9 min read

The Best External Hard Drives

Updated on 08 Sept 2022

Here at Shape, we are constantly backing up our work and most of this happens on external hard drives. Since the coronavirus pandemic, many people have had to migrate from their usual workspaces and transfer to working from home or studying at home and thus have had to back up what can be massive quantities of files. This is where an external hard drive will become your best friend. External Hard Drives have become more accessible than ever with some drives costing as little as £60. That’s cheap considering the amount of space you can get!

You may be thinking, “what actually is an external hard drive?” or “which external hard drive do I get?” you’re not alone in thinking this - there are thousands of hard drives on offer to choose from it can be quite overwhelming! Choosing an external drive isn't as simple as buying the first one that crops up on google, however.

That’s why we’re here to help you! In this article, we’re going to take a look at the what, why, and how as well as looking at some of the best External Hard Drives out there to suit your needs. 🔍

What is an External Hard Drive?

An External Hard Drive is a device that you plug into a computer port that you use to store any file or any app on, it gives you additional storage space to your machine's storage to keep your data safe. Most hard drives are usually around the size of a small book but vary between each individual drive.

This differs from an internal hard drive, which is situated inside your computer. External hard drives are portable, meaning you can disconnect them and move them around without losing any of your data. Amazing. 👏

Essentially, External hard drives are bigger, more reliable, more secure memory sticks (USB flash drives) adding huge amounts of extra storage by just plugging in a USB cable.

Why do I need an External Hard Drive?

There are some pretty powerful computers out there now, but there’s no denying that your machine will run smoothly without a load of files eating up its storage. External Hard Drives act as an extra space for all your files to go, which are portable! External hard drives are also great for transferring files between computers, regardless of their operating system (although this will depend on the particular hard drive)

You can pretty much put any file formats on an external hard drive from video footage, to software, to applications. Essentially, if you have a file on your computer, it can be copied to an external hard drive!

How much storage do I need on my External Hard Drive?

Most External Hard Drives can hold at least one terabyte of space (1 TB) of data, that’s a whopping one thousand gigabytes (1000 GB), one million megabytes (1,000,0000 MB), or one BILLION kilobytes (1,000,000,000 KB). To put that into perspective for you, the average size of a Word document or PDF document is around 312 KB. We'd recommend 1TB to start, as that gives you plenty of space to store your files without costing too much money. That’s certainly more than enough for most users.

Is an External Hard Drive worth it?

Whether you’re a teacher backing up word files, a videographer backing up 4k video footage or you’re simply using it as an extended storage space, external hard drives are definitely worth investing in. The cost of an external hard drive is indisputable considering the convenience, speed, and reliability. It is a staple item for anyone in the design industry, but with that comes different users that will need external hard drives for varying reasons, so we've done the hard work for you and rounded up our top picks for the best external hard drives currently on offer. 

💰 Best Budget External Hard Drive

Seagate Expansion Portable Hard Drive 1 TB, Starting from £58.14, Amazon



  • Low Cost
  • Lightweight
  • No setup software
  • Need to reformat for Mac
  • No Backup Software
  • Only USB 3.0 included

Lightweight and compact, the Seagate Expansion Portable Hard Drive is incredibly easy to use this drive right from the box.

The Seagate Expansion is automatically ready for windows as soon as you plugin. If you want to use it with Mac, however, you'll need to re-format the hard drive with HFS+ to work with Mac machines exclusively.

If you're on a budget, this is the best standard drive without all the bells or whistles, it's simple, sleek, and does the job. Seagate Expansion drives are also available in 2TB, 3TB, and 4TB storage capacity as well.

Buy Now

📁 Best Portable External Hard Drive

SanDisk Extreme Portable Hard Drive, Starting From £88.56, Amazon



  • Sleek, Small Design
  • Tough Wear
  • Not Cheap
  • No Light Indicator

Some people may have the issue of 'where do I put this thing?' when traveling around with your hard drive. The SanDisk Extreme Portable Hard Drive can easily fit in your pocket at just 50 x 96.2mm, it is far smaller than most smartphones out there as well as being extremely thin (8.85mm). It also has a handy loop you can attach to any item (lanyard, keyring, that sort of thing).

Available in 250 GB, 500 GB, 1 TB & 2 TB space capacity, this is perfect for traveling around also due to its casing, it is reasonably shock, dust, and water-resistant (up to a certain point). You won't have to worry about time with the SanDisk Extreme Portable Hard Drive as it boasts high-performance transfers with up to 550MB/s read speeds, that's pretty fast for a little guy like this!

Buy Now

    🖥️ Best Thunderbolt 3/USB c External Hard Drive (Mac)

    Samsung X5 Portable SSD 1TB, Starting From £310.92, Amazon



    • Very Portable
    • A speed demon
    • Pretty Expensive
    • Looks like a car bonnet (?!?!)

