Choosing the Best External HDDs and SSDs

Computers and laptops are getting smaller, lighter, and lower capacity. External hard drives and solid-state drives allow you to quickly and easily transfer your data for long-term storage.

In order to make their computer and laptops smaller, manufacturers are opting for smaller, lower capacity drives like solid-state drives (SSDs) or smaller hard disk drives (HDDs). In addition to internal disk storage shrinking, media files like 4K videos, hi-res audio files and photos in excess of 20 megapixels mean that it won’t be long before you’ve run out of space. It’s not just computer and laptop users that are running out of storage, either – gamers are finding some titles demanding in excess of 50GB of space. External HDDs and SSDs offer the solution to the problem of squeezed internal storage. External drives can be broadly put into three categories; portable HDDs, desktop HDDs, and portable SSDs.

Portable HDDs are by far the most common external drive on the market, and feature a 2.5in hard disk drive, similar to those found in laptops. Portable HDDs use a single USB connection, which also acts as the power supply, and are now available with capacities up to about 5TB; you can pick up a 1TB portable HDD for around £50. If you need for storage space, and are less concerned about portability, you can opt for a desktop HDD. These are larger, 3.5in disks housed inside a larger case, and require a dedicated power supply as well as a USB connection for data transfer. In exchange for the lack of portability, you’ll get a generally faster drive (spinning at speeds of up to 7,200rpm), and increased capacity of up to 10TB. Finally, if cost and limited storage capacity aren’t an issue, you can opt for an external SSD. Still pretty expensive, external SSDs are coming down in price due to a highly competitive market. They’re small, and because they contain no moving parts, are more robust than external HDDs. Plus, with the right connectivity, they can be lightning fast. Here are three great external drives on the market in 2019:

Seagate Backup Plus
This compact portable external HDD now comes in capacities ranging from 1TB to 5TB, with read speeds of 151MB/sec and write speeds of 134MB/sec, thanks to the USB 3.1 connection. The 1TB model will set you back just £48, with the 2TB model costing £68, the 4TB model £90, and the 5TB model for just £97.50.

Seagate Backup Plus Hub
With capacities ranging from 4TB to 8TB, this desktop external HDD is the go-to drive if you want to sacrifice portability for storage space and performance. The backup app allows wireless backing up of your iOS or Android phone over Wi-Fi, and has a total of three USB 3 slots. If the provided NTFS driver for Mac is installed, the drive can be used interchangeably between Windows and Mac machines without the need to reformat every time you switch. The 4TB model costs £90, the 5TB model £115, and the 8TB model £160.

SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD
By far the best value portable SSD on the market, the Samsung Extreme starts at £73 for 250GB of storage space, rising to £100 for 500GB, £190 for 1TB and £360 for 2TB. Admittedly still not cheap, but this speedy external drive weighs just 41g – barely more than a packet of crisps.

External HDD