The Best External Hard Drives for Every Budget | BuzzFeed Reviews
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The Best External Hard Drives

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Buffalo DriveStation Axis Velocity

$75

  • Quiet operation
  • USB 3.0 for lightning-fast transfers
  • Easy to set up and use
Buying Options

Seagate Backup Plus Hub 6TB Hard Drive

$128

  • Dual USB 3.0 ports
  • Two months' Adobe Creative Cloud Photography
  • One-click or automatic backup available
Buying Options

WD 6TB My Cloud Home

$260

  • Your own personal cloud storage
  • Automatically back up your data
  • Access it from anywhere
Buying Options

Remember when 1GB of memory sounded like a lot? Yeah, neither do we. No matter how much memory you have at your disposal, it seems like you could always use more. But what type of memory do you need? Are you running programs off an external hard drive? Backing up your photos? Or do you just have lots of por… por… portraits of Grandma? (Nailed it.) Whatever you’re holding onto, we can help you find a storage solution to fit your needs.

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Buffalo DriveStation Axis Velocity

Starting from $75

The Details

7.4" X 1.5" X 4.8" inches

Weighs 2.1 pounds

1 terabyte capacity

7200 RPM hard drive

PC/Mac compatible

What / Who It's Best For

  • People who need a little extra storage
  • Gamers looking for extra memory
  • People who want a plug-and-play storage solution

Why We Love It

We hear ya: Those portraits of Grandma can really take up a lot of room on your hard drive. If you’re just looking for an easy to solution to quickly add about 1,000 gigabytes (1 terabyte) of extra memory to your system, the Buffalo DriveStation Axis Velocity 1TB external hard drive is a good place to start. A convenient plug-and-play hard drive that is compatible with both Mac and PC, the DriveStation doesn’t require much effort to set up or run.

Buffalo Hard Drive front and side view

If you’re running a Mac, the DriveStation is fully capable of integrating with Time Machine to give you more storage for your backups. For PC users, the included Buffalo Tools software allows you to set automatic backups. For either, this device offers optional 256-bit full disk encryption. The world’s fastest supercomputer would literally take millions of years to crack that. You’d think this kind of security would be a given, but a few of the drives we tested in this range had NO encryption.  It’s something to keep in mind if you want to stop anyone from accessing your por… portraits of Grandma.

External Hard Drive Facts: Before we go any further: you read the title of this article, right? Right? Okay, so we’re talking about external hard drives. Not portable hard drives. External hard drives use a system similar to that in a desktop computer to access their memory, namely a spinning hard-disk drive (HDD). Conversely, portable drives use flash memory (otherwise known as SSD), which has no moving parts, making them much better at handling the rough knocks of a backpack or bag. An SSD is meant to be portable. An HDD is not.

Buffalo Hard Drive top and side view

External hard drives are cheaper per gigabyte, meaning they give you more storage for less money, while the portable drives are less susceptible to physical damage. The two devices also handle data differently. An external HDD is faster when moving large sets of data all at once — for example, saving large photo files or recording TV shows. The SSD is faster at making lots of small calculations at once, like running Photoshop or similar programs. Which one is best for you really depends on how you expect to use it.

We wanted to test these hard drives for a few different things while keeping their main purpose in mind. Namely, we wanted to see how they handled media as well as games. The Buffalo has no fan, making it quieter than the others we tested. This was a nice touch when we wanted to unwind with a Golden Girls marathon. You can hear the spinning disk in operation, but it’s pretty quiet and easily drowned out by Sophia’s classic zingers. The Buffalo stays relatively cool, though, and we never noticed any overheating.

Buffalo Hard Drive side view

For gaming, the Buffalo was able to wake up and start doing its thang in no time flat. Like, ready to go in less than a second. It easily handled data for the Xbox One, PlayStation4, and Wii U. While we didn’t test it specifically for PC gaming, there’s no reason to think it wouldn’t do just as well. Given its 7200 RPM speed and USB 3.0 capability, it should easily be able to run your modded version of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds or Fortnite.

If you’re looking to add a lot of memory quickly for a little money, and you aren’t going to be tossing this thing in your backpack, the Buffalo DriveStation is a good entry-level drive that’ll give you 1TB of extra storage, ease of use, and quiet operation.

