Best External Hard Drive and SSD for 2021: Mac, PC, PS4, and Xbox

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Unless you’re splurging on a high-end model, most newer computers don’t have a lot of storage space – they typically have 256 or 512 gigabytes. Today’s game consoles come with 1 terabyte drives (which is roughly 1000 GB of hard drive storage), but drives easily run out if you don’t regularly remove games from the drive at the same time. as you buy more. One way to handle it all is to find the best external hard drive for your needs.

A traditional hard drive that uses “old” hard drive technology (mechanical platters and a mobile read-write head to access data) is sufficient for the majority of users, thanks to a Usb-c and USB 3.0 (as well as 3.1 / 3.2) interfaces. Prices have dropped dramatically over the past few years, with even mega-capacity hard drive models tipping the scales at 5TB but costing just over $ 100. An SSD has no moving parts and has read speeds up to four times faster, but it costs a lot more per gigabyte.

Most of the options on this list of best external hard drive models will work on all platforms – whether you have a Windows PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, or Xbox PC – as long as the drives are formatted correctly for the correct platform. form. But often they will be referred to as working with a specific platform out of the box and sometimes come bundled with platform specific backup software. Unless stated otherwise, all PC drives mentioned here are compatible with Windows but can be formatted for a Mac. Many of them include cables or adapters to accommodate USB-C and USB-A ports. But if they are not included, you can easily buy dongles for around $ 10.

And remember: one backup is not enough. Ideally, you will need redundant backups offsite or using cloud storage for key data and large files (such as family photos) in the event of theft or fire. And be sure to encrypt your data as well.

An important note for console gamers is that the new PS5 and Xbox Series X (and Series S) consoles are much more restrictive when it comes to the use of external drives. The PS5 can store and play PS4 games from an external drive, but not PS5 games; Xbox Series X can store X Series games, but you’ll need to transfer them to the primary SSD to actually play them. Xbox Series X offers an owner Storage expansion card designed by Seagate, but it costs $ 220.

With these caveats noted, our current top picks for the best external hard drives and SSDs are below. These (or nearly identical models with less storage capacity) have been used or tested anecdotally by editors at CNET. We will update our list of the best external hard drives and SSDs as we test new products.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Western Digital, owner of SanDisk, sells its WD My Passport SSD as well as this SanDisk external portable SSD for essentially the same price. I like the design of this model a bit better, and it’s technically rugged with an IP55 rating, which means it can withstand a sustained stream of water. It is also shock resistant and has a USB-C interface.

The cheapest “old” version has transfer speeds of up to 550 Mbps while the new generation version almost doubles that speed to up to 1050 Mbps (just over a gigabyte per second) and does not costs only slightly more in some storage capacities (the new 1TB model costs $ 150 instead of $ 140). The price of the 2TB model of this external drive drops to $ 300 for the most recent version. You can save $ 70 if you’re willing to go for the older 2TB model.

Your speed will vary if you move a mishmash of files to or from the drive, but when copying a single large file, you should be able to get close to those maximum speeds.

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If you’re looking for a high-capacity external hard drive for your Xbox One, the WD Black P10 2TB Portable Hard Drive is good value at around $ 80 (the 5TB version costs around $ 130). This external player also comes with a digital code that gives you one month of Microsoft’s Game Pass Ultimate, a welcome perk, especially if you’re already a member. There is also a standard version of the portable hard drive, which also works with PCs and PS4 for the same price. The portable player can provide speeds of up to 130 Mbps.

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For $ 115, you can get an external drive so you don’t have to worry about managing storage space on your PS4 (you can play lag-free games right from the portable hard drive). The 2TB version of the Seagate Game Drive costs around $ 30 less at $ 80. But you might as well spend the extra paste and get 4TB for that portable external hard drive.

Note that Seagate makes a SSD Game Drive for Xbox but not PS4. The storage drive costs around $ 200 for 1TB.

David Carnoy / CNET

SanDisk manufactures the Extreme Portable SSD (see above) which offers transfer speeds of up to 1050MB per second. But if you’re a photographer or videographer looking for an even faster SSD for your PC or Mac, the Extreme Pro Portable SSD is the perfect solution for extra storage space. The latest version is capable of delivering up to 2000 Mbps (2 gigabytes per second) of read / write speed if you pair it with the right equipment (to get the maximum speed you need a host system that supports USB Gen 3.2 Gen 2×2 speed).

Compatible with Macs and Windows PCs, it is technically hardened with an IP55 rating, which means it can withstand a sustained stream of water. It is also impact resistant and has a forged aluminum chassis that acts as a heat sink. It has a USB-C interface and includes both a USB-C to USB-C and USC-A to USB-C cable. The 1TB version costs around $ 150 while the 2TB model goes for $ 300.

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The Seagate Backup Plus Slim 2TB is one of the more compact non-SSD drives, making it the best external hard drive for those looking to save space. And at under $ 60, this backup drive is good value for money as well. Available in a few color options, it’s also available in 1TB ($ 55), 4TB ($ 93), and 5TB ($ 115) versions, but larger capacity drives are thicker.

Read more.

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This player is about as scalable – and backward compatible – as it gets. You pay a little more than the standard WD drive, but this new model offers a USB-C connection, which means it has the latest and greatest USB cable connectivity for Mac and PC. No USB-C on your system? No problem: Western Digital also has a built-in USB-A to USB-C adapter, so this storage device will work with just about any computer right out of the box.

Read more.

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The WD My Book desktop drive comes in a configuration up to 18TB, but the 8TB is the best value at around $ 150. Unfortunately, it’s so popular it’s out of stock (it’s supposed to be out by June).

Read our WD My Book review (Fall 2016).

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After Seagate acquired LaCie several years ago, LaCie became the company’s premium brand and this 5TB external hard drive model can be found on many video publisher desks (including CNET). This rugged hard drive uses a USB-C interface, is compatible with Mac and Windows PCs, and is water and shock resistant. A Thunderbolt 4TB with USB-C is available for Macs with Thunderbolt for around $ 200.

Read more.

David Carnoy / CNET

Crucial’s X6 external SSD is considered entry-level because it just isn’t as fast as high-end models, which can deliver read / write speeds twice or even four times faster (the Crucial X8 is the step-up model). Despite this, the X6 is around 4x faster than a non-SSD drive, with transfer speeds of up to 540MB / s for the 1TB and 2TB versions and up to 800MB / s for the newer. 4TB version, which has one of the lowest prices for a 4TB. SSD at around $ 460.

In comparison, the SanDisk Extreme 4TB SSD, which can transfer up to 1,050 Mbps, costs $ 700. So you’re essentially looking at a savings of $ 240 if you’re willing to pick up some speed (again, at least the 4GB version of the Crucial X6 went from 540Mbps to 800Mbps).

David Carnoy / CNET

The RavPower Mini External SSD delivers data transfer speeds of up to 540Mbps, a slower rate than what you get from more high-end external SSDs, but still about four times faster than a drive no SSD.

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