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Best External SSDs and Hard Drives of 2022

Recent External SSDs
(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Any portable hard drive, SSD or even a flash drive will let you transport, store and backup your files. But getting the best external hard drive or best external SSD for your storage needs is important. A portable hard drive or SSD is a do-it-all storage wallet, a travel-friendly device that can carry huge files (or lots of small ones) between PCs, Macs and phones, back up your irreplaceable data, offload from your DSLR or drone while in the field, and more.

But with dozens of external drives available, how do you know which is the right external drive to buy? Should you opt for a speedier, more rugged (and more expensive) external SSD instead of a portable hard drive made up of comparatively fragile spinning platters? Or is a slower, roomier and more fragile (and much cheaper) portable hard drive OK for your storage needs? 

To help you pick the best portable external drive for your needs, we meticulously test and review dozens of drives as they become available and publish our list of specific recommendations of the best portable SSDs and hard drives on this page.

Before we get to the picks, there are a few important things to think about, whether you need a drive for work, school or home use. Consider how rugged your drive needs to be, how much capacity you need, and what connections will be available in places where you'll want to plug in your drive. An extremely fast drive at home won't be useful if you can't plug it in at work or school. And you may not want to pay for extra speed if the ports where you use the drive most are old and slow.

If you're curious about the kinds of speed and features that will be available with cutting-edge and future external drives, check out Everything We Know About USB 4.0.

When shopping for an external drive or SSD, consider the following:

  • Portable Hard Drive or SSD? Drives that have spinning storage platters inside are very affordable, with 1TB models often selling for under $50 (£40). But they’re also much slower and more fragile than solid-state drives. If you don’t need terabytes of storage and you often travel with your drive, a portable SSD is worth paying extra for. A portable SSD will also be much faster at reading and writing lots of data. But if you need cavernous amounts of external storage, a hard drive is a better option for most, as multi-terabyte external SSDs sell for several hundred dollars, but 4TB portable hard drives can sell for under $100 (£90).

  • Don’t Use a Portable Hard Drive as Your Only Backup. Portable hard drives are made up of spinning glass or metal platters, making them a poor choice as a primary backup of your data--especially if you carry them around. Portable SSDs are better here, but you should still keep your irreplacable data backed up on a desktop drive and / or on a cloud service. Because hardware failure is always possible, and portable drives are often small enough to lose or leave behind by accident.

  • You Can Save Money By Making Your Own Portable SSD. If you're even a little tech savvy, you can pick up an external SSD enclosure and use an old M.2 drive you might have around from a laptop or desktop upgrade, or buy one that you see on sale. We've detailed how to build your external SSD here. Also note that a recent Silverstone Raven SSD enclosure works with both SATA and NVMe drives. So if you opt for that model, you'll have far more drive options, and you could upgrade later to a speedier drive.

Best External Hard Drives and Portable SSDs You Can Buy Today

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

1. Samsung T7 Shield Portable SSD

The Best Portable SSD

Specifications

Capacities: 1TB, 2TB
Drive Type: Portable USB-C, Internally M.2 2280
Transfer Protocol: NVMe
Sequential Reads: Up to 1,050
Warranty: 3 Years

Reasons to buy

+
Very consistent write performance
+
Durable enclosure
+
Good support, including software
+
2TB capacity option

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited to 10 Gbps
-
Doesn’t bring much new to the table

Samsung’s T7 Shield is an iterative upgrade over previous models, but it comes with newer, faster flash. More importantly it's been optimized to maintain very high sequential write speeds, which is exceedingly important for external drives, while also being ruggedized for tough, outdoor environments. It's IP65-rated for dust and water resistance, and Samsung says it can handle drops of up to 3 meters (9 feet, 10 inches).

There are speedier, pricier 20 Gbps drives available today, and even faster USB4 drives are on the horizon. But at the moment, the T7 Shield’s write consistency, paired with its reasonable price, makes it great for photographers and videographers, particularly those on the go.

