Best External Hard Drives

What are the best external hard drives for your PC 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 compiled a list of our top picks to help you get started.

Western Digital My Passport Portable

Western Digital My Passport Portable

If you're looking for something light and compact, look no further than the Western Digital My Passport Portable. Weighing in at around eight ounces, this hard-disk drive (HDD) measures in at about 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 Portable packs plenty of space, too, with storage sizes ranging from 1TB 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. In its review, PCWorld had this to say:

WD's My Passport 4TB mobile USB 3.0 drive lets you stuff a lot of data in your pocket without emptying it of cash. While not as fast with sequential transfers as the LaCie and Seagate drives we'll be comparing it to, it's certainly fast enough.

If you're one for personalization, the My Passport Ultra comes in black, blue, white, red, orange, or yellow plastic casings. Perhaps the best part is that it won't break the bank, with the 4TB drive costing only about $105.

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Seagate Backup Plus Slim

Seagate Backup Plus Slim

While we used to have the Backup Plus Ultra Slim on this list, we swapped it out for the Backup Plus Slim after a rash of drive-failure reports on Amazon. The Backup Plus Slim is marginally larger but is still one of the best external HDDs out there, and it's available in 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, and 5TB options, as well as four different colors. The Wirecutter named it their top overall pick for an external drive, saying:

The 2TB Seagate Backup Plus Slim is one of the lightest, thinnest hard drives we tested, and it was consistently faster than the competition in our multifile music and photo transfer tests. More importantly, it's reliable.

This drive is just 0.48 inches thick and about the size of a wallet, so you will have no problem toting it around in a laptop bag or even your pocket. Connect to your PC with USB 3.0 and enjoy fast transfer speeds. If you want the best bang for your buck, go with the 2TB model that starts at about $77.

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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 HDD for your desktop, look no further than the Western Digital 8TB My Book Desktop (about $200). While the more portable drives on this list capped out at 5TB 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. This drive was awarded an Editors' Choice award by PCMag:

With a full 8TB for less than $250, the 8TB version of the Western Digital My Book is a deep well of affordable storage for your photos, music, videos, 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 is pretty minimalistic and shouldn't stick out if you choose to keep it on display on top of your desk.

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Samsung T5 Portable SSD

Samsung T5 Portable SSD

If a HDD just won't do and you have the cash, Samsung's T5 external solid-state drive (SSD) is the best you can buy right now. The 500GB configuration offers the best storage for the price, coming in at about $180. However, you can also get up to a 2TB model for about $800.

The Wirecutter named this its top choice for an external SSD, stating:

The 500 GB Samsung T5 Portable SSD is about as expensive per gigabyte as other external SSDs, and it's one of the lightest and most compact, so you can easily throw it in your bag (or even your pocket) when you're on the go.

This drive has a single USB-C port on it for fast data transfer, but it includes both USB-C to USB-C and USB-C to USB-A 3.1 cables in the box. If a HDD's speed just no longer cuts it, this is the best external SSD out there.

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CalDigit Tuff

CalDigit Tuff

Your data is precious, but you can't always ensure that your external drive remains safe while being transported or used. In this case, you need a drive that's designed to take a beating and keep on working. This 2TB HDD from CalDigit (about $180) uses USB-C or USB-A 3.1 to connect and can survive a drop from up to four feet.

PCMag awarded an Editors' Choice to this drive, stating in its review:

Not only is the CalDigit Tuff a rugged hard drive designed to survive extreme conditions, it's also a terrific value.

Along with the drop rating, you can also expect this drive to survive for 30 minutes in up to 3.28 feet of water, plus it has a dust- and shock-resistant coating. If you're hard on your gear, this is the drive for you.

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Updated November 2, 2017: We refreshed this list to ensure you're still getting the absolute best external hard drives.