The best external hard drives are faster and more reliable than ever. If you've ever known the pain of damaging an external HDD, external SSDs are more affordable than you might expect, and a lot of them are sturdy as anything. If you need to take your files, games, or other data on the go, or you just need a bit of extra space without more serious DIY, one of the best external hard drives is exactly what you need. In 2023, you have a great range of HDD and SSDs to choose from. The latter, however, is where next-gen performance truly lies.
The best external hard drive for you will come down to your usage and intentions for it. For example, if you're intending to store games for a PS4, an external SSD could give your aging console a new lease of life with potentially faster load times. You won't get the performance of the best SSDs for gaming since those are internal options, but external SSD will be better than the console's HDD nonetheless. If all you need to do is keep files and media secure, then a larger-capacity HDD will do you just fine. Some external hard drives are even running NVMe format for even faster sequential performance via the likes of USB-C and USB 3.2, so transfer speeds aren't all doom and gloom like they have been.
This is very much a general overview of the best external hard drives in all shapes and sizes, so if you're after something a little more specific to your chosen gaming platform, our guides on the best Xbox Series X external hard drives and best PS5 external hard drives are sure to point you in the right direction.
Without further ado, allow us to walk you through some of the best external hard drive options on the market in 2023.
The best external hard drives 2023
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The WD_Black P40 SSD is the latest in WD's gaming-focused external hard drives, and it's one of the best performers you'll find. It takes the specs and design of the P50 and carries both over to a compact build that makes use of some beautiful RGB lighting.
Disappointingly, the P40 is one of the pricier options up and down this list, particularly because it's a newer release from WD. For your money, you get the drive which comes with WD's Windows dashboard, a USB-C cable and USB-A adapter, a quick install guide, and a 5-year warranty I'd be surprised if you need to use. WD's solid build with forged aluminium means it's a sturdy piece of kit.
Read and write speeds were great in testing. The 2000MB/s speed you see on the box is as good as you'll get in an external hard drive, but in reality, it translates to some great load times and transfer speeds on PS5 and PC. I had a load of game capture footage stored on my PS5 I had been meaning to move across to my computer for video editing, and even though it was about 30 clips spanning a total of 22GB, the P40 swallowed it up from the PS5 in about a minute. The same was true of games once I formatted it for some extra storage. I transferred three games that added up to 18GB, and it transferred in just shy of a minute.
In your search for the best external hard drive, you'll need to consider a top SSD. And Western Digital's Black P50 drive is probably the best external hard drive we've tested in a while in terms of value for money. Now that the P40 is out and about, the P50 will likely get cheaper, while sharing a lot of the same benefits and specs.
As a proper external, portable, SSD package, it offers everything: a robust and cool design, and exquisite file transfer speeds that are often only seen in the best gaming PCs. That makes it a real contender in the console arenas too, scoring highly in our best PS4 SSD list.
Yes, this SSD does err on the side of a gaming drive, and it features in many of our console external hard drive guides, but its performance cannot be denied. The stated speeds of 'up to 2000MB/s' were on the money in our testing, but what this translates to in real-life scenarios is that games are loaded incredibly quickly, and files and media are retrieved and stored in an instant (you know what I mean), and all this is done incredibly consistently.
In terms of what the drive looks like and how it feels, the P50 has a military metal style and is a rectangular drive featuring sleek molded metal, and it'll easily fit in the palm of your hand. Its USB-C port can be used on your devices as either a USB-A or USB-C connection meaning you can hook it up to multiple different devices of its life span, and benefit from the same speeds. One small criticism is that it does get a bit warm in use but that's sort of fair enough as a small compromise for the performance - just be aware of it when you place it or leave it in one position for a while.
The My Passport drive from Western Digital has gone through several iterations over the years, and we'd bet it'll go through several more as time goes by. Even in a world moving slowly but surely toward SSDs, there's still more than an important place for an HDD and there's a reason why this one tops our best external hard drive list (not to mention our guide to the best PS4 external hard drive). And that's because the My Passport combines capacity, price, value, build-quality, and performance in one excellent package.
