The Ultimate Guide to Selecting the Best External Hard Drive for Every Need

Being short on storage space in this digital age is indeed akin to a modern-day nightmare – whether you’re stuck with a laptop that’s running out of memory, or a video project that’s gobbling up gigabytes at an alarming rate, you’ll find that you need an external hard drive rather quickly, and most likely as soon as possible. We put dozens of drives through our lab tests to find you the best options for your storage needs.

Best for Pro Backups: Western Digital Elements

When it comes to backups, the Western Digital Elements series is your PRO’s choice. I’ve used them for more than a decade without a single failure, and you can’t ask for more than that. It’s affordable, and while it’s not the fastest drive, it’s dependable, with consistent write speeds over USB-C, from Windows to macOS and Linux.

Lightweight Champions: Portable SSD Picks

Crucial X6 - The Pro's Choice for Portability

The Crucial X6 portable SSD serves the hyper-mobile busy person well, delivering speed, durability and affordability in one package. It uses the slower, older SATA interface inside, but its small size and durability make it a favourite for workers at the coffee shop and adventurous travellers – it’s well-suited for the frequent joint-crashers among us who need external data storage on the go.

Kingston XS1000 - Speed in a Flash

The Kingston XS1000 dazzles at its blazing transfer speeds. Designed for professionals who need data fast, it’s also a must-have for digital nomads, even though its small size and rugged construction speak to everyone who needs to be on the move. Then again, you’d really have to need it, to have performance like this.

Unparalleled Performance: For the Pro Photographer

This device isn’t just the fastest portable SSD available for photographers who shoot on the go; it is, at this moment, the only portable device of its kind. Its symmetrical read and write speed of 1312/1277 MB/s provides more than enough speed for photographers to extract themselves from stressful and distracting situations. Once again, Crucial has balanced portability with pro-grade performance, speed with weightlessness.

The Pro Companion: Best Go-Anywhere Drives

OWC's Elektron Drive - A Pro’s Armor

A perfect blend of ruggedness and performance, OWC, Elektron delivers for the pro who lives and works in an environment that demands ruggedness without compromising performance. Built to withstand drops, dunks and dust, there is no better solution for those whose work takes them into environments where predictability is not a given.

Extra Padding for the Pro: LaCie's Rugged Drives

For the ultimate protection from the elements, LaCie can outfit you with padded drives that come with either SSD or HDD versions to suit every pro’s needs. Fast access during a shoot or secure storage during travel? LaCie’s rugged hard drives give you that additional layer of protection – one less thing to worry about.

Gaming and Beyond: A Drive for Every Pro Gamer

While most drives are perfectly capable of meeting the needs of gaming, the Western Digital P40-Series impresses with its elegant RGB lighting and performance that doesn’t trail behind modern gaming demands. More importantly, it is the tenacity and reliability that makes it a great choice, not just for gamers, but for anyone who needs a high-speed, large-capacity storage.

The Bare Essentials: For Those Who Know Exactly What They Need

Pros who want to update an existing system with a bare drive will find that Western Digital’s WD Black series of drives rank notch above the rest, offering some of the world’s snappiest speeds without overheating. It remains the pro’s choice during intensive drive workloads, such as when editing video or programming software.

Final Pro Insights

About Pro Choices in External Hard Drives

Ultimately, for the pro user, it’s not just a question of weighing up short-term benefits of speed and storage alongside long-term reliability and fitting into the existing ecosystem. When they find the drives that work best for them, there really is a correct fit for every job. Ultimately, with our long-term testing and practical professional focus, the right choice has never been easier.

Jun 12, 2024
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