For quite some time now, most computer users have been saddled with the responsibility of finding the suitable external hard drive for their computers. This led to an increase in the demand for portable external hard drives because of their ease of mobility, and thus a subsequent crash in prices.
It’s a new year and people are currently searching Google for the best portable hard drive 2017 to buy for their storage needs this year – you probably found this article for the same reason.
In order to satiate your thirst for the best, we came up with this comprehensive list to guide you in making your decisions. In essence, this article will examine some of the best external portable hard drives; their features, pros, and cons, as well as a few drives which aren’t worth owning.
Best portable hard drive 2017 – Updated June 2017
This table below shows you a list of some of the best external portable hard drives that will give you a value for your money including their features such as storage size, interfaces, weight and the OS they are compatible with.
So, shall we?
|Seagate Expansion||HDD||1TB, 2TB, 3TB, 4TB||USB 3.0||No||Check price|
|WD Black My Passport Ultra||HDD||1TB, 2TB||USB 3.0||Yes||Check price|
|ADATA SV620||SSD||240GB, 480GB||USB 3.0||Yes||Check price|
|SanDisk Extreme 500||SSD||120GB, 240GB, 250GB, 480GB, 500GB, 1TB||USB 3.0||Yes||Check price|
|Samsung Portable SSD T3||SSD||250GB, 500GB, 1TB, 2TB||USB 3.1||Yes||Check price|
|Rugged ADATA HD720||HDD||1TB, 2TB||USB 3.0||No||Check price|
|ioSafe Rugged||SSD||500GB||USB 3.0||Yes||Check price|
|WD My Passport Wireless Pro||HDD||1TB, 2TB, 3TB, 4TB||USB 3.0||No||Check price|
|Elgato Thunderbolt Drive||SSD||120GB, 240GB||Thunderbolt||No||Check price|
|WD My Passport Pro||HDD||2TB, 4TB||Thunderbolt||No||Check price|
Seagate Expansion 1TB – Best seller
The Seagate Expansion 1TB is a great portable hard drive to own, the fact that it has a few negative reviews on Amazon notwithstanding. It’s compatible with Windows and Mac but since it’s preformatted in NFTS, it needs to be formatted into HFS+ before it can work with Mac, or better still formatted into the exFAT file system which will make it compatible with both operating systems.
There are two models of this drive; the one that was released in 2012 and the other that was released in 2015. Both are best-sellers. It weighs slightly below the 6 ounces mark and thankfully, is backward compatible with USB 2.0 given that it sports a USB 3.0 port and cable. The Seagate Expansion 1TB drive also comes in handy when you’ve got a game console as it is compatible with PlayStation 4 and the Xbox consoles.
- 1 TB storage capacity
- Plug and play
- Fast file transfers
- Easy file saving (drag and drop)
- Ready to use
- Compatibility with USB 3.0 and 2.0
- Reformatting to work with Mac
- 1-year warranty
- No backup software
- No security features
Conclusion: It is as sleek and simple yet it packs a lot of power under the hood. With its 5400rpm, you are assured of moderately fast read and write speeds. It’s cheap, fast and easy to use and is the perfect drive for someone on a budget without much need for an external portable hard drive.
WD 1TB Black My Passport Ultra – Most affordable
This drive features a stylish design available in four colors (black, blue, white, and berry) to match your needs and style. It is a trusted device that protects your confidential files by allowing you to set a password with 256-bit hardware encryption. The device comes with locking/unlocking feature for safe access.
My Passport Ultra is 4.6 stars rated smart device that features WD security application to protect the content of your drive from unwanted eyes. It is compatible with almost all versions of windows, however, you need to re-format it to make it work with Mac. The reliability of this device is backed up by 3 years warranty making it a superior choice.
Using the in-built Smartware technology, you save a lot of time during backup as the new files that haven’t been backed up before are hither to backed up using the technology. You can also use the cloud feature to drop off your files in your Dropbox cloud account.
