What are the best external hard drives for your setup? Here are our top picks.

Having an external hard drive around can come in pretty handy if you need to add a little (or a lot) of extra storage space to your PC setup with relatively little hassle. Navigating the sea of external hard drives can be quite daunting, however, so we've compiled a list of our top picks to help you get started.

Western Digital My Passport Ultra

WD My Passport Ultra

If you're looking for something light and compact, look no further than the Western Digital My Passport Ultra. Weighing in at 4.8 ounces, the drive measures in at around the same size as your average wallet. Given its diminutive size, this drive is an excellent option for tossing in a bag and taking your files on the road.

The My Passport Ultra packs plenty of space too, with storage sizes ranging from 500GB to 4TB. USB 3.0 connectivity should mean fairly speedy transfers, and Western Digital also includes the option to keep your sensitive files protected with 256-bit AES hardware encryption.

If you're one for personalization, the My Passport Ultra comes in either black, blue, white or red plastic casings, or as a rather attractive Metal Edition in blue or silver. Perhaps the best part is all of this is relatively inexpensive, with things starting off at just $60 for the 1TB drive.

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Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Slim

Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Slim

Another portable drive worth considering is the Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Slim. While only available in 1TB and 2TB options, the drive does feature a unique textured metal finish that should appeal to anyone wanting a little extra pizazz in their external drive. Seagate's offering is also incredibly thin at just 9.6mm, so it's an excellent option if physical space is at a premium.

Otherwise, the Backup Plus Ultra Slim offers USB 3.0 connectivity, and comes with Seagate Dashboard software to make setting up automatic backups a breeze. As a bonus, Seagate throws in 200GB of free OneDrive storage space for 2 years with purchase, so this is a no brainer if you're already a heavy OneDrive user.

The price is just right with these drives as well, with things starting off at just over $60 for the 1TB drive in either gold or silver.

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Western Digital My Book Desktop

WD My Book Desktop

If you aren't concerned with portability and simply want a solid, self-powered external drive for your desktop, then look no further than the Western Digital 8TB My Book Desktop. While the more portable drives on this list capped out at 4TB of storage, the My Book Desktop can sport up to 8TB of space, leaving plenty of room for everything from high resolution video, to your music collection and more.

As with the My Passport Ultra, the My Book Desktop includes the option to password protect your files with 256-bit AES hardware encryption, so keeping your sensitive files secure is easy. As for design, the My Book recently underwent a design overhaul that is pretty attractive, and should make it less of an eyesore if you choose to keep it on display on top of your desk.

Compared to more portable options on this list, the $250 price tag of the 8TB My Book is a little high. However, there are also 3TB, 4TB and 6TB options that can fit into a range of budgets.

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LaCie Rugged

LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt

Sometimes, you just need a reliable drive that can take a pounding and keep going. If you plan to use your external drive in the great outdoors or on a worksite, then the LaCie Rugged hard drive may be up your alley.

Sporting an enclosure flanked on all sides by bumpers, the LaCie Rugged is rated to withstand accidental drops from up to 6.6 feet. Pop on the port cover, and the drive becomes resistant to water and dust as well, making any outdoor accidents less of a worry.

One of the more impressive features of LaCie's Rugged its Thunderbolt port. While the drive does sport a USB 3.0 port for broad compatibility, the attached Thunderbolt cable can provide speedy transfers if you have a Thunderbolt-equipped PC. With storage options of 1TB, 2TB or 4TB, LaCie's offering makes a pretty compelling case for those hunting for a ruggedized option.

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Samsung T3 Portable SSD

Samsung T3 Portable

If money is no object and all you care about is raw speed, then take a look at the Samsung T3 Portable SSD. As the name suggests, Samsung's offering pack a solid state drive inside for incredibly fast sequential read and write speeds of 450MB/s. Not only that, but the drive also does all of its work over a USB Type-C port, which should be good news for those looking to future-proof themselves.

Like others on this list, the drive features 256-bit AES encryption for keeping your files safe. The drive is also extremely compact, weighing under two ounces and with a footprint that Samsung says is "roughly the same size as a business card."

The only catch to all of this is that you'll be looking at paying a pretty penny to get your hands on this drive. The Samsung T3 Portable SSD starts at $177 for the 500GB option, and quickly heads north of $700 for 2TB of space. If you aren't concerned with price and simply want the best performance, however, this drive is worth a shot.

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