How to Choose An External Hard Drive

How to Choose An External Hard Drive

Thinking of buying a new external hard drive for backup, upgrade, or maybe replace a damaged one? Here we have put together some insights and tips on how to choose an external hard drive. Keep reading for the details….

Why do you need to buy a external hard drive?

mobile hard drive

There are several reasons why you may want to buy a new hard drive. It might be an upgrade, a replacement, backup storage, or maybe you need extra storage for your movies, music, and games.

With that being said, the following are some of the common situations that may require one to buy a new external hard drive:

Insufficient internal hard drive storage capacity on an office or study computer:

In such cases, installing an extra internal storage drive is simply not an option.

Practitioners in certain professions:

Practitioners in careers such as graphic design, photography, programming, etc. might need a mobile material library. Combining mobility with capacity is only possible with mobile hard drives and not U disks.

Backup storage:

Sometimes all you need an external hard drive for is to act as backup storage for your favorite movies, photos, games, etc.

There are several factors to consider when choosing external hard drives. Below are some of the main things to check out…

1. Mechanical hard drive or solid state drive

Mechanical hard drive or solid state drive

You should be clear on whether you want a mechanical hard drive or a solid state drive. On the presumption of the same brand and capacity, here are some differences between mechanical and solid state drives:

  • Price

Mechanical drives are comparatively cheaper than solid state drives. Taking 1TB as the standard, the market price range for most high-end HDDs is $50-$80. On the other hand, the price range for SSD hard drives is $100-$400.

  • Data transfer speed

Most mechanical hard drives have transmission speeds averaging 150MB/S. On the other hand, the transfer speeds for solid state drives average about 500MB/S. SSDs using the PCle protocol can reach top transmission speeds of 1000 – 2000MB/S.

  • Noise levels

While mechanical drives have significant levels of operational noise, solid state drives tend to operate with almost no sound.

  • Portability and weight

As you might have guessed, mechanical hard drives are bulkier and heavier, hence less portable compared to sleek, compact, and more portable solid state drives.

Check out the summary table below:

Price (1TB)$50-$80$100-$400
Data transfer speed150MB/S$500 – $2000MB/S
PortabilityLess portable; bulky and heavyMore portable; compact and lightweight.
Noise levelSignificant noiseNo noise

2. What size do you need?

external hard drive

Something else to consider when it comes to how to choose an external hard drive is its size. This has everything to do with the compactness of the drive and nothing to do with the weight. As such, the size of your external hard drive affects its portability.

Most hard disk drives (HDD) have a thickness of 2.5 inches, 3.5 inches, or 2.0 inches. If you love your external hard disk sleek and portable, we recommend choosing the 2.5”, 2.0”, or any other smaller-sized drives.

Solid state drives come in comparatively smaller sizes. They make very portable, compact, and sleek external hard drives.

3. What capacity do you need?


Capacity is arguably the most important factor when shopping for an external hard drive. In fact, this is the one factor that many people consider when shopping for hard drives. The decision on what capacity is suitable depends on a host of factors, but most importantly, it depends on your needs.

For instance, if you just want to store or back up a few music files, videos, and games, a low-capacity external drive should suffice.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for something to store or backup large files such as games, movies, documents, etc., then you need a large capacity external hard drive.

Presently, the available capacities of SSDs are in the range of 120GB – 30.72GTB, whereas HDD capacities go anywhere between 250GB and 20TB. With the knowledge of the capacity of drive needed, you should be able to make an informed choice on the best hard drive that suits your needs.

4. What type of hard drive Interface should you choose?

hard drive Interface

How to choose an external hard drive also requires one to consider the data transfer interfaces to be used. Technically, this has everything to do with the USB ports and cables supported. There are 4 main types of hard drive interfaces, each with different transmission rates. They include:

  • Micro USB
  • USB Type-A
  • USB Type-B
  • USB Type-C

Check out the summary table below for further details on transmission rates and speeds for different types of USBs.

USB VersionNameTransmission RateMax. Transmission Speed
USB3.0USB 3.1 Gen 1

USB 3.2 Gen 1*1

USB3.1USB 3.1 Gen 2

USB 3.2 Gen 1*2

USB 3.2 Gen 2*1

USB3.2USB 3.2 Gen 2*220Gbps2GB/s
Thunderbolt 3Thunderbolt 340Gbps4GB/s
Thunderbolt 4Thunderbolt 440Gbps4GB/s

You might want to note that USB 2.0 is an old interface that supports very slow data transmission speeds. Most new models of hard drives use interfaces above 3.0. For the best transmission speeds, we recommend USB 3.1 Gen 1 or USB 3.1 Gen 2. Be sure to check if the cable is compatible with your computer.

  • Tip! You can check the types of interfaces for your external hard drive on your PC. Simply open the Device Manager then inside that window, click on the “+” sign next to Universal Serial Bus controller to see the list of installed USB ports on your computer.

5. Security


With cyber-attacks and related data breaches on the rise globally, the need for a secure hard drive cannot be over-emphasized. Most new models of hard drives come with some security features to protect your data from being compromised. Some of the most common security features in external hard drives include password protection and hardware e encryption software.

At the design level, an external hard drive might have a strong casing to protect against physical tampering or accidental drops.

