After spending 21 hours researching and testing and shuffling thousands of files across eight drives, we found that the best portable hard drive for most people is the 2 TB Seagate Backup Plus Slim.
The 2 TB Seagate Backup Plus Slim is one of the lightest, thinnest hard drives we tested, and it was consistently faster than the competition in our multifile music and photo transfer tests. More importantly, it’s reliable. The Slim was our top pick for two and a half years before being bested by the lighter, faster Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Slim. But the Ultra Slim’s reported failure rate skyrocketed after we picked it, so we no longer recommend it. We’ve switched our pick back to the tried-and-true Slim, which has a low 6.5 percent reported failure rate among nearly 9,000 user reviews. We recommend the 2 TB model because it’s the best value. Seagate includes handy backup software and 200 GB of free OneDrive storage for two years.
If you want more storage and don’t mind a larger, heavier drive, we recommend the 4 TB Seagate Backup Plus Portable. It costs less per terabyte than the 2 TB Backup Plus Slim, and it was a little faster in some of our tests, but it’s twice as thick, almost twice as heavy, and was slower in important multifile transfer tests. (Make sure not to buy the 4 TB Seagate Backup Plus Fast by mistake—that’s a different drive that we do not recommend.)
Seagate also sells a 5 TB version of the Portable, which was a little faster in our tests but is otherwise identical. Right now it’s more expensive per terabyte, so we don’t recommend it over the 4 TB model unless you’re sure you need the extra space.
If you can afford to pay a lot more for a smaller, lighter, and much faster portable drive with included encryption, we recommend the Samsung Portable SSD T3. In our tests, the 500 GB Samsung T3 was more than five times faster than the Seagate Backup Plus Slim. It’s also less likely to break if you drop it. But the Samsung T3 is about ten times more expensive per gigabyte than the Seagate Backup Plus Slim, so it isn’t the best option for everyone. The 1 TB capacity is a better value per gigabyte, but we recommend the 500 GB model because most people don’t want to spend more than $350 for a drive.
The Wirecutter has been researching and recommending hard drives since early 2012, and our PC team has over 7 years of combined experience testing hard drives and solid-state drives. We’ve spent more than 170 hours researching and testing portable hard drives in just the past three years.
When was the last time you backed up all your important photos and documents? Everyone should back up their data, and an external drive is one important part of a good backup strategy.
If you want your drive to live on your desk and never budge, a desktop external hard drive is better than a portable one because it offers faster transfer speeds and can give you more storage for less money. For example, our favorite desktop drive—which isn’t the speediest out there—is about 50 MB/s faster than our portable pick and about $13 cheaper per terabyte as of this writing.
This guide is for anyone who needs a drive they can keep in their bag and use to back up photos and other data while you’re traveling. With this type of drive, you’ll be paying more per terabyte and sacrificing some speed, but portable drives are smaller and lighter than desktop drives and don’t need an additional power adapter. They’re also designed to withstand a little more abuse, though one bump or drop can still lead to failure.
Portable hard drives have smaller platters and slower rotation speeds than desktop drives, which translates to slower read and write times and longer waits for file transfers1. They’re also smaller in capacity. Right now, the highest capacity portable hard drives hold 5 TB; 3.5-inch desktop external drives go all the way up to 8 TB.
The most important features for a portable hard drive are reliability, build quality, physical size, and weight, followed closely by speed, warranty, customer service, and price per gigabyte.
Your hard drive’s prime directive is to keep your data safe, which means reliability is the most important criterion.2 All hard drives fail sooner or later, but your portable drive should last until you upgrade to a faster, more spacious drive in a few years.
A portable drive needs to be sturdy, compact, and lightweight. It must be bus-powered—no power cable necessary. It ought to have a USB 3.0 connection and a decent warranty with strong customer support. It should also withstand normal wear and tear from being handled often and stuffed into your bag.
(Rugged portable drives are bulkier and more expensive than the portable drives we recommend for most people. We tested three rugged models over the past year, but they failed to live up to their waterproof and shockproof ratings. You can read more on why we don’t recommend them below.)
Even though portable external drives are generally slower than desktop ones, speed is still important. You’re more likely to use a portable drive to transfer large files between different computers, so a faster drive will save you time.
