Best External Hard Drive for Photographers
As a photographer, you want to be free in your element, and keep snapping away without a care in the world. However, high-quality digital photographs and footage take up significant space, and, depending on your output, that space can be eaten up pretty quickly. Below are some of the best, and most reliable, storage solutions for your portfolios.
Best Buy external hard drive for photographers – Overall
Samsung X5 Portable SSD
The sheeny X5 Portable SSD from Samsung is a no-brainer pick for the best hard drive for your photography. It ticks all of the boxes and then creates new boxes and ticks those as well. The elegant design sees it take a form that is similar to a bar of soap, and the underlying tech ensures a level of performance that is just as smooth.
The X5 is made from metal right round. The gray top is a glossy finish, while the red bottom is grippy to prevent slips. Samsung itself states that the body of the SSD is inspired by supercars, and the body features sleek curves and lines. The X5 drive is completely portable thanks to its dimensions and specifications. It measures 4.7 inches in length, 2.4 inches in width, and 0.8 inches in width.
Photographers should also take note of the X5’s incredible durability. The drive is shock-resistant and, thanks to its magnesium alloy reinforcement, it can survive drops from almost 7 feet. The SSD also makes use of Samsung’s clever Dynamic Thermal Guard technology, which regulates the hard drive’s temperature to maintain performance. Samsung was also savvy enough to place a heat sink between the SSD circuitry and the outer shell. This trick ensures that the X5’s surface temperature never exceeds 45oC (113oF).
The solid-state drive makes use of NVMe technology, the first Samsung SSD to do so. This is a massive upgrade from the older SATA technology, which is held back by its need to cater to both SSDs and HDDs. NVMe is specially engineered SSD tech so it has no such restrictions. All of that power is funneled via the blistering Thunderbolt 3 interface for rapid and effortless file management.
Numbers-wise, the X5 is advertised to be capable of read speeds of 2 800 MB/s, and write speeds of up to 2 300 MB/s. On the ground though, you can expect 2 410 MB/s read speed and 1 708 MB/s write speed on macOS. The numbers are lower on Windows 10, with read speeds of about 2 300 MB/s and write speeds of 598 MB/s.
In everyday use, the discrepancies in transfer speeds might not be a major concern, and the X5 is perfect for all photography work. However, if you intend to run heavy apps directly from the hard drive, you might experience a bit of lagging here and there on devices without Thunderbolt 3 support.
The X5 also features fantastic security features that help protect your data. I don’t need to spend too much time alerting photographers to the very real threat of intellectual property theft. Fear no longer, thanks to the AES 256-bit encryption technology that the X5 is packing. The drive can be protected using a password that is set up and managed via the included X5 software.
For a top tier hard drive, the capacity options are somewhat disappointing. The X5 is available with 500GB, 1TB, or 2TB capacities. I suppose that was the price Samsung had to pay to create a device this small. However, for the ACTUAL price you pay for this hard drive (and it is quite considerable), you wouldn’t be blamed for wanting more space. For professional photographers though, the 2TB model is still a perfect long-term choice.
Samsung offers a great 3-year warranty, with full firmware updates and support, for the X5. Unfortunately, software updates for the X5 are only available on Windows.
Best Buy external hard drive for photographers – Budget pick
Megaz Backup Slim HDD
If you are after an affordable backup solution for your photos, you should take a look at the Backup Slim, a handy HDD from Megaz. The drive is portable, well designed, and ready for plug and play on either Windows or Mac. Head over to Amazon and check out all the great deals available for this great budget hard drive.
The Backup Slim is held in a plastic case with glossy sides and a matted out top. The hard drive measures 4.52 inches in length, 3.15 inches in width, and 0.4 inches in height. It weighs in at 5.6 ounces (140 grams). Overall, the design feels solid and of good quality. Expect several years of reliability from this humble workhorse.
The HDD is very user-friendly too. Simply plug it in and you’re ready to get going. It comes pre-formatted, making it ready for immediate use on macOS as well as Windows.
Unfortunately, Backup Slim does not make use of USB-C. However, if you are going to be using this device to house photos, then the USB 3.0 will still be perfectly fine. Observable transfer speeds are pretty good for an HDD of its class.
The Backup Slim is available with 160GB, 250GB, 320GB, 500GB, or 1TB storage capacities. Some may find this a bit disappointing but, hey, we’re trying to save money, right? I would recommend that you get the 500GB model to use as a secondary hard drive. The Backup Slim is also a great “in the meantime” storage solution while you save up for a larger drive.