User Reviews

“My son needed additional space for his gaming console. This worked very well and the price was excellent. Great service on the pickup, also.”
— Protectivefather From Best Buy
“Purchased as a backup drive. It works seamlessly and is quite fast. I purchased a 7200 rpm USB3 unit to maximize throughput of 2.5 terabytes of music and films. It achieves a sustained 100 MB/sec (1g bits/sec).”
— John Thoren From Amazon
“Very good security, easy to set up. Good transfer speed, especially through the USB 3.0 connection. However, it's quite slow when transferring through a router.”
— A. Nazario From Amazon
“As advertised and price was OK considering prices dropped at retail locally a week after the purchase. Functions fine as a backup drive. Have not had any Buffalo products that didn't function as good or better than name brand for a much more competitive price.”
— JomiChan From Amazon

Buffalo

Easy extra memory

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Seagate Backup Plus Hub 6TB Hard Drive

Starting from $128

The Details

Dual USB 3.0 ports

5900 RPM

6 TB of storage

Handles PC and Mac simultaneously

Size

4.65 x 1.61 x 7.8 in

Weight

2.34 pounds

What / Who It's Best For

  • Small-business owners and freelancers
  • People who need more flexible memory
  • People running Macs and PCs simultaneously

Why We Love It

While the Buffalo DriveStation is a good entry-level hard drive that works for gaming and media, small-business owners or households that need to back up both PCs and Macs might need something like the Seagate Backup Plus 6TB hard drive. Not only does it offer more memory (there’s even an 8TB version), the Seagate is also designed to handle multiple machines.

Seagate HarD Drive back view

This type of capability is clutch if, for example, you need extra storage for your small business. It allows multiple users to store and access data on the hard drive, regardless of whether they’re running a PC or a Mac. Being able to do both at the same time might seem like a no-brainer, but quite a few external hard drives today are still only capable of running one or the other. Why is that? Let’s pause for a second.

External Hard Drive Fact: When shopping for an external HDD, you might run into alphabet soup like NTFS and FAT (or exFAT or FAT32). Okay, here’s the TL;DR version: FAT32 is the oldest filing system format (or how it saves your data) and Macs can still use it, but many newer versions of Windows cannot. This is because there are limits on the sizes of files it can handle. NTFS doesn’t really have those limits, which is why Windows prefers to use the NTFS system. Macs can still read from the NTFS, but they can’t write to a drive formatted in NTFS. Since you usually have to format a brand-new external hard drive when you buy it, you have to choose between NTFS and FAT, depending on whether you have a PC or a Mac.

Seagate Hard Drive front view

Although the Seagate arrived already formatted for PC, it also comes with an NTFS driver for Mac. If you don’t like that they pre-formatted it for you, you can also just erase the entire thing and start from scratch. Once you install the driver (which we found to be pretty easy — it took us just a few minutes), you have a hard drive that both operating systems can use. Again, we thought we lived in the freakin’ future where this should just be standard, but it’s not. Having the ability to switch between the two really came in handy, especially since our team uses both Macs and PCs. Ordinarily this would have been a headache, but with the dual ports, we could plug in multiple computers without worrying about reformatting.

During operation, the Seagate stayed pretty quiet and could handle fairly large data transfers with ease, thanks to the USB 3.0 ports. A 10-gigabyte file transferred from computer to drive in a little under three seconds, which made large-scale backups much easier. Instead of staring at a slowly moving progress bar, we could hit the button and get up to fetch a snack, and before we sat back down again, the backup was complete.

Seagate Hard Drive top and side view

The Seagate does everything a decent HDD should do, but it does have a few weaknesses. For example, it worked just fine with the Xbox One, but not with the PS4. (To be fair, this seems to have more to do with PlayStation than the Seagate.) Also, since it comes with Adobe Creative Cloud, we decided to find out how it would handle a graphics-heavy program like After Effects. The results were exactly as we expected: It didn’t operate as fast as it would on an SSD, but then again, HDDs aren’t really meant to run those kinds of operations.

For a simple, flexible storage solution, the Seagate worked a treat, giving us a ton of space and the ability to use just about any computer without hassle. For users looking for something even more capable, meet us in the $$$ section below.

