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These Are the Best Portable Storage Drives

If you’re running out of storage space on your laptop, or if you need to back up your data and store that backlog of videos you’re going to edit one day (I am, I swear), an external hard drive can solve your problem. The trouble is, there are hundreds of drive options ranging from dirt cheap to crazy expensive—which one is right for your needs? I’ve tested dozens with different use cases in mind to find the best portable storage drives for your workflow. 

Be sure to check out our other guides, including How to Back Up and Move Your Photos Between Services, How to Back Up Your Digital Life, and How to Back Up Your iPhone.

Updated September 2022: We’ve added Samsung’s T7 Shield and OWC’s Envoy Pro Fx, and introduced a new bare drive category for upgrading your PC’s internal SSD. We’ve also added the latest drive stats report from Backblaze.

Table of Contents

Best for BackupsBest Portable DriveBest for SpeedBest Go-Anywhere DrivesBest Padded DrivesBest Bare DriveHard Drive Buying Advice

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Best for Backups
Samsung T7 Shield 2 TB for $200: It isn’t as padded as LaCie’s rugged drives, but it’s cheaper and delivers nearly the same speed. It has an IP65 rating, which means it’s fine in the rain and protected from dust and sand, and Samsung says it’ll survive a fall from 9.8 feet. The T7 line is notable for its built-in security features like hardware-based encryption, but unlike the

Photograph: Western Digital

Western Digital Elements Desktop Hard Drive

I know this guide is for portable hard drives, and this is decidedly not portable, but bear with me. For incremental backups, which we recommend, portability isn’t your top priority. And typically, your backup software will run overnight, so speed isn’t a huge factor either. That’s why the first drive I recommend is this Western Digital Elements.

I have been using some variation of the WD Elements desktop hard drive to make incremental backups of my data for more than a decade now. They’re big and require external power, but these are some of the cheapest, most reliable drives I’ve used. Storage options go all the way up to 20 terabytes. Just make sure you check the prices; sometimes you can get a 10- or even 12-terabyte drive for not much more.

Other Great Backup Drives:

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