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Best external HDD and SSD in 2021

Best External SSDs and HDDs 2021
Best External SSDs and HDDs 2021 (Image credit: Future)

The best external SSDs and HDDs keep your data and secure, which is now a daily necessity for most people. Be it photos, files, or applications, storage requirements continue to grow. Instead of keeping up with those demands by deleting precious files or photos (or miscellaneous documents you don't remember creating), investing in an external drive is a move you won't regret making. 

Aside from keeping extra files safe, you can also use an external drive as a backup for your laptop or phone, or even for extending your Xbox Series X or PS5 game storage. Whatever your needs is for buying an external storage solution, we've got a pick for you. Here are the best HDDs and SSDs on the market. 

HDD vs. SSD

Hard drive disks (HDD), traditional spinning hard drives, are a much more affordable storage option. They use moving magnetic disks to store data, while read/write heads manipulate data as needed. Because all of the data storage is physical, you get the classic whirring sound as it operates. They also tend to be the larger option because of the space the spinning discs require. Unfortunately, all the moving parts leave the device vulnerable to internal damage and transfer speeds are slow by today's standards.

Solid-state drives (SSD), on the other hand, use an integrated circuit known as a microchip to store data. This means that they use electric pulses instead of moving parts to read, write, and store data. Without the need for moving parts, SSDs process data much faster and can be built on a much more compact scale.

Why choose an HDD over an SSD?

Typically, SSDs are the better choice for performance and portability. However, this doesn’t always mean that they’ll be the right choice for you. While SSDs are becoming more affordable as they grow in popularity, HDDs are a still much more affordable solution if you’re looking to store more “static” data. So, if you’re just looking to store files such as documents, photos, and other files that aren’t needed on a day-to-day basis, an HDD could be the perfect solution for you. 

ADATA SE800 External SSD

Best External SSDs and HDDs 2021 (Image credit: Newegg)

1. ADATA SE800

The overall best external drive

Specifications
Capacity: 512GB, 1TB
Interface: USB 3.2 Type-C
Size: 2.8 x 1.7 x 0.4 inches
Weight: 1.4 ounces
Transfer Speed: Up to 1,000 MB/s
Color Options: Black, Blue
Reasons to buy
+Pocket-sized design+IP68-rated water- and dust-resistant+Competitively priced+Consistent transfer speeds
Reasons to avoid
-Limited capacity options-Data-recovery plan not included

Speed, reliability and looks: the ADATA SE800 has you covered no matter the demand. While only 1TB is the highest capacity available, you can rest easy knowing your data is safe in its new sturdy home that has a rubber stopper to cover the USB-C port while not in use to give this external SSD an IP68 rating. You can toss this versatile storage unit into a bag and get speeds of up to 1,000MB/s while on the go, or park it next to your laptop at home for a sleek extension to your workspace. Right now, the 1TB model is on sale for just $129, which means you won't have to completely empty your pockets for this excellent external SSD. 

WD My Passport Ultra external harddrive

Best External SSDs and HDDs 2021 (Image credit: Amazon)

2. WD My Passport Ultra HDD

The best external HDD for photo storage

Specifications
Capacity: 1TB, 2TB, 4TB
Interface: USB 3.1 Type-C, USB 3.0 Type-A
Size: 4.33 x 3.21 x 0.5 inches
Weight: 4.64 ounces
Transfer Speed: Up to 100 MB/s
Color Options: Silver, Blue
Reasons to buy
+Affordable+Large capacity options+USB-C and USB-A compatible
Reasons to avoid
-No impact resistance-Only formatted for Windows

The WD My Passport Ultra HDD is a classic and affordable choice of an external hard drive that costs just $79. It’s a compact, stylish storage solution for anyone looking to keep their essential photos or files within easy reach of their home setup, but it's not great for traveling given the large design that lacks shock absorption. While it isn’t the most speedy solution, offering top speeds of 115MB/s, it’s reliable enough for storing large files. 

Samsung T7 Touch portable SSD

Best External SSDs and HDDs 2021 (Image credit: Amazon)

3. Samsung T7 Touch Portable SSD

The most secure external SSD

Specifications
Capacity: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB
Interface: USB 3.2 Type-C
Size: ‎3.4 x 2.2 x 0.3 inches
Weight: 6.4 ounces
Transfer Speed: Up to 1,000 MB/s
Color Options: Black, Silver
Reasons to buy
+AES 256-bit encryption+Unlock with fingerprint OR password+Stylish design
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-No water or dust resistance

Keeping information secure is the Samsung T7 Touch’s specialty. Whether you want to use it for personal or professional use, the AES 256-bit encryption will keep your files private while a built-in fingerprint scanner provides quick access to your files. Keep in mind that software is required to set up the security features initially. After that, it's relatively software-free. Aside from that, the stylish, brushed aluminum build also provides extra protection from impacts if dropped up to 6 feet, which adds another layer of security to your device. However, at $109 for 500GB of storage, it does stray a little out of the budget-friendly ideal.

