- 1 What is An External Hard Drive?
- 2 Best Desktop eHDDs
- 3 Best Portable eHDDs
- 4 Closing Thoughts
Whether you’re looking to backup your PC, store some extra games, keep a place for your extra music, movies and videos, or you just need a little bit of extra space to work with, and External HDD is an excellent option.
Unlike traditional hard drives, eHDDs typically use some form of an enclosure to encapsulate a standard hard drive and convert its SATA + Power connectors into a USB connection (and sometimes a standard auxiliary connection for non-portable drives.) This allows you to plug the drive in, throw your media on it, and then unplug it if you so desire. The main advantage to this is that whether or not you’ve specifically purchased a portable or desktop-style eHDD (we’ll cover the differences later) you can easily move them and take them with you.
Furthermore, having physical, localized storage which can be disconnected from the internet can be a major boon to many. Not worrying about cloud backups, a reduction in risk of your backup image(s) being corrupted or otherwise ruined, and the ability to hide some material you’d prefer to keep from the public eye. (Wink wink)
Whatever your use case, an eHDD can be a great companion for anyone! Laptop, desktop or even tablet (some exceptions do apply) it doesn’t really matter!
With that out of the way, let’s get to it!
What is An External Hard Drive?
While we covered it briefly in the introduction, I do want to go over what exactly an External HDD (eHDD) is. Simply put, it goes beyond simply having an HDD in an enclosure. eHDDs come in various shapes and sizes, capacities and even intended uses, so I want to cover what exactly an eHDD is, and what is encompassed under that label.
To start, an eHDD is a hard drive that is encapsulated by a custom enclosure designed to convert the SATA data and power connectors into a USB (and sometimes auxiliary power) connector. This allows the drive to be connected to your computer externally, and with this, you’re also capable of removing and storing the drive elsewhere.
There are two standard sizes for eHDDs: 2.5” and 3.5”. While these sizes do not determine the enclosure’s dimensions, it does determine the size of the drive itself. A smaller drive can fit into a smaller enclosure and result what we’ll call a “portable” eHDD.
A 3.5” drive typically means a larger enclosure designed for desktop use. Something that stands on its own and generally has an external power connector.
The main benefit to the portable-style enclosure is that it can often be thrown into a small bag or even pocket, it pairs nicely with laptops and small tablets, and they generally forego including an external power connector. However, they’re must harder to manage when used in a desktop-style setup. The drive has nothing to keep itself in place, the cable is usually much shorter, and it’s easier to lose the drive.
Desktop-style enclosures are much more popular among those who are less into portability, and more into the “set it and forget it” lifestyle. While you don’t sacrifice technical portability, the enclosure is typically much more bulky than its portable-style brethren, and therefore marginally harder to transport and move. However, this also has its own benefits. Larger enclosures are much easier to manage, they’re much harder to lose track of, they typically have much longer cables, and because they’re often paired with dedicated power connectors, they can use a faster USB interface for faster transfer speeds. However, this is not always the case.
No matter the style, all eHDDs share one thing in common: they use USB. Sure, you might find a few drives that terminate to an old-style Thunderbolt connector or eSATA (good luck) but generally speaking, eHDDs focus on USB. This allows for much more versatility with your hardware. Be it a tablet, smartphone, computer, or even a game console, a standard eHDD will more than likely work fine with all of them.
6 Best External Hard Drives 2017
|Seagate Backup Plus Hub||USB 3.0||4/6/8TB||$105+|
|WD My Book||USB 3.0||2/3/4/6/8/12/16TB||$99+|
|Fantom Drives G-Force||USB 3.0 / eSATA||1/2/3/4/5/6/8TB||$110+|
|Seagate Backup Plus Ultra||USB 3.0||1/2TB||$79+|
|WD My Passport||USB 3.0||1/2/3TB||$95+|
|ADATA DashDrive HD650||USB 3.0||1/2TB||$73+|
Best Desktop eHDDs
If you’re in the market for a Desktop-style eHDD, we have a few suggestions for you. Some based on our research, and some based on hands-on experience. We won’t specifically be targeting budget, capacity or build quality, however. Instead, we’re going to try and strike a good balance between all three. With that said, here’s our suggestions:
Seagate Backup Plus Hub (4/6/8TB)
The Seagate Backup Plus Hub is an excellent enclosure that offers exactly what you’re after with little to no extra frills. With a sleek, barebones design, the Backup Plus Hub will not stand out like a sore thumb at your desk, in your media center or in most other places you might put it. There are two USB 3.0 ports on the front of the device to allow you to connect and recharge up to two devices. Whether it’s your smartphone, tablet, flash drive or more, you can easily access the drive to add or retrieve media.
