Hard Disk space can fill up extremely fast, especially if you have a laptop or a small SSD. Over the last few years the technology has grown tremendously meaning that companies are compressing files less and less. It’s not necessary to make a 40GB game take up hardly any space when you have several terabytes! The best external Hard Drives of 2017 have come a long way from the technology that was common just a handful of years ago. In this guide we walk you through everything you need to know to make an informed decision and get the best external Hard Drive you could ask for.
First let’s learn some Hard Drive related terms!
Understanding Hard Drive Terminology
Hard Drives come in 3 categories now. The SSD and HDD are the most common. SSHD are normally not used externally though but it is good to understand what they do as they are often part of the disk space conversation.
Solid State Drive. Similar to a highly advanced flash drive. Since there are no moving or mechanical parts in an SSD, the transfer speeds are extremely fast. Very expensive. Has a lifespan (Often more than 10 years) and sensitive to power surges. Also must be plugged into a power source every once in awhile to keep files safe (Not good for long term storage)
Hard Disk Drive. Information is recorded onto a disk and then the disk is spun at a high speed to read and access files. Noisier than an SSD, prone to mechanical failure, but better for high volumes of data. These vary in RPM speed and compared to SSD hold a lot more information at a fraction of the price.
Hybrid or SSHD:
In between an SSD and HDD is the Solid State Hybrid Drive. Basically SSHD have a dedicated SSD portion that uses intelligent learning to sense which programs you use frequently and load them into memory. This fantastic technology results in faster speeds for the programs you use without the cost and lack of space that an SSD has. It isn’t as fast as an SSD but can be faster after storing a program in its cache than a traditional HDD
Units of Measurement:
The chart below illustrates the different units of measurement for data.
· 1 bit = Binary Digit
· 8 bits = 1 Byte
· 1024 Bytes = 1 KB(KiloByte)
· 1024 KB = 1 MB(MegaByte)
· 1024 MB = 1 GB(GigaByte)
· 1024 GB = 1 TB(TeraByte)
· 1024 TB = 1 PB(PetaByte)
We normally use TeraBytes to measure consumer Hard Drive space. Hard Drives today do not get above 10TB without using two linked drives or using an alternative form of disk storage (Tape drives, server towers). So a Petabyte is not something you will encounter unless you work at a very advanced tech location.
Do I really need the best external hard drive?
It all depends on what you use your computer for. Most of us need more space at some point in the lifespan of our computer.
PC Gamers: For gaming, modern AAA games often take up 40GB of space meaning that you run out of disk space after a few games and an operating system. Even if you prefer storing your games on an internal disk drive, an external drive could help you take less critical files such as family photos and store them somewhere else to save space on your gaming rig.
Console Gamers: Most consoles require games to be downloaded onto them but they lack the capacity to store a full game library. Usually a Console fills up far faster than a PC set-up, in fact the Nintendo Switch often needs more Hard Disk space right off the bat! External drives are a great solution for the console gamer who is running into space issues.
Media Professionals: If you are into video editing, photography, or backing up a system, that space can be eaten up very quickly by different files. A professional photographer shooting in RAW format may use 20-50MB per photo which easily uses up 1GB in just 20-50 photos. This means that a photographer shooting over the course of a few weddings with two DSLR’s could very well fill a 1TB hard drive! It’s common for someone in the media industry, especially video, to have several hard drives.
Security Concerned: If you have sensitive data and are concerned that it might get lost or destroyed at some point, an external drive is a great backup option. External drives can be password protected as well as specific security software installed on them too. Everyone should have two backup copies of sensitive data, one at the office or home ready to use after a localized event such as a power surge harms the original and another copy stored outside the office or home in case of fire or theft.
Laptop Upgrade: Laptops are fantastic at portability but often lack space due to the size of them. This wouldn’t be as large of a problem but replacing a laptop Hard Disk can be intimidating, technically demanding, and expensive. For most the better option is to just get an external drive.
Download Addict: If you have a huge media library and love to download music, movies, and television then an external Hard Drive might just be your new best friend. High quality movies usually take up 1-2GB per movie, add in a television series with possibly 26 episodes and you’ve take up a huge chunk of space!
