How to choose an external hard drive — what to pay attention to?


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A traditional Sunday gadget review. Today’s topic: how to choose an external hard drive for storing photos, videos, and audio files?

Leading manufacturers, characteristics to focus on, and the optimal storage capacity. How long does an external hard drive last? Personal experience.

My requirements for the product An external drive was needed for backup storage and home office use. Moving from place to place no more than twice a year. I needed a capacious disk with a capacity of at least 4–6 TB. There’s never too much memory, as you well know.

How to choose an external hard drive
How to choose an external hard drive

What to consider when choosing an external drive?

I’ll try to briefly summarize what I’ve read in a dozen Western expert articles and taken into account for myself.

Durability of materials used. Hard drives have moving parts that can be damaged in case of a fall, for example. Especially important for compact models that are intended to be carried around. But for stationary external drives, it’s also crucial, as the lifestyle involves transportation at least a couple of times a year.

USB 3.0 interface capability. If speed and compatibility with both Windows and Mac are important, pay attention to this.

Data transfer speed — choose devices with speeds of 120 MB/s and above.

Presence of warranty and manufacturer support.

Storage capacity. If the external drive is used as a desktop storage at home, the relevant capacity is 4–8 TB. If an external drive is needed for travel, 2 TB is sufficient.

Which brand to choose

There are slightly more than a dozen brands and hundreds of models on the market. How to choose what you need?

Narrowing down the brand lineup greatly simplifies the choice.

Today, I choose from three manufacturers:

  • WD (Western Digital)
  • Seagate
  • Toshiba

These are the three largest manufacturers on the market. You can simply ignore the others. Western Digital and Seagate are American, Toshiba is Japanese. They are all time-tested, producing both portable external drives and compact ones. Toshiba has budget models with traditionally excellent Japanese quality.

Until now, I’ve been using WD for 7 years. I was considering Seagate, as it’s 20–30% faster in data transfer speed tests, but at the last moment, I decided not to change my preferences. Previous WD and WD Elements still work for me. I wasn’t satisfied with the memory capacity, so buying a new drive was only a matter of time.

How to choose an external hard drive
How to choose an external hard drive

Which external drive did I choose

Choosing between Seagate STGY80000 External Hard Drive 8TB and Western Digital Elements Desktop 6TB

As for a compact device, I’m looking towards the Toshiba Canvio Basics External Hard Drive 2TB or Western Digital Elements Desktop External Hard Drive USB3.0 2TB.

Actually, I believe it’s worth choosing between these models. I bought WD Elements 6TB. It works quite fast and quietly. I transferred everything stored on my two old drives to it, and there’s still about half of the capacity left.

The device weighs 910 grams, requires a 220V power connection. It is intended to be used only at home in a desktop setup.

For travel and work outside the home, I have WD Elements 2TB, which I may also upgrade. I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks, and so far, I can’t complain about anything. Satisfied.

How to choose an external hard drive
How to choose an external hard drive

How long does an external drive last?

Experts unanimously advise checking external hard drives every 5–6 years. My previous devices have been around for a bit longer, so the question of an update arose.

More about my gadget choices:


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