Best External Hard Drives for Photos
The introduction of digital cameras means photographers now take several pictures and before you know it, the storage space of thor computers is or will be almost exhausted. This means more storage space will be needed and there are few better options than an external hard drive. An external hard drive can also be used to backup important content.
With the high storage capacity of modern external hard drives, you are assured of enough space to save thousands of ultra-high-resolution files or several hours of high-quality videos. Most of these drives also have fast transfer speeds meaning it won’t take forever for you to send files to and from your external hard drive.
External hard drives for photographers also come in different forms. There are portable models that are great for photographers that travel regularly. Such drives are usually very durable and consume low energy. There are also external hard drives more suited for backup.
A lot of research was carried out before I came up with this list of best external hard drives for photos. I believe you’ll find an external drive that will meet your needs on this list.
The best external hard drives for photos
Best overall – SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD
The SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD is our top pick for the best external hard drives for photos and for several good reasons. For one, this external hard drive is very portable and compact making it ideal for traveling photographers. You can easily put it in the pocket of your coat/jacket. This external hard drive also consumes low power which is especially useful for photographers that spend some time away from civilization.
The performance of this drive is very impressive as it has a high file transmission speed. You get to send large files in the shortest time possible. With up to 2 TB of storage space available, you can enough space to save your high-resolution pictures, videos, and sound files.
This drive is as rugged as any drive can be. It’s water and dust-resistant (IP55-rated) meaning you can use it outdoors without getting the drive damaged. Even if you are not using it outdoors, this external drive can withstand accidental water splashes (tested to withstand water flow at 30 kPa). This drive is also shock-resistant capable of withstanding small falls. As you can see, the durability of the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD cannot be questioned.
This external drive is already formatted for Windows and macOS meaning you can just connect it to your devices and start using it straight away. There is a USB Type-C to Type-C cable and a Type-C to Type-A adapter in the package meaning this drive will work with both old and new computers.
You can find SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD on Amazon.
Best for budget – WD My Passport External Hard Drive
External hard drives can sometimes be a bit pricey. So what if you are on a budget but still want to buy a quality external hard drive for photos? Then the WD My Passport External Hard Drive is what you’ve been looking for. This drive is proof that one can get a quality hard drive for a modest fee. I personally refer to this external hard drive as a hidden gem.
The 1 and 2 TB models of this drive are really affordable. However, you’ll have to pay extra if you want the 4 and 5 TB models. The available storage capacities of this external hard drive mean you can get a drive that suits the size of the content you deal with. This drive is also very compact and portable making it easy for you to transport it from one place to another without any trouble.
This drive comes formatted for Windows OS. However, you can easily reformat it for other platforms. Also, there is a USB 3.0 port on this external hard drive. And this makes the transfer of files to and from this drive very fast, especially when working with USB 3.0 devices.
There is also the WD Backup software that can be set to run automatically to your schedule. This means you’ll never have to worry about losing important files. The built-in 256-bit AES hardware encryption helps protect your files. You can easily set up a password for your drive using WD Discovery. This will come in handy should your drive be ever stolen or lost as no one else will be able to access the content of your drive.
You can check WD My Passport External Hard Drive on Amazon.
Best for photographers in the field or constantly traveling – WD My Passport Wireless Pro External HD
The WD My Passport Wireless Pro External HD is specifically designed for photographers that are in the field or constantly traveling. This drive can read an SD card which is useful for photographers that cannot take their laptops with them on their trips. The design of this external hard drive is that everything you save on the SD card will be automatically saved on the hard drive. And it’s like having a backup of your content somewhere.
This drive is compact and lightweight, weighing only 1 lb. It comes with a protective rubber bumper and has many features that allow you to review your work without having the need for a full-sized laptop. The overall design is simple and intuitive. Being a solid-state drive, this drive is very fast and reliable. It comes with a USB 2.0 Type A, and USB 3.1 Gen 1 Micro-B USB.
Another unique feature of this external hard drive is the inclusion of a large 6,700 mAh Li-ion battery which can power the drive itself, or your smartphones and camera. Having this drive can eliminate the need for a power bank when you are on the field.
You may want to download the My Cloud mobile app to get the best out of this drive. The app allows you to connect remotely to this drive, access its contents, and perform a range of actions. The setup is easy and straightforward.
This drive doesn’t have a lot of flaws. I’d have loved to see a USB-C port on this drive, though.
You can learn more about the WD My Passport Wireless Pro External HD on Amazon.
Best for massive on-desktop backup and storage – WD My Book
If you deal with a large volume of content on a regular basis, chances are that you need inexpensive and massive storage to store them all. This is where the WD My Book comes in. The 8 TB version is a deep well of massive storage capable of holding thousands of hours of videos and countless high-resolution images and sound. The WD My Book is also compatible with current and older Windows and Macs PCs.
This desktop external drive features a conservative look as it comes with the vertical orientation of older WD drives although its scalloped black polycarbonate sides look more like that of other recent WD products. Featuring a dimension of 6.7 by 1.9 by 5.5 inches and a weight of 2.02 lbs, this drive is compact for a desktop external hard drive. It’s not designed to fit into your pocket but rather sit on a desktop. This drive will require a spare power outlet to operate as it comes with a compatible power adapter that is included in the package.
