The Best Portable Hard Drives of 2020

Whether you’re looking for a portable storage option, or simply running out of space on your computer’s hard drive, a portable hard drive makes it easy to increase your storage capacity without springing for a new computer. Finding the best portable hard drive for your needs means reading reviews, studying product features, and diving into the ins and outs of available styles and configurations. With the right portable hard drive, keeping your digital files organized can become a quick, over-and-done-with task.

We reviewed dozens of portable hard drives to identify the best of the best, based on Amazon reviews, how well they performed in tests, cost, and other considerations. We narrowed our search down to 5 of the top-rated portable hard drives people can purchase to ensure pristine file management.

Best Portable Hard Drive Overall
SanDisk 1TB Extreme Portable External SSD
Shock-, water-, and dust-resistant drive offering high speed transfers.

We’ve identified SanDisk 1TB Extreme Portable External SSD as the best portable hard drive out there. With a shock-, water-, and dust-resistant design, this portable hard drive is one that will keep your entire file library in tip-top shape. These benefits allow you to safely store your documents and photos, and make high-speed data transfers a cinch.

The 5 Top-Rated Portable Hard Drives

Editor's PicksBrandRating
Best Portable Hard Drive OverallSanDisk 1TB Extreme Portable External SSD4.7
Best Portable Hard Drive for GamingWD_Black P10 Game Drive4.6
Best Budget Portable Hard DriveSeagate Portable 1TB External Hard Drive4.5
Best SSD Portable Hard DriveSamsung T5 Portable SSD4.6
Best 5TB Portable Hard DriveWD 5TB Elements Portable External Hard Drive4.4

*Ratings are from Amazon at the time of publication and can change

Best Portable Hard Drive Overall: SanDisk 1TB Extreme Portable External SSD

The SanDisk 1TB Extreme Portable External SSD took the top spot on our list of the best portable hard drives, and boasts a shock-, water-, and dust-resistant design. It features a fast, SSD format that is available in a variety of storage sizes to suit nearly any needs. It is compatible with both Mac and Windows devices, and features data transfer speeds of up to 550MB/s. The compact, pocket-sized design and integrated carabiner hole make it easy to bring this drive along anywhere life takes you.

Those who purchased and reviewed this portable hard drive appreciated that it was so lightweight, but didn’t sacrifice on storage. People liked that it was Mac and Windows compatible, and found file transfer speeds to be very fast. Reviewers also appreciated that this drive came complete with a USB-C cord with USB-A adapter, and found it secure while in use.

With a price tag of about $166, it doesn’t come cheap, but the quality craftsmanship associated with the brand, as well as the ease of setup and use more than justifies that price. It has very high ratings with thousands of people reviewing it, which we think goes a long way in convincing people to make the investment.

SanDisk 1TB Extreme Portable External SSD Key Features: 

  • Available with a standard or aluminum enclosure
  • Shock-resistant up to 1500 G
  • Includes a 3-year warranty

Best Portable Hard Drive for Gaming: WD_Black P10 Game Drive

Best Portable Hard Drive for Gaming
WD_Black P10 Game Drive
Portable and durable form factor provides fast access to gaming library on the go.

The WD_Black P10 Game Drive took the runner-up spot on our list of the best portable hard drives, and is an excellent option for providing fast access to your gaming library while on the go. It is available in a choice of storage sizes from 2TB-5TB, and is compatible with PC, PS4, and Xbox One devices. This HDD drive has been purpose-built for gamers, and offers data transfer speeds of up to 140MB/s.

Those who purchased and reviewed this portable hard drive appreciated that the rubber feet help to prevent slipping, and found that transferring files was a cinch. Users especially liked that this drive did not require an external power source. While there were some complaints that this drive was loud and included cables that didn’t work, those are minor inconveniences for the performance it offers.

At a cost of around $70, it’s a pretty affordable portable hard drive option for gamers, and the quality craftsmanship associated with the brand, as well as the ease of setup and use more than justifies that price. It has pretty high ratings with hundreds of people reviewing it, which we think goes a long way in convincing gamers to make the investment.

WD_Black P10 Game Drive Key Features: 

  • Can save up to 125 games
  • Active cooling technology helps prevent overheating
  • Includes a 3-year warranty

Best Budget Portable Hard Drive: Seagate Portable 1TB External Hard Drive

Best Budget Portable Hard Drive
Seagate Portable 1TB External Hard Drive
A budget-friendly option with a sleek and simple design.