We considered only those drives with USB 3.0 connections. Anything faster isn’t necessary for portable hard drives, because they’re limited by disk speed, not the USB interface. Portable SSDs can benefit from USB 3.1 Gen 2: SanDisk’s Extreme 900 SSD is around seven times faster than our top picks, but it’s also seven times as expensive³. As the new USB standard becomes more common and the prices of solid-state drives drop, we expect to find an affordable portable SSD with USB 3.1 Gen 2. For now, USB 3.0 is fine.
We recommend getting the largest capacity you can afford right now because you’ll amass more data over time, and larger drives generally have a better price-per-terabyte value. Mechanical hard drives aren’t likely to get much faster, so until high-capacity SSDs become even cheaper, the hard drive you get today will be your best bet for the next three or four years.
Backup software is a nice perk, but you can find lots of free alternatives and other great options for online backup services. If you don’t need the extra features provided by the software, it’s not worth the time and effort to set it up on every computer you use. Dragging and dropping files works just fine.
We scoured the websites of major portable-drive manufacturers such as Adata, G-Technology, ioSafe, LaCie, Samsung, Seagate, Silicon Power, Toshiba, Transcend, and Western Digital for any new models that have been released since our last major update in May 2016. We came up with a list of 25 promising new contenders.
We winnowed the list down to eight portable drives that fit our price, speed, and capacity requirements and had good reviews from trusted sources like AnandTech, CNET’s Dong Ngo, StorageReview.com or positive Amazon reviews. Then we tested the drives ourselves, examining seven general-use portable hard drives and one ruggedized hard drive.
For each hard drive, we ran HD Tune Pro, a benchmarking program that tests transfer speeds, access time, burst rate, and CPU usage across the entire disk. You can read a more in-depth explanation of the program at the HD Tune website. We also timed a series of file transfers—a 7.07 GB folder of photos, a 19.7 GB music collection, and a 45.5 GB rip of a Blu-ray movie—from start to finish, running each transfer three times and determining the average to rule out performance hiccups. We explored each drive’s bundled software to find out how useful and user-friendly it is.
In addition to conducting speed tests, we tested the durability of our rugged contender according to the IPX7 and MIL-STD-810G 516.6-VI transit-drop-test military specifications they advertise, like we’ve done for previous rugged drives. We tossed the drive into a pool 3 feet deep and left it there for 29 minutes, after which we dropped it from a height of 48 inches on each face, edge, and corner. None of the drives we’ve tested this way have ever survived. (More on our rugged hard drive adventure below.)
For solid-state drives, we used CrystalDiskMark and ATTO Disk Benchmark to test each drive’s sequential and random speeds, and we timed the same set of file transfers we use for hard drives. We ran all these tests on the Asus ROG G752VT-DH72, our best gaming laptop. Its PCIe solid-state drive was more than fast enough to avoid bottlenecking all the drives we tested.
The 2 TB Seagate Backup Plus Slim is the best portable hard drive for most people because it’s reliable, and reliability is the most important factor for any data storage device. It’s also lighter and smaller than most of the other hard drives we tested, was consistently faster than the competition in our multifile music and photo transfer tests, and it’s one of the least expensive drives per terabyte we tested, too. The Slim comes with handy backup software and 200 GB of free OneDrive storage for two years.
The Slim has been our top pick since April 2014, except for a three-month period when it was superseded by its successor, the Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Slim. The Ultra Slim’s reported failure rate has skyrocketed since we began recommending it, so we’ve switched our pick back to the Slim.
In January 2017, we recorded 587 failure reports out of 8,948 user reviews for the Slim, giving the Slim a 6.5 percent reported failure rate—that’s especially good for a drive that’s been around for three years4. The 2 TB model we recommend has an even lower failure rate at 5.9 percent. During our years of testing, we’ve found that anything below 10 percent isn’t cause for concern. This is far from a perfect measure, but it’s the best we have for now.
The Seagate Backup Plus Slim is one of the thinnest and lightest portable hard drives we tested. It’s less than half an inch thick—0.48, to be exact—and it weighs just 5.6 ounces, making it easy to throw into a bag when you’re on the go. It’s 4.47 inches long and 2.99 inches wide. The only drive that is lighter and thinner than the Slim is the Ultra Slim, which we discuss more in the competition section below.