The My Book comes with a USB 3.0 interface which contributes to its high file transfer speed. Formatted exFAT out of this box, this external hard drive will work on both Windows and macOS laptops and desktops. There is also the three-year warranty which is a lot more than what most brands will offer you.
For photographers that need a large repository of data, My Book is an excellent choice. Getting the 8 TB model means you will have enough capacity to last you for several years
You can check the WD My Book on Amazon.
Best for on-the-go users seeking sheer capacity – G-Technology ArmorATD
The ArmorATD combines aesthetics and brawniness wonderfully. A look at this external hard drive and you see a slick-looking blue case that has also been brushed in aluminum. There is also the rubber bumper which helps protect this drive, making it an excellent option for knockabout use. If you’ll be carrying your drive everywhere you go, then you’ll need a very durable drive that can withstand stress here and there whether in the subway, coffee shop, campus, and so on. This is what this external drive provides.
Measuring 0.8 by 3.4 by 5.1 inches, this drive is very portable. I think it’s accurate to describe it as the ‘little beast’. You can easily toss this drive into your pocket or your backpack.
This ArmorATD is tough, or more accurately super tough. This drive can withstand falls from about four feet (tested to survive falls shy of four feet onto a carpeted concrete surface). The ArmorATD also meets the IP54 rating for water and dust-resistance. And this means your drive can withstand water splashes and won’t be damaged by dust.
You’ll see a USB Type-C cable, a Type-C-to-A adapter for the client end, and a brief quick-start guide. This drive also comes preformatted in exFAT but you can easily reformat it. Also, there is no software you need to backup before reformatting which makes the process easier. It would have been nice if the ArmorATD comes with a backup or recovery software but this isn’t a deal-breaker.
You can learn more about the ArmorATD on Amazon.
Best for outdoorsy photographers and videographers – ADATA HD830 External Hard Drive
Photographers and videographers that spend a lot of time outdoors need an external hard drive that suits their need. Outdoor photographers need a drive that can withstand the bumps of every day (or extraordinary) travel. The thing is that need for a durable and rugged external hard drive will vary from person to person. But what if you can get an extremely rugged drive that can withstand punishments than most other drives in the market? And what if said drive also comes at a great price? This is what you’ll be getting from the ADATA HD830 hard drive.
With a capacity of 2 TB, this hard drive packs a high capacity in a small enclosure. It also works seamlessly with the latest USB 3.0 devices and is backward compatible with USB 2.0 devices as well. While this external hard drive comes preformatted for windows, you can easily reformat it for other operating systems. With a dimension of 1.3 by 3.8 by 5.5 inches (HWD), this drive is portable and can be easily carried about. It meets the IP68 rating for shock proofing, dust resistance, and waterproofing.
The ADATA HD830 External Hard Drive uses a standard USB Micro-B connector on the drive end, then a USB 3.1 Type-A on the host end. The cable is detachable and has to be removed after which the USB connector must be sealed if this external hard drive is to be fully “proofed” against the elements.
You can check the ADATA HD830 External Hard Drive on Amazon.
Best for buyers seeking general use portable storage – Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Touch
This external hard drive is perfect for users looking for a drive for everyday backup while also putting the security of files into consideration. A look at this drive and you’ll be drawn to the attractive exterior. Indeed, the Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Touch provides something different in a market full of dull looking, plastic enclosed hard drives. The woven fabric on the exterior is a really nice touch and makes it feel like you are holding a familiar, friendly object in your hand. Also, the woven fabric comes in either white or black. Both variations are aesthetically pleasing and add style and grip-ability to the drive.
As you will be able to deduce from the picture, this drive is small and lightweight, weighing only 5.3 ounces. You get a solid and sturdy feel when holding this drive even though the entire body is made of plastic.
The maximum storage capacity of this drive is 2 TB which is enough for most photographers. I reckon that a 2 TB external hard drive should be able to hold roughly 4 million 500K photos. Unless you deal with very large amounts of files, this should be more than enough for you.
There’s a USB 3.0 interface on this drive that can be used via a USB Type-A or USB Type-C connection. There is also a micro-USB Type-B cable that terminates in an ordinary Type-A port, and a Type-A-to-C adapter comes in the box. You can also use this external hard drive with a USB 2.0 device but you will get a slower transfer speed.
This drive comes formatted in exFAT which is compatible with both Windows and macOS devices. You’ll have to reformat in HFS+ if you want to use Apple’s Time Machine. Reformatting this drive in NTFS may be needed for optimal performance for Windows users.
For security-conscious users, this drive is protected with AES-256 hardware encryption which is extremely difficult to break. You can set a password that will be needed to unlock your drive whenever you want to use it. Be careful when assigning a password as it can’t be recovered should you forget it. However, it’s possible to reset this drive but that comes at a cost – any stored data will be erased.
You can check the Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Touch on Amazon.
