Whereas cloud storage is handy, it’s not assured to be at your fingertips ceaselessly. Ultimately, we’ll transfer on from cloud storage to one thing we now have but to think about. Till then, transferring copies of your recordsdata to an exterior drive is simply good observe.

Why create a backup? To be certain that all of your important data is protected and safe, it doesn’t matter what occurs to your pc or web connection. Ship the whole lot to an exterior drive and use the cloud as a secondary supply.

However with tons of choices now obtainable, the place do you begin? Learn on to learn the way to decide on an exterior drive for higher peace of thoughts.

Storage capability

Samsung T5 SSD review

Arguably essentially the most important specification to think about when shopping for an exterior drive is space for storing. It’s no good shopping for a high-speed system with encryption and distant entry if it’s not large enough to retailer your data. You additionally don’t need to pay by the nostril for a drive you’ll by no means even come near filling.

What dimension, then, is greatest? That depends upon you.

If you’d like a tool that’s good for transferring paperwork, pictures, or different media from one system to the opposite, or simply need to develop the space for storing of your low-end laptop computer or pill, then a mid-range flash drive could also be superb.

Whereas the most important of these can stretch as much as 2TB of space for storing, they get expensive and are unnecessarily huge for easy transfers. As an alternative, save your cash and purchase a drive with 64GB, which might price lower than $20. You can get drives with double the scale for not rather more.

For those who’re serious about storing much more or protecting recordsdata and folders long run, you’ll need one thing extra important. A 1TB drive ought to swimsuit most wants for the foreseeable future. Nonetheless, in the event you envision storing a whole lot of flicks — perhaps you ripped your DVD assortment — or simply by no means need to run out of house, there are drives obtainable right now that supply a number of terabytes of house.

For example, the Seagate Backup Plus is obtainable from 1TB to 5TB in capability. The 1TB mannequin is just not rather more than $90, whereas the 5TB mannequin hits $160.


Exterior drives are served up in two flavors: HDDs and SSDs. We discuss extra in-depth in regards to the variations between the 2 in a separate article and under the place it impacts specs. Nonetheless, primarily they’re two alternative ways of storing and accessing knowledge.

HDDs (laborious drive disk) use spinning magnetic disks to retailer knowledge. Learn/write heads change this knowledge as vital, so that you hear their iconic spinning sounds. SSDs (solid-state drives) use tiny gate transistors in cells that may flip on or off based mostly on electrical pulses. They haven’t any transferring elements, therefore the title.

SSDs are considerably sooner than HDDs in lots of cases however can develop very costly. HDDs are cheaper, but additionally bigger, slower, and extra simply broken. For exterior drives, it’s often greatest to decide on an SSD besides particularly circumstances.

Switch velocity

macbook usb type c
Maurizio Pesce/Flickr

Measurement isn’t the whole lot, even in terms of exterior drives. Switch velocity is extremely vital. For those who switch recordsdata backwards and forwards to an infinite drive repeatedly, you don’t need to wait ceaselessly for the switch to finish.

Two primary components play a task in how briskly your drive can function: The underlying storage expertise and the connector it makes use of.

Though some drives are sooner than others, typically, SSDs can course of knowledge sooner than HDDs. Exterior SSDs are typically costlier than their HDD counterparts and infrequently have much less storage capability. You don’t want one or the opposite, as there are bigger SSDs you should buy for a premium value.

When it comes to the connector between your exterior drive and your PC or cell system, there are a number of normal choices to think about. Most drives right now use a USB interface, however a number of generations have some distinct variations — most notably with switch velocity.

USB 2.0 is an outdated normal, and in the event you’re doing something however making rare small file transfers, keep away from it — its max switch velocity solely reaches 480Mbps. The port is often not color-coded on PCs.

USB connections past 2.0 can get considerably complicated. You might even see specs listed as USB 3.0, USB 3.1 Gen1, or USB 3.2 Gen1. All three are primarily the identical, offering speeds of as much as 5Gbps and sometimes color-coded blue. In the meantime, USB 3.1 Gen2 and USB 3.2 Gen2 are additionally the identical, color-coded in pink, and supply 10Gbps transfers.

The quickest, USB 3.2, or 3.2 2×2, presents as much as 20Gbps.

