Best External Hard Drives for Remote Work [2021]

Most of us don’t think about data storage until it’s too late. In those dreaded times, we need to uninstall applications or delete some of our lesser-important files. Either way, it’s a somewhat painful experience.

With a beefy external hard drive, you can go for years without running out of disk space. There’s also the benefit of having an external backup drive for extra security. Even if you lose your precious laptop, at least you’ll still have your data backed up to another drive and accessible via another computer.

Things to Consider When Buying a New Hard Drive

Before you take the plunge and click Buy, here are few things you should consider about external hard drives.

How Much Space Do You Need?

First, it’s important to understand the units of measurement used for hard drive capacity. Nowadays, 1GB (gigabyte) is the base unit of measurement for disk storage. A single gigabyte can hold thousands of photos, songs and documents, but it’s not nearly enough to store a modern PC game (15GB+) or an HD movie (2GB+).

Hard drives come in many capacities, ranging from around 128GB (gigabytes) to a whopping 8 terabytes (equal to 8000 gigabytes). But you might not necessarily need the biggest fish in sea.

The following activities don’t require much storage (less than 256GB):

  • Writing Documents and Spreadsheets
  • Browsing the Web
  • Watching Videos

If you perform any of the following activities, you will benefit from a medium amount of storage space (less than 2TB):

  • Hobby Photography
  • Gaming
  • Software Development

These activities will require a rather high amount of storage space (more than 2TB):

  • Professional Photography
  • 4K Video Editing
  • Music Production
  • Data Science

Solid State Drive (SSD) vs Hard Disk Drive (HDD)

A big decision you’ll need to make is whether you’ll get an SSD (solid state drive) or an HDD (hard disk drive). While hard disk drive technology originates back to the 1950s, the solid state drive is a much newer technology.

What’s the difference between a solid state drive and a hard disk drive? A solid state drive can transfer files up to 20 times faster than a hard disk drive. A solid state drive also has no moving parts, which makes it faster and a safer choice for mobile devices. A hard disk drive relies on magnetism and a spinning disk.

But the boost in speed provided by an SSD comes at a steep cost. Hard disk drives might be slower, but they’re significantly cheaper, and still fast enough for many activities.

If you intend to use the external hard drive as a backup, then you don’t need to worry about speed. But if you intend to edit files directly on the drive, then a solid state drive would be more suitable.

USB 2.0 vs USB 3.0

As the world transitioned from USB 2.0 to USB 3.0, there were some growing pains in figuring out which devices supported which version of USB. But nowadays, it’s incredibly rare to find USB 2.0 devices on the market because USB 3.0 is substantially faster.

Nonetheless, you should double-check to ensure that your external drive supports at least USB 3.0 so that you can experience the full read/write speeds that your device has to offer.

What About USB Flash Drives?

Believe it or not, a tiny USB flash drive can hold a surprising amount of storage nowadays. Bleeding-edge thumb-sized USB drives can carry up to 2TB, which is enough space to handle 90% of a person’s needs.

So why aren’t folks flocking to Amazon and snatching them up like candy? It boils down to two reasons:

Firstly, the USB flash drives are significantly slower than full hard drives. While a mechanical hard disk drive tends to operate at approximately 80MB/s, USB flash drives typically average at 20MB/s for reading files.

Secondly, USB flash drives aren’t intended for frequent usage. The internal hardware of the flash drive deteriorates over time as more data is written and erased from the storage. Additionally, the external USB connector may break after 1500 or so insertions and removals.

But all is not doom and gloom with USB flash drives. If you need a tiny backup drive with big capacity and you don’t intend to use the drive very often, then a cheap thumb-sized USB flash drive is a perfect choice.

Best External Hard Drives for Remote Workers

Whether you spend most of your time working from home or prefer to take your laptop on the road, you’ll need a trusty external hard drive to ensure your work isn’t interrupted. Check out these top-ranking options:

External Hard Disk Drives

A trusty external hard disk drive is reliable and affordable, even at high capacities.

Seagate Portable 2TB External Hard Drive

Good Budget Hard Drive

  • Capacity: 2TB
  • Weight: 0.58 lbs
  • Supports USB 3.0: YES
  • Max Speed: 120MB/s

Seagate has been the leading pioneer of hard disk drives for over 40 years, and they’ve never skipped a beat. Reliability and portability are to be expected from the feather-weight Seagate Portable 2TB hard drive. If you don’t know which hard drive to pick– just pick this one.

Western Digital 6TB External Hard Drive

Best Bang for the Buck

  • Capacity: 6TB
  • Weight: 2.1 lbs
  • Supports USB 3.0: YES
  • Max Speed: 150MB/s

The sleek and stylish enclosure of the Western Digital 6TB will fit in perfectly with your desk area. But of course– it’s about more than just looks. At a whopping 6TB capacity, it’ll be eons before you need to worry about storage space.

Toshiba Canvio 4TB External Hard Drive

Stylishly Designed

  • Capacity: 4TB
  • Weight: 0.48 lbs
  • Supports USB 3.0: YES
  • Max Speed: 100MB/s

If portability is a priority, the light-weight Toshiba Canvio has got you covered. With a stylishly textured enclosure, the extra grip makes this drive a pleasure to carry. The Canvio won’t tip over or slide across the table like its plastic competitors. And at 4TB capacity, there is no compromise. You can have your cake and eat it, too.

External Solid State Drives

A solid state drive is incredibly portable, and packs some serious punch with blazing data transfer speeds. But expect it to be a bit pricier and have less capacity than a hard disk drive.

SanDisk 1TB External SSD

Blazing Fast Speeds in a Tiny Package

  • Capacity: 1TB
  • Weight: 0.11 lbs
  • Supports USB 3.0: YES
  • Max Speed: 1050MB/s

Ridiculously small and unbelievably fast, the SanDisk 1TB SSD clocks up to 1050MB/s transfer speeds and supports the latest and greatest USB 3.2 standard. One word of warning: it’s so light weight that you might forget that you’re carrying it.

Samsung T7 2TB External SSD

Balance of Speed and Capacity

  • Capacity: 2TB
  • Weight: 0.13 lbs
  • Supports USB 3.0: YES
  • Max Speed: 1050MB/s

As another fantastic light-weight SSD in the bunch, the Samsung T7 2TB is for folks who want the screaming-fast speed that an SSD offers, but with more capacity. This is a great option to future-proof your purchase.

Western Digital 4TB External SSD

The Ultimate External SSD

  • Capacity: 4TB
  • Weight: 0.1 lbs
  • Supports USB 3.0: YES
  • Max Speed: 1050MB/s

No compromises. The Western Digital 4TB SSD is light as a bird, fast as a cheetah, and polished like a luxury car. If you want a top-of-line portable SSD for all your daily needs– this Western Digital will have your back– today and tomorrow, too.

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Final Thoughts

Warning: once you get a nifty external hard drive in your possession, you might be inclined to download tons of software, games and movies… just because you can.

Jokes aside, a good external drive can really boost your confidence in knowing you can handle whatever digital challenges come your way.

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