The manufacturer offers a 3-year warranty, with full refunds or replacements for any faulty devices. They also offer a money-back guarantee for any reason within 45 days of purchase. Talk about customer service.
The perfect budget solution for your photography needs.
Best Buy external hard drive for photographers – Best of the rest
G-Technology G-DRIVE R-Series
On paper, the G-DRIVE R- Series could very well be the best external hard drive on this list. Yet another fine piece of engineering fresh off the G-Technology conveyor belt. Design, function, variability, et cetera. The only question is where to start.
They say it only takes about 7 seconds to form a first impression. I say it takes a fraction of that to establish that the G-DRIVE is an efficient, futuristic, and sophisticated device that is ready for both business and personal matters. Rugged, yet suave. Tiny, yet virtually indestructible. It sort of reminds me of the old Nokia 3310.
The design is an aluminum case, with a ventilation system along the side. If you stand it vertically, it looks like a supervillain’s skyscraper lair. The drive measures 3.7 inches in length, 2 inches in width, and 0.6 inches in height. It weighs in at 3 ounces. The drive is available in a charcoal gray body with silver trim at the interface end. There is also a large “G” emblazoned on the front of the drive. G-DRIVE…I get it now.
Outdoor photographers, who are prone to unforeseen splashes in the wilderness, will be pleased to know that this hard drive is certified IP67 water and dust resistant. On top of that (no pun) is the 3-meter drop survivability, for those alpine shooting trips. The great outdoors is more than capable of flipping you on your backside from time to time, and you might land on the poor hard drive in your backpack. Good thing this one has a 1000-pound crush-proof rating.
If you thought that this was little more than one of those gimmicky tough-drives, you would be sadly mistaken. The real star of the show here is the SSD system that runs parent company Western Digital’s 64-layer 3D NAND flash. This propels the G-DRIVE to speeds of 560MB/s, great for your photo and video editing.
USB-C is here in the form of a USB 3.1 Gen 2 interface. There is also an adapter for you to connect to USB-A devices. The lack of Thunderbolt will probably not be a dealbreaker for most photographers. The G-Suite installation software is immediately accessible on macOS, but Windows users will have to reformat the drive before they can use it.
The G-DRIVE R-Series comes with either 500GB, 1TB, or 2TB of storage. This is impressive for such a tiny drive that is, doubtlessly, already committing precious physical space to its special durability features.
As stated earlier, the G-DRIVE is a pricey piece of tech. However, it will prove its value for money by sheer survival. It will easily breeze past the 5 years that G-Tech chose for the warranty. The drive looks set to last a decade at the very least. I can see the G-DRIVE still being functional in fifteen years, although it would’ve since been ousted by generations of newer tech
G-Technology G-DRIVE Pro Series
It turns out that the G-DRIVE-R has an evil twin. The G-DRIVE Pro is another branch of the same high-quality tree, although with its own twists.
The design is largely similar to that of the R-Series, but the most obvious difference is the second bit of silver trim on the Pro series, which houses the Thunderbolt interface. So, in effect, the G-DRIVE Pro has two ports: one USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 interface (with backward compatibility), and one Thunderbolt 3 interface. Pretty neat, right?
The device measures 4.4 inches in length, 3.14 inches in width, and 0.7 inches in height. It weighs 7 ounces, more than twice the weight of the R series. The body is shock-resistant and the drive is likely to survive drops of up to six feet. No water or dust resistance this time though, which is only disappointing because we had already had a taste of the certification from the R series. The Pro series is still very durable though, and the aluminum shell feels high-quality and super sturdy.
For the G-DRIVE Pro series, G-Technology sacrificed invincibility for super-speed. Thanks to the Thunderbolt 3 nitrous boost, the device’s transfer speeds are listed at 2800 MB/s. You should expect on-the-ground figures that are more similar to those posted by the Samsung X5 SSD above though. I’m not complaining, and that’s because the G-DRIVE Pro is ridiculously quick. Move 4K and 8K videos and films in mere seconds, or run heavy photo editors, videography software, and more.
Capacity is either 500GB, 1TB, or 2TB. All models feature the double port system with USB-C and Thunderbolt 3. I would have loved to see a 4TB model for this though, or maybe that’s just me. Either one of the existing capacities should be sufficient for storing photos at least.
The device also features an aluminum core on the inside to help keep the Pro series cool and in prime working condition. Barring anything out of the ordinary, the device’s durability and protections will easily see it pass the 5-year warranty mark.