The Seagate Portable 1TB External Hard Drive is an excellent choice for those looking for a portable hard drive that won’t break the bank. It is available in a choice of sizes from 1TB-8TB, as well as portable or desktop versions. It has been preformatted for use with Windows, Mac, and PC devices, and features plug-and-play installation. Drag and drop functionality makes it easy to move and save files, as do the 5.0 GB/s (USB 3.0) or 480 MB/s (USB 2.0) interface speeds.

Those who purchased and reviewed this portable hard drive appreciated that it was super simple to set up and use, and liked that it was compatible with a number of different connection options. Some users did comment that this drive was a bit noisy while running, and didn’t find the case very durable.

With a cost of approximately $45, this portable hard drive is a solid choice for those looking for a portable hard drive option on a budget. It has very high ratings with thousands of people reviewing it, which we think goes a long way in convincing people that this budget-friendly pick is just as good at meeting their digital storage needs as its more expensive counterparts.

Seagate Portable 1TB External Hard Drive Key Features: 

  • Comes complete with a 18” USB 3.0 cable
  • No external power source required
  • Includes a 1-year warranty

Best SSD Portable Hard Drive: Samsung T5 Portable SSD

Best SSD Portable Hard Drive
Samsung T5 Portable SSD
Top-to-bottom metal design fits in the palm of your hand.

The Samsung T5 Portable SSD is an excellent choice for those looking for an SSD external hard drive, and boasts a top-to-bottom metal design for durability. Its compact design can easily fit in the palm of your hand, and is available in sizes from 250MB up to 1TB. It offers superfast read and write speeds of up to 540 MB/s, and has optional password protection and AES 256-bit hardware encryption to keep data secure. It is compatible with both Windows and Mac devices for added convenience.

Those who purchased and reviewed this portable hard drive appreciated that transfer speeds were fast and the device was easy to set up, although some users found compatibility with Mac computers wasn’t as good as they would have liked. People did comment that the software was a bit of a mess, but support is available should you find it challenging.

With a price tag of about $170, it doesn’t come cheap, but the quality craftsmanship associated with the brand, as well as the ease of use more than justifies that price. It has very high ratings with thousands of people reviewing it, which we think goes a long way in convincing people to make the investment.

Samsung T5 Portable SSD Key Features: 

  • Available in a choice of colors
  • Comes with a USB Type C to C and USB Type C to A cables
  • Includes a 3-year warranty

Best 5TB Portable Hard Drive: WD 5TB Elements Portable External Hard Drive

Best 5TB Portable Hard Drive
WD 5TB Elements Portable External Hard Drive
Reliable high capacity storage with fast data transfer rates.

The WD 5TB Elements Portable External Hard Drive is a great pick for those looking for a larger capacity HDD hard drive and offers both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 connectivity. It has been pre-formatted NTFS for use with devices running Windows 10, Windows 8.1, or Windows 7, and can be reformatted for use with other devices. It offers fast data transfer rates and is protected with a durable enclosure designed for style and protection.

Those who purchased and reviewed this portable hard drive appreciated that it offered a compact and lightweight option for easily storing their files. Users liked that it could be used with both Windows and Mac devices, as well as gaming consoles such as PS4. Some people found that the included cables didn’t offer the best connection, and recommended purchasing aftermarket cables instead.

At a cost of around $110, it doesn’t come cheap, but the quality craftsmanship associated with the brand, as well as the ease of setup and use more than justifies that price. It has good ratings with tens of thousands of people reviewing it, which we think goes a long way in convincing people to make the investment.

WD 5TB Elements Portable External Hard Drive Key Features:

  • No external power source required
  • Available in a choice of sizes from 1GB-5GB
  • Includes a 2-year warranty

Who Should Buy a Portable Hard Drive

A portable hard drive is an ideal choice for those who want to store files and bring them along with them. For example, you might work on projects from home but want to display the files at a client’s office or elsewhere, and a portable hard drive allows you to do so.

A portable hard drive is also a great option for those whose computer has reached its storage capacity. They easily allow you to expand your storage capabilities quickly and easily, without the need for expensive computer repairs or upgrades.

Finally, some people also use an external hard drive as a means for backing up their devices and files, in order to have a second copy of everything. Some cloud storage options can be expensive and susceptible to outages and security problems, while a portable harddrive removes some of these barriers.

And if you’re looking for information on other electronics, such as finding the best Chromebooks for kids, the best gaming computers, the best laptops for kids, or how to build a custom gaming computer, we have in-depth guides that can help make it easier.

