition, the manufacturer guarantees a long life of the hard drive, as it is prepared by a visually appealing protective cover against external shocks. The WD model is compatible with common Windows computers. If you use a Mac, you have to format the hard disk.
Buying an external hard drive: You should pay attention to this
Hard disks are not very big externally, but they have a lot to offer internally. They are small and very flexible and are not only suitable for storing and securing sensitive data , but also as a recording medium for TVs and receivers. Afterwards we would like to give you some tips on what you should pay attention to when buying an external hard drive.
- Pay attention to the size
There are two different sizes for external hard disks. The small 2.5-inch hard drives are handy and compact on the one hand and come out without power on the other hand. The power supply for 2.5-inch devices runs on the USB cable, which is usually also supplied by the manufacturer. This can cause problems, however, because the power supply through the USB port is sometimes not sufficient, but small hard drives require a lot of power.
With the 3.5-inch hard disks such difficulties usually do not occur, as they always bring a separate power supply and can be connected to the power. In addition, the larger hard drives offer you more storage capacity and the cost is cheaper. Whether you buy a small or large hard drive depends on how you use it. The big 3.5 inch devices usually stay in one place. The small hard drives, however, are more mobile and are easier to take on business appointments or on vacation.
Today’s external hard drives are equipped with the USB 3.0 interface. When buying new you should make sure that the hard disks have this connection. Every PC or Mac and almost every TV has a USB port. In most cases, however, it is still the old version 2.0. Since external hard drives usually have a huge storage capacity of several terabytes, the 3.0 connection should be present.
The full performance of this port, however, can develop only when both devices have the 3.0 port. Nevertheless, the hard drives with the new USB port also fit older connections, such as USB 2.0. The USB 3.0 is downwards compatible. However, you also have the option to upgrade your PC for USB 3.0. For this you only need appropriate adapter cards, which are inexpensive to get. When buying an external hard drive, keep in mind the difference between Windows and Apple devices. Until recently, there was no way to connect external hard drives with a USB 3.0 port to an Apple computer, since the company has not installed appropriate ports. According to Apple meanwhile devices with USB 3.0 connection can also be connected to iMacs and MacBooks. Information about the FAQ from Apple.
- Pay attention to the speed
In individual product descriptions, the speed of the external hard drive was specified with the respective number of revolutions. As a rule, the small 2.5-inch devices run at 4,500 revolutions per minute. In contrast to the 3.5 inch models, they are slightly slower, but also make less noise. As a rule, small models are supplied with the power supplied via the USB cable.
On the other hand, the 3.5 inch hard disks are different. Depending on the manufacturer, these are usually equipped with 7,200 revolutions per minute and are therefore faster when reading and writing data volumes than the small devices. However, they are less noisy than the 2.5-inch hard drive, can sometimes vibrate and consume significantly more power.
SSD hard drives
The amounts of data that are pushed back and forth every day are now huge. Conventional notebooks or PCs can no longer store or read these quantities. For this reason, the electronics manufacturers have developed the external hard drives, which have several terabytes of storage capacity. In the search for a hard disk, you will come across the external SSD hard disks again and again. Between the classic external hard drive, which is also called external HDD, there is a big difference.
Although the external HDD hard drives are usually inexpensive and offered in different sizes, they have a big drawback: they are very sensitive to external influences and the data can be permanently damaged in the event of external shocks.
The external SSD hard drive looks different. SSD stands for solid-state drive and is based on flash memory chips. In addition, SSD disks are not as sensitive as HDD hard drives as they are more robust. In addition, a SSD hard drive works faster, because here are the transfer rates at 120 megabytes per second. In addition, SSD disks with 540 megabytes per second access the data of the PC. With this record, you do not have to wait while reading and writing data. The external SSD hard disks do not require much power and otherwise have no mechanical components.
Other features of an external hard drive
Today’s external hard drives are not only used for data backup, because their function goes far beyond. So you use the portable hard drives, inter alia, as an MP3 player, provided there is an input for headphones or external speakers. In addition, the external hard drive can be connected to almost any TV with a USB cable to watch your stored movies and videos.
Furthermore, some manufacturers offer external hard drives with a card reader. The device can be used, for example, to insert mobile phone SD cards from photo cameras, which are then read and saved directly on the hard disk. This pays off especially on vacation if you do not have a laptop or PC at your disposal and you still want to save your pictures. For example, you do not need to leave the photos on the camera and thus make room for new pictures.
When buying pay attention to the manufacturer
The list of manufacturers offering external hard drives is long, whether Intenso, Toshiba or Seagate. For external hard drives, each has its own priorities. You should pay attention when buying, which advantages bring you the individual technical characteristics of the hard disks. A 3.5-inch hard drive is less suitable for vacation and just as a large hard drive is not useful for appointments. Nevertheless, you should make sure when buying a cheap hard drive that there is enough storage capacity for your data and that is associated with the low price no loss of quality.
It’s best to contact someone who has already had experience with the hard drive of your choice or get detailed advice from specialist retailers. Do not go straight to a cheap hard drive, but take your time with the purchase decision.
External multimedia hard drives
With external hard drives you save and play all sorts of data. If you want to use the hard disk for storing and playing music and movies, it makes sense to buy a special external multimedia hard disk. The reason for this: these hard drives are equipped with further connections. Usually these are HDMI and RCA connectors. In addition, a multimedia hard drive still has a remote control and in some cases a small display.