Much like its sibling, the G-DRIVE Pro is pretty expensive, especially for the space it offers. However, if you want a super quick and durable on-the-go storage solution for your photography adventures, there are few better options than this fabulous hard drive.
Western Digital My Passport Ultra
A solid choice for all photographers. Western Digital’s My Passport Ultra is a fantastic modern HDD that offers great performance, storage capabilities, and great value for money. WD also offers this device with either Windows or Mac formatting, saving you the potential trouble of reformatting it to suit your system.
The device is a solid one, with a no-nonsense black metal slab capped by a frilly metal top panel. The tops are available in either silver or blue. The My Passport Ultra measures 4.33 inches in length, 3.21 inches in width, and 0.83 inches in height. It weighs 8 ounces. The feel in the hand is good and the matte black body provides a sure grip.
The drive is running SATA HDD technology and employs a USB-C port with a USB 3.0 interface. The resulting speed is not bad at all, and photographers will be backing up their data with the utmost convenience. An included USB 3.0 adapter facilitates backward compatibility for easy file migration from older devices that do not support USB-C.
WD also includes a support software suite to help users install the drive, update firmware, as well as set up and manage AES 256-bit encryption passwords. There is also auto-backup software included in the suite.
There is a good selection of storage capacities for you. Pick one from the 1TB, 2TB, and 4TB models that are available for both PC and Mac. There is also a 5TB model that is available for the Mac. Any of the picks would be great for photographers, especially if you consider that you will also have access to WD’s cloud storage facilities.
The My Passport Ultra is also very affordable, and many great deals and specials may be found on Amazon.com. Combined with the good storage capacity selection that is available to you, this drive is a solid contender for the best budget pick for photographers.
Western Digital offers a 3-year warranty for this brilliant HDD. Photographers, this just might be the one for you.
LaCie 1big Dock Enterprise Class HDD
Part hard drive, part docking station. The 1big Dock HDD from LaCie is just the behemoth for you if you want a more fixed hard drive for your studio or office. As a matter of fact, the 1big Dock might end up BECOMING your studio or office.
This device is for professionals, or organizations, who wish to store vast catalogs of data and digital media. The device can be loaded with 4TB, 8TB, or 16TB 7200 RPM hard drives. Whichever capacity option you choose will come with a super durable Iron Wolf Pro hard drive. All your 4K footage, photos, and multimedia software will be right at home in the 1big Dock.
Like most externally powered hard drives, the 1big Dock is pretty sizable, although it is far from the largest storage system of this kind. It measures 8.54 inches in length, 4.65 inches in width, and 2.22 inches in width. It weighs a rather considerable 7 pounds, although that is not too surprising given the level of functionality this thing has.
The device features many different ports and interfaces for its various functions. On the front is a USB 3.0 hub that can be used for charging devices, as well as for file sharing with non-USB Type C or Thunderbolt devices. The front also features CF and SD card slots, which would be of particular interest to photographers. Above the front-facing slots is the cover for the hard drive housing.
At the back, the device features two Thunderbolt 3 ports as well as a power supply port. There is also a DisplayPort 1.4, with support for 720-1080p as well as for 4K and 8K resolution monitors. The Thunderbolt ports enable users to charge their USB-C, USB-A (via dongle), and Thunderbolt devices. You can even charge your laptop with this incredible storage device.
The 1big Dock is oriented towards capacity more than speed, as indicated by the 280 MB/s transfer speed. This isn’t a dealbreaker, but for the price have to pay, it is a heartbreaker. The Iron Wolf Pro drive chugs along at a fair pace that is more than sufficient for moving photos and high definition video back and forth. Of course, transfer speeds are higher when transferring to and from Thunderbolt-capable devices. Your editing software and heavier apps should run normally too via Thunderbolt.
LaCie offers a great 5-year warranty for the 1big Dock thanks, in no small part to the underlying Iron Wolf Pro hard drive’s durability and endurance. The price is rather steep though, so brace yourself.
For photographers, this is the best way to permanently store your classic moments and more.
Hikvision Solid State Encrypted Drive
This hard drive features a unique shape compared to most others. It is a circular disk made of aluminum alloy. This CD design is the most eye-catching thing about this device, but do not think that is all the Hikvision Solid State Encrypted Drive brings to the party.