Best Portable Hard Drive Overall
SanDisk 1TB Extreme Portable External SSD
Shock-, water-, and dust-resistant drive offering high speed transfers.

Important Features to Consider

Not all portable hard drives are created equal. A portable hard drive should have enough space for all your data and be easy to set up and use. Here’s what to consider when evaluating the options in search of the best portable hard drive for your digital storage needs:

  • Drive type. Arguably the most important thing to consider when shopping for a portable hard drive is the drive type. Portable hard drives are available in a choice of two drive types, solid state drives (SSD) and hard disk drives (HDD). Generally speaking, SSD portable hard drives are more expensive than their HDD counterparts, and tend to be available in smaller storage sizes. That said, they are considered by many to be technically superior to HDD drives as they offer faster data transfer rates, and boast a more compact size. Also, because there are no moving parts within an SSD drive, there is less chance of damaging them if you happen to move it or drop it while it is in use.
  • Storage capacity. The next most important factor to consider when buying the best portable hard drive for your needs is the size. You want a drive that can easily accommodate your files, without running out of space anytime soon. For most people, a drive of about 1TB should be more than sufficient, but if you are storing movies and other video files, it might be safer to opt for a larger hard drive.
  • Transfer speed. Another thing to look out for when shopping for a portable hard drive is the data transfer speed. You don’t want to be waiting forever on large files to transfer back and forth. In general, SSD portable hard drives are faster than HDD options. Drives that connect via USB 2.0 technology have the slowest transfer speeds, and should be avoided if possible. USB 3.0 connections are the new standard, although USB 3.1 (also known as USB C or USB 3.1 Gen 2) is the better option and offers data transfer speeds of up to 10GB/second. Some portable hard drives even offer the option to connect via WiFi, although transfer speeds will be slower than with a hardwired connection. Finally, there are some portable hard drives with Thunderbolt 3 connection, and these offer the fastest connection speeds available, at up to 40GB/second.
  • Portability and durability. If you’re planning on using your portable hard drive mostly at home, then you don’t have to be too concerned with how lightweight or durable your drive is. However, if you are planning on carrying your portable hard drive with you outside of the home, you should look for a device that is compact in size and lightweight. Some portable hard drives have rugged cases to protect them from damage. Finally, as mentioned before, an SSD portable hard drive has no moving parts and will be more resilient to drop damage than a HDD portable hard drive will be.
  • Security. Another important feature to keep in mind when choosing a portable hard drive is the security options, especially if any of the information you’ll be storing on it is sensitive in nature. Look for drives that are compatible with software encryption solutions, have hardware encryption, or even a physical security system such as a pin-code input in order to keep your data secure.
  • Compatibility. Many portable hard drives are compatible with only one type of computer operating system, so be sure to check if the device you are looking at is Windows/PC only or compatible with Mac computers.
  • Price point. Finally, consider how much you are willing to spend on a portable hard drive. Portable hard drives vary in price from $50-$300 or more.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a portable hard drive and how does it work? 

A portable hard drive is a type of external or peripheral storage device. It works by connecting to your computer in order to transfer files. You can then take the hard drive along with you to plug into another computer in order to have access to your files anywhere you go.

What is a portable hard drive used for? 

A portable hard drive is used for storage of files that you want to be able to bring along with you. For example, you might work on projects from home but want to display the files at a client’s office or elsewhere, and a portable hard drive allows you to do so. A portable hard drive is also used for storage when a computer has reached its storage capacity. Finally, some people also use an external hard drive as a means for backing up their devices and files, as cloud storage options can be expensive and susceptible to outages and security problems.

What is the largest capacity portable external hard drive? 

The largest capacity portable external hard drive is a 30TB SSD option from Samsung. It, however, is not available for sale to consumers, and has instead been developed as an enterprise solution for businesses.

How long do external hard drives last?

As long as they are not subjected to any physical damage, the average life expectancy of an external hard drive is about 3-5 years. Factors that will influence how long an external hard drive lasts includes the manufacturer, model, and how often you are formatting and writing to the drive. Also, the conditions in which the drive is stored will also affect how long it will last.

Other Portable Hard Drives We Reviewed

Best Portable Hard Drive Overall
SanDisk 1TB Extreme Portable External SSD
Shock-, water-, and dust-resistant drive offering high speed transfers.