The Slim was roughly as fast as the rest of the competition, and it was even faster in multifile music and photo transfer tests. Although the Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Slim was one minute faster at transferring a 45.5 GB Blu-ray rip of a movie and its read and write speeds were 17.5 MB/s and 8.3 MB/s faster than the Slim’s in our HD Tune test, the Slim’s long-term record of reliability makes it our pick over the faster, thinner Ultra Slim, which has been plagued by high failure rates since our last update.
The Seagate Backup Plus Slim’s sturdy plastic case doesn’t flex or creak under pressure like many other drives do. It also stands up well to light scratches from keys—only the glossy black sides dinged up in our tests. Although our pick will hold up well to normal bag friction, it isn’t rated to survive any significant shocks. (Though even shock-resistant hard drives can still die on impact.)
We recommend the 2 TB Seagate Backup Plus Slim because it’s less expensive per terabyte than 1 TB model, and it’s the highest capacity option the Slim has. (If you need more space, consider the 4 TB Seagate Backup Plus Portable.) Even if you have only a terabyte of data right now, your needs will expand over the drive’s lifespan, and having room to grow is better than buying multiple drives and spending more in the long run.
The user-friendly Seagate Dashboard interface lets you back up your PC, mobile devices, and social media, or restore an existing backup. Our pick also now comes with 200 GB of free OneDrive storage for two years. (OneDrive’s current storage tiers at the time of writing are 50 GB for $2 per month, or 1 TB plus an Office 365 subscription for $7 per month, with no options in the middle.) So far, no competitors offer similar cloud storage bundles.
The Seagate Mobile Backup app for iOS and Android also backs up contacts, messages, photos, and other data from your smartphone to your hard drive via Wi-Fi or your phone’s data connection as long as the drive is plugged into a computer running the Dashboard software.
As PCSTATS notes, the Backup Plus Slim’s USB port wobbles up and down when pressure is applied to the cable more than with other drives. Always disconnect the cable before stashing the drive in a drawer or bag. The USB connection is the weakest point in the external drive, and if you break the port, you won’t be able to access your data until you find a new enclosure.
The Seagate Backup Plus Slim comes with a two-year warranty—Western Digital, Seagate’s biggest competitor, offers more drives with three-year warranties—and our perusal of Amazon reviews turned up more complaints about Seagate’s customer service than about WD’s. However, a two-year warranty should be sufficient, and several drives we’ve tested have only one-year warranties, so we don’t think this is a dealbreaker.
Seagate also sells one- and two-year data recovery plans, but we’ve seen several reviewers complain about long waits and a lack of communication from Seagate customer service. Instead, we recommend taking 15 minutes to set up an automatic backup that sends your files to an external drive and encrypted cloud storage without any regular action from you. Data recovery plans never guarantee success, and a thorough backup system is the only way to prevent data loss.
Our pick doesn’t have encryption to protect your data from prying eyes. While the option to encrypt would be nice, it isn’t a dealbreaker for most people. If you really need encryption, use an encryption utility like Veracrypt (or Bitlocker) or skip ahead to our portable solid-state drive recommendation.
In July 2015, CNET’s Dong Ngo updated his March 2014 review of the Seagate Backup Plus Slim. The updated review calls our pick “[f]ast and affordable” and “one of the best deals on the market if you want want lots of storage space on the go.” In CNET’s tests, the Seagate Backup Plus Slim had the best speeds of any portable hard drive (not counting the RAID 0 Seagate Backup Plus Fast, which you shouldn’t get); with results of 125 MB/s read and 118 MB/s write, it was “one of the fastest of its type.”
StorageReview.com’s 2014 review says the Backup Plus Slim offers “great performance, unbeatable price and one of the best bundled software suites for managing backups both locally and on the go.” The review also calls it “an impressive portable hard drive for its physical size and capacity” and “one of the more competitively priced portable drives.”
On Amazon the various capacities of the Seagate Backup Plus Slim together have a 4.3-star rating (out of five) with 8,948 user reviews at the time of this writing.