- Available in 1TB, 2TB, and 3TB
- Automatic local and cloud backup
- Password protection
- Hardware encryption (256 bit)
- Durable, shock tolerant and reliable
- Lock/unlock drive
- 3 years warranty
- Reformatting for Mac
- The plastic enclosure isn’t great; aluminum would have been a better option.
Conclusion: The WD My Passport Ultra 1TB drive is yet another portable hard drive that has the interest of its customers at heart with their different styling colors and options, and the little price the drives retail for.
ADATA SV620 SSD – Unite DATA on your Mac, Windows and Android phones on-the-go
Here’s one of the best portable external hard drives with a spirit that unites 3 OS: the Mac OS, Windows, and Android OS which runs flawlessly on this plug and play device from ADATA that is capable of speeds of up to 410MB/s.
It comes with state of the art 256-bit AES encryption and a free HDDtoGo and OStoGo software in various capacities; 120GB, 128GB, 240GB, 256GB, and 480GB. It looks durable to the eye with its shock and scratch resistant design. There’s a 3-years warranty on the device.
The small led indicator light at the bottom of the drive just under the ADATA logo will let you know what’s up when the drive is in use.
- Supports 3 OS
- Offers encryption
- Comes with helpful software
- 3-year warranty
- A short cable is shipped with the drive and it can easily get lost since there’s no clip to hold it.
Conclusion: Although it might be a tad expensive than some of its counterparts, the ADATA SV620 SSD is a pretty good drive that illustrates clearly the difference between an SSD and an HDD. It performs well when compared to some SSDs in its class and is even touted as shock, dust and water resistant by ADATA.
SanDisk Extreme 500 SSD – SecureAccess feature is like no other
Rugged is the name that best describes the external features of this drive said to be water and dust resistant, with its 3-year warranty. The Extreme 500 comes in 3 storage capacities; 120GB, 240GB, and 480GB and they come with a USB 3.0 cable, whilst the SanDisk SecureAccess software is there to protect your data with its 128-bit AES encryption.
The drives weigh just about 80 grams and fit just right into any 2.5” pocket you place it into. SanDisk made sure that this portable external hard drive is backward compatible with the USB 2.0 devices in your possession.
Transfer speeds are good enough, although not near the advertised rates – one often wonders what the specifications of the computers they use for testing transfer rates are. The metal chassis and rubber edges ensure that the drive doesn’t become very susceptible to issues that may arise with its falling or with environmental factors. Compatibility is not an issue as the drive is pre-formatted in exFAT so it can conveniently work on both Windows and Mac out of the box.
- Bundled software with tons of great features
- Your data is secure; thanks to the encryption feature on the drive.
- It’s rugged, yet light weight.
- It only comes with a standard USB 3.0 cable.
- The 480GB storage capacity isn’t enough considering the fact that we live in an age where there are tons of data that needs to be stored.
Conclusion: SanDisk decided to expand its reach from making just SD cards to super reliable SSDs like this Extreme 500 which is one of the few drives that gives you a value for your money.
Samsung Portable SSD T3 1TB – Small in Size, Big on Memory
A close cousin of the Samsung Portable SSD T1 (which is now late), the T3 is quite similar in features to the SanDisk Extreme 900 SSD. A partly rough textured and partly smooth glossy aluminum body ensures that it stays put in your sight and your palm, without drilling a hole into your pocket as it retails quite lower than the Extreme 900.
It comes with the USB Type-C port, an internal Thermal Guard feature for preventing overheating, and the ability to survive heights of 2 meters, to mention a few. The AES 256-bit encryption comes with all the different capacities; 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB.
What’s more? It is compatible with Android 4.4 and above, as well as Windows and Mac OS. It’s a bit rugged, to say the least, so it should be able to easily withstand the different types of stress you’ll throw at it on a daily basis. Since it weighs just 51 grams, carrying it about wouldn’t be much of a task, or would it?
- Features USB 3.1 which is backward compatible with USB 3.0 and USB 2.0.