We looked at 20 other portable hard drives. Even though they didn’t make our 5 best portable hard drives list, they’re the best of the rest and each is still a great option for your digital storage needs. The information you’ll need to compare each one is included with the listing.

5TB Portable Hard Drives

Seagate Portable 5TB External Hard Drive HDD

Seagate Portable 5TB External Hard Drive HDD

This 5TB portable hard drive boasts simple plug-and-play installation and comes complete with an 18” USB cable for fast data transfers.

Key Features: 

  • Compatible with Windows and Mac devices
  • Weighs just 0.57 lb
  • Includes a 1-year warranty

Cost: $110

WD 5TB My Passport Portable External Hard Drive

WD 5TB My Passport Portable External Hard Drive

This 5TB portable hard drive boasts password protection for added data security and comes complete with a superspeed USB port that is also USB 2.0 compatible.

Key Features: 

  • Available in a choice of colors
  • Slim, compact design
  • Includes a 3-year warranty

Cost: $110

Seagate Backup Plus 5TB External Hard Drive Portable HDD

Seagate Backup Plus 5TB External Hard Drive Portable HDD

This 5TB portable hard drive boasts a minimalist brushed metal enclosure and features USB 3.0 connectivity for fast data transfers. The plug-and-play usability offers the option for scheduled automatic backups.

Key Features: 

  • Available in a choice of colors
  • Compatible with Windows and Mac devices
  • Includes a 2-year warranty

Cost: $100

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

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

This 5TB portable hard drive boasts a rugged design that is drop-, shock-, dust-, and rain-resistant for added peace of mind. It includes a 1-month subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud.

Key Features: 

  • Compatible with Windows and Mac devices
  • Includes a reversible USB C cable, and USB 3.0 adapter
  • Includes a 2-year warranty

Cost: $170

G-Technology 5TB ArmorATD Portable External Hard Drive

G-Technology 5TB ArmorATD Portable External Hard Drive

This 5TB portable hard drive boasts a rugged design with a rain- and dust-resistant enclosure with a 1,000 lb crush rating to help protect it, and comes complete with USB-C, USB 3.0, and Thunderbolt 3 connectivity options.

Key Features: 

  • Compatible with Windows and Mac devices
  • Data transfer speeds of up to 140MB/s
  • Triple-layer shock resistance

Cost: $130

1TB Portable Hard Drives

KESU 1TB Ultra Slim Portable External Hard Drive

KESU 1TB Ultra Slim Portable External Hard Drive

This 1TB portable hard drive boasts an ultraslim, lightweight design, and is compatible with TV/PS4/Xbox/Windows/Mac/Linux/Android operating systems. It features plug-and-play installation for ease of setup and use.

Key Features: 

  • Available in a choice of sizes
  • Compatible with USB 3.0 and USB 2.0
  • Includes a 3-year warranty

Cost: $49

Toshiba HDTB410XK3AA Canvio Basics 1TB Portable External Hard Drive

Toshiba HDTB410XK3AA Canvio Basics 1TB Portable External Hard Drive

This 1TB portable hard drive boasts a slim design with easy setup and plug-and-play installation and features USB 3.0 connectivity. It is compatible with Windows-based PCs and laptops.

Key Features: 

  • Available in a choice of sizes
  • Matte, smudge-resistant surface
  • Includes a 1-year warranty

Cost: $48

Silicon Power 1TB Black Rugged Portable External Hard Drive

Silicon Power 1TB Black Rugged Portable External Hard Drive

This 1TB portable hard drive boasts a rugged and portable design with an anti-scratch surface and is compatible with both Windows and Mac devices. It can also be used with gaming devices and features an IPX4 water-resistance rating.

Key Features: 

  • Available in a choice of colors
  • Available in a choice of sizes
  • Includes a 3-year warranty

Cost: $49

Maxone 1TB Portable Hard Drive

Maxone 1TB Portable Hard Drive

This 1TB portable hard drive boasts a slim and lightweight design with an all-aluminum anti-scratch surface for strength and durability. It is compatible with Windows and Mac devices, along with various gaming consoles.

Key Features: 

  • Available in a choice of colors
  • Available in a choice of sizes
  • Includes a 3-year warranty

Cost: $48

WD 1TB My Passport for Mac Portable External Hard Drive

WD 1TB My Passport for Mac Portable External Hard Drive

This 1TB portable hard drive boasts integrated password protection with hardware encryption to keep data secure and includes a USB 3.0 port that is also USB 2.0 compatible.