Read: Samsung T7 Shield Portable Review


WD My Passport (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

2. WD My Passport

The Best External Hard Drive

Specifications

Capacities: 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, 5TB
Drive Type: HDD
Transfer Protocol: USB 3.2 Gen1 (USB 3.0)
Sequential Reads: 120MBps
Warranty: 3 Years

Reasons to buy

+
Competitively priced
+
AES 256-bit hardware encryption
+
Solid software suite
+
3-year warranty

Reasons to avoid

-
Dated Micro USB connection
-
Slides around on your desk

If you’re on the hunt for a new external hard drive, WD’s My Passport is an excellent choice. With a solid track record, password protection, and capacities of up to 5TB, it’s prepared to store a lot -- if not all -- of your data and keep it safe.

As street prices have started to fall, it;s become a better value than ever. It looks good and comes backed by a plentiful 3-year warranty. To top things off, it boasts top-notch AES 256-bit hardware encryption password protection to keep your content secure from prying eyes. 

Read: WD My Passport 5TB Review

For those looking to spend a little less on an portable hard drive, who also don't need 5TB of storage, should also consider Seagate's Backup Plus Ultra, which features a good software suite AES 256-bit encryption, and USB-A and USB-C support via an adapter.


SanDisk Extreme Pro v2 Portable SSD (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

3. SanDisk Extreme Pro v2

Best Professional-grade Portable USB 20 Gbps SSD

Specifications

Capacities: 1TB, 2TB, 4TB
Drive Type: SSD
Transfer Protocols: USB 3.2 Gen 2x2
Sequential Reads: 2,000 MBps
Warranty: 5 Years

Reasons to buy

+
Hardware-based AES 256-bit encryption and password protection
+
Responsive USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 performance
+
Weather-resistant rugged design
+
5-year warranty

Reasons to avoid

-
Short cables for desktop use
-
Expensive

Built for the professional market and priced as such, SanDisk’s Extreme Pro v2 has a durable, secure design. When paired with the latest systems that fully support its USB 20 Gbps connection, it delivers very fast file transfer speeds that rival the Thunderbolt 3-based competition. The Extreme Pro v2 houses WD’s SN730E, a PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 NVMe SSD, and an ASMedia ASM2364 USB Gen 2x2 bridge chip. 

All of this is protected by a rigid aluminum chassis that’s covered in an impact-absorbing silicone. The drive is even IP55 water and dust-resistant. Not only is it fast and well-designed, but it is also secure, coming with AES 256-bit full-disk encryption and password protection for those who need to keep their data locked away from prying eyes. 

If you like the idea of a 20 Gbps SSD but don't quite have the budget for SanDisk's Pro v2 drive, Kingston's XS2000 isn't quite as fast, especially under sustained workloads. But it sells for about $50 less at the 1TB capacity. 

Read: SanDisk Extreme Pro v2 Portable SSD Review


LaCie Rugged RAID Pro

4. LaCie Rugged RAID Pro

The Best Rugged Portable Hard Drive

Specifications

Capacities: RAID0
Drive Type: HDD
Transfer Protocols: Thunderbolt 3 , USB 3.1 Gen 1
Sequential Reads: Depends on configuration
Warranty: 3 Years

Reasons to buy

+
Solid sequential performance
+
Rugged Build
+
Data recovery service free within the warranty period
+
Easy-to-use and effective software suite

Reasons to avoid

-
Uses wall power for systems without TB3 / USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type C
-
Expensive

While it is on the pricey side, LaCie’s Rugged RAID Pro isn’t too overpriced considering its market placement and the peace of mind of data redundancy. LaCie includes one month of all Adobe apps for free, a $79.49 (£61) value. More importantly, the drive comes with three years of free data recovery protection. That service can (at times) cost thousands of dollars.

If you are a creative professional in the market for an external HDD, be sure to check this drive out. There aren't many competitors: Most other HDD solutions are much larger, and flash-based SSDs don’t yet offer similarly-priced capacity, nor the same value-adds. The LaCie Rugged RAID Pro 4TB has a unique blend of features and accessories that make it easy to use and quite the versatile travel companion.

