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external hard driveAh, the external hard drive. This unsung hero of the gadget world can be found on almost any geek’s desk, usually tucked away behind a monitor or stuffed in a drawer. Yet it’s of great importance, as it’s often used to back up critical data or store a library of music, videos and photos.

There are plenty of drives available, but most of us only need one or two, so let’s narrow down the choices and see which are really worth your money.

Best Budget Drive: Seagate 500GB Portable External Drive

external hard drive

This simple, portable hard drive offers 500GB of storage for a price of about $60 at most online retailers.

Features are few. The drive is a slower 5,400 RPM model, and USB 2.0 is the only connection option. With that said, this drive is quite portable, as it weighs about 160 grams and is under .7 inches (or 18mm) thick.

You’ll receive better value for your money if you pay a bit more, but if enhanced connectivity or better drive speeds are not a concern to you, this simple option will do the job.

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Best Massive Drive: Seagate GoFlex 4TB External Drive

best external hard drive

There are many options for people who want over a terabyte of space, but most are specialty solutions that become extremely expensive. At $249.99, this 4TB option manages to offer jaw-dropping capacity without a wallet-shattering price tag.

It’s more than just a big lug of a drive, however. It offers USB 3.0 USB 3.0: Everything You Need to Know USB 3.0: Everything You Need to Know USB 3.0 beats USB 2.0 in so many ways. Here's everything you need to know about why you should always pick USB 3.x when possible. Read More as standard, and optional FireWire What Is FireWire & What Are Some Of Its Uses? [Technology Explained] What Is FireWire & What Are Some Of Its Uses? [Technology Explained] Read More or USB 2.0 adapters can be purchased if desired (though I don’t know why you’d want to downgrade to USB 2.0). It’s compatible with both Windows and Mac OS X. And as if that weren’t enough, it’s a pretty fast drive, as well.

Yes, the price tag of $249.99 may sound like a lot, but you actually receive far more capacity per dollar than you would with the budget-minded 500GB Seagate drive previously recommended.

Best Backup Drive: Clickfree C6 Portable External Drive

best external hard drive

All external drives are excellent ways to back up data How To Back Up Data From Computer That Won't Boot How To Back Up Data From Computer That Won't Boot Read More , but not all drives make it equally easy to do so. One company that’s long had a leg up on the competition in this area is Clickfree, which ships its hard drives with custom firmware and software designed to make backing data easy.

The C6 even has the ability to image an entire PC hard drive, including the operating system, which means a computer can be completely restored from this drive if anything tragic happens to it. Otherwise, the Clickfree C6 is a fairly typical portable drive. It’s thin, it’s light, and it offers USB 3.0 as its sole connectivity option.

You do pay for the convenience of this drive. The 1TB portable version is $139.99, which is a fair bit more expensive than similarly equipped drive with less impressive (or any) backup features. Also, Mac users should be warned that this drive is allergic to computers designed in California.

Best Durable Drive: ioSafe Rugged Portable (Any Size) External Drive

external hard drive

Most of us will never place our external hard drives under much stress. Maybe the cat will tip it over – and that’s about it. Yet external drives are appealing to some people because of their portability, and if you are indeed going to be moving your data all over the globe, in a range of conditions, you’ll want a drive that won’t go belly-up.

That drive is the ioSafe Rugged Portable. Machined out of aluminum or titanium (depending on the version), this drive is watertight, chemical resistant and encases the mechanical drive itself in a shock housing that reduces the severity of impacts. The company that built it has even shown a demonstration video in which the drive was shot with a 12-gauge shotgun and survived.

It’s available in two capacities – 500GB or 1TB. Varying “Data Recovery Services” are offered by ioSafe to retrieve your data at no charge if the drive should somehow break. Mac users will have to purchase a version specific to that operating system. They’ll probably want to but don’t have to. There are USB 3.0 and FireWire 800 versions available, both of which will also work with a USB 2.0 connection and so can be used on both Macs and PCs.

All of the ioSafe drives are expensive, but did you think for a moment that a shotgun-proof external drive would be cheap?

Conclusion

External hard drives may not receive the attention of tablets or smartphones, but there have been huge improvements in their quality over the years. Drives like the ioSafe Rugged Portable are stunningly durable, while the capacity of the Seagate GoFlex 4TB should satisfy even readers addicted to torrenting Top 6 Torrent Alternatives To The Pirate Bay Top 6 Torrent Alternatives To The Pirate Bay Read More HD videos.

Do you think there’s a drive that should have been listed here? Let us know in the comments!