- Encryption feature
- Compatible with Mac, Windows, and Android
- New models support V-Nand Technology
- Slightly more expensive than some of its competitors
Conclusion: The Samsung Portable SSD T3 1TB is the ideal drive for anyone looking for a small, lightweight yet reliable and efficient drive with a great storage. Its compatibility across different OS and devices makes it stand out.
Rugged ADATA HD720 1TB – Military-grade Shockproof
An “inexpensively designed reliable portable drive” is a short summary of the ADATA 720. Though its design may be quite unattractive to the eye, it makes up for that with its ruggedness. The drive is built to withstand falls from heights of 2 meters and survive under water for 2 hours, thanks to its three layers of protection.
The drive also has sensors which protect the drive in case of severe shocks and is only available for Windows users since the ADATA HD710A is Mac compatible and both have similar specs.
Drive is offered in 500GB, 1TB and 2TB storage capacities with color variants of black, blue and yellow-green. The drive offers good transfer speeds from its USB 3.0 ports and is also capable of working on USB 2.0 computer.
ADATA also designed a groove around the edges of this drive into which the USB 3.0 cable that is shipped with the device comes from.
- One of the best-selling rugged portable external hard drives of last year
- Large storage capacity options
- Available in a variety of colors
- The drive’s USB port flap is often a thorn in the flesh when it’s being closed
- It lacks encryption features
Conclusion: If you are always on the go and you are keen on getting the best external portable hard drive to suit your on-the-go life, then the ADATA HD720 should be your number one choice of drive – after all, it combines its ruggedness with enough storage space suitable for your needs.
ioSafe Rugged SSD 1TB Hit it, bang it, shake it, do what you want to it
For a drive that has been much around – as far back as 2011, the iOSafe portable SSD was one of the few drives that held sway in the rugged drive market up until the likes of LaCie Rugged began to gain popularity.
It’s really bulky and hefty looking – weighing about one pound. However, its weight doesn’t stop it from being compatible with both Windows and Mac computers. One peculiar thing that makes the ruggedness of this drive stand out is the fact that it can withstand crush resistance of up to 2500lbs – 3 or 4 times the weight of some species of whales.
The drive comes with a data recovery service alongside a warranty of $5000 which includes free shipping, repair or replacement in case of any data loss while using the drive within the warranty period. Using ChemSafe Technology, data on this drive is protected when it is immersed in liquids such as diesel, water, hydraulic fluids etc. for up to an hour, while the EnviroSafe Technology protects the data on the drive from UV exposure, high temperatures, icing or freezing rain for up to 24 hours.
The drive can also be at high altitudes of up to 15000ft. It’s USB 3.0 and 2.0 compatible and comes with its own backup software. There’s a LED indicator which notifies you of the drives activities.
- $5000 repayment attached to its one year warranty.
- Encryption feature with a backup software included.
- You can upgrade your warranty period for $50 – $100
- Bulky and heavier than its counterparts.
- Requires reformatting for Mac
Conclusion: Power users of portable external solid state drives who are not discouraged by the iOSafe’s bulky weight and size will surely get the drive which lives up to its name. Matt Smith of Digital Trends carried out a series of hardcore tests on the drive which passed them all.
WD My Passport Wireless Pro Connect up to 8 devices on-the-go; stream flawlessly to 3, and have less cables to worry about!
Western Digital’s popular mobile wireless drive which has been pretty much around. With over 5 hours of usage time under its hood, this device which comes in 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB storage capacities can also be used as a normal external hard drive through its USB 3.0 ports.
Its SD card slot comes in handy for photographers who need immediate backup on the field – by simply long pressing the SD card button, the drive will automatically copy and save the contents of the SD card. Great, right?
Up to 8 connections are supported by the drive and different light colors on the battery bar indicate the battery level – blue for full, green for 75%, amber for 50% and red for 15% or less.
The drive is compatible with iOS, Android, Windows and Mac and is shipped with the WD My Cloud app. Unlike other wireless portable storage devices, this drive supports dual stream Wi-Fi channel which even though it sacrifices battery life, gives faster Wi-Fi speeds.