If you need more storage—say, for a desktop computer—or if you simply don’t mind a thicker, heavier drive, you should get the 4 TB Seagate Backup Plus Portable. It costs less per terabyte than the 2 TB Backup Plus Slim, and it was a bit faster in HD Tune and Blu-ray file transfer tests. But it was slower in our multifile music and photo transfer tests, and the 4 TB drive is much thicker and heavier than the Slim. It’s the best option if you care more about price and storage space than size. (But don’t buy the 4 TB Seagate Backup Plus Fast by mistake. We don’t recommend that drive, because with two 2 TB drives inside, it has higher potential to fail.)
Seagate now sells a 5 TB model that’s the same dimensions and weight as the 4 TB version, but we found the larger capacity to be about 5 percent faster. The 5 TB model was about 6 MB/s faster than the 4 TB model in HD Tune tests and 18 seconds faster at reading and writing the Blu-ray rip. But it’s more expensive per terabyte right now, so we don’t recommend it over the 4 TB model unless you’re sure you need the extra space in a portable drive, rather than a faster, cheaper desktop drive.
The 4 TB Seagate Backup Plus Portable only costs around $40 more than the 2 TB Seagate Backup Plus Slim, making it considerably cheaper per terabyte. If you need the extra capacity in a drive that’s still portable, this is the best option. But if you want the fastest, most cost-effective drive and don’t care about portability, take a look at our desktop hard drive pick instead. It’s cheaper per terabyte and faster than the Backup Plus Portable, though it requires an AC adapter.
The Backup Plus Portable was a little faster than the Backup Plus Slim in the HD Tune benchmark, entering results of 100.6 MB/s read and 93.5 MB/s write—12.8 MB/s and 6.7 MB/s faster, respectively, than the Slim. The Portable performed respectably in our file transfer tests, but the Slim was faster at transferring a folder of photos and a music collection. Both models are fast and reliable, and you should expect to see similar everyday performance from these drives.
The extra capacity comes with a minor downside: The Portable is larger and heavier than the Slim. Measuring 4.51 by 3.07 by 0.81 inches and weighing 8.6 ounces, the Portable is almost twice as thick and heavy as the Slim. Otherwise the Portable’s build quality is identical to the Slim’s, down to the slightly wobbly USB port.
The Backup Plus Portable comes with the exact same software and bonus OneDrive storage as the Slim, and you can read our thoughts on that in the section above.
PCMag gave the Portable an Editors’ Choice award, writing, “The Seagate Backup Plus Portable Drive gives you 4 terabytes of speedy storage you can take with you, as well as a personal cloud, all for a very reasonable price.”
If you can tolerate paying a lot more for a smaller, lighter, and faster portable drive with hardware encryption, we recommend the Samsung Portable SSD T3. It’s more than five times faster than the Seagate Backup Plus Slim, and because it’s an SSD, it’s hardier too. However, it costs about ten times more per gigabyte than the Seagate Backup Plus Slim does, so it isn’t affordable for most people.
Solid-state drives like the Samsung T3 are more reliable than portable hard drives. SSDs lack moving parts, and so are less susceptible than mechanical drives to total failure when dropped or jostled. Instead, solid-state drives wear out a bit every time you write data to them. You’d have to write hundreds of terabytes of data to even begin wearing out the drive, though, and very, very few people will ever get near that limit.
The Samsung T3 has an aluminum body and weighs just 1.8 ounces. It’s less than half an inch thick and about as long and wide as a credit card. It’s less than half the size of the Backup Plus Slim and about a third of the weight. It’s better-constructed than its predecessor, the T1, and a bit heavier and more substantial-feeling. Even so, everyone we handed it to was amazed at how small and light it is.
The 500 GB Samsung T3 had sequential read and write speeds of 441.9 MB/s and 451.7 MB/s, respectively, in the CrystalDiskMark test. The T3 didn’t surpass the other portable SSDs we tried in every test we ran, but it never lagged far behind the fastest model in a given test. In our synthetic benchmarks, the Samsung T3 was more than five times faster than the Seagate Backup Plus Slim; when transferring a Blu-ray movie rip, the T3 was two-and-a-half times faster than the Slim.
