Best Portable Hard Drive

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How To Pick The Best Portable Hard Drive For You

Your computer system only has so much storage space. Constantly deleting content from your hard drive gets old quickly and you may end up being forced to delete important information you want to save. Additionally, there are times where you want to take information saved on one computer and move it to another. This is where a portable hard drive comes in.

With the aid of a portable hard drive, it’s easy to save a lot of information onto the device and, with the speed of new connection methods, it functions exactly like a hard drive you have installed in your computer, only without the need of upgrading the hard drive in the computer itself. With the number of portable hard drive options out there, you must decide which option works for you and which one will help you achieve what you’re looking for in a portable storage device.

What Is a Portable Hard Drive?

Portable Hard Drive?

A portable hard drive is a device you can easily carry around without a computer system. It typically is a hard drive with a plastic or protective casing wrapped around it. Some hard drives are smaller, around the size of a wallet, while others are larger and designed to sit on a desk. There are also devices called flash drives, which now fit into the same category.

Flash drives are small, portable devices that can plug into the USB port of your computer system while also connecting to a keychain. Flash drives can now store upwards of several hundred gigabytes, which is larger than what a portable hard drive could fit a few years ago. So when shopping around, one of the main elements you’re going to need to consider is how easy you want it to be to carry your storage device around and also how much storage you need.

Why Do You Need a Portable Hard Drive?

hard drive disc

Computer hard drives are often on the smaller side when it comes to a hard drive. Computers now use one of two hard-drive options. There is the older format of hard drive which uses a spinning disc-like device. It works similar to a record player in that the disc spins and an arm reads the information. These hard drives are slower but can store substantially more information in the same amount of space.

The second option is a solid state drive. This uses flash drive technology, similar to a flash drive you plug into your USB port or the memory used by your smartphone. It recalls information immediately and doesn’t run as hot because there aren’t any moving parts. However, you can’t have as much information stored on it.

Many computer systems, especially laptops, have done away with the older spinning hard drives to cut down on the size of the computer, the amount of power it requires, and the heat it generates (by removing the spinning hard drive most computers no longer need a fan to cool the hard drive). However, this cuts down on the amount of storage space you have on your computer.

Because the amount of storage space you have is limited, you’ll likely fill it up quickly (especially with how large image and video files are nowadays). Instead of trying to upgrade your hard drive, which is expensive (and with some laptops it is difficult to pull the entire computer apart for the upgrade), you can invest in a portable hard drive. With so many options, you need to consider what works best.

What Is the Best Portable Hard Drive for You?

woman using laptop

There are several features on a portable hard drive you need to consider before making a purchase. There are many options out there, which is why you need to take a hard look at what you need, how much you’re willing to spend, and the files you’re working with. All of this will play a role in what the best portable hard drive is for you.

Data Size

Data Size

This is one of the driving factors for the right portable hard drive. With the continued advancement of flash storage, it is possible to purchase especially large hard drives. Many portable hard drives that are no larger than the size of your wallet can store upwards of a terabyte worth of data. Others, which use the spinning disc method, can store upwards of five terabytes. If you’re just storing your personal photographs and other information, you likely won’t need this kind of space. Having a hard drive of this size is generally only needed if you’re editing videos regularly.

If you don’t need this amount of storage, there are other options. Flash drives, which cost less, can hold several hundred megabytes and can attach to a keychain. These slip easily into a pocket in your pants or in a backpack. You may like the smaller size, or you may want something that is larger (and not as difficult to lose). Whenever considering a portable hard drive, you always need to look at space.

Connection Method

Connection Method

The connection method for hooking up a hard drive to your computer has shifted over the years. You previously needed to look at many options to maximize data connection speed. Now you only need to look at two different connections, and this is only the case if you plan on running programs from the hard drive or if you’re saving large files, like videos or animation projects, on the hard drive.

Portable hard drives will connect to your computer through either a USB-2 or USB-3 connection. Now, both USB ports look the same. However, in terms of speed, you want USB-3. USB-2 is substantially slower and will not work if you want to run a larger program off the portable hard drive. It will also take longer to transfer files in between. You may pay a little bit more for USB-3, but this is a better investment if you plan on running larger files between connected computers.

Hard Drive Type

types of hard drive

There are three different hard drive types you need to consider when looking at a portable hard drive. First, there are portable drives that use the spinning disc technology. These drives are larger and can usually store more information than the other options. However, these drives are bulkier and, while the drives are portable, you still don’t want to risk dropping the drive. Because the drive has some moving parts, if any part of the drive is damaged during a fall the entire drive will no longer work. This could be five terabytes worth of information you no longer can access without a full hard drive repair. These kinds of drives, while portable, are best served remaining on a desk.

The second option is a portable hard drive that uses SSD technology. The drive isn’t as large, but it is smaller and more durable. These drives might be about the size of your cell phone and can still save more than a terabyte worth of data. The drives have non-moving parts so if the drive falls to the ground it likely is fine (although it’s best not to risk it when possible). The drives are smaller, compact, and easy to carry. While it may not hold as much information, it can still pack a punch, and you won’t need to worry if it’s in a travel bag and the flight attendant pushes your bag deeper into the overhead compartment.

The third option is the flash drive. This is the smallest option out there. It’s easy to carry, fits in a pocket and can still store a few hundred gigabytes. While not technically a “hard drive,” it is one option to consider as it is the cheapest option and, depending on the amount of storage you’re in need of, this might be the better option to look at.

Home Networking


The last variable to consider when selecting a portable hard drive is if you want to use it for home networking. If you’re interested in creating a home cloud storage option you can save to from anywhere in the world and pull information from anywhere in the world where you have an Internet connection, there are some hard drives specially designed for this.

You can use any hard drive for a basic home network, in which case you need to be connected to the wireless network to save or download files from the drive. Only specific hard drives allow you to create the home cloud storage option, though. You must check the packaging of the portable hard drive to see if this is an option, but with this kind of configuration, you may never again need to travel with your hard drive. Your cloud network will have all the files whenever you need it.


There are several portable hard drive options available. You need to look at what you’re in need of and what works best for your personal and professional requirements. With so many brands and uses, you’ll find a drive perfect for your budget and what you’re looking to do with the drive.

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