Last Updated on July 1, 2020 by Scott Krager
An external hard drive is just another form of a traditional hard drive that is connected to the computer from outside, instead of internal hard drives which are connected directly to your motherboard.
Being outside of your computer makes these drives portable, something which internal hard drives can’t offer. Using the former, you can take your data whenever and wherever you want.
Another use case of these external hard drives can be a back-up for your main internal hard drive/SSD, which can be useful if something goes wrong.
Apart from this, you can use these drives for data expansion. So if anyhow your disk space is low, get an external HDD and move some of your less important files and data over there.
I think you have realized by now that having one of these drives is really important. But if you start your research you’ll find out that there are a plethora of different hard drives based on storage size, connectivity options, and other things like that.
Best External Hard Drive 2020 Buying Guide
- CalDigit Tuff (Best Rugged External Hard Drive)
- LaCie Porsche Design Drive (Best External Hard Drive For Mac)
- WD My Passport Wireless Pro (Best Wireless External Hard Drive)
- WD My Book Desktop (Best Desktop-Grade External Hard Drive)
Here we have already done that hard work for you and listed best external hard drives 2020 to expand your PC storage.
Best External Hard Drives 2020
All these drives are tried and tested by us, and many other people, so you can be sure about their quality.
CalDigit Tuff: Check Price On Amazon
Best Rugged External Hard Drive 2020
What’s the one single word that can be used to describe a hard drive that has “tuff” in its name?
Because that’s what it really is: A tough, portable and fast external Hard Drive.
According to CalDigit, Tuff has passed the rigorous MIL-STD-810G standard test to prove its strong build, and you can throw it from 1-meter height without having to worry about the damage of any sort.
Also, there’s IP57 rating which means this drive can withstand dusty environments (ultimate arch enemies of hard drives) as well as 1-meter deep water for as much as 30 minutes – making it waterproof as well.
The source behind all this toughness is a hard aluminum casing inside of an outer rubber-shell. Speaking of the shell, it’s available in five colors (black, green, blue, orange and gray) and you can pick one according to your liking.
These colors are also sold separately in case you want more than one of ’em.
Being bus-powered, this drive draws power from the connected PC to power-up itself. That’s why you’ll always have to carry a USB cable along with it.
Tuff supports USB 3.1 Gen 2 and has a USB-C port too. To make it compatible for older Systems, CalDigit has included USB-C to USB-A cable in the box. All in all, compatibility won’t be an issue here.
In terms of performance too, CalDigit Tuff is really impressive stats. We got to almost 140 MBPS in both read and write operations with this drive.
Out of the box, it’s formatted for MacOS, but you can easily make it compatible for Windows OS by doing NTFS or exFAT formatting.
I would personally prefer the exFAT since it makes this drive compatible with both of these OSes. But in case you’re an exclusive Windows user, there’s no harm in Selecting NTFS.
My only gripe with this drive is lack of any security measures, which can be very critical in case of loss/theft of this external Hard Drive.
LaCie Porsche Design Drive: Check Price On Amazon
Best External Hard Drive 2020 For Mac
For most people, (external) hard drives don’t necessarily have to be pretty. Performance is more important than looks, they argue.
But there are some people who want their gadgets to look equally as good as they perform (if not better).
For those, here’s LaCie Porsche Design Desktop hard drive.
Although it’s available in smaller sizes too, we loved 8 TB version.
Having dimensions of 7.84 x 1.54 x 7.01 in, it’s neither small nor lightweight. In fact, it weighs 1.92 lbs, but I don’t think that an issue considering that it’s not made for portable purposes.
There’s the aluminum enclosure with polished edges, round-shaped corners, and premium finishing – enough to make you fall in love with it.
The top side is clean, with nothing but Porsche Design Logo while the left side (when viewed from the front) has the USB-C port and charging port (means it doesn’t have an internal battery and requires a constant power source).
There’s a USB C-to-A cable in the accessory which makes it compatible with the older PCs.
In terms of software, this drive comes with LaCie Desktop Manager and Genie Timeline Free. Overall, I’ve found Desktop Manager to be a bit too basic and this is the only problem I have with this drive.
Although I’ve found it to be well-built, it comes with a 2-year warranty in case of any damage.
In our testing, we managed to get 2 times more speed with this drive than we had with WD My book, in sequential read and write operations.
Overall, it’s expensive than its competitors but got some competitive edge in the form of gorgeous looks and fast speed.
WD My Passport Wireless Pro: Check Price On Amazon
Best Wireless External Hard Drive 2020
The concept of a wireless hard drive is relatively new, and like other wireless accessories (such as wireless mice for gaming and wireless keyboards), the Tech community hasn’t come to a clear conclusion about whether these drives bring you more benefits or more downsides.
First, we’ll discuss the pros of having a wireless HDD in your arsenal.
- First one is the portability. Yes, some wired external drives come with really small size too, but if a drive is wireless you would be damn sure that the manufacturer has made it for portability purpose.