Key Features: 

  • Designed for Mac computers and is Time Machine ready
  • Plug-and-play installation
  • Includes a 3-year warranty

Cost: $60

Portable Hard Drives for Gaming

Seagate Game Drive 4TB External Hard Drive Portable HDD

Seagate Game Drive 4TB External Hard Drive Portable HDD

This portable hard drive for gaming boasts the ability to store more than 100 games, and is compatible for use with PS4 devices. It features plug and play USB 3.0 connectivity, and requires no external power cable.

Key Features: 

  • Available in a choice of sizes
  • Durable aluminum enclosure
  • Includes a 1-year warranty

Cost: $114

Fantom Drives 8TB External Hard Drive

Fantom Drives 8TB External Hard Drive

This portable hard drive for gaming offers plug-and-play installation and features both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 connectivity. There’s also eSATA host connectivity for even faster connections.

Key Features: 

  • Available in a choice of colors
  • Available in a choice of sizes
  • Durable aluminum casing

Cost: $199

WD 4TB Gaming Drive for PS4

WD 4TB Gaming Drive for PS4

This portable hard drive for gaming boasts simple plug-and-play installation and a sleek design with high capacity. It is available in options specifically for PS4 or Xbox One devices.

Key Features: 

  • Available in a choice of sizes
  • Storage for more than 100 games
  • Includes a 3-year warranty

Cost: $110

Seagate Game Drive for Xbox

Seagate Game Drive for Xbox

This portable hard drive for gaming boasts a solid state drive, and offers the ability to store approximately 15 of your favorite games. It is formatted for Xbox One devices and includes a limited time membership to Xbox Game Pass.

Key Features: 

  • Available in a choice of sizes
  • Lightweight, shock-resistant design
  • Includes a 3-year warranty

Cost: $100

SSD Portable Hard Drives

LaCie Portable SSD High Performance External SSD

LaCie Portable SSD High Performance External SSD

This SSD portable hard drive boasts a USB-C connector for universal compatibility with USB 3.0, and Thunderbolt 3 connections, and comes complete with 2TB of storage that can easily handle hours of 4K videos and thousands of high-resolution photos.

Key Features: 

  • Available in a choice of sizes
  • Lightweight, shock-resistant design
  • Includes a 3-year warranty

Cost: $320

RAVPower Mini External SSD Hard Drive

RAVPower Mini External SSD Hard Drive

This SSD portable hard drive boasts a compact design with shock-proof shell, and comes complete with a USB-C to USB-C cable, USB-A to USB-C cable, and a storage pouch for added value.

Key Features: 

  • Available in a choice of sizes
  • Compatible with tablets, laptops, Macbook, Android, Mac, and iPad Pro
  • Includes a 3-year warranty

Cost: $166

G-Technology 2TB G-DRIVE Mobile SSD

G-Technology 2TB G-DRIVE Mobile SSD

This SSD portable hard drive boasts a durable, IP67 water- and dust-resistant design, with data transfer rates up to 560MB/s. It offers USB C connectivity and features a protective aluminum core to prevent overheating.

Key Features: 

  • Available in a choice of sizes
  • 1,000 lb crush resistance
  • Includes a 5-year warranty

Cost: $300

Seagate Fast SSD 1TB External Solid State Drive

Seagate Fast SSD 1TB External Solid State Drive

This SSD portable hard drive boasts a lightweight, shock-resistant design, and offers data transfer speeds of up to 540MB/s. It offers folder syncing capabilities to help keep files organized across devices and comes complete with a 2-month membership to Adobe Creative Cloud.

Key Features: 

  • Available in a choice of sizes
  • USB C connectivity
  • Includes a 3-year warranty

Cost: $175

WD 1TB My Passport SSD External Portable Drive

This SSD portable hard drive boasts password protection with hardware encryption to help keep your data secure and offers data transfer speeds of up to 540MB/s.

Key Features: 

  • Available in a choice of sizes
  • Compatible with Windows and Mac devices
  • Includes a 3-year warranty

Cost: $165

Crucial 1TB X8 Portable SSD

Crucial 1TB X8 Portable SSD

This SSD portable hard drive is compatible with Windows, Mac, iPad Pro, Chromebook, Android, Linux, PS4, and Xbox One devices with USB-C, 3.1, Gen2, and USB-A connectors. It offers read speeds up to 1050 MB/s.

Key Features: 

  • Available in a choice of sizes
  • Durable anodized aluminum core
  • Includes a 3-year warranty

Cost: $165

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