Long gone are the dark times when gigabytes (or even megabytes if you're old enough) were a scarce and precious resource. Storage is cheaper and faster now than ever, because even cheap laptops often contain 1 terabyte hard drives and 128 GB 256 GB solid-state drives. Even old-school disk-based hard drives have come a long way. With SSDs becoming the new storage standard, choosing a good external hard drive gives you more options than ever before.
Whether you need a super portable SSD, a desktop hard drive for use, or something in between, there is a cheap external hard drive that meets your needs – and we're here to help you find it. We've searched the internet to bring you this updated list of the best external hard drive deals currently available for all needs and budgets, as well as a quick purchase guide to answer some basic questions you may have.
The best deals on external hard drives today
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How to choose an external hard drive
The first two steps in choosing an external hard drive are to set your budget and determine what size you need. As cheap as the storage per gigabyte is in 2020, the classic compromise between hard disk size and portability remains. Is your primary consideration storage space or physical size? If your external hard drive is intended for home and office use on a single workstation and is more or less in one place, storage space is more valuable than mobility. On the other hand, if you frequently transfer data from one PC to another, a portable hard drive may be a better choice, even if you sacrifice storage space for a smaller footprint.
What exactly you use your hard drive for is also taken into account when making your purchase decision. If your external hard drive or SSD is only for file storage, this is pretty easy. However, if you regularly read and write on your external storage (e.g. do video editing directly from the drive itself and not from your drive) you want to be sure that you are getting something that has good read and write speed and is up to date Connectivity standards like USB 3.0 are used. For more information on the designs and features of external hard drives that you need to look for when making your purchase, go to.
HDD vs. SSD
Storage drives can usually be divided into two main categories: conventional hard drives or hard drives and solid-state drives or SSDs. Until recently, most hard drives were mechanical hard drives. These have movable disks (called disks) on the inside, on which the data itself is written and read. These traditional hard drives have largely fallen out of favor for use as system drives, but due to their larger capacity and much cheaper cost per gigabyte, they are still a very popular choice for use with external storage.
In recent years we have witnessed the revolution of solid state drives. These drives are basically a type of flash memory where data is written to chips rather than magnetic disks – that is, no moving parts, which in turn means faster read / write speeds and (theoretically) higher long-term reliability . However, these drives are usually smaller and considerably more expensive than hard drives per gigabyte. The downside is that you'll usually find them when you're looking for portable external hard drives that are small enough to carry in your pocket.
There are also hybrid hard drives, sometimes called SSHDs. These hybrid drives are essentially hard drives with built-in flash memory (usually a relatively small amount) that stores and reads your most frequently used files. Much of the responsiveness of SSDs is combined with the larger storage capacity of hard drives. These might be worth the price if you need a hard drive's expanded memory, but expect to read and write a lot to the external drive.
Are all external hard drives SSD?
Almost any hard drive can be used as an external drive with a suitable housing. These are available both as SSDs and as HDDs. Although SSDs quickly replace HDDs for use as internal system drives (the hard drive in your PC that has your operating system and other software installed), HDDs for external use are still very popular because they do a lot, a lot, per gigabyte are cheaper and so you are working much more storage for your dollar.
Are external hard drives reliable?
An external hard drive is simply any hard drive or SSD – just like laptops and desktop PCs – that is located in an external housing. This case offers several options for connecting the hard drive to your computer or other device, usually a USB port, and may also have a power supply (depending on its size). This means that an external hard drive is about as reliable as any internal hard drive as long as it comes from a reputable manufacturer. Stick to proven manufacturers like Samsung and Kingston and your data should be in safe waters.
Are external hard drives fast?
A very important thing to consider is the read and write speed (the speed at which data is downloaded from the hard drive and uploaded to the hard drive). However, this is less of a potential threat than in the past. Even conventional rotating hard drives (HDDs) offer fairly solid read / write speeds these days, with 7,200 rpm being the standard. Be sure to check this and avoid anyone using the older 5,400rpm standard, although these are currently less common. Solid state drives offer the best read / write speeds, of course, but, as explained above, offer the lowest value per gigabyte.
Also, don't overlook the connection speed. The fastest read / write speeds are bottlenecks when transferring data over a connection that uses an older standard such as USB 2.0. Make sure your external hard drive uses at least USB 3.0 (which is about ten times faster than USB 2.0 in comparison).
Do external hard drives need power?
Hard drives are electronic devices that need to be powered from an external source. However, this does not mean that all external hard drives must be connected to a wall. Most can usually get enough power from the same USB connection they use for data transfer. However, larger hard drives may require an external power supply that comes with the hard drive. This is not a big problem for most, but it is important to know if electrical outlets are prime real estate where you will set up your drive.
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