6. Operating System compatibility

Operating System compatibility

Did you know that out of the box external hard drives are formatted for particular operating systems? That’s correct. That also implies that a drive that’s formatted for Windows 10 won’t work on MacOS or Linux. The converse is also true.

However, the good news is that the formatting isn’t cast in stone. You can always reformat the external hard drive to match a different operating system.

7. Additional considerations

Aside from the above-mentioned factors, other secondary considerations when buying an external hard drive may include:

  • Aesthetic appeal: Appearance and outlook
  • Support for fingerprint lock/ unlock function
  • Brand Name

1. Seagate Expansion Hard drive

Seagate Expansion Hard drive

Seagate Expansion is a sleek and portable external hard drive with a massive 1TB capacity for all your photos, music, games, movies, among other files. There’s never been a better way to enhance your PC’s performance by freeing up space. Enjoy easy drag and drop file saving and lightning-fast data transmission speeds, thanks to its USB 3.0 support.

The setup process is super easy and quick, thanks to the HDD’s automatic recognition on Mac and Windows operating systems.

 2. Western Digital My Passport

Western Digital My Passport

Consolidate all your movies, music, documents, games, and other files inside a slim and portable mechanical drive. With a whopping 2TB capacity, this external hard drive is ideally built for gamers. The drive supports automatic data backup, thanks to the integrated proprietary WD Backup software.

Your games are automatically saved in the drive so that you can focus more on downloading and playing your favorite titles.

For impenetrable data safety and security, the HDD combines 256-bit AES hardware encryption technology with password protection. For gamers who love speedy data access, this drive supports SuperSpeed USB-A 3.0 with a top speed of up to 5Gbps. Enjoying an immersive gaming experience is to say the least.

3. Western Digital Black P10

Western Digital Black P10

Looking for a portable and durable high-performance HDD that’s purpose-built for gamers? Western Digital Black P10 is all you need. Optimize your console or PC by saving your entire game library in an on-the-go form factor. The game drive comes with a 2TB storage capacity, sufficient for handling all your favorite titles.

It supports USB 3.0 hard disk interface for a super-fast data transmission experience. If you’re a gamer keen on expanding the potential of your PC or console, WD Black P10 is worth giving a try.

1. Western Digital My Passport SSD

Supercharge your PC with a high-performance solid-state drive that has a massive 1TB capacity. WD My Passport SSD has a very sleek and compact design for portability. The drive incorporates NVMe technology capable of transmission speeds upwards of 1050 MB/s for a smooth gaming experience.

The SSD drive is built with data security in mind. It combines the 256-bit AES hardware encryption technology with password protection to keep all your sensitive data safe and secure from breaches. To protect against physical tampering, it comes with a shock and vibration-resistant casing. And not only that. The external hard drive is also drop-resistant up to 6.5ft.

If you’re looking for an affordable and durable high-performance drive, then we strongly recommend Western Digital My Passport SSD.

2. SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD

SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD

 Backup all your favorite videos, high-resolution photos, music, games, and other files in a compact and pocket-sized SSD drive. SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD comes in a rugged design that’s both water and dust-resistant.

The drive is compatible with both Windows and Mac operating systems. With its high-speed data transfer rates of up to 550MB/s, drag and drop file transfer has never been easier.

For data safety, the drive supports password protection and 256-bit AES hardware encryption.

What’s more, this external hard drive is also shock-resistant. No need to worry about accidental drops. If you’re looking for a sleek, durable, and portable SSD external hard drive, check out SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD.

3. Samsung T7 Touch Portable SSD

Samsung T7 Touch Portable SSD

Experience unmatched data storage or backup experience with Samsung T7 Touch SSD. The portable solid state external hard drive supports data transfer speeds of up to 1050MB/s for an impressive backup or gaming experience.

Because Samsung takes data safety seriously, this external SSD drive comes with an embedded fingerprint scanner for ultimate data protection. And that’s not all. Samsung T7 Touch Portable SSD also features an enhanced Motion LED for convenient tracking of the data transfer progress.

Last but not least, the drive has a 500GB storage capacity sufficient for all your movies, music, games, and other files. If you’re looking for an external hard drive for Windows or Mac PC, we recommend this sturdy SSD.


1. How can I tell if the life of my mobile hard drive is about to expire?

Typical signs of a failing external hard drive include, but are not limited to, file corruption error alerts, disappearing files or folders, strange sounds, and failure to mount correctly or be recognized on PC.

2. Which lasts longer, SSD or HDD?

SSD hard drives last longer than HDD hard drives. The reason is that the latter is more mechanical hence prone to wear and tear while the former has no mechanically moving parts hence tends to be more durable.

3. How do I check the life of my external hard drive?

To check the life or health of your external hard drive, search and open the Disk Utility function on your PC. Once it opens, select First Aid and proceed and choose Verify Disk to open a window with all the health metrics for your external hard drive. Items indicated in red need immediate attention while those indicated in black are fine.

Final Words

That marks the end of our detailed coverage on how to choose an external hard drive. Now you should be able to shop for a good hard drive- HDD or SSD- that suits your storage or data backup needs. We do not recommend buying second-hand external hard drives because their quality, reliability, and performance are not guaranteed.

With that said, we’d like to bring your attention to the rapidly growing cloud storage technology which is slowly replacing hard drives. This is the future of data storage and backup. However, before we all migrate our data to the clouds (it might take a while before this is realized), we’ll keep using our hard drives.

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