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External hard drives make more sense than internal drives these days. You can connect one to any device, hook it up to your router for access on any gadget, and always carry your data with you without having to lug your whole laptop around.

It’s been a while since we told you about some of the best external hard drives to buy The Best External Hard Drives You Should Consider Buying [Gadget Corner] The Best External Hard Drives You Should Consider Buying [Gadget Corner] Ah, 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... Read More and a lot has changed since then. 2.5-inch portable drives have reached the sweet spot between storage and price, and most of them are capacious enough that you won’t have to consider large 3.5-inch external drives. New technologies such as wireless support have also be introduced, so portable drives can wirelessly connect to an iPad or other device without cables. Apple rolled out the Thunderbolt connector and USB 3.0 has become the defacto standard — if you haven’t already, here’s why you should upgrade to USB 3.0 Why You Should Upgrade To USB 3.0 Why You Should Upgrade To USB 3.0 It’s been quite a while since USB 3.0 has been included in motherboards, but now we've come to the point where most devices and computers come with the new and improved ports. We all know... Read More .

So if you are in the market for a new portable hard drive — and you’ll usually get some of them for rock-bottom prices in the upcoming holiday sales — then here’s what you should look for.

Budget: Protronix ETQ Series 80GB ($26.75) & Toshiba Canvio 500GB ($48.45)

Protronix-ETQ-80GB

The absolute lowest amount of money you can spend to get yourself an external hard drive is $27, which buys you the Protronix ETQ with an 80 GB hard drive. Now, 80 GB might not be a lot of space, and you’re spending $0.33 per gigabyte.

Toshiba-Canvio-500GB

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Instead, if you can afford it, it makes more sense to buy the Toshiba Canvio 500 GB hard drive for $49, since it gets you one gigabye for $0.098. Plus, Toshiba’s a more reputable brand, not to mention it has a built-in shock sensor to protect against drops.

The best value for your money, though, are 1 TB drives — prices start from $60. Toshiba Canvio has a 1 TB version for that price, but I’d say the Seagate Backup Plus (which is our choice for the most convenient portable hard drive) is better value for your money.

Rugged: Silicon Power Armor A80 1 TB ($82.98)

Silicon-Power-Armor-A80-1TB

If you asked me which hard drive I would buy, it would definitely be the Silicon Power Armor A80. This hard drive has gone through stringent military-grade tests and survived. Along with being dust-proof and pressure-proof, the Armor A80 can stay submerged for 30 minutes in one metre of water, and takes rain and splashes in its stride. Even if you were to drop it on a concrete floor from a height of 4 feet, the Armor A80 would laugh it off. The cool part about the USB 3.0 drive is that it has a slot on the side to house its USB cable, so you never forget or misplace it. Silicon Power has bundled some software with the Armor A80, but that’s best ignored. To me, a portable hard drive is about not having to worry about another fragile gadget that I am carrying around. For $83, it’s a steal.

Stylish: LaCie Porsche Design P’9220 1 TB ($99.11)

Lacie-Porsche-Design-P9220

What do you get when two names renowned for a premium design get together? Meet the LaCie Porsche Design P’9220, the sleekest, sexiest hard drive you will ever see. Sharp edges, brushed aluminium, a flat clean look and that single cut for the LED — this thing is gorgeous. But it’s not just about looks. The 3 mm aluminium casing is strong enough to protect the enclosed drive, and LaCie has included its usual software suite that lets you password-protect the drive, set automatic backups locally and to the cloud, and lowers battery consumption with the Automatic Eco Mode. The 1 TB drive is best for space, but if you want to reduce the weight further and make it run faster, there’s an SSD variant available too. Mac users would want to check out the LaCie Porsche Design P’9223.

Wireless: Seagate Wireless Plus 1TB ($182.83)

Seagate-Wireless-Plus-1TB

In the quest to go cable-free, hard drive makers aren’t too far behind. The Seagate Wireless Plus is a portable hard drive with a built-in Wi-Fi chip that lets you connect up to eight devices to the hard drive without any cable — no internet or data plan needed, nor does it require an existing Wi-Fi network as it can create its own. You can also use it to pass-through Internet connectivity, so your iPad can connect to the Seagate Wireless Plus to access the Internet as well as the media stored on it, which can be up to 500 movies or thousands of songs and photos. The handy Seagate mobile app for iOS and Android makes it a breeze to set up the device.

Lightweight: U32 Shadow 120GB SSD ($135)

U32-Shadow-120GB

Sometimes, all you want is sheer portability and nothing else. You want a portable hard drive that is sleek enough to slip into your pocket at any time, and light enough that you don’t think of it as an added burden. And that’s the entire aim of the U32 Shadow. Since it packs an SSD, it’s lighter and more durable than most HDDs (able to withstand drops and shocks), garnering itself a 3-year warranty. The aluminium body looks premium and works to dissipate heat efficiently. And the solid state drive claims speeds of up to 400 MB/s over USB 3.0. It’s also available in 240 GB and 480 GB versions, as well as for Mac.