Our only complaint with the Seagate Backup Plus Hub is that it only comes in larger capacities. This means that the enclosure is rather pricey. Unfortunately, Seagate does not list anywhere whether the internal drive is 5400RPM or 7200RPM. At $105 for 4TB, it is safe to assume though that this enclosure uses 5400RPM drives to cut costs. While this is fine for storing and archiving large files, it can be a problem for anyone who consistently accesses to drive.
WD My Book (2/3/4/8/12/16TB)
The My Book series of drives from WD have a long history among fans. While certainly not a new product line, the My Book series of external drives have seen many-a refreshes, and this is very much appreciated. The enclosure uses a sleek, clean design, and comes in two distinct variants: a single-drive, and dual-drive option. The single-drive option is great for those who want affordable storage for backing up their computer, storing and archiving media, and having a disconnected storage box for personal files.
The dual-drive style amps things up a bit, offering RAID0/1 options. RAID0 will effectively double your read/write speeds, at the risk of losing all of your data if either drive dies. However, RAID1 offers some peace of mind through redundancy. Without getting too technical, RAID1 essentially mirrors the data from Drive A to Drive B, allowing for either drive to fail without loss of data. WD has not specified the RPM of the provided drive(s).
With a slew of capacity options, as well as the option to run a dual-drive box, the My Book from WD is an excellent option.
Fantom Drives G-Force (1/2/3/4/5/6/8TB)
While Fantom Drives is a relatively-unknown name to the public, they have been around for a long time and have proven themselves as a competent company which offers good products. Their G-Force external enclosure is no exception. Featuring a clean, sleek design and small resting dock for the enclosure, the G-Force is a rather pretty piece of hardware. This, coupled with their excellent capacity options means that this is definitely an enclosure to consider.
In a somewhat unique move, Fantom Drives has also included an optional eSATA connector alongside its USB 3.0 connector, for anyone with an external SATA port on their case or motherboard. While this is rare and unnecessary for a majority of people today, it’s still nice to see for those who can benefit from it. The only thing that would be nice to see is a mention of the RPM of the drive that is included in the enclosure. Unfortunately, it appears Fantom Drives has omitted this information. Overall, the G-Force from Fantom Drives looks to be a clean, simple product that does exactly what it advertises.
Best Portable eHDDs
If you’re in the market for a small, portable drive, you’ll be happy to know that there is just such a product readily available. However, I do want to emphasize that this area really is mostly one or two products. Manufacturers have more or less conceded to WD in this regard, as their products more or less dominate the lineup. You’d be hardpressed to find a portable drive not stamped with the iconic WD logo nowadays. With that said, their products are great, so this isn’t necessarily a problem. WIth that out of the way, let’s begin.
Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Slim (1/2TB)
While our introduction to this section might contradict our first suggestion, the Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Slim is a surprisingly-good product at a good price. It features a sleek design with a nice texture, the enclosure itself is as the name says, ultra thin at only 7mm, and the drive comes in two capacities and colors. Really, this drive seems like the perfect companion to a smartphone.
There isn’t much that can be said about this, or most portable drives. It’s clean, it’s affordable, and it gets the job done.
WD My Passport Ultra (1/2/3TB)
With a design and price similar to that of the Backup Plus Ultra Slim, the My Passport from WD is a great option as well. Using the same USB 3.0 connection, a sleek, clean design philosophy, and a price that competes against it, there’s little to no reason to choose one drive over the other.
One advantage of the My Passport however, is that it offers a 3TB variant, unlike Seagate’s portable offering. However, if this does not benefit you, then you’ll find it difficult to discover any discernible differences between the two that make a long-term difference.
ADATA DashDrive (1/2TB)
Perhaps you’re looking for something which sacrifices beauty for ruggedness. If that’s the case, then ADATA has you covered. The DashDrive, while not the prettiest of devices, is definitely ready to take on some abuse while keeping your data intact. Sporting both a stylish red variant (which is good to hide the blood that you cover it in while you bludgeon that wild boar to death) and a sleeker, more muted black version, you have some options. Plus, the drive comes in two capacities, which is rare for rugged devices.
Little more can be said about the drive. It’s rugged, it’s ready to take a beating, and it comes in two capacities at a nice price. If you need something to take your data into the wilderness or to conquer mother nature, ADATA has your back.
If this list seemed particularly short to you, that’s because it is. External drives are becoming more and more rare nowadays, in favor of NAS devices. (Which we’ll do an article on soon) Many folks prefer to have their drives attached to their home network for easier management of their data. This sacrifices the portable aspect, but many folks simply don’t care anymore.
Another type of external drive we didn’t cover today was eSSDs. They’re much faster, they can be smaller, and drive manufacturers have begun shifting their focus toward their SSD branches. However, we didn’t cover them in this article because they’re simply much more expensive. A 1TB eHDD will go for ~$80, whereas a 1TB eSSD will run you about $400. That being said, it’s not unheard of that we’ll cover them in the future!