Best External Hard Drives In 2021 (Performance, Budget, Rugged)

best external hard drive

The introduction of cloud computing might have reduced the need for an external hard drive, but, so long as you have data you need to store for a longtime or backup, they’ll never go obsolete.

Modern external hard drives are much better than their older variants, with better access times, faster transfer rates and, most of all, better reliability. Today, we will look into some of the best external drives ever released.

External storage drives are a vital component that is often overlooked. Since you can have a fine computing experience without one, most don’t think about them… until something happens to their computer and they really wish they had a copy of all those thousands of photos. That being said, you don’t want to buy just any old hard drive, you’ll want the best external hard drive for your needs and means; that’s what this guide will help you figure out.

Storage Mechanism: Mechanical or SSD?

First of all, you’ll need to decide whether you should go for the cheaper, slower mechanical hard drives or the more expensive, but faster solid state drives (SSD). Mechanical hard drives use mechanical components to store data while SSD drives store the data electronically.

So, are SSDs worth their much higher price point? Well, it depends on how you are using your storage drive.

For instance, SSDs are more physically resistant, so if you’re using your external drive on the go, where it is more likely to get bumped and dropped, then an SSD is the way to go. If it’s just stored in your desk most of the time though, then an HDD may be a better fit.

When it comes to speed, it’s more nuanced. If you’re using the external drive to store programs you actively use, like games, then an SSD will make load times faster. However, if you’re not using programs and you are only dropping a couple hundred standard photos from your smartphone every month or two, then those massive read/write speeds will largely go to waste.

The more often you use your external drive and the larger those transfers are, the more useful an SSD will be. Otherwise, all that flash might just be for nothing.

Capacity

The capacity of an external storage drive is directly proportional to its price. If you are focusing only on storing some personal documents along with other small-size content, like family pictures, a 500-GB to 1-TB drive will fulfill your needs sufficiently. However, if you are intending to store other content, such as AAA games or Blu-Ray movies, then you should look for higher capacity drives.

An important thing to note here is that higher capacity HDDs have a higher failure rate, as they consist of more platters. However, SSDs are the opposite; the higher count of chips leads to a better life.

Transfer Rates

For the most part, transfer rates sit along a couple of important technological fault lines:

  • HDDs. Most of mechanical hard drives usually have transfer rates around 100-150 MBps because of limitation of their mechanism
  • SATA SSDs. These can be all over the place, but they are usually between 300 and 600 MBps
  • NVMe SSDs. The latest NVMe drives have transfer rates up to several GBs per second

Extra Features (Protection, Connectivity and Warranty)

  • Physical Protection. Many of the external drives now come with shock-proof designs and some of them are also dust and water-proof. This feature is certainly useful for people who want travel a lot. Some even receive IPX waterproof ratings, like the SanDisk Extreme.
  • Connectivity. The ThunderBolt 3 can be helpful for people who work with Apple devices while the USB 3.1 Type-C port is getting more popular.
  • Warranty. Some manufacturers offer a 1-year warranty for their external drives while others provide as high as a 3-year warranty along with data recovery features. Therefore, if you want to go for a reliable drive, make sure to get the one which offers a longer warranty.