- One major disadvantage of having traditional external hard drives is that can only be connected to USB-compatible devices (the devices with USB 2.0, 3.0, or Type-C port), which makes it useless for other devices. Wireless Hard Drives, on the other hand, can be connected to all WiFi-enabled devices such as your smartphones and WiFi-enabled cameras etc.
- Since there are no cords. Multiple devices can connect with the hard drive at the same time.
- You can use these types of drives as a media streaming source (similar to a remote NAS, but no internet is required here) and watch all the content stored in that drive without storing it in your smartphone first.
As good as the benefits of wireless hard drives sound, they aren’t without any downsides. Let’s check them out.
- Extra Cost. This one is pretty easy to understand. Anything wireless, from computer mice to earbuds, is usually priced more (sometimes doubled) than its wired counterparts. The same goes for wireless Hard Drive. Even though a wired hard drive can cost you almost 1 TB for 50 Bucks, wireless ones are much expensive than that.
- Also, having all that extra hardware for wireless capability makes those drives a little bulky too. Yes, you won’t feel too much weight while it’s on your backpack, but the same cannot be surely said if you put one of those into your pockets.
- The last one is the transfer rate, which would be lesser in wireless HDDs than what it would be wired ones.
The reason why we’ve discussed some general pros/cons of wireless hard drives is that our current item (in case you skimmed the heading above) is a wireless model.
My password wireless pro is actually the new version of the original My password wireless which was, in fact, the first step by WD into this whole wireless hard drives thingy.
In this second version, they have made some definitive improvements. in the form of battery life and transfer rate (more on that later).
Design-wise, it’s thicker and bigger than most of the other external HDDs out in the market. Not only that, but the overall weight of wireless Pro is also heavier than its competition, But that’s probably due to the built-in battery and other hardware in it.
Speaking of battery, it has one with 6000 mAh that can get alongside you for 10 hours, according to WD.
The top edge of this drive has many buttons, such as On/Off button, along with a multi-function button on the right that activates the LED battery gauge, initiates SD-card transfer, as well as triggers the WPS connection for quick connection to your network.
The top left side features the SD card clots where you can put your, well, SD card. You can get approx. 75 MBps for reading and 65 MBps for writing, but it also depends on the speed of SD card you have.
Apparently, this drive is geared towards photographer and radiographers, not just smartphone owners. WD has updated the SD slot as well as adding Adobe Creative Cloud connectivity and FTP support to make cameras connect with it wirelessly.
In case you want to get the most out of this (which you will), you should get the WD My Cloud App on Your PC, Mac as well as smartphones (both Android and iOS are supported).
My main concern with this drive is the glitchy firmware that causes this drive to show weird behavior sometimes.
Another feature I’ve found in this mode is that you can charge up a smartphone or tablet, through the USB 2.0 host port. Although it would do so slowly as compared to your phone charger or power bank, having a 3rd source of power juice doesn’t hurt either.
As I told earlier, WD has claimed the battery life to be approximately 10 hours. In our testing, however, we found it to be way less than that (just a little more than 6 hours). Reading & writing speeds are decent thorough, for both wired and wireless connections.
WD My Book Desktop: Check Price On Amazon
Best Desktop-Grade External Hard Drive 2020
So far in this roundup, we have mainly discussed the External Hard Drives that are made for portability.
But what if you want to use your external hard drive only at a single place, like office, and use that drive for the backup of your important documents and media files etc?
And even if you’re a home-based user, there’s a lot of space required to place all those movies, songs, and selfies that you are taking for the last 5 years.
As you can imagine, a 512 GB or 1 TB eHDD won’t be able to sort this mess out, and you need much more space than that.
The WD My Book Desktop Hard drive is all about this specific purpose: Backup. In recent times, WD has refreshed several older products from its lineup, and My Book is one of them.
Coming in different sizes, it has a sleek and different design from its predecessor. Instead of a rounded front panel, there are angled corners. On the lower part, all the four sides are grooved diagonally while the WD Logo is on the front side.
Because of the all-black scheme, it’s really shiny but also vulnerable to smudges.
It’s slightly smaller than the older My Book but is still bigger than many other portable drives.
As its name suggests, it looks more like a Book, rather than a hard drive.
Due to its vertical orientation, you can place it alongside your workstation (and it may enhance the aesthetics of your workstation). Another thing I like about this drive is that despite being fan-less, it doesn’t generate too much heat, courtesy of proper ventilation.
To prevent it from slipping on a flat surface, there are two rubber feet below the ‘Book’.
Thanks to its large design, it can have as big as 10 GB space into it (but you can buy smaller-sized models too). The reason why this is the best external hard drive for your desktop (or even console) is the cheaper price per-TB. Really, in 8 TB model, you get per TB of space in just $31.
For connectivity, it comes with a USB 3.0 interface on the back side, along with power port and Kensington lock slot, which is slower than the Thunderbolt 2 connection which some ultra high-end eHDDs offer but those drives are way more expensive, and are made for different purposes.
In our testing, we got approximately 175 MBps speed for both read and write operations which, although not too fast, is enough for a drive made for backup and local file transfers.
There’s WD Backup software which enables to you seamlessly backup all of your PC data into the drive.