Read: Lacie Rugged RAID Pro Review


Samsung T7 Touch  (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

5. Samsung T7 Touch

Most Conveniently Secure Portable SSD

Specifications

Capacities: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB
Drive Type: SSD
Transfer Protocol: USB 3.2 Gen 2
Sequential Reads: 1,050 MBps
Warranty: 3 Years

Reasons to buy

+
AES 256-bit hardware encryption
+
Built-in fingerprint scanner
+
Attractive aesthetics
+
Available in capacities up to 2TB
+
18-inch USB-A and USB-C cables

Reasons to avoid

-
3-year warranty
-
Small write cache

Samsung’s T7 Touch is an innovative portable SSD that blends USB 3.2 Gen 2 performance with convenient AES 256-bit hardware security that’s unlocked by the touch of your fingertip. The built-in fingerprint scanner is the most convenient way to unlock your data that we’ve seen yet. The design is elegant and to a higher standard than your ordinary run-of-the-mill portable drive. The aluminum construction is solid, and various color options are available to suit your unique taste.

That said, G-Technology's recent ArmorLock drive gives Samsung a run for its secure storage money, by using an app and key that's stored on your Android or iOS phone to unlock your drive. It may not be as convenient as swiping your finger across a sensor on your external SSD, but it might just be more secure.

Read: Samsung T7 Touch Portable SSD Review  


Samsung 1TB Portable SSD X5 (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

6. Samsung X5

Best Thunderbolt 3 Portable SSD

Specifications

Capacities: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB
Drive Type: SSD
Transfer Protocol: Thunderbolt 3
Sequential Reads: 2,800 MBps
Warranty: 5 Years

Reasons to buy

+
Fast Thunderbolt 3
+
Sequential read and write performance
+
Full hardware-based encryption
+
Attractive design 

Reasons to avoid

-
Slow write speed after write cache fills
-
Lacks AES hardware encryption or IP rating

Driven by an OEM variant of a Samsung 970 EVO and an Alpine Ridge Thunderbolt 3-to-PCIe bridge, Samsung’s X5 is the fastest Thunderbolt 3 portable SSD we’ve tested. Not only will it help speed up your workflow, but it also comes with an additional layer of AES 256-bit hardware-based encryption and password protection for those who need to meet compliance requirements. The three-year warranty is lacking for the professional crowd, and we wish the company offered more color options like those found with the company’s T5 and T7 portable SSDs.

Read: Samsung X5 Portable SSD Review


Sabrent Rocket XTRM-Q (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

7. Sabrent Rocket XTRM-Q Portable TB3 SSD

Best Budget Thunderbolt 3 External SSD

Specifications

Capacities: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, 8TB
Drive Type: SSD
Transfer Protocol: Thunderbolt 3; USB 3.2
Sequential Reads: 2,700MBps
Warranty: 5 Years (if registered)

Reasons to buy

+
Affordable
+
USB and Thunderbolt 3 compatibility

Reasons to avoid

-
Slow write speed after write cache fills
-
Lacks AES hardware encryption or IP rating

With QLC NAND, Sabrent’s Rocket XTRM-Q aims to undercut most of its TLC-based competition while still delivering the storage goods. Not only does it come in high capacities, but the Rocket XRTM-Q is also very fast, performing well on both Thunderbolt 3 and USB hosts.

The Rocket XTRM-Q is an excellent pick if you plan on using it with a multitude of devices and across platforms. At lower capacities, it’s surprisingly affordable, undercutting most other TB3 drives. And if you are in the market for something as high in density as Sabrent’s Rocket XTRM-Q, we must say that without much competition at the moment this is the drive for you. 

While it is expensive at 8TB and the QLC NAND flash can be slow at times, competitive pricing, fast performance, and attractive, durable design prop Sabrent’s Rocket XTRM-Q up as one of the best portable SSDs available.

