Best external hard drives of 2017: The best portable HDD for your PC or Mac

Update: We're constantly updating this buying guide to make sure the very latest - and best - external and portable hard drives are included in this list.

Even in a world graced with cloud storage, there’s still a place in this world for the best external hard drive, and this page lists the greatest plug-in devices you can buy to expand the storage space of your PC.

All things considered, you don't need to shell out a monthly subscription fee for iCloud or OneDrive when you can simply purchase an external HDD. Not only is it more affordable in the long-run, but you can get more space for less than even a solid state drive. With hard drives growing more and more capacious every day, it’s only a matter of time before their portable counterparts follow suit.

The question remains, however: how do you know which external HDD fits your needs? Luckily, we're here to help. In the following list, we'll discuss external hard drives that are both powerful and premium, affordable yet functional and even a handful that play friendly with the cloud. Let's begin, shall we?

best external hard drives

1. Buffalo MiniStation Extreme NFC

Wireless security

Capacity: 2TB | Interface: USB 3.0

NFC security
Rugged design
Not the fastest drive

An external hard drive you can buy without breaking the bank, Buffalo's MiniStation Extreme NFC could be your match made in heaven.

With compatibility for both Mac and Windows machines, the Buffalo MiniStation Extreme NFC is very flexible, and comes with a rugged case that's dust and water resistant, along with a built-in USB 3.0 cable.

Not only is your data kept protected from knocks and drops with the rugged shell, but it's also got 256-bit AES security features and NFC (Near Field Communication) features as well.

Essentially it allows you to unlock the drive to get to your files quickly and easily by tapping the supplied NFC card onto the drive's body. Pretty neat!

Seagate 5TB

Western Digital My Passport 4TB

Fast speeds

Capacity: 4TB | Interface: USB 3.0

Large capacity
Good data transfer speeds
WD backup software is basic

The latest generation of the Western Digital My Passport range of external hard drives has landed, coming in sizes from 1TB to 4TB. It features cloud storage and 256-AES encryption, along with WD's own backup software.

Best of all, it is a very good performer when it comes to data transfer speeds, beating many of its competitor. Unsurprisingly, it doesn't reach the top speeds of solid state external drives, but for external hard drives based on traditional HDDs, this is the drive to get.

Seagate 5TB

3. Adata SD700 External SSD

A terabyte in the palm of your hand

Capacity: 256GB, 512GB or 1TB | Interface: USB 3.0

Great performance
IP68 rating
No USB Type-C

The Adata SD700 will suit those looking for a rugged storage device that can provide ample capacity without costing too much. It performs superbly well and remains the only SSD we’ve seen that is IP68 rated. 

Thanks to the solid state drive that resides in this external hard drive, it's a lot faster than external drives that use traditional spinning hard drives - so you're getting great transfer speeds as well as rugged protection.

It also comes in capacities up to 1TB, so you don't have to worry about missing out on storage space just because it uses an SSD - this drive really does hit all the right notes.

TODO alt text

4. WD My Book Duo 16TB

The most space you can get

Capacity: 16TB | Interface: USB 3.0 x 2

Huge amounts of space
RAID support
Expensive
Need two USB 3.0 ports free

If you're looking for the absolute largest capacity external hard drive, then the WD My Book Duo 16TB is the one to get, offering a huge 16TB of storage space over two hard drives.

If you don't mind sacrificing some of the ample storage space you can set the drives up in a RAID array, so you have file backups of your files should one of the drives die.

This USB 3.0 drive has many of the features of a fully-fledged NAS device (including a high price), and if you have a router with a USB 3.0 port you could use this as a network attached storage device in its own right.

The device, which comes with two-year warranty, has 256-bit AES hardware encryption, and automatic backup software (WD SmartWare Pro).

Worth noting that the enclosure used is fully serviceable and that WD ships the drive already pre-formatted for Windows users (NTFS).

5. OWC ThunderBay 4 Mini

Super-fast storage

Capacity: 1TB/2TB/4TB/8TB or empty enclosure | Interface: Thunderbolt 2 x 2

Great build quality
Very good speeds
No use to non-Thunderbolt devices
Free software is Mac-only

If you work with a lot of large files, such as videos, then the OWC ThunderBay 4 Mini is an excellent external storage solution. It supports up to four 2.5-inch drives, and can be bought with SSDs already installed, or as an empty enclosure.

It comes with two Thunderbolt 2 ports for extremely quick read and write speeds, so you can edit files on the OWC ThunderBay 4 Mini's hard drives as quickly and smoothly as if they were located on your internal hard drives. You can also daisy chain a number of OWC ThunderBay 4 Minis together using Thunderbolt 2 cables for even more storage.

The price we show above is for the empty enclosure.

Read our full review: OWC ThunderBay 4.

6. Seagate Innov8 8TB

Combines capacity and portability

Capacity: 8TB | Interface: USB 3.0 and USB Type-C

High capacity
No need for power supply with USB-C
Expensive
USB-C support still in infancy

The Seagate 8TB Innov8 range is worth a mention. It is a normal-size 3.5-inch desktop hard disk drive but doesn't need an external power supply to run.