High Capacity: Western Digital My Passport Ultra 2 TB ($114.99)

WD-My-Passport-Ultra-2TB

What do you need most out of an external hard drive? Speed. Portability. Reliability. Good build quality. The Western Digital (WD) My Passport Ultra checks all the right boxes. It’s the fastest of the USB 3.0 drives around, and is packaged in a compact plastic shell that will take the bumps of daily life (but it’s not rugged, so don’t throw too much at it). Western Digital has also thrown in some cool software, include SmartWare which you can set up to automatically back up data to your My Passport Ultra or Dropbox on a schedule. There are other ways to back up your files 6 Safest Ways to Backup & Restore Your Files in Windows 7 & 8 6 Safest Ways to Backup & Restore Your Files in Windows 7 & 8 By now, we're sure you've read the advice over and over: Everyone needs to back up their files. But deciding to back up your files is only part of the process. There are so many... Read More , but this is a nice addition for free. And WD Security even lets you set a password to protect your data. At approximately $0.057 to a gigabyte, this is a great deal.

Convenient: Seagate Backup Plus 1 TB ($59.99) & Buffalo MiniStation Extreme 500 GB ($78.24)

Seagate-Backup-Plus

The point of a portable hard drive is that you are going to use it with different computers. That might be a Mac with a Thunderbolt, a PC with USB 3.0 or an older machine that still has Firewire. You want the best possible speed and plug-and-play connectivity at all times and that’s what the Seagate Backup Plus offers. It has a custom adapter at the back that can be swapped out to attach connectors for USB 3.0, Firewire or Thunderbolt—and it comes with a pre-loaded NTFS driver for Mac to use it between PC and Mac without reformatting. The robust backup software that Seagate packages with the drive, including one-click custom backups and saving files from cloud services like Flickr, is just the cherry on top.

Buffalo-MiniStation-Extreme

If you often forget to carry your cable with you, or simply hate to take one along, then check out the Buffalo MiniStation Extreme. It comes with an integrated cable that wraps around the case and can be undocked when you want to use it. But it’s a tad expensive, whether for 500 GB or 1 TB.

Mac OS X/Thunderbolt Ready: Buffalo MiniStation ($144.08)

Buffalo-MiniStation-Thunderbolt

Mac users will obviously want to take advantage of the Thunderbolt port for twice the speeds of USB 3.0, but you also don’t want to be left helpless when you take your portable hard drive to a Windows machine. The Buffalo MiniStation is the best of both worlds — a drive made for Mac with a Thunderbolt port, but also housing an additional USB 3.0 port. Pre-formatted for a Mac, it is compatible with Time Machine to schedule automatic data backups. And the sleek aluminium casing makes it look like the right companion to your MacBook.

Cloud vs. Physical

Physical storage is still far cheaper than cloud storage, but it’s definitely more convenient to use an online drive like Dropbox. Would you rather buy a portable hard drive or get yourself 1 TB of storage on Dropbox or Google Drive? Why?

  1. saleh
    November 19, 2013 at 8:32 am

    Personally, I am not willing to pay money for cloud storage unless it is made a one time payment.

    Monthly rates are not a convenient option.

  2. Aashish Niroula
    November 19, 2013 at 6:37 am
  3. Db
    November 19, 2013 at 3:59 am

    Like the wireless options....thank you for the write up, great info as I am in the market for an external HD.

  4. Diane
    November 19, 2013 at 2:11 am

    Thanks for posting this updated info. My theory is, you cannot have enough backup.
    Michigan Girl

  5. Richard Steven Hack
    November 19, 2013 at 2:09 am

    "Would you rather buy a portable hard drive or get yourself 1 TB of storage on Dropbox or Google Drive? Why?" As Tony Stark said, "I say, is it too much to ask for both?"

    As a tech support person, having a portable drive means never having to worry if the client's Internet access is working. Having cloud storage with a client's working Internet access means never having to worry if the client has working USB ports (it happens if you're working on someone's Windows 95 system!) or your portable drive just died... Of course, if both situations occur simultaneously (it happens!), you're still screwed. :-)

    No external hard drive - portable or not - is as reliable as internal storage. Either the USB cable breaks, the USB interface breaks, or the drive breaks (as all drives do eventually.) So having cloud storage as backup to the backup is a good idea.

    By the way, before buying any of the drives listed, look at the reviews on Newegg and pick the one with the highest rating by the most reviewers. Buffalo, for example, doesn't get great reviews.

    Finally, whatever drive you get - handle it CAREFULLY. No matter how "ruggedized", these things are FRAGILE. Store it in a hard case and don't drop it on a table - PLACE it on a table. Don't move it more than you absolutely have to and never when it's running.

    And NEVER EVER use it to hold the ONLY copy you have of anything! NEVER EVER! Always have everything in two places at once - and preferably three.

  6. Henry G
    November 19, 2013 at 12:58 am

    That t stylish LaCie Porsche looks realy nice.

  7. willIam
    November 18, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    You can actually spend _less_ than the prices quoted here by simply buying used or via eBay or Craigslist or from a neighbor or friend. I bought a 1T Toshiba external drive for $20.

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