Read: Sabrent Rocket XTRM-Q Portable TB3 SSD Review


Sabrent Rocket XTRM-Q 16TB TB3 SSD (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

8. 16TB Sabrent Rocket XTRM-Q SSD

Best High-Capacity Thunderbolt 3 External SSD

Specifications

Capacities: 16TB
Drive Type: SSD
Transfer Protocol: Thunderbolt 3
Sequential Reads: 2,800MBps
Warranty: 3 Years

Reasons to buy

+
Highest-capacity Thunderbolt 3 SSD
+
Competitive performance
+
Lengthy included Thunderbolt 3 cable

Reasons to avoid

-
Short 3-year warranty for the price
-
Slow write speed after write cache fills
-
Runs warm, but within spec
-
No USB support

Sabrent has pushed the boundaries of fast flash and high capacity with its recent SSDs, surpassing the biggest names in the industry. We thought that 8TB of flash storage was niche and extreme enough for most prosumers and enthusiasts when we first reviewed Sabrent’s 8TB Rocket XTRM-Q, but now the company is doubling down and pushing capacity to new limits with its 16TB model.

The new variant doubles capacity to 16TB, but it isn’t quite as portable as the 8TB model due to its larger form factor and power requirements. While the original XTRM-Q contained one Rocket Q M.2 NVMe SSD within, the new 16TB model has two of them behind a slightly different Thunderbolt 3 bridge, providing a ton of fast flash storage and potentially bus-saturating performance for those who need it. But its Intel Optane-like cost of $2,899.99 makes the 16TB Rocket XTRM-Q is not just one of the highest-capacity storage devices we have tested, but also one of the most expensive. At this price, nothing else compares to the sheer capacity and performance that it provides. But if you can't spend as much and/or you need USB support as well as Thunderbolt, one of the lower-capacity XTRM-Q drives will serve you better.

Read: 16TB Sabrent Rocket XTRM-Q SSD Review


Interface Shorthand

Also note that, if you have a spare drive, you can easily make your own portable drive. Dozens of 2.5-inch drive enclosures can be found online for between $10-$25 (£15-25) that will let you drop in an old drive easily, and turn it into an external hard drive or SSD.

And if you have an M.2 drive that you've swapped out of a gaming laptop, ultrabook or upgraded away from in your gaming PC, we've recently looked at NVMe enclosures from MyDigitalSSD and Pluggable. If you have a SATA-based M.2 drive that you'd like to turn into a portable drive, Silverstone's MS09 enclosure lets you do just that. And if you're keen on building your own speedy external SSD but don't have a drive handy to use, the recent WD Blue SN550 is a good candidate for that task. It's only available in capacities up to 1TB, but it's plenty speedy for external storage, and the more spacious model is already selling for as little as $115 at various online outlets. 

Just make sure you get an enclosure that matches your drive, be that SATA or NVMe. And also keep in mind that DIY external drives usually aren't sealed, so they're not as likely to stand up to dust and dampness as well as external SSDs and portable hard drives that are designed to do so.

Finding Discounts on the Best External Storage Drives

Whether you're shopping for one of the best external storage drives or one that didn't quite make our list, you may find savings by checking out the latest Crucial promo codes, Newegg promo codes, Amazon promo codes, Corsair coupon codes, Samsung promo codes or Micro Center coupons.

MORE: Best SSDs

MORE: How We Test HDDs And SSDs

MORE: All SSD Content

After a rough start with the Mattel Aquarius as a child, Matt built his first PC in the late 1990s and ventured into mild PC modding in the early 2000s. He’s spent the last 15 years covering emerging technology for Smithsonian, Popular Science, and Consumer Reports, while testing components and PCs for Computer Shopper, PCMag and Digital Trends.

  • Gingecat
    I thought the first item seemed too good to be true at £8.59 and I was right. I clicked on the Amazon link and turned out it was
    Khanka hard case carrying bag for SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD
    Did the reviewer have too much to dream last night?
    Reply
  • Ksdomino
    4TB hard drive is the best in 2020? Are you not aware that seagate released a portable (very good and equally reliable) 5TB drive in 2017?!?
    nearly 3 years later and we're still stuck with 5TB (apart from the reviewer that is stuck even lower at 4TB).. Am really hoping the 8TB portables don't take too long.