The multimedia hard drive connects you through the ports directly to your flat screen TV or to your stereo system. The multimedia hard drives are not just about storage capacity, but also price and volume. Loud disks interfere significantly when playing a movie or when presenting pictures. In addition, external multimedia hard drives are more expensive than other and smaller hard drives. When buying an external multimedia hard drive, you should pay particular attention to the HDMI port as well as the fact that the hard drive can also output HD videos.
Using the external hard drive with Windows and Mac
Windows machines and Macs behave like cat and dog. Although they are not as fundamentally different as they were five to ten years ago, both operating systems still have their idiosyncrasies. This also applies to the use of the external hard drive. As a rule, the new hard disks are formatted to the standard NFTS under Windows. So if you connect the hard drive to your iMac or to your MacBook, it will be able to read the files, but unfortunately will not add new files.
Conversely, Windows machines have problems reading or working with the HFS + Mac file system. Computer experts, therefore, recommend a file system that both operating systems understand. For this reason, you can format your new hard disk with the exFAT. This system is compatible with both Windows and Mac. However, you should be careful when moulding because important data on the external hard drive may be lost. In addition, not all external hard drives exFAT. Media players or smart TVs often have problems with it. There is still a way out: Formatting with the older FAT32 system.
The external hard disk as additional storage
An external hard drive is not only for data backup, but also for memory expansion. There are several possibilities here. Optionally, you can use the so-called DAS solution or the NAS system. The latter stands for network-attached storage and has the advantage that multiple devices can access the hard disk. A directly connected memory, however, can only be used by one device, but offers a much higher transmission rate.
There is also the option to buy hard drives with significantly higher storage capacity. So there are 3.5-inch hard drives with ten terabytes of memory. And if you need more memory, you should use a hard drive rack. A rack is a case that can hold multiple hard drives. With several racks, you configure the hard disks in the so-called RAID array. This keeps important data, even if one or more hard drives should fail.
If you want to access your hard drive from different devices, you should use the NAS system. This is a hard drive rack that you plug into your network. This allows the data to be retrieved from any compatible device. In addition, the NAS system can be used as a cloud solution to access the data online while on the move.
The external hard drive as a cloud solution
Securing data in the cloud is a matter of course today. Although the fear of hacker attacks is still great, many are securing their music and photos in different clouds. In addition to the numerous providers of cloud solutions but you can also use your external hard drive as a cloud solution. This works quite simple:
Connection to DSL router
Since the external hard drives all have a USB port, you can connect them to your DSL router, provided you have such a router with USB input. After that you need to enable the NAS function in your router menu, so that the memory is available to all devices in the network. With a VPN connection between your router and your smartphone or tablet you can also access the data on the hard drive while on the go.
Wireless hard drives
As you have already seen, there is a lot to consider when buying external hard drives. In addition, there are several types of external hard drives. This includes the wireless hard disk. The special feature of these models: They build their own Wi-Fi hotspot. With such a hard drive you do not need your own Wi-Fi network, but you can pair the hard drive with the existing Wi-Fi.
The advantage of an external WLAN hard drive: You are no longer tied to the location of the hard drive and can access from anywhere with different devices to the data of the disk. Of course, you can also store data from anywhere and from any device. In the meantime not only smartphones and laptops, but also televisions can access the data of the WLAN hard disk and play the corresponding films and music and photo files. Another feature of WLAN hard drives: The external disks are located in the lower price category and you do not have to dig deep into the bag when buying.
- Connection of a WLAN hard disk
As a rule, WLAN hard disks are connected to the computer via a USB cable. If you use a 3.5-inch device, it must be additionally connected to the power. The small models (2.5 inches) draw their power or their energy via the USB cable. Thus, they are also more mobile. However, the 2.5-inch hard drives are very limited in both their storage capacity and in the read and write speeds. For WLAN hard drives, you do not need an extra cable except the power cable for 33.5-inch models.
As already mentioned, you can build your own hotspot with the WLAN hard drives. With up to eight devices you access the external WLAN hard drive. In addition, there are mobile plates to buy, which are equipped with a battery. You can either charge it via USB or via the power outlet. WLAN hard drives are especially suitable for those of you who travel a lot and rely on portable hard drives. In addition, an external wireless hard drive is perfect for the holidays.
- Security with a WLAN hard drive
No WLAN in the world is 100 percent protected from hacker attacks. With the danger of cyber crime, you have to count on the WLAN constantly. Therefore it is important to protect the data on the hard disk with a password. Thus, you ensure that the data is not accessible to everyone. However, you should protect not only the wireless hard disk but also your entire network with a password. The password should not normally consist of the digits found on the back of the router. Forgot your own password in the Wi-Fi settings on your PC or laptop, which you can change regularly if possible. Of course, this also applies to the WLAN hard drive.
- Power consumption with WLAN hard disks
Power consumption can be higher with external Wi-Fi hard drives than with the conventional external hard drives, which you just clamp on your PC or laptop. You have the opportunity to time the power consumption. Some hard drives automatically turn off after a period of non-use. In some cases, more energy can also be saved via firmware or software.
Our Leaderboard: The 6 Best External Hard Drives 2019