Buying Guide: the best external drives

It happens to pretty much everyone eventually–you run out of space on your computer. All those movies you downloaded, apps you installed, documents and pictures you’ve acquired over the years add up after a while. So what do you do? You decide to buy an external drive to store some of this data, but now the question becomes, “what are the best external drives and which should I buy?” That’s what this guide is designed to help you to figure out.

The best external drives for your computer depends on a couple of things, first, what kind of ports does your computer have? USB 3? USB-C? Thunderbolt 2? Thunderbolt 3? Once you know what kind of ports are on your computer, the next question becomes how do you plan to utilize this external drive? Will you be using it mostly to just to store files and occasionally access them or will you be regularly reading and writing files to the drive? If it’s the former, you don’t need to spend that much money on an external drive. If it’s the latter, you should a bit more selective with the drive you pick.

USB 3.0 External Drives

Seagate Backup Plus — The Seagate Backup Plus is a great, compact external drive that starts at just $89 at the time of writing this. It offers USB 3.0 connectivity and will work seamlessly on both Mac and Windows computers without having to reformat the drive thanks to a special driver that will install on a Mac if it’s connected to one. There are four models: 3TB, 4TB, 6TB, and 8TB. Additionally, if you get the Hub model it adds two USB ports to the front of the drive as well. You can also use the Seagate Mobile Backup app on an iOS or Android mobile device, and you’ll be able to back up all of the pictures and videos from your device to your Seagate drive.

USB-C External Drives

Samsung SSD T5 — The Samsung SSD T5 is the successor to the super popular T3, it has faster SSD storage while offering the same super small portable and compact metal design. The T5 boasts super fast read/write speeds of up to 540 MB/s and features USB-C 3.1. Pricing starts at $109 for 250GB, there are also 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB models as well. If you’re planning to move files back and forth from your computer to your external drive, this is a great drive. It will serve you well for any heavy read/write tasks including video editing. 

Glyph Atom SSD — The Glyph Atom SSD external drive is another great choice for a super fast USB-C drive. These drives are some of the smallest I’ve seen and offer a lot of space along with great speed–it also offers USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 which is nice as it’s a bit faster than the Gen 1 spec. The Glyph Atom SSD is available in a 1TB model and will run you $399. If you want speed, decent storage, and extreme portability this is the drive for you. Last thing of note, Glyph also has a version of this drive called the Atom RAID SSD which offers double the storage (2TB) in a RAID0 array, that model will run you a bit more though, with a $829 price tag.

G-Technology G-Drive Slim — Another great choice is the G-Technology G-Drive Slim which we’ve reviewed in the past. It too, offers speeds up to 540MB/s and features USB-C 3.1 Gen 2. It’s available for $359.

Thunderbolt 2 and 3 External Drives

LaCie D2 Thunderbolt 2 / USB 3.0 — The LaCie D2 Thunderbolt 2 / USB 3.0 external drive is an excellent pick for someone with a lot of data, it’s not the fastest external drive with read/write speeds of 220MB/s (remember this external drive is using a 7200rpm hard drive, not solid state drive), but it’s fast enough and will get the job done. Plus, it comes in multiple configurations, including 3TB, 4TB, 6TB, and 8TB. I’ve personally used this drive in the past and I loved it–I stored all my data on it, including movies, music, photos, and documents. They also sell a SSD upgrade kit which can add an additional 128GB SSD storage to the device. This is a great choice for people with a lot of data and for those who have older Mac and/or Windows computers with Thunderbolt 2 ports. Pricing starts at $229 for 3TB.

LaCie 2big Thunderbolt 3 Dock — The LaCie 2big Thunderbolt 3 dock is personally my current favorite external drive, it’s versatile, incredibly fast (thanks to Thunderbolt 3), and offers a ton of storage. I highly recommend you read my complete review for the details. The drive is designed with professionals in mind, those who deal with a lot of data and need a place to house it. I really like the built-in SD card reader as it helps make my workflow much simpler when taking video off my camera and putting it onto my LaCie drive. Pricing starts at $648 for 8TB with three additional models also offered with 12TB, 16TB, or 20TB.

Have any other external drives you think I should add to my list? Let me know in the comments!

About the author

— Jeff Weisbein

Jeff is the founder & CEO of BestTechie. He has over 10 years of experience working with technology and building businesses. He loves to travel and listen to music.

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