  1. Drgnsprk
    October 15, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    I have used Western Digital Book on my desk top for years and Seagate Free agent Go on my net book without any problems 

  2. Robert Erbland
    October 15, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    Yeah except for almost anything from western digital, all of which are apparently prone to complete failure about 10 minutes after the vendor warranty expires. I bought a couple 1.5 tbs which failed within days of eachother

  3. Suhel
    October 15, 2011 at 3:22 am

    I think this hard disk is a cheap and excellent deal

    http://www.amazon.com/Western-Digital-Passport-Essential-Portable/dp/B0041OSQ9S

    features :

    Dual USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 compatibility Up to 3x faster transfer rates with USB 3.0 Automatic, continuous backup Hardware encryption, password protection

    Brand Name: Western Digital
    Model: WDBACX0010BBK-NESN
    Hard Disk Size: 1 TB
    Warranty: 2 years warranty
    Hardware Platform: PC, Mac
    Hard Disk Description: External hard drive
    Hard Disk Interface: ATA100

    Price:$89.99  

    • Alien
      October 15, 2011 at 2:26 pm

      Totally agree.
      I have one like this that I use as a Time machine for my Mac and another 500GB for my pc, and they both work like a charm.

      Couldn't think of anything better for the money.

      Highly recommended.

    • M.S. Smith
      October 16, 2011 at 8:03 pm

      It's a fine deal, but you can find GoFlex 1TB drives for that price. Seagate's GoFlex setup is great, because if you ever need to convert your connector, you can easily do so without any decrease in performance, which sometimes is a problem when you use an standard adapter. 

    • Anonymous
      October 20, 2011 at 8:32 pm

      Suhel & Others,

      I bought this drive and regret it! It died on me within 6 months only!

      The performance was great but the USB connection on the drive's end becomes loose eventually and then stops working.

      I had to buy a drive with a more "sturdy" connection (Iomega), even though I liked the performance of the WD drive.

      Just wanted to share from my personal experience.

      Good luck!

  4. Joe Khamis
    October 15, 2011 at 2:13 am

    Antec MX-1 external case. I bought your suggestion for a Best Budget Drive (Seagate 500 GB). It powered up twice then started with the 'whirring' noise. Game over. The Antec MX-1 case I utilise with enterprise grade hard drives.

  5. JavaDonut
    October 14, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    I nearly always avoid using the phrase "I remember when" but in this case...I do remember when $1 a meg was a good price for a storage device, and now greater speed and reliability can be had for like $0.15 a gig. The cost nowadays is so affordable I generally employ two external devices for the life-or-death backups of dynamic data, and burn to CD/DVD those set up files and copies of all-important installation files. Certainly it's not as cutting edge as some other technologies but it's easily within my budget. And so far my lower tech belt-and-suspenders approach has kept me from losing anything vital.

  6. SteveB
    October 14, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    I think any article about external hard drives should mention Western Digital. I've had Seagate drives fail me in the past and won't buy anything but Western Digital from now on. Others comment on the reliability of an external drive. Of course, the next step up would be a NAS or my preference, Windows Home Server, which gives you a lot more than just backups. Lastly, if you're concerned about fire or theft, an offsite option would be prudent. If you don't trust a cloud service, I recently read about an iOmega NAS with a "personal cloud" option linking drives at two different locations. I recommend seeding the drive at the 2nd location so you're not doing the initial backup over the Internet.

    • Suhel
      October 15, 2011 at 3:22 am

      yup I feel that way too, WD needs a mention.

    • M.S. Smith
      October 15, 2011 at 6:13 pm

      I don't think any of Western Digital's external drives look competitive right now. And customers don't seem to be having any better luck with them than with other brands, in terms of failure rates. I would generally go Western Digital for an internal drive, though. 

      • SteveB
        October 15, 2011 at 7:43 pm

        You're right. All my drives are internal. I make my own external drive, buying a good case. Must stay cool.

        • Yash
          December 8, 2011 at 2:04 pm

          I did this with 3 maxor drives in the past and all of them failed.

  7. AlexS
    October 14, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    Make this a giveaway? :P

    Cos I'd love the Seagate GoFlex 4TB drive... Even though in a giveaway no guarantee that I'd win haha

    Thanks for the article though, gives me a better idea of the options on the market.

  8. Bob Fibber
    October 14, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    Check out Drobo for a great backup solution.

  9. HildyJ
    October 14, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    The one thing that worries me about using an external drive as a backup is that it is as subject to failure as the drive it is backing up.

    I would be interested in recommendations for external drives with dual drives which could be set up as a mirrored RAID.

    • M.S. Smith
      October 15, 2011 at 6:12 pm

      This is true, but you'd have to be exceptionally unlucky to have both your external drive and your internal drive fail at the same time. Unless you handle really important information, and external drive should be enough. 

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