- It supports 8 devices.
- The long lasting 6400mAh battery provides up to 8 hours of usage.
- You can charge other devices with this drive.
- Plug and copy feature for SD card if you chose not to press a button.
- It vibrates noticeably when in use
- You need to download Plex media server to replace the Twonky DLNA server the drive came with
Conclusion: For the pros in their field of work (especially photographers and videographers) in need of a wireless storage device, this drive will definitely make you happy.
Elgato Thunderbolt Drive Enjoy the speed and power of Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 on your Mac and Windows with this drive
The Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ is yet an awesome Thunderbolt drive that is worth owning. It offers both USB 3.0 connectivity and Thunderbolt although only one of the ports can work at a time – while using the Thunderbolt port, the USB 3.0 port will shut down and vice versa – a major downside of the drive.
The drive’s SSD is built with the prestigious Plextor True Speed technology and comes in 256GB and 512GB variants, with the Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 cables included. Like some of the aforementioned drives above, the Elgato is compatible with Windows OS when reformatted.
Weighing just about 270 grams, the drive is housed in a sleek looking aluminum encasing with grainy finishing which helps keep the elements like dust away from the body. Out of the box, the drive has been formatted to work with Mac.
- Can be used solely as a Mac compatible drive or as a Windows compatible drive.
- Its SSD was built using Plextor technology.
- Requires reformatting to work with Windows.
- You can’t use both the Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 ports at the same time.
- Available in just two storage capacity options.
Conclusion: In the words of Gavin Thomas, if you’re looking to backup your MacBook Air’s 128GB memory faster than it takes to boil eggs, then this drive is your best bet.
WD My Passport Pro – Fastest portable hdd drive
Although not the size of a passport as the name suggests, the WD My Passport Pro hard drive is a top notch Thunderbolt portable hard drive for Mac users. It’s bus powered and has storage capacities of 2TB and 4TB. There’s no Thunderbolt port on the drive, rather, it has a Thunderbolt cable permanently attached to the drive and can easily be drawn out from the sides.
The fan on the bus-powered drive is automatically switched on when the drive gets hot, which it rarely does. The drive is basically described as a portable RAID by many who have tested the drive’s ability to be configured in different RAID setups.
It weighs about 1.6 pounds and 1.2 pounds for the 4TB and 2TB models respectively. Not minding its size, the drive is still bus powered.
- There’s a fan to help cool the drive if it ever gets hot.
- The bulky 4TB version is still bus powered.
- There’s a permanently attached Thunderbolt cable that ensures fast transfer speeds on the drive
- 3-year warranty for the device.
- Lacks support for Windows unlike the Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+
- You cannot detach the Thunderbolt cable for use with another drive.
Conclusion: Users willing to pay a premium for extra speed and capacity at a time for their Mac are surely going to embrace this drive with both hands. It’s apparently a better option than some of its counterparts like the LaCie Big Disk Thunderbolt drive which only outranks it in terms of transfer speeds.
With these drives in front of you, which would you choose? This portable hard drive buyer’s guide will show help you pinpoint the exact drive in accordance with your needs.
The Portable Hard Drive Buyers Guide
Knowing the features of the hard drive you want is one thing, but choosing the best from a long list of portable external hard drives available in the market today is often a confusing, herculean task.
This portable hard drive buyer’s guide seeks to describe to you some very important factors you need to consider when choosing a portable external hard drive for yourself.
Here are the few factors we’d be dwelling on…
- Storage size need
- Supported platforms
- Wireless or not
Obviously, you may have taken into consideration some of the aforementioned factors. But that notwithstanding, there may have been some parts that skipped your mind.
The primary aim of attaching the “portable” name to an external hard drive is because we intend to use it on the go. But what happens when you buy one that even though it’s portable, is bulky and probably cannot conveniently fit into a 4-inch pouch?
Carrying the “so-called portable and bulky” drive becomes an arduous task. So it is of utmost importance to note the weight and size of the drive you are about to purchase and its ability to fit into an easy to carry pouch.
