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Best external drives 2020: Reviews and buying advice

best external drives

  

Best external drives 2020: Reviews and buying advice

Anyone who uses a PC should have an external drive. It’s both a useful means of data backup and storage, and a way to transport files from your desktop or laptop to another device. Xbox One X users, as well, would be wise to invest in an external drive as a way of augmenting the console’s measly 1TB hard drive (the external drive needs to be USB 3.0-compatible and will be formatted when you insert the drive). 

Two things are for sure: No one ever said they wanted less storage space, and no one ever said they wanted a slower drive. Our latest top picks for best external performance drive (SanDisk’s Extreme Pro Portable and Samsung’s T7) are blazing-fast, great news if you’re moving around large amounts of data. If backup or connectivity are your priorities, we’ll also walk you through our other top picks, and everything you need to know to buy the best external drive for your needs.

And while we’re talking about storage drives, know how to monitor the health of your hard drives—the preservation of your precious data depends on it.

The best external drives 2020

Best external backup drive

Our pick for best portable external backup drive for 2020 is Western Digital’s My Passport 5TB drive. Why? Well, you can never have enough, can you? Sure, the 4TB version is actually a tick lower in cost-per-terabyte, but that extra space can be invaluable if it allows you to jam all your valuable files onto this drive before gently placing it in a safe. After all, they don’t call it bulk storage for nothing. (Read our full review of the WD My Passport.)

Runner-up

Our runner-up for this popular category is Seagate’s Backup Plus Portable. Like the WD above, it’s a USB 3.1 Gen 1 (5Gbps) drive. It tops out at 5TB in a single drive and can also be had in 1TB, 2TB, and 4TB capacities. There’s even a “fast” 4TB version that uses two hard drives in RAID for more performance.

In our tests of the 4TB version, we found the Seagate to be slightly faster with large file transfers (think movies) but worse with small file transfers (think Office documents). It’s still a worthy runner-up, though. (Read our full review of Seagate’s Backup Plus Portable.)

Best performance USB drive

This is the one: SanDisk’s Extreme Pro Portable SSD (1TB) is the fastest USB 3.1 Gen 2 external SSD we’ve seen to date. Burst performance is roughly on a par with the runner-up Samsung T7’s, but it blows that drive out of the water during long writes.

SanDisk’s drive doesn’t offer the T7’s handy and fun fingerprint security, but it’s about the same price and offers software-based password protection if security is a concern. Read our full review.