The drive runs on NAND-fueled solid-state technology that is harnessed by a USB Type C (3.1 Gen 2) interface. This allows the device to clock transfer speeds approaching 510 MB/s. Just for reference, that is an awesome six times quicker than your conventional HDD. The Hikvision SSD will yawn with boredom as it easily transfers your files and allows you to run your apps. Backward compatibility also features here, and the manufacturer provides both USB Type C-to-C and Type C-to A cables.
The drive’s other significant selling point is the high-tech security it provides. It boasts AES 256-bit encryption that serves as a platform for the fingerprint sensor, which works with Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems. You can register up to 10 fingerprints, making it ideal for both solo photographers, or duos, and groups. One thing to note is that the fingerprint system’s setup software only runs on Windows, so Mac and Linux users will have to find a Windows machine for the initial setup. Secure your data and make sure your intellectual property stays yours.
The drive comes with either 512GB or 1TB of space, and it is only available in silver. Space may be a little tight for some, but the speed, style, and overall fun factor of the Hikvision SSD make it a great pick for photographers. The drive offers excellent value for money compared to most other SSD drives of this caliber. Find awesome deals on Amazon and get yourself, or a friend, this one-of-a-kind external drive.
LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt HDD
The Thunderbolt 3-ready HDD edition of LaCie’s gritty Rugged Drive is an absolute steal, and it is one of the best value for money hard drives you can get today. With this hard drive, you get the zippy transfer speeds of Thunderbolt, a great selection in storage capacity, as well as the series’ trademark outdoor survivability features.
An IP54 rating means the Rugged Thunderbolt is dust and splash resistant, which is always useful in photography. It also drops resistant from heights of up to 7 feet. This hard drive is just at home in the Amazon jungle as it is in downtown Manhattan. Line up any photographic adventure, and the Rugged will have your back right until the end.
The Rugged Thunderbolt is very portable too, measuring 5.83 inches in length, 3.58 inches in width, and 1.34 inches in height. The device weighs 21 ounces. The body is tough and it can endure the pressure of up to 1 ton. Not too shabby.
The drive runs on Seagate’s SATA HDD technology and has a Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C (USB 3.1 Gen 2) interface. A USB-A adapter facilitates backward compatibility with older devices. The transfer speeds (approximately 130 MB/s) are not the highest on this list. That won’t be too much of a concern for most photographers though, especially if you consider the level of durability and storage capacity you get for the price.
LaCie offers 2 years of data recovery protection for the Rugged Thunderbolt HDD. The pricing is excellent and great deals and promotions are available on Amazon.
Silicon Forensics Lockbox Slim SSD
This pricey portable drive is one of the premiers picks for you if security is your main concern. The genii at Silicon Forensics have come up with the super-secure SiForce Lockbox Slim, and it is absolutely super.
The drive makes use of military-spec AES 256-bit encryption in the form of a PIN unlock system. The Lockbox itself is a black rectangular prism that measures 4.9 inches in length, 3 inches in width, and 0.5 inches in height. It weighs about 13 ounces. The drive is easy to carry and globe-trotting photographers will enjoy using it on their trips.
The drive features an OLED touchscreen on its top panel. When the device is plugged in, the numeric keypad pops up on-screen and prompts the user to enter his or her password to gain access to the device. That’s some sci-fi stuff right there. There is also protection against brute force password attempts to foil lucky thieves.
The drive, disappointingly, still uses USB 3.0 technology. For such a premium device, one would expect USB-C at the very least. The fact that it came out in 2019 also makes the lack of USB-C or Thunderbolt even more baffling. The SSD runs on SATA technology which is pretty fast. Transfer speeds are around the 600 MB/s mark, which is extremely quick. Photography will be a breeze for the hard drive, and you can easily run your apps directly from the SSD.
The Lockbox is available with 500GB, 1TB, and 4TB storage capacities. The selection is great and I would recommend the 4TB drive for photographers. Each model comes with a high-quality leather housing case for protection. Also included is a USB 3.0 male to male cable, and a small microfiber screen wipe for the OLED display.
Silicon Forensics offers a one-year warranty for the Lockbox, which is surprising given the steep price you pay for this hard drive. This steers us into the drive’s main problem, which is the relatively low value for money. I admit that the drive is pretty, and it has awesome security features. However, the asking price and the level of compromise, on the part of the customer, are not very congruent. The absence of USB-C, especially, represents a lack of futureproofing that is simply unacceptable for premium SSD drives.
If money is no problem for you, and you simply want to take and store photos securely, this hard drive is simply perfect.