Although the Samsung T3 is smaller, lighter, faster, and more durable than our hard drive recommendation, it costs about ten times more per gigabyte—at this writing, about 39¢ per gigabyte versus the Seagate Backup Plus Slim’s 4¢. Among the available capacities of the T3, we recommend the 500 GB model for most people; though the 1 TB model is more cost-effective, it typically carries a price tag of more than $350. The 250 GB version is too small for many people, and the 2 TB drive—though it’s the cheapest per gigabyte as of this writing—costs a stunning $730.
The Samsung T3 has AES-256 hardware encryption, a feature few other portable solid-state drives offer. However, the encryption and unlock software is available only on Windows, MacOS, and Android, so if you want to use the drive on a computer with another operating system, you won’t be able to encrypt it. (This situation is still better than with the T1, its predecessor, which couldn’t work at all, even unencrypted, without your first setting it up on Windows or MacOS.)
If you encrypt the T3 through Samsung’s software, you won’t be able to unlock the drive or access any data on an OS other than Windows, MacOS, or Android. If you forget your encryption password, all your data is gone forever, and you’ll have to send the drive to Samsung for a factory reset just to be able to use the drive again. Samsung makes the encryption optional, though, so if you worry about losing the password or need to use the drive on an unsupported OS, don’t encrypt the drive.
The Samsung T3 supports USB 3.1 and comes with an 18-inch USB A-to-C cable. Samsung also includes a Velcro tie to make the drive and the longer cord easier to transport and store. We wish the T3 also came with a USB C-to-C cable, but that isn’t a dealbreaker. Accompanying the Samsung T3 is a three-year warranty—longer coverage than our Seagate picks have, but in line with the warranties of the other solid-state drives we tested.
CNET’s Dong Ngo reviewed both the T3 and the earlier T1. Ngo writes, “The T3 is slightly easier to use than the T1. It’s pre-formatted in the exFAT format, meaning it will work with both Windows and Mac computers immediately without requiring a setup process, which the T1 needed.”
AnandTech’s review of the Samsung T3 concludes, “The metal enclosure helps in heat dissipation and also provides a more premium feel compared to the all-plastic T1. The AES-256 encryption process / password protection works seamlessly (unlike the T1, where the unit had a separate FAT32 partition), even in Android.”
In early 2016, we tested the two most promising affordable rugged hard drives: our former rugged pick, the Silicon Power Armor A80, and the newer Silicon Power Armor A65. In October, we tested the Silicon Power Armor A85, a newer, faster drive rated to be even more rugged than its predecessors.
All three hard drives are rated to survive going up to 1 meter (about 3.3 feet) underwater for up to 30 minutes, and rated to survive 26 drops on their various surfaces from 4 feet. So we tested the ruggedness of the drives by tossing them into a pool 3 feet deep and leaving them there for 29 minutes, and then dropping them from a height of 4 feet on each face, edge, and corner. None of them survived.
After 29 minutes in the pool, the A85, A80, and A65 were wet inside as water had leaked from their USB ports. They did not work. We ripped the casings open5 and left the bare drives and USB-to-SATA connectors in dry rice overnight in a pessimistic-but-dutiful attempt to revive the drives (and access the movie we’d stashed there before the test). To our surprise, all three drives dried out. We reassembled the enclosures and plugged in the drives to find our movie intact and the drives working. So we dropped them on the floor.
We were unable to complete our drop test on the Armor A85 because we couldn’t fully reassemble the drive. We still don’t recommend it because it failed our water submersion test, and hard drive technology is inherently vulnerable to drops and shocks regardless of protective casing.
The A80 and the A65, which we were able to reassemble, survived 16 and 17 drops, respectively. Our computer stopped recognizing the A80 after its 17th impact, and the A65 refused to connect after its 18th collision with the floor. (We opened the drives again to look for any loose connectors we could fix, but no dice.) In short, neither drive we drop tested survived the abuse they’re advertised to endure.
As such, we don’t recommend a rugged portable drive for most people. The three best-rated and most-affordable drives in our research didn’t live up to their water and shock ratings, and the other options are all overkill and far more expensive. If you’re concerned about dropping your drive, you should consider a solid-state drive. SSDs cost more, but they offer faster performance, and your data won’t fall victim to butterfingers. If you’re worried about water, get a Loksak to protect your drive.