    Edit: Also if you're going to recommend WD drives in Jan 2020 you might wanna look into the new WD Black drives. They also come in 5TB capacity but cost a bit more because performance.
    Reply
  • JSylvester
    Ksdomino said:
    4TB hard drive is the best in 2020? Are you not aware that seagate released a portable (very good and equally reliable) 5TB drive in 2017?!?
    nearly 3 years later and we're still stuck with 5TB (apart from the reviewer that is stuck even lower at 4TB).. Am really hoping the 8TB portables don't take too long.

    Edit: Also if you're going to recommend WD drives in Jan 2020 you might wanna look into the new WD Black drives. They also come in 5TB capacity but cost a bit more because performance.

    If you're looking for a portable 8TB, there aren't any single 2.5" HDD options. However, LaCie and Oyen Digital both offer a Rugged RAID that is 8TB in RAID0. Oyen Digital also offers a 10TB option.

    For single drives, there are SSD options now that are at 8TB (7.68TB) Oyen Digital just released an 8TB SSD option in their MiniPro line.
    Reply
  • WarthogARJ
    Admin said:
    Here are the best external hard drives and SSDs for the money. These drives offer the best balance of performance, features and price.

    The Best External Hard Drives and Portable SSDs of 2019 : Read more

    I think one metric for comparing storage is to look at Sustained Write Performance as well, because it affects anyone who needs to do a large write: whether it's just once a week, or else many times a day.

    But I've looked at Tom's Hadware's Reviews, and it's hard to get enough details n the process used to perform the test, in order to relate it to other factors, and to other Revew sites. Or in fact to your existing SSD if you test it.

    Specifically, when you do the Sustained Sequential 128kB Write test, what do you use for:
    (1) Queue Depth?
    (2) Conditioning the SSD before?
    (3) Data recording frequency? (your charts are smooth lines, without any points to indicate the datum points). Do you do it 1 or two datum points per second, or is it by data volume, as in 1 datum per GB or so?
    (4) Overprovisioning: do you control this, or do you use the "stock" settings?

    The other review sites that do this type of test (Anandtech, TechPowerUp, Guru3D, TweakTown) supply sufficient detail to be able to use their test results.

    Once you know the above, you can calculate other metrics such as IOPS and Latency. And with so many SSD variants made, it's not possible to find any single Review site that does them all, or even reviews the size you might want to buy.

    Therefore you need to be able to compare benchmark results as best you can, but that means you need sufficent details on the critical parameters used.

    i'm sure it's just an oversight on your part, you give details on other aspects.

    Thank you for your feedback on this.
    Regards,
    Alan, Sheffield
    Reply
  • Snefferdy
    It would be nice if the people writing an article highlighting data transfer speeds knew the difference between a gigabyte (GB) and a gigabit (Gb). 1 GB = 8Gb!

    For example, the first drive (SanDisk) has an advertised top speed of 7.8 Gbps, not 80 Gbps as the authors state.
    Reply
  • kawmic
    There are NO good hdd's! SSD is the only way to go!
    Reply
  • MrMyke_S
    Just checking to see when folks started confusing hard and solidstate drives.
    I guess it was before this column started, even.
    Reply
  • Latte5570
    this article doesn't discuss having a portal OS on any of these.
    are any of these practical to have a portable os installed on them and have it at usable speed?
    Reply
  • USAFRet
    Latte5570 said:
    this article doesn't discuss having a portal OS on any of these.
    are any of these practical to have a portable os installed on them and have it at usable speed?
    The differing SSDs would make no difference.
    A good drive is a good drive, a bad drive is a bad drive.

    And for something like a bootable OS, you're still pumping all that through a USB/thunderbolt connection. Slow, as compared to an internal SATA or NVMe connection.
    Reply
  • Skramblr
    Admin said:
    Here are the best external hard drives and SSDs for the money. These drives offer the best balance of performance, features and price.

    The Best External Hard Drives and Portable SSDs of 2019 : Read more

    I thought this article missed the backup aspect of having an External Drive. SSDs for a backup drive you plug in once a month is a huge waste of money.

    Then I notice - This atricle has been recycled by TomsHardware for 3 years! They retitled it to best of 2022. WTH?
    Reply