User Reviews

“I held out for this to come back in stock and it was worth it. Now I can transfer all the data on my PC to this hard drive for backup. Huge worry off my mind. Plus, the two USB outlets on the front of this drive are an absolutely brilliant idea.”
— CELVIS From Best Buy
“This hub is an absolute game-changer. The two USB ports on it allow for me to expand my Macbook's free USB slot into effectively three, which I couldn't find with any other brand. Before, I would have to unplug my drive every time I wanted to print something or check another drive, which made it a nightmare, as well as impossible to transfer files from one drive to another. This allows me to always have it plugged in and plug all of my secondary accessories directly into it. It's also very quiet and incredibly affordable. This has been one of my favorite and most-used purchases this year.”
— xxcjtxx From Amazon
“I purchased this HDD in hopes of using this with the PS4 (firmware update 4.5 allows the use of external hard drives). Unfortunately, this hard drive is not supported with the PS4. After further investigation, no HUB-type hard drives are supported with the PS4. The hard drive is fine and connects without issues with my desktop PC. Just wanted to warn people who were looking for an upgrade for their PS4.”
— Ryan Vaughan From Amazon

Seagate

Better for business

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WD 6TB My Cloud Home

Starting from $260

The Details

Sleek design

6 terabytes of storage

Internet of Things capable

Wi-Fi capable

Size

5.51 x 2.09 x 6.91 in

Weight

2.46 pounds

What / Who It's Best For

  • People who want to access their home storage from *anywhere*
  • Non-technophiles
  • People who want an advanced but simple hard drive

Why We Love It

Okay, this is what the future was supposed to be. The WD My Cloud Home is exactly what it says it is: your own personal cloud. Seriously — it does everything you would want your personal cloud to do. Automatically back up your phone when you walk through the door? Yup. Let Alexa play the music you’ve saved on the hard drive? Sure. Save photos from your vacation in Costa Rica to your home drive while you’re still on vacation in Costa Rica? Yes! It can do that.

WD Hard Drive top and side view

First, a caveat: The WD My Cloud Home is made for the average consumer. In fact, when you start reading its one-star reviews, it becomes clear rather quickly that the majority of those were written by “advanced” computer users who are disappointed that they can’t configure it in all the ways they can a Raspberry Pi or whatever. “This POS isn’t a true NAS device!!! I can’t even assign a static IP address or DNS!!” Um….kay. For the rest of us, though, it does all the stuff you would want, and it does it simply.

When you unbox the drive, you just plug it into your router, turn it on, and then use your phone to complete the setup process. This involves signing up for a WD account; and this is where a lot of the one-star reviews took issue, because because it means having to go through WD to get access to the drive. However, it also means that when you’re halfway across the world, you can see your My Cloud Home drive as though you were sitting right next to it — and save to it as though you were.

WD Hard Drive held in hand

External Hard Drive Fact: RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) is a data storage system that creates a mirror image of everything you save on one hard disk drive to another. So instead of having only one HDD, you have two. If one gets corrupted or stops working, all of your data has been backed up to the other one, so you’ve lost absolutely nothing. Why doesn’t everybody do that? Well, because it costs more; you need at least two hard disks instead of just one.

This version of the My Cloud Home is not a RAID, but there is a version that has two drives: the My Cloud Home Duo (basically the same thing, except it has that extra hard disk, which is why it costs almost twice as much). If you’re the type of person who needs to back up your backups, the My Cloud Home is a good first step.

We had a few issues trying to sync text files to the drive, when newer changes wouldn’t be automatically saved. The My Cloud Home seems to be geared more toward media files, which always synced without issue. You can also email someone a link that gives them read-only access to any file on the drive that you might want to share, without letting them delete or alter it. You can also set up different users for the drive (which came in handy during testing), and each user’s data is automatically hidden from the others.

One of our favorite features was being able to set your phone to automatically back up to the drive whenever you’re on Wi-Fi. You can even ask Alexa to play songs you’ve stored on it. The WD My Cloud Home is a great storage solution for the typical user who doesn’t worry about “subnet masks,” whatever those are. For people who just want a “set and forget” option for backing up their photos and media, the My Cloud makes it easy.

User Reviews

“Love this. Easily connected to my network and was able to set up auto-backup so that I don't have to remember to back it up!”
— Shawnda From Amazon
“Took about 5 to 10 minutes to set up on laptop [and] about a day to transfer 3TB of data uploaded right away to Plex Server.”
— Tony From Best Buy
“I was looking for a Network Attached Storage (NAS). This device is not a NAS. However, as the software continues to improve, it is becoming an essential part of my home network. It acts like any other cloud device or service and is available anywhere you can access the internet. A new feature just added gives you access to a folder called ‘family’ that can be used to share files between people with accounts on the device, much like a NAS.”
— Joe Noble From Amazon

Western Digital

Your personal cloud

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