Hard Drive Features
Space: Most people need around 2-3TB of space for the average user. Someone who uses a computer for a lot of various tasks may use 5-6TB. Someone involved with video editing may use up to 16TB. No one except for government entities, universities, and large corporations use PetaBytes and as such prices get unreasonable once you need more than 16 TB for one device. Your first device (Laptop, Desktop, Console) usually has 1TB of space but sometimes may be as low as 256GB of space.
Look for at least 256GB (SSD) or 1TB (HDD) minimum.
Durability: Since HDD read data by spinning a disk at very fast speeds, durability can be an issue. Some HDD come with shock absorbing technology. SSD are able to be moved around and shaken without a problem but are vulnerable to static electricity.
NFC Security: Near Field Communication relies on a physical device or smartkey to unlock a device. This is one beloved security feature as it allows you to unlock a hard drive by bringing the smartcard to it meaning a stolen hard drive is basically useless. Losing the key though is an issue.
Connections: Connections can be USB 2.0, USB 3.0, SATA, or other obscure types. Some are significantly faster than others. Look for SATA and USB 3.0 as the standard.
Speed: Speed is relatively similar among drives with the type of drive being the most important factor (SSD, HDD, SHDD) but there is a range of quality within those categories. For HDD shoot for at least 7200 RPM. SSD is generally blazing fast and the SHDD does well with a larger cache (They start at 8GB which is fine but 32GB is great).
Our Top list: Best External Solid State Drive
We are in love with this Hard Drive! The Adata SD700 series is sturdy. When they claim to be shock proof, they mean American Military grade shock-proof. It is also rated to IP68 standards meaning that it can be continually submerged in water (And dust) for up to an hour. Despite all the strength of the outside, Adata doesn’t compromise on quality either. This SSD transfers at insane speeds. Basically it is everything you could want in an external Hard Drive. It’s also extremely lightweight. If you are on the go but also value technology that can move fast, this is the SSD you should get. The SD700 comes in three different sizes (from 256GB to 1TB) as well for those who may want a cheaper option with the rugged durability offered by Adata. We love the feel, the features, and the look of this Hard Drive. It does have a terrible yellow option we recommend avoiding though.
Western Digital My Passport 4TB-Best External Hard Disk Drive
Western Digital is the go-to manufacturer of simple excellent Hard Disk Drives. They make some of the highest quality affordable internal Hard Drives and have made a similar name for themselves with an external HDD line that is dependable, fast, and cheap. The WD My Passport won us over by being a solid product but packing in huge amounts of data storage space. That being said, it does feel a bit fragile. Just picking this up out of the box made it evident that Wester Digital designed this for careful at home use. While it isn’t designed to be dropped and scuffed up, for most household uses this drive is a killer combination of space and price. 4TB is more than most people will ever need so unless you have a huge need for storage space or the speed of an SSD, we recommend this drive for basic storage needs. They also offer sizes down to 1TB if you want a good cheap external Hard Drive.
Silicon Power 1TB Rugged Armor A60 Military-Grade-The Best External Hard Disk Drive for Xbox One and PS4
The best external Hard Drive for PS4 and Xbox One we can recommend is also near unbreakable. Sometimes you need an unbreakable piece of hardware and that’s where the A60 comes in. If you love traveling and camping but bring a laptop, this external drive will survive any bumps and drops along the way as well as the occasional rainstorm. The A60 is great for construction workers or high-risk environments where you need to keep your data safe but it really shines with console gamers. What we love about the A60 is the combination of price, compatibility, and durability. The Xbox syncs with Windows 10 in a few ways from play anywhere games to just being more user friendly when plugged into a PC. Since the 4.5 update, PS4 owners have been able to easily plug and play external Hard Drives as well. While we recommend 2TB for a PS4 owner, it’s a bit easier for an Xbox user to offload files and even games to a PC for space. So a 1TB upgrade is more than enough. At a cheap price, often under $100, it’s hard to find a better external drive for Xbox or PS4.