We don’t think wireless portable hard drives are useful for most people at this point, but we recommend the WD My Passport Wireless Pro 2 TB for professional photographers on the move. The drive’s SD card slot (a feature other wireless hard drives lack) can automatically copy the contents of a memory card to its internal hard disk, and built-in Wi-Fi makes the images available to mobile devices running iOS, Android, MacOS, or Windows. It’s also available in a 3 TB capacity.
Different operating systems use different file systems to process data, and if you buy an external drive you may need to reformat it to work with your operating system of choice. (While it’s true that any drive is compatible with both Windows and Mac, most drives come preformatted for Windows out of the box.) Non-Linux computers can use four main file systems: NTFS, HFS+, FAT32, and exFAT. So which file system is right for you?
If you plan to use your drive for File History or Time Machine backups, or if you use only one operating system, stick to NTFS for Windows or HFS+ for Mac. NTFS is native to Windows, and most hard drives—including our pick and our runner-up—are preformatted for this file system. MacOS and Linux, however, can only read files stored that way; they cannot write to an NTFS-formatted drive. HFS+ is the default MacOS file system, and a drive formatted this way will not mount on a Windows computer without additional software.
If you need to transfer large files between Mac and Windows computers—and if you plan to back up your data without File History or Time Machine—exFAT is the best option. exFAT works between MacOS and Windows, but doesn’t have the 4GB size limit that FAT32 does, which means you’ll be able to back up movies and other large files.
Reformatting a drive will delete all the data stored on that drive, so if you need to reformat a drive, do so as soon as you buy it. If you already have data stored on the drive, back that data up elsewhere, reformat the drive, and then put your data back on the drive.
To reformat a drive on Windows, plug in the drive and open Windows Explorer. Right-click the drive and choose Format from the drop-down menu. Select the file system you want, give your drive a name under Volume label, and make sure the Quick Format box is checked. Click Start, and the computer will reformat your drive.
To reformat your drive for MacOS, plug in the drive and open the Finder. Click the Go menu, select Utilities from the drop-down menu, and open Disk Utility. Choose your external drive from the left sidebar, and click Erase. Give your drive a name and select the file system you want from the Format drop-down. Click Erase, and the system will reformat your drive.
The Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Slim was our pick from November 2016 to late January 2017 because it was the lightest, thinnest, fastest portable hard drive we’d tested, and it had a reported failure rate of just 4.2 percent. Since then, however, the failure rate has gone way up: In late January 2017, we calculated a rate of 14 percent based on Amazon reviews. Anything above 10 percent is cause for concern, especially within the first year of a drive’s lifespan.
We reached out to Seagate about the issue, and the company provided us with this comment: “Of the millions of Seagate Backup Ultra Slim devices shipped since last year, Seagate can confirm that there has been no significant difference in the return rate compared to similar models like the Backup Plus Slim.” It’s true that reported failure rate is not always indicative of a large systemic issue, since people are more likely to write a review if something goes wrong with their device than if everything goes as expected. But until the drive’s reported failure rate lowers, we cannot recommend it.
If you’ve purchased the Ultra Slim, we recommend staying backed up to the cloud as well as to the drive. This tactic will help prevent data loss in the event that your drive does fail, and it’s something we suggest for all storage. If you’re experiencing issues with the drive or have concerns about data loss, you may want to look into returning it and replacing it with the Slim, which has maintained a lower reported failure rate over three years than the Ultra Slim has in one. If you’re out of the return window and your drive fails, we recommend exchanging the drive under Seagate’s warranty.
The Seagate Expansion was a former cheap alternative recommendation. It’s still a decent choice if you want to expand your gaming console’s storage or don’t need software, but in our tests, the Seagate Backup Plus Slim was faster and costs the same per terabyte. Plus, the Expansion is larger and heavier than the Slim, and it comes with a short one-year warranty.
The newly redesigned Western Digital My Passport is bigger, heftier, and more expensive than the Slim. It was also slower in all our file transfer tests, despite a confounding 201.8 MB/s read speed during our HD Tune test.