Looking at it in more detail, the My Passport drive works via a simple USB connection that helps keep the size down. It is a small and robust unit (about the size of a mobile phone) and the aesthetic isn't bad either - it's a chic half-ribbed, half matte and smooth metal finish. It'll also look at home in almost any setup.
Our favourite in terms of specific capacity remains the 4TB version. The reason for this is is largely two-fold: first, a 4TB HDD will provide easily enough space for lots of games, data, files, photos, videos and music; and, secondly, we've seen the biggest savings on the 4TB. This very much fits the established theme of 'bigger drive = better value'.
It won't win the prize for speedy file transfer, but it earns its place at the top of this list nonetheless. The My Passport is an all-round great external hard drive - especially if you're not fussed about an SSD or want to shave some dollar signs off the price tag while waiting for the seemingly inevitable wave of PS5 SSD deals.
Undoubtedly, one major factor when perusing the best external hard drive market is going to be looking for units that are really robust and portable and could survive plenty of bumps, falls, squeezes, and encounters with dust and water. Luckily, the SanDisk Extreme Portable is just the ticket for that criteria.
This drive will be able to withstand any sort of accident, and is great for the who are preparing to go outdoors a lot with their tech, or for those of us who like to take a 'belt and braces' approach to ensure our tech is both of the highest order, but also well-protected should anything bad happen. The Extreme Portable is resistant to dust and water to the IP-55 standard, while it also has a shock-resistant core for extra durability. All this in a drive that will survive on a hook on your backpack, or be at home in your hand on clothes with fit-it-in-your-pocket size.
And, naturally, it's an SSD so offers those higher speeds, and overall improved performance you get from solid-state drives. Its file speeds even challenge the likes of the famous Samsung T5 SSD. All this does combine to knock up the price tag a bit but it's definitely worth it if you're looking for a rugged drive with great performance. (If you want something even hardier, you can consider the Extreme Pro variant - but the price will jump a bit higher still.)
We've seen a few brilliant Seagate limited edition game drives for PlayStation now, and this God of War Ragnarok one might just be the nicest of them all.
The design and build are classic Seagate: sturdy, solid, and compact. The aesthetic, however, is deserving of any deity, mystically talking head, or witch in the woods. The colour scheme is on point for Ragnarok, and matched the corresponding limited edition DualSense. Topping all that off is some tasteful RGB on the front edge which shines out a soft blue when plugged in.
As ever, it all combines to be a hard drive that you feel would need and deserve to be displayed properly and visibly. However, you may have to fight the short cable length to attain that effect: the shorter one provided doesn't really promote being able to plug the drive in at the back of your PS5 or PS4 and still display it upfront. The cable - at least initially - is quite 'strong' in its flex so will also push the drive around, so be aware of that.
The very obvious downside here is that this is yet another beautiful Seagate hard drive that only comes in HDD, rather than SSD. This seems like a missed opportunity still and we can only hope that this will be addressed in the near future. If you don't mind it being HDD only, then this is a real beauty.
A big attraction to some of the best external hard drives is the sheer capacity of the storage you can get. And if you never want to worry about storing your media, files, games, and pretty much whatever else, then something like this Seagate Expansion drive is for you. It gets a nod here on this list because the value it represents is incredible - it is very nicely priced, and also often sees discounts through deals and promotions, meaning it's some of the best-value storage money can buy.
Using the drive is as easy as plugging the power cable in, attaching the USB, and getting started. It is a chunky boy and will need a bit of desk or setup space (due to needing access to mains power, for example), but it keeps a nice finish and aesthetic nonetheless.
The Seagate Expansion drive is available in a variety of capacities, but the middle range, like the 6TB size, sits in a very attractive place of bang-for-buck value. A great value contender for best external hard drive, and one that features on our best Xbox One external hard drive list.
Often the darling of best external hard drive lists across the internet, the Samsung T5 series might not be the newest external option on the market, but it is still one of the top models you can go for. And, what's more, with it being on the market for a while, its price is (often) getting more and more attractive at retailers.
