Hard disk drives (HDDs) can get damaged when dropped. Solid state drives (SSDs) have limited read and write cycles. So what should you buy when you want a portable drive that’s tough and will store your data safely?
The 2TB Seagate Backup Plus Slim is the overall best portable drive today, but it’s not rugged. Manufacturers have an entire class of different toughened drives, meant for people who travel a lot or lead adventurous lifestyles. Here are the best ones, depending on your needs.
Waterproof SSD: ADATA SE730
Hard drives usually have open ports, so making them waterproof is difficult. But it’s not a problem for the ADATA SE730, a tiny portable SSD with a concealed port.
Of course, this is technically water-resistant, not waterproof, but that’s what you’ll get in any gadget. ADATA claims an IP68 rating, which means it is also dust-proof. The device has also been drop-tested with military standards (MIL-STD-810).
Portable SSDs are generally a lot faster than HDDs in copying data, so that will help those who need to copy-paste quickly. And the SE730 supports USB Type-C, making transfers that much faster if your laptop also has a Type-C port.
The small size of the ADATA SE730 is a big bonus — portable drives are lighter and easy to carry.
Tough but Not Waterproof: Samsung T3 250GB
Waterproofing is usually not that important for most people. Unless you expect the drive to be dropped into a pool or something, the level of protection isn’t necessary for SSDs like the Samsung T3. On the other hand, you get much faster speeds.
Don’t get me wrong: it is a durable, tough drive nonetheless. The lack of moving parts, coupled with its metallic body, make it safe from drops. And as far as accidental water protection goes, it will work fine if you were to spill a glass on it or if it was in your pocket while walking in the rain.
The Samsung T3’s claim to fame is its speed, offering a scarcely believable 300 MB/s write speed and 350 MB/s read speed. Plus, it is formatted in exFAT to use with Windows or Mac out of the box, no extra tools required.
While the ADATA is definitely more rugged, the Samsung T3 is the portable SSD most people should buy. If you are truly worried about waterproofing it, buy a case.
Since this article was published, Samsung has released a newer version of the portable SSD, the Samsung T5 250GB
Why You Might Want HDDs over SSDs
SSDs are more durable because they don’t have any moving parts. Plus, HDDs can’t match solid state speeds, especially for data transfer.
That said, HDDs offer better safeguards against data loss. For example, some Samsung SSD drives slowly degrade over time. On top of that, a comparison of how long your storage media lasts found hard drives were the longest-lasting option.
Hard drives also offer more capacity than SSDs for the same price. You can usually get double or quadruple the amount of storage on an HDD.
So if you want more capacity for a longer time, a rugged hard disk drive might be the better option for you. If you use the portable drive for regularly transferring files from one computer to another, or while traveling around, stick with an SSD.
Waterproof and Toughest: Silicon Armor A85 4TB
The Silicon Armor A85 is the toughest, most durable hard disk drive you can buy. With a sealed flap for the port, double-layer protection for the drive, and a way to carry the cable with it, this is a winner.
The A85 looks quite snazzy in its aluminum casing, which can take up to 500 kg of force. Under that is a unibody rubber case enveloping the drive for double protection. The port on the tap has a rubber flap to protect it from water ingress.
The portable HDD is compatible with all operating systems, as well as the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 gaming consoles. A neat little rubber band at the back holds the cable for a standard USB 3.0 port.
The Armor A85 has a three-year warranty and has passed military-grade drop tests. While it failed a test by The Wirecutter, it passed similar tests from other reviewers.
Waterproof and Cheap HDD: ADATA HD720 1TB
ADATA has a tendency to make reliable portable drives for a low cost. The HD720 is the perfect example of that, giving you a TB of storage and water-resistance for just $70.
Like the SE730, ADATA has a flap for the connector port, which is an important feature for such drives. The IP68 protection means it can be submerged in up to two meters of water for two minutes. And there is reliable dust protection too.
The HD720 also has a sensor that detects if it has fallen or gotten a jolt. The drive will immediately stop operations in such a case. Once the shock has subsided, it will resume working. It’s a small feature, but it can go a long way in protecting your data on a hard drive.
Overall, the HD720 isn’t the toughest or most rugged drive we have seen, but it’s an excellent entry-level option.
USB Type-C: LaCie Rugged USB-C 2TB
LaCie is the brand most synonymous with rugged hard drives. It has loyal followers worldwide who swear by the products. That orange rubber shell with the aluminum case in the center is also a distinct, recognizable style. And now it has been updated for the newest standard.
There aren’t yet many portable hard drives with the USB Type-C port, a new global standard used in smartphones, laptops, and tablets. The LaCie Rugged does, and it comes with two cables: USB-C to USB-C, and USB-C to USB-A (the standard port you are used to).
Like all its famous hard drives, LaCie claims this one survives falls from up to four feet, getting crushed by a one-ton car, and being exposed to rain. There’s a two-year warranty thrown in for good measure. And yes, it is compatible with both Windows and Mac, including automatic backups with macOS’s Time Machine.
If You Really Want Protection, Buy a Case
As you can see from these picks, portable hard drive protection is a pretty simple thing. It will be more durable with more solid layers between the disk and external elements. That’s why if you are really serious about protecting it from harm, get yourself a shockproof case.
This isn’t a range of products that tech reviewers spend their time on, so you’ll need to look at what customers have to say. Make sure you know how to trust an Amazon review, or you’ll fall for the company’s shills.
Based on similar research, the LTGEM EVA Hard Case seems like a good purchase. It’s water-resistant, adds some extra padding for the drive, and has a hard shell instead of a soft cover.
If you found some other great case, or a tough and durable hard drive, we’d love to know in the comments. What did you buy?