Best for hardware security – iStorage diskAshur 2
If the security of your external hard drive is your top priority, then the iStorage diskAshur 2 is the drive you’ve been looking for. This drive comes with 100% hardware data encryption. You will not be using connecting to a computer or use any software to secure this drive. The drive itself protects your files. How does it do this? Simple. You set up a personal seven-digit pin number to unlock this drive. There is a physical keypad on the front panel. No pin, no access.
This drive automatically locks itself the moment it is unplugged from your computer or when power to its USB port is turned off. There is also the option of setting the drive to automatically lock after a particular period of time. The iStorage diskAshur 2 meets the IP56 rating for water and dust resistance making the drive suitable for outdoor use.
A wear-resistant epoxy coating is used on the keypad. This helps hide key usage and will avoid tipping off your most commonly used keys to a potential hacker. As you can see, this drive is perfect for users who are crazy about security.
This drive is compatible with both Windows and macOS platforms and also features a USB 3.0 interface for fast transfer of files. The iStorage diskAshur 2 is available in both SSD and HDD, with the SSD more expensive than the HDD models.
You can check the iStorage diskAshur 2 on Amazon.
How to Choose the Best External Hard Drive for Photos?
It’s important for a photographer or videographer to choose a quality external hard drive. This is to prevent loss of files due to hardware failure or any other reason. By now, you should know that all external hard drives are not made equal. I believe it’s important I take you through considerations you have to make before choosing an external hard drive. So here they are.
Type of Storage Mechanism & Capacity
External hard drives are either HDD or SSD. SSD, called Solid State Drives, makes use of flash technology and has no moving parts. For this reason, SSD generally will not make any noise, have better read/write speed, and are usually smaller and more portable. HDDs on the other hand are made up of moving parts and are prone to shaking, making noise, and are generally heavier than SSDs.
There is always the question of which one to choose between SSDs and HDDs. The truth is that you can go with either. While SSDs are generally faster than HDDs, high-quality HDDs with current USB interfaces and faster-moving parts will provide you with more than satisfying speed. Since SSD is a recent technology compared to HDD which has been available for many years, SSD is more expensive than HDD. So you also have to put this into consideration when making your choice.
You have to put the storage capacity into consideration. What is the storage capacity of your computer’s internal drive? How much space are you looking for? What is the volume of data you deal with? As a rule of thumb, you should buy an external hard disk that’s at least twice the size of your computer’s internal drive. The more the storage capacity if a drive, the higher the price. The type of drive (SSD or HDD) also has an effect on the price.
Since SSDs are more expensive than HDDs, you’ll rarely find SSDs exceeding 2 – 4 TB. Storage capacity is not enough reason to go for SSds, Their actual perks are portability, fast data transfer, and low power consumption. However, if you want mammoth storage space, then HDD is what you should go for as you get more storage space at an affordable price.
Speed and Performance
Don’t expect your external hard drive to perform at the same file transfer speed that was specified by the manufacturer. This is because the conditions under which the manufacturers tested the transfer speed will most likely be different from the conditions under which you’ll be using the drive. The operating system, USB interface, and software all affect the file transfer speed. The type of external hard drive also has an effect. Rotation speed is used for HDDs with 5400-7200 rpm being the norm. SSDs use different technology and are faster.
To judge the performance of an external hard drive, the speed indicators and the connection interface are used. Interface technologies have improved over the last couple of years as we now have fast interface technologies – there is the USB 3.1 Gen-2 with a bi-directional speed of 10 Gb/s, USB-C, and Thunderbolt 3 with a bi-directional speed of 40 Gb/s. Having a computer with a fast USB port will make file transfer faster.
You’ll have to put the compatibility of your external hard drive and your computer’s operating system into consideration. Most external hard drives come preformatted in exFAT which works well on Windows and macOS. However, you may need to reformat your drive if you want to use Apple’s Time Machine or for optimal performance on some Windows computers.
It’s common to see manufacturers including backup software, encryption, or data management software. The package also includes cables for converting between different designs of USB ports.
Some manufacturers have been available for many years and have become renowned for producing quality external hard drives. These brands offer something anyone looking to buy an external hard drive must look out for – reliability. The thing is that all hard drives fail. But what one should be looking for is a brand that offers long-lasting hard drives. In this respect, the performance, appearance, and file transfer speed of your external hard drive come second to reliability.
Tell me, what’s the use of having the most attractive and fastest external hard drive in the world only for the said drive to pack up and fail you after a couple of uses leading to the loss of your files…and also money. You most certainly didn’t get value for your money.
When you see bad reviews on some of the external hard drives on this list, remember that no external hard drive is 100% fail-free. I’ve been using Amazon for years and I doubt there’s any product that doesn’t have a bad review. If you don’t see a bad review, then it’s on its way. No product is perfect but all products are most certainly not created equal.
Some Amazon reviews are also fake, so you shouldn’t make your decisions solely on them,. Carry out your own research and you’ll be able to make more informed decisions. Some reputable external hard drive brands include Seagate, Western Digital, Samsung, and so on.