It comes with a 3-year warranty which is a little better than the 2-year warranty other companies offer.
By default, it’s formatted in exFAT format but you can make it work for Mac OS too.
There are many pros to it in the form of less cost per-TB and better warranty, but the downside is that you can’t upgrade the space inside it (despite it being way larger than the other compact drives).
This is why you have to choose the model carefully so that you don’t run out of memory in years to come.
Another thing you need to remember is that although it comes with as much as 10 TB space, there’s no RAID configuration (since it contains a single drive) which mean that in case of any damage to the unit, all of your data will be lost.
So, if you want to have some sort of reliability and data redundancy, WD My Book Duo would be a better option because it comes with 2 internal drives and has RAID functionality out of the box.
Things To Look For In An External Hard Drive
Before we start discussing different types of external hard drives you can get in 2020, let’s start some general factors you should consider while choosing an external hard drive
SSD vs HDD
Whenever you’re out to buy a storage drive for your PC, the first question coming into your mind will probably be:
Which one is better for me? SSD or HDD?
Both of these storage types are very common these days, but have different mechanisms, and hence, different pros and cons.
Hard Disk Drive (HDD) uses magnetic storage to store and retrieve data and has moving parts in it. These drives have been used as storage devices in computers since the 1960s.
Usually, Hard drives consist of a mechanical disk with a read/write head.
3.5″ HDDs are generally used in desktops, while laptops come equipped with 2.5″ HDDs. Due to the moving parts inside them, HDDs (whether 2.5″ or 3.5″) aren’t as durable as other storage devices.
A major advantage of these drives is the affordability.
Solid State Drives (SSDs), on the other hand, are flash-memory-based storage and have no moving parts inside them. As compared to other storage types, SSDs are more shock resilient and provide better access time and latency.
That being said, these drives have a couple disadvantages of their own.
First, since flash-based memories store data in the form of electric current, this data can gradually leak over a long period of time. That’s why you can’t keep different archives in these drives.
Second, these drives are more expensive when compared to hard drives.
Cloud vs HDD
In recent times, cloud storage has also emerged as the main competitor for traditional storage devices, including external HDDs.
Different companies like Microsoft and Google give you online storage which looks really cheap, at least from the surface. You can have as much as 1 TB cloud space in Google Drive for less than 100 bucks per year.
A major advantage of cloud storage is the universal access, but you have to sync those files on every device on which you want them to be – something which can take a lot of your time if your internet connection is slow.
Another factor is security. Yes, Cloud storage companies are implementing some highly advances security methods but they’re still not “unbreachable”.
Besides, it feels better to have your data in front of your eyes, rather than on a web server physically located thousands of miles away from you.
All in all, my vote goes to physical drives. At least for the time being.
Storage capacity is probably the first thing people look in a hard drive. Yet, it’s somewhat subjective.
How much space you need in an external hard drive depends on what you’re intending to store in that drive.
If all you want is to transfer data from one computer to another, a 250-GB drive should suffice.
On the other hand, if you want to use that drive as a back-up and store all of your data in that drive, don’t be afraid to go for 1 TB or even beyond.
Besides, a large-space drive can also be utilized in the future if you think it’s a surplus right now. So it’s a win-win situation for you.
When talking about storage devices, many people think of speed as equally (if not more) important than the storage capacity of a device.
The transfer speed of an external hard drive can be determined using two factors.
- Rotation Speed
- Interface/ Connector
Cheaper hard drives feature a 5400 rpm rotation speed while more expensive options can take that number up to 7200 rpm.
Among interfaces through which an external hard drive is connected to your laptop or PC, you have a number of different options.
USB 2.0 connectors are usually found in cheap and old drives, while newer ones come with USB 3.0 and 3.1 Gen 2 interface (with up to 10 Gbps speed).
There are some other external hard drives which don’t have a USB connection. Instead, you’ll have a Thunderbolt connection capable of transferring data up to 40 Gbps. But this connection is only available in some of the premium hard drives out there.
Durability And Portability
If using an external hard drive as a back-up for your main data is your main purpose, then portability shouldn’t be an issue for you. To be frank, if this is your main use case, consider getting a NAS storage which will serve you better in this regard.
However, if you intend to move the hard drive from one place to another continuously, look for a small, tough and rugged external hard drive. Many of these drives come with a hard-casing that protects them against an occasional drop or two.
That being said, due to the physical mechanism of hard drives, they aren’t damage-proof. That’s why you should consider getting an external SSD if you think you’ll drop it quite often.
If the data you’re about to store in an external drive is confidential by any means, it’s better to look for a secure drive. There are many such drives which are compatible with software-based encryption solutions.
These solutions will be enough for most of the users out there, but if you want to take security to a whole new level, you can opt for a hardware-based solution instead.
Given that competition is already tough in the hard drives market, different companies try to implement new features to make people buy their products.
Most of the time, these extra features include WiFi access, better warranty, or faster interfaces.
Whether or not these features are beneficial for you entirely depend upon your laptop or computer. So it’s up to you to decide if these bells and whistles bring any value to you.