LaCie Rugged SSD Pro

Best External SSDs and HDDs 2021 (Image credit: LaCie)

4. LaCie Rugged SSD Pro

The best external SSD for creative professionals on-the-go

Specifications
Capacity: 1TB, 2TB
Interface: Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.0 Type-C
Size: 3.85 x 2.56 x 0.67 inches
Weight: 5.61 ounces
Transfer Speed: Up to 2800 MB/s
Color Options: Black
Reasons to buy
+Industry-leading speeds+Impact resistant+IP67 water- and dust-resistant+5-year data rescue plan
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Highest speeds achievable only through Thunderbolt-3

If you’re a creative professional on the go, then you understand how hard it can be to cart around all of your editing software, plus your documents and equipment. The LaCie rugged SSD Pro has you covered with 2TB storage, speeds of up to 2800 MB/s and a build that’s both drop-resistant up to 3 meters and has an IP67 water-resistant rating. However, $739 is a pretty penny to pay for 2TB of data, and should really only be considered by those who can truly take advantage of its industry-leading high speeds and extra ruggedized protection. 

SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD

Best External SSDs and HDDs 2021 (Image credit: SanDisk)

5. SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD V2

The best portable SSD

Specifications
Capacity: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB
Interface: USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C
Size: 3.97 x 2.07 x ‎0.38 inches
Weight: 1.76 ounces
Transfer Speed: Up to 1,000 MB/s
Color Options: Black
Reasons to buy
+Travel-friendly design+256‐bit AES hardware encryption+IP55 water- and dust-resistance
Reasons to avoid
-No USB port coverage-Data-recovery plan not included

When you have the tendency to go where the wind takes you and need a little extra space to store the photos, the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD V2 has you covered. It can hold up to 2TB in a convenient package that can easily be clipped into a keyring or carabiner to bring with you on all your adventures. And while it is disappointing that the USB port isn’t protected, it does have an IP55 water and dust-resistant rating. SanDisk offers an older generation with transfer speeds up to 550MB/s starting at $72 for 250GB, or the newer generation with up to 1,000MB/s starting at $87 for 500GB.

Seagate One Touch Portable HDD

Best External SSDs and HDDs 2021 (Image credit: Amazon)

6. Seagate One Touch Portable HDD

The best budget-friendly external HDD

Specifications
Capacity: 1TB, 2TB, 3TB, 4TB, 5TB
Interface: USB 3.0 Type-A
Size: ‎4.6 x 3.15 x 0.58 inches
Weight: 6.7 ounces
Transfer Speed: Up to 120 MB/s
Color Options: Black, Silver
Reasons to buy
+Affordable+Universally Compatible+Four-month Creative Cloud plan included+Large capacity options+2-year data recovery plan
Reasons to avoid
-Slow transfer speeds-Bulkier than other options-No impact resistance

Extra storage can be handy, but it can get really expensive, really fast. One of the more accessible options is the Seagate One Touch Portable HDD, which starts at just $54 for 1TB. And while the transfer speeds aren't anything to write home about, up to 5TB of storage and a 2-year data recovery plan are enough to make this thrifty external HDD more than worth the money. Just be sure to treat it with care because there's really no shock resistance built into the device.

Samsung T7 Portable SSD

Best External SSDs and HDDs 2021 (Image credit: Amazon)

7. Samsung T7 Portable SSD

The best affordable SSD

Specifications
Capacity: 512GB, 1TB
Interface: USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C
Size: 2.8 x 1.7 x 0.4 inches
Weight: 1.4 ounces
Transfer Speed: Wired
Color Options: Up to 1000 MB/s
Reasons to buy
+Impressive transfer speeds+Durable design+256-bit AES hardware encryption
Reasons to avoid
-No water or dust resistance

The Samsung T7 is a stellar choice for those looking to upgrade their console station. Speed is key when gaming, but when you have little storage available on your console (or PC), your frame rates can lag and loading times can increase. Luckily, adding an external SSD to your setup can make for an easy, speedy, beautiful gaming experience, and finding a dependable one under $100 is a steal. Take advantage of the 500GB model of the Samsung T7 for just $79 and enjoy data transfer speeds up to 1,000MB/s whether you’re at home or on the move.