The Best External Hard Drives and Ssds for 2021: Mac, PC, ps4 and Xbox

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Do you need a backup option or just more space? Here are our top picks for external storage options.

Unless you’re splurging on a high-end model, most newer computers don’t come with a lot of storage space, usually 256 or 512 gigabytes. Today’s game consoles come with 1-terabyte drives (which is roughly 1,000GB of hard drive storage), but drives are easily depleted if you don’t regularly remove games from the drive as you purchase more. One way to manage it all is to find the best external hard drives for your needs.

A traditional hard drive that uses “old” hard drive technology (mechanical platters and a read / write moving head to access data) is suitable for most users, thanks to USB-C and faster USB 3.0 (as well as 3.1 / 3.2 ) interfaces. Prices have dropped significantly in recent years, even mega-capacity hard drive models tip the scales at 5TB but cost just over $ 100. A solid-state drive has no moving parts and has read speeds up to four times faster. , but it costs a lot more per gigabyte.

Multiplatform SSD

Most of the options on this list of best external hard drive models will work on all platforms, whether you have a Windows PC, Mac computer, PlayStation 4, or Xbox, as long as the drives are formatted correctly for the platform. correct. But many times they will be designated to work with a specific platform out of the box and sometimes they will come with backup software that is platform specific. Unless otherwise noted, all of the PC drives mentioned here are compatible with Windows, but can be formatted for Mac. Many of them include cables or adapters to accommodate USB-C and USB-A ports. But if they are not included, you can easily buy dongles for about $ 10 .

And remember: a single backup is not enough. Ideally, you’ll want redundant backups, either off-site or using cloud storage for key data and large files (like family photos) in the event of a theft or fire. And be sure to encrypt your data too.

An important note for console gamers is that the new consoles PS5 and Xbox Series X (and Series S) are much more restrictive on the use of external drives. The PS5 can store and play PS4 games from an external drive, but not PS5 games; The Xbox Series X can store Series X games, but you will have to transfer them to the main SSD in order to play them. The Xbox Series X offers a Seagate proprietary storage expansion card, but it costs $ 220.

With those caveats pointed out, our current top picks for the best external hard drives and SSDs are below. These (or nearly identical models with less storage capacity) have been anecdotally used or tested by the editors of CNET. We will update our list of the best external hard drives and SSDs as we test new products.

Western Digital, which owns SanDisk, sells its SSD WD My Passport and this external portable SSD from SanDisk for basically the same price. I like the design of this model a bit more and it is technically ruggedized with an IP55 rating, which means it can withstand a sustained stream of water. It is also shock resistant and has a USB-C interface.

The cheaper “old” version has transfer speeds of up to 550 MBps, while the next-gen version almost doubles that speed with up to 1,050 MBps (a little over a gigabyte per second) and only costs slightly more in some capacities. of storage (the newer 1TB model costs $ 150 instead of $ 140). The price of the 2TB model of this external drive goes up to $ 300 for the newer version. You can save $ 70 if you’re willing to go for the older 2TB model.

Your speed will vary if you are moving a hodgepodge of files to or from the drive, but when copying a single large file you should be able to get close to those maximum speeds.

Top rated for Xbox OneWD Black P10 2TB with 1 month of Game Pass Ultimate

If you are looking for a high capacity external drive for your Xbox One, the portable hard drive WD Black P10 2TB it has a good value of around $ 80 (the 5TB version costs around $ 130). This external drive also comes with a digital code that gives you one month of Microsoft’s Game Pass Ultimate, a welcome benefit, especially if you’re already a member. There is also a standard version of the portable hard drive, which also works with PC and PS4 for the same price. The portable unit can offer speeds of up to 130 MBps.

The Top Rated for PS4 – 4TB Seagate Game Drive

For $ 115, you can get an external drive so you don’t have to worry about managing storage space on your PS4 (you can play games without lag right from the portable hard drive). The 2TB version of the Seagate Game Drive costs about $ 30 less to $ 80. But you could also spend the extra money and get 4TB for this portable external hard drive.

Please note that Seagate manufactures a game drive SSD for Xbox but not for PS4. The storage unit costs around $ 200 for 1TB.

Lightning Fast SD – 1TB SanDisk Extreme Pro Portable SSD

SanDisk makes the Extreme Portable SSD (see above) offering transfer speeds of up to 1,050MB per second. But if you’re a photographer or videographer looking for an even faster SSD for your PC or Mac, the Extreme Pro Portable SSD is the way to go for extra storage space. The latest version is capable of delivering read / write speeds of up to 2,000 MBps (2 gigabytes per second) if you pair it with the right equipment (for maximum speed, you need a host system that supports USB Gen 3.2 Gen 2×2 speeds ).

Compatible with Mac and Windows PCs, it is technically ruggedized with an IP55 rating, which means it can withstand a sustained stream of water. It is also shock resistant and has a forged aluminum chassis that acts as a heat sink. It has a USB-C interface and includes a USB-C to USB-C and USC-A to USB-C cable. The 1TB version costs around $ 150 while the 2TB model goes up to $ 300.

Slim design for PC – Seagate Backup Plus Slim 2TB

The Seagate Backup Plus Slim 2TB It is one of the most compact non-SSD drives, making it the best external hard drive for those looking to save space. And for less than $ 60, this backup unit is also good value for money. Available in some color options, it also comes in 1TB ($ 55), 4TB ($ 93), and 5TB ($ 115) versions, but the higher-capacity drives are thicker.

Versatile USB-C Drive – WD My Passport Ultra USB-C

This unit is future proof and backward compatible. You pay a little more than the standard WD drive, but this newer model offers a USB-C connection, which means it has the latest and greatest USB cable connectivity for Mac and PC. Don’t have USB-C in your system? No problem: Western Digital also includes a USB-A to USB-C adapter, so this storage device will work with virtually any computer out of the box.

Best Value Desktop Solution – WD My Book 8TB (for Mac or Windows PC)

The WD My Book desktop drive is available in a configuration of up to 18TB, but the 8TB is the best option for around $ 150. Unfortunately, it is so popular that it is out of stock (supposed to be available in June).

Rugged External Hard Drive – LaCie Rugged USB-C 5TB Portable Hard Drive

After Seagate acquired LaCie several years ago, LaCie became the company’s premium brand and this 5TB external HDD model can be found on many video editor desks (including many on CNET). This rugged hard drive uses a USB-C interface, is compatible with Mac and Windows PC, and is shock and water resistant. A version 4TB Thunderbolt with USB-C is available for Thunderbolt-equipped Macs for around $ 200.

4 TB SSD Value – Crucial X6

Crucial’s X6 external SSD is considered entry-level because it is not as fast as higher-end models, which can offer read / write speeds that are two or even four times faster (Crucial X8 is the advanced model) . Still, the X6 is roughly 4 times faster than a non-solid-state drive, with transfer speeds of up to 540 MBps for the 1TB and 2TB versions and up to 800 MBps for the new 4TB version, which has one. of the lowest prices for a 4TB. SSD at around $ 460.

Comparatively, the 4TB SanDisk Extreme SSD, which has a transfer speed of up to 1,050 MBps, costs $ 700. So you’re basically looking for a $ 240 savings if you’re willing to put up with a bit of speed (again, at least the 4GB version of the Crucial X6 has increased to 800MBps from 540MBps).

1TB USB-C Mini SSDRavPower Mini External SSD

David Carnoy / CNET

The RavPower Mini external SSD offers data transfer speeds of up to 540 MBps, slower than what you get with more premium external SSDs, but still four times faster than a non-solid state drive.

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