This test was conducted in the United States and was originally published in English on the Wirecutter website. You can read it here in its original version.
We spent hundreds of hours researching and testing the best external hard drives for all budgets and uses. If you need a drive with plenty of space for documents and photos, easy to take with you, take the Seagate Backup Plus Slim 2 TB . But we also have suggestions if you prefer a larger space, if you need a more reliable or even faster device, or if you need to regularly move large data from one computer to another via a hard disk external.
Our choices of external storage
- The most convenient for backups: a portable hard drive
- If you're almost always in the same place: a desktop hard drive
- Maximum performance: a portable SSD
- To manage a large multimedia library: a NAS network
- To transfer data from one computer to another: a USB key
- For more information
The most convenient for backups: a portable hard drive
Seagate Backup Plus Slim 2 TB
The most convenient backup disk
The Seagate Backup Plus Slim is reliable, compact and lightweight, and offers good speeds at a reasonable price.Buy on Amazon * Buy on Fnac Buy on Cdiscount
* At the time of publication, the price was € 96.50
Who it is for: people who often move from one place to another and want a hard drive that can save important photos and documents from their laptops.
Why we love it: the Seagate Backup Plus Slim 2TB is one of the lightest and thinnest hard drives we've ever tried in our guide to the best portable hard drives, and has consistently been faster than competitors in our tests of transfers of music files and photos. More importantly, it is reliable: this proven model has been part of our selection for four years and its failure rate reaches only an acceptable 9% of the 2,701 user reviews on Amazon. Seagate also offers convenient backup software.
Non-crippling defects: the USB port of the Slim Backup Plus moves if you apply pressure to the cable. If you break it, you will not be able to access your data until you find a new box. The Slim has a two-year warranty, one year shorter than the Western Digital models, and we've read complaints about Seagate's US customer service on Amazon.com, but we do not think these limits are unacceptable .
To learn more, check out our guide to the best portable hard drives.
If you're almost always in the same place: a desktop hard drive
Excellent him too
Western Digital My Book 4 TB
More space, less mobility
Reliable, the My Book 4 TB is even faster and cheaper than a portable hard drive, but its large volume and external power supply make it impractical for travel. It is therefore more suitable for users who do not move their workstation.Buy on Amazon * Buy on Fnac Buy on Cdiscount
* At the time of publication, the price was € 119.99
Who it is for: those who spend most of their time in the same place and want to store their important photos and documents under cover, in a higher capacity volume, at higher speeds and at a cost more modest.
Why we love it: the Western Digital My Book 4TB is particularly reliable: we found a failure rate of only 6% on nearly 400 user reviews on Amazon. It offers the ideal balance between speed and price: it offered speeds almost as high as its competitors on all our tests, while being the least expensive reader tested. In addition, a 4TB capacity should be more than enough for your future storage needs.
Non-crippling defects: all the desktop hard drives tested were satisfactory, and the differences in bit rates from one model to another proved to be small. Given their very similar performance, we recommend taking the cheapest model you can find in a major brand. Right now it's the Western Digital My Book 4TB, but if you find a model that we've tested for a lower price, go for it! The WD Elements and Easystore models are just as fast and reliable as the My Book.
To learn more, check out our guide to the best desktop hard drives (in English).
Maximum performance: a portable SSD
A high-end choice
Samsung T5 500GB
High performance for a premium rate
The Samsung T5 portable SSD is more reliable, faster and more compact than an external hard drive, but its price per gigabyte is very high.Buy on Amazon * Buy on Fnac Buy on Baker
* At the time of publication, the price was € 98.40
Who it is for: SSDs (solid-state drive) are ideal for photographers, creative professionals, and anyone who does not mind spending a lot of money to afford a compact 500GB drive that will three to five times faster than a conventional hard drive (laptop or desktop).
Why we love it: The Samsung T5 500GB is reliable and has consistently been faster than other portable SSDs we've tested. It is compatible with higher USB 3.1 Gen 2 rates, a USB Type C port, and offers 256-bit AES hardware encryption to protect sensitive data. The cost per gigabyte of the T5 is comparable to that of the other external SSDs, while being one of the lightest and most compact. Its software is the easiest to use, which makes it very easy to manage encryption and check for updates. Finally, the T5 is equipped with a light, which indicates if it is well connected. It is guaranteed three years.
Non-crippling defects: compared to a hard drive, the Samsung T5 portable SSD is very expensive. But if you are ready to break your piggy bank, go ahead: it has no major flaws.
To learn more, check out our guide to the best portable SSDs.
To manage a large multimedia library: a NAS network
Excellent him too
Synology DiskStation DS218 +
For large media libraries or for multiple computers
The Synology DS218 + is big, bulky and expensive, and requires more complex installation and management than an external hard drive, but it is one of the simplest NAS to use and is faster than its competitors.Buy on Amazon * Buy on Fnac Buy on Darty Buy on Cdiscount
* At the time of publication, the price was € 328.99
Who it is for: Network-attached storage (NAS) is perfect for users with massive media collections. It allows you to keep all your files in one device and distribute them to your other devices via the local network. You can also opt for a NAS if your data is too big for Dropbox or Google Drive, or if you do not trust cloud storage providers.
Why we love it: the Synology DiskStation DS218 + is the fastest NAS we've tested, and it offers a powerful hardware configuration for about 350 euros (to which must be added the cost of hard disks: just over 250 euros for a pair of 4 TB disks, double for 8 TB). It also manages AES-NI hardware encryption for optimal security and increases RAM. Its versatile software is easy to use and it works with a wide variety of third-party applications, such as Plex, BitTorrent Sync or GitLab. You can use the DS218 + as a home backup device, as a multimedia broadcaster, as a mail server, as web site hosting, as a BitTorrent client or as a video surveillance recorder.
Non-crippling defects: a NAS is larger, more bulky and more expensive than any other storage system that we recommend here. It requires regular installation and management, as well as a dedicated Ethernet connection.
For more details, see our guide to the best domestic NAS servers.
To transfer data from one computer to another: a USB key
Kingston DataTraveler Elite G2 64GB
Fast and robust
It's the fastest and most reliable 64GB key we've tested. Its price is reasonable and it benefits from a robust black metal case and a five-year warranty.Buy on Amazon * Buy on Fnac
* At the time of publication, the price was 28.07 €
Who it is for: users who need to quickly and consistently transfer large amounts of data, such as RAW photo files or videos, from one computer to another, without using the Internet for speed reasons, of practicality or security.
Why we love it: The 64GB Kingston DataTraveler Elite G2 combines low cost and consistently high rates on a USB drive. Its metal case ensures excellent manufacturing quality, but it is not bulky enough to block other USB ports on your computer. It includes an activity indicator that signals a file transfer in progress, a small practical detail that is missing from many other USB keys. It is guaranteed five years: it is less than the lifetime warranty of SanDisk keys, but it is sufficient in our opinion to detect a possible technical problem.
Non-prohibitive defects: the cap that protects the USB socket is easy to lose, but given the reliability of USB-A, the key will work perfectly without him. A cap connected by a small wire would have easily solved this small defect.
For more information, see our guide to the best USB sticks.
Franck Mée (French translation) and Justin Krajeski (Wirecutter journalist in the United States)