    For those that aren't aware, back in 2016, Apple killed the standard USB port on their MacBooks which you're probably used to on most windows machines, and replaced these with USC C ports. This left the issue of having to invest in adapters to use USB-A products, which is a hell of a lot of them! But, thankfully, there are USB-C only external hard drives out there specifically for mac products! 

    The Samsung X5 Portable SSD is a pocket rocket, only compatible with Macs and Windows PCs with Thunderbolt 3 ports (those are those USB-C ports we mentioned above!) it's pretty portable at only XYZ and has impressive read speeds of up to 2.800 MB/s. To put that into perspective, the Samsung X5 lets you transfer 20GB of 4K UHD video footage from your machine to the X5 in just 12 seconds. Wow.

    Buy Now

    💻 Best Wireless External Hard Drive

    Western Digital My Passport Pro, Starting From £131.02, Amazon



    • Charges your devices
    • Strong wifi performance
    • WiFi password protection
    • Slower read/write times
    • Relies on internet access
    • Short battery life

    As technology advances, it is now a reality that we no longer need bulky cables to use a lot of devices, take Apple's wireless charging for example! In the case of photographers and videographers, you may need to quickly transfer large files from your SD cards to a hard drive without plugging them into a laptop and doing it manually.

    The Western Digital My Passport Pro does exactly that. You can wirelessly organise, edit and share your media with the My Passport Wireless Pro. It also has the option to store this in the cloud so you get anywhere access to files stored on the drive through your tablet or smartphone. Due to this being wireless, the read/write speeds are significantly slower than the wired external hard drives however, this is the sacrifice

    What's more, is that it doubles up as a power bank for your devices so you're never out of charge!

    Buy Now

    😠 Best Tough Wear (Rugged) External Hard Drive

    LaCie Rugged Mini 1TB, Starting from £59.99, Amazon



    • Extremely Durable
    • Dust, Shock, and Water Resistant
    • You might love orange
    • Lack of preloaded utilities
    • No password protection
    • You might hate orange

    The orange band surrounding the hard drive is iconic, being dust, shock and waterproof. As designers, we travel around to meetings, to the studio, to our home so it's clocked a fair few miles in our bags, you don't need to worry about dropping it as it can withstand impacts from 4 feet high.

    Despite some reviews you might read, every single one of our team has never had any issues with LaCie Rugged Mini's, that's 12 of us with years worth of use to no failure.

    Buy Now 

    🔒 Best Secure External Hard Drive

    Samsung T7 Touch, Starting From £76.98, Amazon



    • Sleek and compact style
    • Built-in fingerprint and LED status light
    • Pretty Expensive
    • Software download in order to use fingerprint functions

    Sometimes you have some pretty important documents on your computer where confidentiality is key. As a removable storage device, it is possible to lose one! Having security on your External Hard Drive can give you peace of mind so no one else has access to your files!

    The Samsung T7 Touch has built-in security options that use AES 256-bit encryption. This gives you the option of unlocking with a touch of your finger or, alternatively, with a password. Additionally, the T7 is extremely compact at just 0.3 by 3.3 by 2.2 inches and weighs just two ounces so you'll have no issues in transporting this around. 

    Buy Now

    💭 Final Thoughts?

    As with any product, there will always be drawbacks. Generally speaking, there is a risk if the external hard drive is damaged, it can wipe or corrupt your files. It happens, but this is rare so long as you use it correctly (please eject ⏏️ it 😭) 

    But, if you're looking for a way to store big files that won't slow down your computer and can be moved and switched between machines, an external hard drive will be your new best friend.

    To summarise which hard drives we've looked at today: 

    The Best External Hard Drive: What to think about

    For us as creatives, designers, and developers, storage is key, and being able to switch between machines is also of paramount importance. External Hard Drives offer exactly this and what you'll be using it for and where you're taking it should be well considered when purchasing one!

    If you'd prefer your storage to be integrated, however, you may want to consider upgrading the internal hard drive of your desktop PC, Mac, or laptop. This is possible but not as simple and definitely not as easy! Apple has made it pretty dam hard to replace those drives in their devices yourself, too!

    If you've got this far and you're still not feeling it, Cloud Storage is also another option. Storing your files in the cloud allows you to keep your files online, it relies on internet access, enabling you to access files from any internet-connected device. There are hundreds of places that offer these services such as Apple iCloud, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, DropBox, and more.  

    So, Which Is The Best Overall External Hard Drive that I Should Buy?

    Ah, the pressing question. For us, it's a no-brainer: LaCie Rugged Mini 🎉 As a Team, we have all used many different external hard drives in the past, but in terms of price, reliability, and durability, nothing comes close to LaCie's Rugged Mini External Hard Drives. Granted, you might not be a fan of orange 🍊 but we have relied on these bad boys for years, to no fault. Available in 1 TB, 2 TB, 3 TB & 5 TB sizing, there's space for everyone! 

    Buy yours today

    Hiya, I'm Ella. Brand designer and serial burrito consumer at MadeByShape.