The main pulls of the Samsung T5 are simple to outline: it's got Samsung's pedigree, build quality, and design finishes in its DNA; it's a top-performing SSD offering some of the best performance and speeds for an external hard drive; and it's beautifully compact, robust, reliable, and chic. In related news, it's no wonder that the rumored top candidate for a PS5 internal SSD is a Samsung one.
If the T5 whets your whistle, then it's worth mentioning that other variants are available in this range from Samsung. The slightly dearer T7 drive or even the T7 Touch drives will offer even better speeds and a few extra features, too.
Away from the mega-big boys of the best external hard drive market, manufacturers and brands like Silicon Power quietly go about their business of making equally dependable, robust, competitively priced, and quality hard drives. And SP's Bolt B75 Pro SSD drive is exactly that.
This is an Incredibly light, but incredibly robust unit, which means it's easily transportable yet you can have great confidence in it if you're prone to mishaps, or just want that extra protection. It's military-grade shockproof, aluminium case will look after the important stuff inside easily and the casing definitely exudes the rugged quality that was intended. The unit as a whole doesn't feel solid but that comes from its lightness - some folks may prefer a more hefty unit.
The SSD's performance is very solid, but nothing too spectacular. As a result, if you're after something that offers good value, want to upgrade from an existing HDD to SSD to ensure you get that better and faster performance without number chasing too much, and you want something robust then this is a great contender.
This hard drive has a unique design that makes it one of a kind if purchased, and it fits perfectly into gaming setups with RGB components thanks to neon pink lighting. The theming also extends to the desktop with original icons, making it stand out from other HDDs.
When testing the drive, I noticed that it came with some setup files, including instructions for both PC and Mac, which I felt were very inclusive and catered to all potential target groups. An even though there was the odd snag (I came across one issue where once I had moved things from another drive to this one, it failed to detect the new HDD), this was quickly resolved by just ejecting the drive and connecting it again. Other than that, everything was pretty straightforward and I had no further issues.
Because it's physically small, this HDD is great for those who need a portable option but still want some flair as well. Despite not being the smallest drive on the list, I would definitely recommend the HDD if you need a lot of stoage space and would like something that adds to your setup aesthetically. As an example, it comes with Spider-Man stickers which are a cute addition.
This drive isn't limited to Spider-Gwen, either; you can also get Miles Morales and Spider-Man editions.
Best external hard drive: FAQs
Is it better to have an external HDD or SSD?
We'd always advocate for SSD over HDD. Especially at the moment, SSD is a lot more affordable, and has been since the start of 2022. Prices are projected to continue falling, or at least stay at a reasonable level in the first half of 2023. Some forecasters even think this could spark the final days of HDD in the storage market, particularly if external SSDs stay at competitive price points.
Which is the fastest external hard drive?
The best external hard drive for pure speed is going to be an external SSD, and most likely one that's been designed for gaming. In our hands-on experience, the WD_Black P40 and P50 are insanely quick external drives which are bound to be exactly what you need for cutting down load times in your favorite games, accessing media quickly, or even for video editing.
Which external hard drive lasts longest?
When you're looking for futureproofing, we'd recommend SSDs. For starters, the market is moving in their direction anyway. Additionally, you'll get better performance and more safeguarding. HDDs have a lot of moving parts thanks to their architecture, and they're both very easy to damage, and extortionately expensive to recover when you do. SSDs, as long as they're kept cool, will be very reliable for years to come, and something like the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD is a good example of that. On the other hand, if futureproofing to you means larger capacities, something like the Seagate Expansion HDD that goes up to 16TB might be what you're looking for.
Which brand of external hard drive is best?
The biggest names in storage will be safe bets when looking for the best external hard drives. WD, or Western Digital has great SSD and HDD options that are some of our top picks. Seagate is also super reliable, and has plenty of value HDD options, especially in larger quantities. Elsewhere, Samsung and SanDisk have great external SSD options to choose from, as you'll see from our list.
Looking for gaming storage on your Switch? Be sure to check in with the best Nintendo Switch SD cards.