The quintessential question to ask oneself is this; how reliable is that portable hard drive?
Some hard drive users have lost their jobs because they stored data on “unreliable” hard drives that failed when it was needed the most, while many others who stored their school work lost it when these unreliable portable hard drives failed to work.
A quick way of knowing the reliability level of a portable hard drive is to visit forums and perhaps online stores that sell them and take a look at some of the problems users who have purchased the drive before complained of. If there are little negligible downsides such as “non-scratch resistant casing”, you could probably go ahead to buy the drive, but when you have people complaining about how often the drive disconnects while in use, you should hesitate before making the purchase.
If you are always in on the go, you should most likely go for a rugged portable hard drive so that you won’t have to worry about the hard drive shutting you out if it mistakenly falls to the ground.
Most drives have warranty periods attached to it, and as such you are covered to a large extent if your drive stops working within the stipulated warranty period. The best warranty period is 3 years and above. Never buy a portable external hard drive with a warranty period of just one year, no matter how cheap it is, except of course if you just need it for short term storage.
There are quite a handful of portable rugged hard drives, but how many of them live up to its name?
Just a few that have been able to pass military-grade testing which it was subjected to. Rugged drives have the ability to withstand quite some strenuous activities including cars running over them, falling from heights of up to 2 meters, withstanding unexpected bangs and adverse weather conditions in high altitudes, to mention a few.
For individuals who are always on the go with their portable hard drives e.g. wildlife photographers, oil rig workers etc., a rugged drive is a must. It is also important to note a drive’s water resistance abilities before buying. You never know which day you might get caught up in the rain without a raincoat or an umbrella.
If speed is what you seek for in a portable external hard drive, then you might just want to look the way of SSDs which are faster than the conventional HDDs. SSDs work on both Windows and Mac computers, however, if you are solely using a Mac, it is advisable to go for an SSD Thunderbolt supported portable external hard drive. Thunderbolt drives are faster that the word fast, literally.
Storage size needs
It is pertinent to note that your storage needs determine to a large extent, the portable hard drive you end up buying. Individuals like video editors and cameramen who deal with large files will definitely love a portable external hard drive with as much as 4TB worth of storage space. They’ll also appreciate the speed, so SSDs will be their go-to choice, to say the least. If your storage needs are small, and you surely do not regard speed, then a drive of 250GB would be just enough.
Virtually all the available portable hard drives have encryption features. Why is encryption necessary for portable hard drives? The answer is simple; it saves you the stress of finding who looked through your valuable data when the drive got lost/misplaced. Currently, the 128-bit and 256-bit AES encryption are the most common encryption features available for portable hard drives.
If you intend to use your portable hard drive on a Windows PC, you’d surely not get a Thunderbolt drive – that act would be akin to fetching water with a basket.
Thunderbolt-enabled drives are compatible with Mac computers while USB 3.0 and 3.1 enabled drives work conveniently on both Mac and Windows PCs. It is also imperative to note if a drive is requires formatting to work with any of the operating systems. If the drive is formatted in the exFAT, then it wouldn’t require any formatting as it would be plug and play compatible on both operating systems.
Formatting a drive in NTFS and HFS+ would require formatting, again and again, to work on the respective operating systems.
Wireless or not?
Given the fact that the number of users of mobile devices is increasing in large numbers, portable hard drive manufacturers have begun producing wireless portable hard drives which can connect a plethora of devices wirelessly.
So if you are a gadget enthusiast and you own lots of mobile devices, it is advisable to get a wireless portable hard drive. However, ensure that you get one that has a USB 3.0 connector in case you need to transfer large files quickly, since transferring the large files wirelessly can be slow at times.
Final Words – Best portable hard drive 2017
In all, it would be improper to choose a drive because a friend did, or because it looks beautiful. Ensure that the chosen drive meets all your criteria especially your budget.
Do not hesitate to contact the support desk of the company that manufactured the drive if you notice any anomalies within the warranty period. One more thing; if we are missing something, we’d be glad if you do make mention of it using the comment box below. Happy buying!