When it comes to the best external hard drives, there are three things that come to mind – speed, reliability, and portability. 

It can be hard to tick all of those boxes, but if you know what functionality you need, our handpicked list of the best options should help. We’ve focused on some good, affordable choices from reliable manufacturers. 

All options on our list include details about price, storage size, speed, USB/thunderbolt support, and other features like shock protection or included warranties.

The Most Affordable External Hard Drive – Seagate

If affordability is your concern, consider Seagate’s opening offering in the external hard drive space. Starting at $44.99 for 1TB on Amazon is reasonable, but the real value comes in the larger capacity drives. 

For example, the 5TB option costs just $109.99. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better deal at this capacity.

For Mac users, you’ll need to reformat it, and there’s no USB 3.1 or Thunderbolt, just USB 2.0/3.0. For speeds, the real problem is the technology of the drive, though. It’s a standard hard disk drive with an RPM of just 5,400. This means read/write speeds of about 120MB/s. 

What’s important here is you won’t be breaking the bank and this drive works as a great backup for all kinds of files. A 1 year limited warranty is included. 

Most Affordable External SSD – Samsung T5 SSD 

If you need speed but you’re on a budget, the Samsung T5 SSD is a great choice as an affordable external hard drive. Prices fluctuate, but a 500GB drive goes for $90-$120 and a 1TB drive for $150-$250 on Amazon.

The Samsung T5 uses USB 3.1. You can expect speeds of up to 540MB/520MB/s read/write. The drive is compatible with Mac, PC, and even Android.

There’s no shock protection, but so long as you’re careful when travelling, it shouldn’t be a concern. SSD’s do not use moving parts so there is less risk for damage. A 3-year limited warranty is included on purchase.

Most Affordable Thunderbolt External Drive – Buffalo MiniStation

If you absolutely need a Thunderbolt-compatible drive, you should consider the Buffalo MiniStation. The drive itself is only 5,400RPM, so it’ll only reach 120MB/s read/write, but it’s a cheap option for those that can’t go elsewhere. 1TB drives go for $127 and a 2TB option sells for $200 on Amazon.

The Buffalo MiniStation has Thunderbolt 2 but it’s also compatible with USB. A 3 year limited warranty is included on purchase.

Biggest Storage Size – Seagate Desktop 8TB

If you need storage and lots of it, the Seagate Desktop 8TB External Hard Drive might take your fancy. This thing isn’t portable, but it’s the perfect setup for home or office use. You get 8TB of storage space in a 5,400 RPM drive. USB 3.0 is supported, so expect speeds of about 120MB/s for read/write.

This external hard drive also requires an external power source, which is included, so it’s best for setting up somewhere and leaving it there. Perhaps not the most convenient, but at just $140 on Amazon it’s great value. A one year limited warranty is included.

Best Rugged External Hard Drive – LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt USB-C 

If you’re an adventurous type, the LaCie rugged external hard drive is for you. This drive is drop, splash, and dust resistant. You can feel confident taking it on an adventure day out or just as a backup drive you can drop into your backpack. 

This drive is only a 5,400 RPM HDD, so you can only expect speeds of 120MB/s for read/write, but it’s a reasonable trade-off for decent protection. Prices start at $73.99 for 1TB with mini-USB 3.0, but if you want Thunderbolt and USB-C, you’ll need to get at least 2TB, which costs $169 on Amazon. Storage goes all the way up to 5TB for $249.

Purchasing the LaCie rugged drive will get you a three year limited warranty, 3-year data recovery service, and one month free of Adobe’s Creative Cloud All Apps plan.

Best Rugged External SSD – SanDisk 1TB Extreme Portable

If safety is of utmost concern, we would highly recommend the SanDisk extreme portable external SSD over the LaCie rugged hard drive. SSDs are far safer as portable drives because they have no moving parts. The SanDisk extreme portable external SSD is also shock, water, and dust resistant. 

As this is an SSD drive, you can get speeds of up to 550MB/500MB/s read/write. This external SSD also features USB 3.1 via USB type C. 

Pricing starts at $71.99 for 250GB, with varying pricing tiers up to $269.99 for 2TB. A 3 year limited warranty is included.

Most Data Secure Drive – iStorage diskAshur2 256-bit 1TB

Need to secure your data? Take a look at the iStorage diskAshur2 external hard drive. Your files are protected real time with military grade AES-XTS 256-bit hardware encryption. 

To access your files, you need to enter your PIN, which must include 7-15 digits. The drive won’t be recognized until it’s authenticated with the PIN. Once authenticated it will work with both Mac and Windows just like any standard drive. 

The storage type used is a standard 5,400RPM HDD, so expect 120MB/s read/write. You are paying for the security here, though, not the speeds. Pricing starts at $200 for the 500GB version, but there are pricing tiers from 1TB ($220) up to 5TB ($583). 

The iStorage diskAshur2 features a 3 year warranty. You can also find SSD variants on their website.

Most Portable SSD – KESU 1T

For $147, you’ll get a 1TB capacity SSD with read/write speeds of 540MB/420MB/s. The technology used includes USB 3.1 Type C for faster transfers, and it supports all major platforms including Windows and Mac. 

The most important part is the size – it is 30% smaller lengthways and about half the width of an iPhone 11. A 3 year limited warranty is included.

Alternative Portable Drive – Corsair 1TB Flash Voyager GTX

Want something so portable it can fit in your pocket? The Corsair Flash Voyager GTX is a great option. This is actually a flash drive, but it uses 3D NAND memory and USB 3.1. 

As a result, the Flash Voyager GTX can achieve speeds up to 440MB/s read/write. Pricing starts at $50.99 for 128GB and increases up to $279 for 1TB. This flash drive features a 5 year limited warranty.

Fastest External SSD – Plugable Thunderbolt 3 External SSD NVMe Drive

The Plugable external hard drive offers the fastest speeds for those with Thunderbolt 3 connections. No USB 3.0 is available. With NVME, you can expect speeds of up to 2,400MB/1,800MB/s read/write. You’ll only hit these speeds on larger files, though. You can read more about how it works here.

For $199 for 480GB, $299 for 1TB, or $499 for 2TB this is a pricy drive, but it’s worth paying if you really need blazing fast external storage. All drives from Plugable feature a 3 year limited warranty.