Transcend’s 2 TB StoreJet 25M3 is a fine drive, but the Seagate Backup Plus Slim is smaller, lighter, and cheaper per terabyte.
The WD My Passport Ultra is slower, more expensive per terabyte, and bulkier than the Seagate Backup Plus Slim. In addition, its glossy surface scratches easily and shows every smudge and fingerprint.
The WD My Passport Ultra Metal is slower, heavier, and more expensive than the regular Ultra. Its metal top is a nice design touch, but the bottom of the drive is still plastic. It’s not worth the extra cost over the Ultra (or over our picks).
Toshiba’s Canvio Connect II is also thicker and heavier than our picks. Toshiba’s software was less useful than Seagate’s or WD’s in our tests, and the Canvio Connect II also came bundled with some useless bloatware. (Like the exterior of the WD My Passport Ultra, the Canvio Connect II’s glossy surface shows scratches and smudges.)
WD’s My Passport X is a gaming-focused drive with a short, one-year warranty and no software. Of all the drives we tested, it had the slowest HD Tune reads and writes—82.5 MB/s and 77.4 MB/s, respectively—and it’s larger and heavier than our picks.
The Toshiba Canvio Basics has a one-year warranty, no software, and a bulkier design than either of our picks.
Measuring 3.6 by 2.4 by 0.4 inches and weighing just under 2 ounces, the Transcend ESD400K Portable SSD was the largest portable SSD we tested. It’s slower than the Samsung Portable SSD T3 (and its discontinued predecessor, the T1), its backup software is difficult to navigate, and it lacks built-in encryption.
The MyDigitalSSD OTG is similar to the Samsung T3 in size, weight, and speed, but the drive casing feels creaky, and its USB cable has a bulky ferrite bead in its center. The OTG comes with no software, and on our test machine the drive failed to mount multiple times.
We still haven’t tested the SanDisk Extreme 900 Portable SSD, but at the moment it costs about $100 more than the Samsung T3 for equivalent storage. If the price drops, we’ll revisit it.
We also dismissed a number of drives without testing them for various reasons:
LaCie’s Rugged Triple and Mini are both too expensive to compete with our top pick, and they lack the water protection necessary to consider them for a rugged option. The LaCie Rugged USB-C fails to qualify for a rugged pick on the same grounds.
The SanDisk Extreme 500 Portable SSD is a decent alternative to the Samsung T3—it’s less expensive and more durable—but we don’t recommend it because of the slower random speeds we found in StorageReview’s tests. Plus, its highest available configuration is 480GB. We didn’t consider the ruggedized SanDisk Extreme 510 Portable for the same reasons.
The Seagate Backup Plus Fast and WD My Passport Pro each contain two drives in a RAID 0 configuration, which makes them faster but twice as likely to fail. These drives aren’t a good choice for backing up data.
The LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt costs nearly twice as much as the Samsung T3 for the same amount of storage. It’s still the best option for professionals who need a rugged Thunderbolt drive, but it’s overkill for everyone else. There’s a new version of the LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt, but it’s still way too expensive and it was unavailable for this update. The G-Technology G-Drive ev SSD is also larger and twice as expensive as the Samsung.
All the other SSDs we looked at—the Angelbird SSD2go, Angelbird SSD2go pocket, Brinell Drive SSD, Brinell SSD EVO, LaCie Porsche Slim, Monster Digital Overdrive 3.0, MyDigitalSSD PocketVault, Oyen Digital Shadow Mini, SanDisk Extreme 510 Portable SSD, and Transcend Thunderbolt SSD—were larger than our pick, too expensive, slower, or some combination of the three.
We eliminated 10 other rugged drives in our previous update that lack both water and drop protection, which left us with the G-Technology G-Drive ev ATC, the ioSafe Rugged Portable, and the LaCie Rugged RAID, all of which cost too much for most people.
Western Digital released the My Passport SSD, which WD claims has speeds of 515 MB/s. It offers a USB-C port (along with a USB-C-to-USB-A adapter cable, in case your existing computer doesn’t support USB-C or Thunderbolt 3), and the 512 GB version of the drive currently costs roughly the same as the Samsung T3, at $200. We will check out this WD unit soon and see how it compares with our upgrade pick.