When it comes to the best external hard drives for 2023, there's a huge amount of choice out there – but our comprehensive guide to the top options will save you some time searching and comparing specs, because we've done a lot of the research for you.
These drives are the best in the external storage business at the moment. They cover a range of prices, and include both portable drives (which are powered solely from a USB connection) and non-portable options (which need a power adapter of their own).
We've also included HDD (hard disk drive) and SSD (solid state drives): the former tech is older and slower, but also more affordable. The latter tech is newer and gives you better speeds, but it'll cost you more and doesn't reach maximum capacities that are as high.
Without any further ado, here's the list... and when you're finished here, be sure to check out our guides to the best NAS drives, the best external hard drives for Macs, and the best SSDs for PS5 consoles if you're in the market for something that's a bit more specific.
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The best external hard drives 2023: the top 3
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The best external hard drive for most people is the Seagate Ultra Touch HDD. it's reliable, compact, and affordable, and is partly made from recycled materials as well.
The best premium external hard drive is the WD Black P50. It's a rugged drive that keeps your data well protected, and it offers blazing fast SSD performance for your storage.
The best budget external drive is the WD My Book. You get the peace of mind that comes with the Western Digital brand, plus a whole lot of storage for not all that much money.
Full marks to Seagate not just for the quality of this external hard drive, but also for its eco-friendliness – these drives are made with at least 30 percent post-consumer recycled materials. They come in a couple of fetching colours as well, pebble grey or cloud white, which adds to their overall appeal and will add a touch of style to your desk as well.
While you do have the slower speeds of HDD, you do get a ton of storage for a very reasonable price, and it'll work with just about anything (Windows PCs, Macs and Chromebooks for a start). It's compact and light too, and doesn't need a separate power adapter, so it's a good choice for taking around with you when you're travelling.
The Black series of drives from Western Digital come with rugged-looking designs and are often marketed as "gaming drives" because of their high-end performance – but you can just as easily use them with a Mac as with a PS5. The P50 model could be the pick of the bunch, with up to 4TB of storage and sequential read performance up to 2,000MB/s.
The WD Black P50 is more compact and more sturdy than you might realise too, and if you are taking it on the go with you, you won't have any worries about it coming to harm. If you're after the best external drive there is in terms of its specs, style and size, and you're willing to pay for it, then the WD Black P50 should be somewhere near the top of your list.
When it comes to budget external hard drives, you don't want to go too low in terms of pricing – it's important that you have a device you can rely on for storing your important files – but the HDD WD My Book is an excellent choice in terms of value for money per terabyte. It's not the fastest, but it certainly gives you a lot of storage for your cash.
The available capacities on this external hard drive go up to a whopping 22TB, so you're not going to be running out of room anytime soon, and there's a two-bay version that lets you pack in even more storage. It's not particularly designed for portability though – as it has its own separate power supply, it's best for keeping in one place on your desk.
Best external hard drives 2023: the best of the rest
With IP65 water and dust protection, as well as 3-metre drop protection, the Samsung T7 Shield is able to keep your precious data protected against a serious amount of splashes, dirt, and bumps. It's also a very compact device, almost small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, and that makes it useful for any scenario where you're moving around a lot.
Whether or not you're talking your external drive to do fieldwork in the great outdoors, the Samsung T7 Shield has plenty to offer, including up to 1,050MB/s read times. There are other variations of the T7 worth checking out as well, including a standard model and a Touch model with a built-in fingerprint sensor that acts as an additional security measure.
You know where you are with a Seagate external drive, and we assume the One Touch SSD has been named for its ease of use: you just plug it in and get going. It'll work with just about every device out there as well, from Mac computers to Android tablets. It scores highly for its versatility then, and we think the minimal design is pretty decent as well.
When it comes to the specs of the drive, it's small enough to slide into a bag or even a large-ish pocket without any problem, and with capacities up to 2TB and read speeds of up to 1,030 MB/s, you're not going to have any problems with performance either. This is an affordable option too, and is going to fit a lot of people's needs very nicely indeed.
The My Passport drive from Western Digital has been around in various forms for a number of years: it's essentially the company's no nonsense, basic storage option, one that you can rely on for portable storage that just works. The latest My Passport drives are compact and light, and use SSD storage that means you won't be waiting long for your data to transfer.
Speaking of speeds, you get a 1,050MB/s sequential read speed with this drive, which is pretty great. The drive is also available in a variety of colours, including red and gold-ish, so if you're keen to move away from the standard black then you can do. There's shock and vibration resistance here too, as well as a stylish metal casing around the drive.
The Lacie Mobile Drive has been designed by award-winning product designer Neil Poulton, so it's certainly easy on the eye: perhaps not the most important consideration for an external hard drive, but worth mentioning. It uses HDD technology, doesn't need a separate power adapter, and comes in capacities that top out at an impressive 5TB.
If you're looking for a compact, reliable, affordable storage option that can be quickly moved between devices and locations, this is one of the best options right now. Each product is made from at least 25 percent recycled materials too, so you're helping the environment a little too. There's also a Secure model with password protection built in.
Got a lot of files to store? The hefty Seagate One Touch Hub could be the perfect solution: storage capacities here start at 4TB (way beyond the maximum capacity of a lot of portable external drives), and go all the way up to 20TB. Of course it takes up a bit of room and needs a separate power adapter, but this is a seriously good external drive option.
We're also fans of the USB-C and USB-A ports on the front of the box, which means you can back up and charge smaller devices like phones and tablets very quickly indeed. We're talking about HDD technology here, and while it doesn't have the top speeds of SSD, it's dependable and more affordable – perfect for those regular file backups you're running.
The SanDisk Portable SSD is perfect for taking anywhere with you – it's small, it's lightweight, and it even has a little rubber loop hook for attaching to a bag or a belt. There's also two-metre drop protection here, with the tough casing ensuring that it can take a few bumps and knocks (the SSD technology helps here too, of course).
You get a maximum read speed of 520MB/s, which is perfectly respectable, and the USB 3.2 Gen 2 interface is the fastest you can get at the time of writing. It's smaller than a mobile phone, so you always have the option of sliding the SanDisk Portable SSD into a pocket, and that's not something you can say about many external hard drives out there.
Sometimes you don't want the flashiest device, or the most expensive device, or the one with the most features – just the device that's going to do the job reliably and with the minimum of fuss. Enter the Toshiba Canvio Ready external drive, which quite simply looks after your data for a reasonable price and in a compact and nicely rounded product.
It's fair to say this particular external hard drive isn't going to top the rankings in terms of its speeds or its looks, but it's more than satisfactory in just about every category – and you get a lot of value in terms of the cost per gigabyte. Coming from a brand name as big as Toshiba as well, you know that you're going to get a quality piece of hardware here.