WD My Book Duo 16TB External Hard Drive-Best External Hard Disk Drive for Photographers
Photography and video editing are becoming more commonplace among businesses, from amateur wedding photographers to promotional material, intense workloads requiring a lot of disk space have become a normal part of workflow for many people. So when reviewing our options we looked for something that could exceed expectations. Something with Insane amounts of space that could fill the needs of a studio for years. That’s really what sets the WD My Book Duo 16TB apart from other Hard Drives. This is not a cheap Hard Drive but it will be the most space you could ever need or imagine. This is the best external hard drive for photographers, for anyone in a job constantly demanding more storage space, this is a dream. My Book also comes with several onboard RAID options which creates a secure backup by copying information simultaneously between drives. My Book Duo offers secure information, LOADS of data storage, and a professional office look. We loved the 16TB option because it is a staggering amount of storage space but there is also a 20TB option for those who need even more. This is the best large scale storage solution you will find for a small to medium sized business studio. It also comes with 2 USB ports so it can serve as a docking station as well. The largest con we found was a need to plug this drive in separately as they are basically 3.5’’ internal drives with the My Book which require more energy than USB can deliver.
Seagate Backup Plus 4TB-Best External Hard Drive for Mac in 2018
OS X is formatted differently than Windows and not all drives are compatible between both operating systems. The Seagate Backup Plus has a special spot in the hearts of those using OS X as it can be hot swapped between Windows and OS X without any need to reformat and it is compatible with PS4 as well. This is simply the best external Hard Drive for Mac as it makes using the HDD in a variety of settings easy and quick. Seagate designed this drive with data backup in mind allowing it to seamlessly sync with Apple Time Machine as well. If backing up your data isn’t that necessary though, it does fine as a secure and dependable External Disk Drive. Just over $100, it’s a stellar price for 4TB and comes in a slew of nice color options as well. At around 4TB many external drives start to require a power supply but Seagate has made an amazing model that is seamlessly powered by USB.
Intel: What Exernal Hard Drive is Best?
The Silicon Power 1TB Rugged Armor A60 Military-Grade-Our Overall Pick for the Best External Hard Drive of 2018
The A60 is hands down the best compromise on quality and price for an external Hard Disk Drive you can find today. While some drives win in speed, they usually lack the durability and extreme compatibility of the A60. This little solid device is also super-affordable and easy to set-up!
We wanted to love the SD700 but it is just a bit too pricey to consider it the best option. In a few years SSD will dramatically fall in price but currently nothing beats a fast, cheap, reliable mechanical drive. That being said, we love the SD700 and if you have the money, DO IT!
So now what?
Go out and buy your new drive! We hope these options have helped you come to a decision about picking up a sweet new external. After buying one, there is one critical step that has to be followed before many drives will work. Formatting! Only some drives will require this but if they do it can be a little confusing to navigate, we made a little guide to walk you through it so you can get rolling with all that epic new storage space.
How To Format An External Hard Drive
Formatting is the first step to setting up most Hard Drives but as time goes on Hard Drives like the Seagate Backup have made this process smoother. Basically formatting a drive erases all the information on it, converts the drive to a format readable by the OS, and allows you to create partitions as well (Specific segregated parts of the drive that are good for keeping separate from other parts)
Formatting an external HDD is actually quite simple. For this example we are going to use a Windows 10 PC.
Step 1: Connect the Hard Drive to the computer.
Usually this is through USB but some of the faster drives want a Sata connection. Make sure you have the right cord and the right jack on your PC.
Step 2: Open up Control Panel and go into administrative tools.
Just type Control Panel into the search bar and it should pop up.
Step 3: Open up computer Management
Step 4: Click on storage
Step 5: Open up Disk Management
Step 6: Where are we? This is where it gets a bit intimidating. This is a list of all the drives on the PC. It lists the type of drive and also the File System. File System is important as it dictates how the Hard Disk sends and receives data between OS. Some are Mac compatible but put limits on how big a single file can be (FAT32 and ExFAT) while others are not OS X compatible without special plugins (NTFS). When formatting you can select which file system you use, a necessary thing to know if you want to use an external drive between two operating systems!
Step 7: Find your External Disk Drive (It should have little to no information and won’t come up in File Explorer as a main Hard Drive yet), Right-Click and select Format.
Step 8: Simply select your File System. Name the Hard Drive. And click ok to format!
It’s pretty simple if you can find the computer management application. Note that you should NEVER disconnect a drive while it is formatting. This can be catastrophic to the drive and break it. So take caution and make sure you have time to walk through the formatting process.
Thanks for joining us!
We hope you’ve enjoyed our simple guide on the best external Hard Drives of 2017! If you’ve found a new product or learned something, please leave a comment, like, and share this guide with any friends who looking for some awesome new tech equipment! Remember to always check back here for the latest and greatest guides on the gaming gear that’s going around! Until next time, game on!