Instead, it needs to be powered via a USB Type-C connector without which it won't work. It does pave the way for customers to move staggering amount of data around without being tethered.

What sets the Innov8 apart from the competition is the design. All metal with fins to keep the drive cool and a minimalist approach to the drive's construction.

If absolute performance coupled with ease of use is what you are yearning for, then for a small business user or someone working in the creative industry, the Innov8 is a no-brainer.

Others will probably settle for far cheaper but less elegant options like the WD My Book mentioned previously.

Read our full review: Seagate Innov8 8TB external hard disk drive

7. Seagate Backup Plus Desktop Drive 5TB

Best performance

Capacity: 5TB | Interface: USB 3.0

Very fast data transfer speeds
Reliable
You pay more for the Mac-formatted version

If you want to combine speed and capacity, then the Seagate Backup Plus Desktop Drive 5TB is definitely worth considering. It comes in a range of sizes up to 8TB and it beats the competition when it comes to read and write speeds as well.

On top of this storage and speed, you get a decent amount of peace of mind thanks to Seagate's lower than average failure rates, especially in bigger capacity hard drives.

You also get backup software, and the drive is compatible with both Windows and Macs, though it's formatted for Windows out of the box unless you go for a Mac-specific hard drive - though these are more expensive.

8. Western Digital My Passport Wireless Pro

Wireless wonder

Capacity: 2TB | Interface: USB 3.0 and Wi-Fi

Wireless AC
USB 3.0 support
Good battery life
No USB-C
Expensive due to Wi-Fi features

Though our feelings were lukewarm on the My Passport Wireless of yesteryear, the 2016 “Pro” variant of the HDD restores faith in the Western Digital name. The design, for instance, has been overhauled and no longer resembles the My Passport Ultra nor My Passport for Mac. Instead, there’s now a more premium feel to the My Passport Wireless Pro. It resembles an external DVD drive, but considering the onboard SD card slot (and a dedicated SD transfer button), don’t worry about getting it confused with anything else. For photographers, this is the Wireless Pro’s killer app.

For everyone else, there’s a massive 6,400mAh battery built into the device. This lets the drive be used completely free of wires over 2.4GHz or 5GHz channels. When it’s wired up, however, don’t expect cutting edge connection tech, as the My Passport Wireless Pro uses only USB Type-B to Type-A. Completely absent is the latest and greatest USB-C connection.

Where the My Passport Wireless Pro compromises on affordability, it’s able to benefit in just about every other area. Of course, not everyone needs a wireless hard drive or SD card support, but for those who do, it’s almost essential.

Read the full review: Western Digital My Passport Wireless Pro
 

9. LaCie Porsche Design Mobile Drive 4TB

USB-C star

Capacity: 4TB | Interface: USB-C

Fast USB-C connection
Great design
Expensive
You need USB-C ports to take advantage of speed

You may have stumbled upon the LaCie Porsche Design Mobile Drive when perusing the Apple website for USB-C accessories. There’s a reason for that: the Porsche Design ships with both USB Type-C to Type-A and USB Type-C to Type-C connectors, making it a worthy candidate regardless of your setup.

It’s expensive for an external hard drive, don’t get us wrong, especially if you’re in the market for the top-end 4TB option. On the other hand, this is an HDD that could theoretically output speeds of up to 5Gbps, if it weren’t hindered by the limits of SMR (Shingled Magnetic Recording) technology.

Comprising five 800GB platters in a 15mm form factor, the LaCie Porsche Design Mobile is an excellent challenger to the Seagate M3, though it’s notably bigger in both weight and dimensions.

Sure, it packs an extra convenience factor in the form of USB-C, but it should be noted that the Porsche Design Mobile is still limited to USB 3.0 speeds. Plus, even an aluminum finish can’t prevent it from clashing with your Rose Gold MacBook. Nevertheless, LaCie’s offering is the best USB-C external HDD money can buy, at least for the time being.

Read our full review: LaCie Porsche Design Mobile Drive 4TB
 

10. iStorage diskAshur 2TB

Best for security

Capacity: 2TB | Interface: USB 3.0

Physical security
Rugged design
Expensive

Typically, iStorage hard disks cater best to governments and multinational organizations around the world, for good reason too – they offer tight security like no other drives around.

If someone tries to tamper with your iStorage drive, you can configure it to self-desturct. What's more, the data is encrypted by the 256-bit AES protocol, with multiple forms of protection in place to ensure the bad guys don't get in no matter how persistent. When you consider all that extra security, the prices won't scare you away either.

Sure, it's still expensive, four times the price of an equivalent 2TB drive, and unlikely to be the most nimble performer. But, you're paying for a product that's virtually uncrackable. Bear in mind, though, you'll get no help from the manufacturer if things go awry and you lose your password.

Read our full review: iStorage diskAshur DT

Gabe Carey and Matt Hanson also contributed to this article