USB-A is the commonest (learn: old fashioned) connector sort, that includes an oblong field and a this-side-up-only connection. USB-C is newer, smaller, and extra rounded, providing a reversible connector. Piggybacking this port is the DisplayPort protocol for video output. Some connectors use the USB-C port sort however function the Thunderbolt 3 protocol with as much as 40Gbps in switch velocity.

Some older gadgets use various connectors like eSATA and Firewire, however as a result of their decreased relevance, they need to be prevented.

That each one mentioned, you desire a Thunderbolt 3 connection first. If it’s too costly or your system doesn’t have a USB-C port (or Thunderbolt 3), search for USB 3.1/3.2 Gen 2 help subsequent or transfer down the road.

Portability and sturdiness

LaCie Rugged Type-C
Invoice Roberson/Digital Traits

For those who merely need an exterior drive for backups saved in your house, network-attached storage (NAS) gadgets could also be a greater wager. They sometimes sit as a stand-alone wired system in your native community, packing a number of drives and storage modes. Promise Know-how, QNAP, and Synology are simply three producers specializing in NAS gadgets.

Nonetheless, if you wish to maintain your drive on you when out and about, portability is important. It must be light-weight and small, so you possibly can stuff it in a pocket or bag to entry it instantly and rapidly. Ideally, you need one which doesn’t require an exterior energy cable too.

Most exterior drives are removed from weighty, and a few are tiny, just like the Samsung T5, providing big digital storage capability whereas being bodily diminutive. Then again, SSDs are typically a little bit smaller than their laborious drive counterparts as a result of they’re not housing stacked magnetic discs.

One more reason to think about an SSD over an HDD is sturdiness. Whereas modern-day exterior drives usually come geared up with rugged casings to guard them towards harm, the 2 applied sciences have very totally different bodily makeups. With no transferring elements, an SSD is extra sturdy to drop harm than a conventional laborious drive.


If the information saved in your exterior drive is delicate in any manner, encryption is a good suggestion. Many drives are suitable with software program encryption options, and people are nice for most individuals.

For many who take their knowledge safety extra severely, you need to discover a drive with {hardware} encryption. For those who’re extraordinarily security aware, you might even go for a bodily safety system just like the pin-code enter on the Apricorn Aegis Padlock drive.

Some drives ship with sturdy casings to forestall bodily tampering. Whereas Kingston’s Ironkey flash drives don’t supply the identical storage capability as full-scale drives, they’ve a secondary safety layer embedded within the printed circuit board (PCB), dipped in resin. This design makes it laborious for anybody to entry the reminiscence chips mounted inside bodily.


Out of the field, exterior laborious drives are repeatedly formatted for a particular working system. For example, an exterior drive formatted for Home windows 10 might have issues working with MacOS, and vice versa. Some laborious drives are formatted particularly for Linux too.

This setup isn’t irreversible, nonetheless. You may reformat a tough drive or partition it to have totally different capabilities. However if you wish to keep away from the effort, make certain the exterior drive is suitable with the goal working system.


Need an exterior drive for on-the-go gaming or to reinforce a console’s storage? Your wants could also be barely totally different than the typical consumer.

Right here SSD velocity is much more crucial, as a slower drive can have an effect on ready occasions and sport responsiveness. USB 3.1/3.2 can be fairly vital, although new gaming consoles and computer systems are more likely to improve to sooner speeds over USB-C, so be ready.

Avid gamers ought to search for auto-backup options and common compatibility. Some fashions, just like the Silicon Energy Armor A60 drive, even have built-in storage for cables and military-grade safety, which can suit your necessities.

Lastly, some drives, just like the Seagate Sport Drive household, are particularly designed to match PS4 colours whereas different fashions characteristic optimizations for Xbox.

Additional options

Being assured in your determination might be difficult even when you understand the whole lot about its options and specs. Generally, being educated in regards to the further options obtainable is what determines which laborious drive you select.

Having an prolonged guarantee is an usually ignored characteristic that may be an actual lifesaver ought to your pc ever crash.

One other vital issue to think about is what sort of cable comes together with your drive. In case your laptop computer or telephone has USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 connections and your drive solely comes with a USB-A cable, think about shopping for one other cable or an adapter.

Lastly, some extra superior fashions include Wi-Fi connectivity options and the flexibility to recharge with a easy USB charging cable.

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