Anyone who uses a PC probably stores data on it that they don’t want lose. One of the best ways to make sure that your data isn’t lost is to use an external drive. It’s a handy way to back up your important data or store your overflow, and it’s a convenient way to transport or transfer files between devices.
As data files get larger and you accumulate more of them, you will always have the need for more storage, and an external drive is there to cover you in case of an emergency. We’ve curated the best picks for external drives including blazing-fast performance as well as a pick for best budget option, best portable SSD, and everything in between. Below our recommendations you’ll find valuable information on what you need to know to select the best external drive for your needs.
1. Samsung T7 Shield – Best performance USB drive
Fast 10Gbps storage
Rugged outer skin for IP65 rating
Up to 2TB in capacity
Not full immersion rated
$160 for 1TB | $290 for 2TB
We’re fans of Samsung’s (still excellent) T7 Touch, and now we’re ever bigger fans of the follow-up T7 Shield. The USB 10Gbps drive comes in both 1TB and 2TB capacities, for $160 and $290, respectively. Whereas the Touch distinguished itself with a fingerprint reader for data security, the Shield leans in to physical protection, with an IP65 rating against particulate matter and water spray, making it a good performance drive for out in the field. (Mind you, the Shield can still be secured with password protection.)
We also appreciate that the Shield bests its predecessor in write speeds, giving it the performance boost it needed to supplant SanDisk’s Extreme Pro Portable SSD (below) as our top performance pick.
Read our full
Samsung T7 Shieldreview
2. SanDisk Extreme Pro Portable SSD – Best performance drive runner-up
Overall fastest USB SSD currently available
IP55 rated against dust and mild streams of water
Slightly slower reading files than Samsung’s T7
While we’ve moved SanDisk’s Extreme Pro Portable SSD (1TB) to runner-up status in light of the Samsung T7’s improved write speeds, make no mistake, it’s still one the fastest USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10Gbps) external SSD we’ve tested to date. It’s slightly more expensive than the T7 Shield, at $190 for 1GB and $300 for 2GB, and it’s rated at IP55 for slightly less protection from the elements. But both are excellent performers.
Note: There are faster USB 3.2 2×2 (also known as SuperSpeed 20Gbps) SSDs available, such as the WD Black P50 and Seagate Barracuda Fast SSD. However, SuperSpeed 20Gbps and USB4 ports are still so rare, we’re not sure it matters. Those drives are also just not as svelte as the Extreme Pro.
Read our full
SanDisk Extreme Pro Portable SSDreview
3. WD Black P50 Game Drive SSD (1TB) – Best for gaming
Up to 2GBps with SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps
Distinctively militaristic styling
Pricey compared to SuperSpeed 10Gbps drives
Requires the extremely rare SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps port for full performance
Today’s games can soak up 50GB or 100GB of storage and more. If you’re looking for a drive to quickly load that game from on your gaming laptop, we recommend WD’s Black P50 Game Drive. And no, not just because it’s literally called “Game Drive,” but because we prefer game’s to be launched from an SSD where it can literally be a competitive advantage in some titles. Running an external SSD for your games also means far, far faster level loads, too, compared to a plodding hard drive. While many PCs don’t have the USB SuperSpeed 20Gbps ports needed to make the Black P50 sing, it’s actually becoming fairly standard in newer desktops. The good news is, even running a game at USB 10Gbps speeds means reads and writes up to 1,000MBps, which is still a huge improvement over a hard drive. (Learn more about how we evaluate the best external SSD for gaming.)
Read our full
WD Black P50 Game Drive SSD (1TB)review
4. SanDisk Professional G-Drive SSD – Best for photographers
Fastest USB 10Gbps drive to date
IP67 rated against dust and water
The same or lower-priced than the competition
$139 – 500GB; $189 – 1TB; $349 – 2TB; $679.99 – 4TB
We’re a little torn between recommending a Thunderbolt-based drive for external storage versus a USB external drive. While a Thunderbolt 3 external SSD typically provides higher performance, that doesn’t help you if your laptop doesn’t have a Thunderbolt port, and many of those drives don’t have any USB support. That makes SanDisk’s G-Drive SSD the preferred drive. It doesn’t support the more advanced, and also rare, USB SuperSpeed 20Gbps speeds, but it’s in the top tier with USB 10Gbps speeds, which is what you’ll mostly find. Perhaps more importantly for a photographer moving files in the field, is its tough shell. The drive is built with IP67 water-resistance and dust-resistance ratings and can withstand 2,000 pounds of weight, so you won’t lose that precious photo of a ghost cat in the mountains of Afganistan.
5. Crucial X6 Portable SSD (2TB) – Best budget option
Good everyday performance
Very affordable for an external SSD
Performance tanks when cache runs out
The Crucial X6 Portable SSD is square to be hip. Or placed in your hip pocket, at any rate. In a sea of portable SSDs whose shape makes them a literal pain when pocketed, the thin, rounded-edge X6 is a sigh of relief. It’s not state-of-the-art fast, but it’s fast enough for most users and extremely affordable.
Read our full
Crucial X6 Portable SSD (2TB)review