The Best External USB Hard Drives For Backing Up Your Computer

A good backup is like an insurance policy for your files. If you are infected with a virus, if the hard drive crashes or fails, or if you just accidentally delete your files, a thorough and recent backup can be a life saver.

 

External USB hard drives come in various sizes, styles and configurations. There are the larger desktop sized hard drives designed to be set up and kept in one location, but be aware these usually require a power cable in addition to the USB cable.  The there are the smaller 2.5 inch external hard drives that are much smaller and lighter and are usually powered via the USB cable itself. These are much more portable and will easily fit in a laptop bag, backpack or purse.

You can see the size difference between the 3.5 inch desktop drive and the smaller, more portable 2.5 inch drive. Desktop drives come in larger capacities, but usually require a separate power supply.

 

External USB drives generally connect with some type of USB cable. USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 cables are the same size and shape on the end that goes in your computer, and work in the same ports, but USB 3.0 devices are capable of faster file transfer speeds. If  you’re not sure if you have any USB 3.0 ports, look and see if you have any blue USB ports on your computer.

Here you can see the different types of USB connections common in external hard drives.

 

Blue cables and blue connectors are an easy way to distinguish 3.0 devices and cabled from 2.0 devices. Either way, USB 3.0 drives are backward compatible to work in a 2.0 port, they will simply run at the slower 2.0 transfer speed. Some newer drives may connect with USB 3.1 cables (USB-C) , but your computer needs to have a USB 3.1 port in order to use them.


This chart above from Amazon.com can give you an idea how much storage you need. The estimate is calculated based on average file sizes- professional photographers will use more space per photo for example, especially if they shoot in RAW mode. People will movie collections should know that movies can be in various formats that range in size. But the graphic is a good indicator for the average person’s files.

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This is a USB 3.0 1TB hard drive that works with both Apple MAC OSX and Windows PC’s. It comes with a free trial of WD SmartWare Pro auto and cloud backup software, or you can use the backup software of your choice. It is one of the smaller drives, measuring 4.4 x 3.2 x 0.6 inches and weighing only 4.8 ounces. This is perfect for the average person’s needs and works well for backing up both desktop and laptops. Also available in 2TB, 3TB and 4TB sizes.

 

 

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This is another 1TB USB 3.0 external hard drive, but this one is specifically designed to stand up to the rigors of travel. The casing is made of specialized rubber with a custom suspension system to reduce damage from accidents. The drive passed both crush testing and transit drop testing to US military MIL-STD-810G standards. It’s also resistant to being sprayed by water, which should protect against spills. If you are prone to accidents or just want the extra peace of mind, this is the drive for you. Also available in 2TB, 3TB, 4TB and 5TB sizes.

 

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This 4TB USB 3.0 desktop style hard drive includes an NTFS driver that allows it to be used by both Windows and MAC computers interchangeably. It also includes a 2 port USB hub so you can plug USB devices directly in to the hard drive, including cell phones and tablets. And the ports will work for charging even if the computer is turned off. The hub is especially helpful if the ports on your desktop computer are hard to access or if your laptop computer doesn’t have many USB ports. If you install the Seagate Mobile Backup app on IOS or Android devices, you can back up to this drive from those devices via the cloud. Available in 4TB, 6TB and 8TB sizes.

 

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8TB of storage space in this desktop drive, but it weighs a little over 2 pounds so it’s certainly made to be left in one place. It connects via USB 3.0 and works with Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10 right out of the box with no drivers to install.

 

Any of these drives will be helpful in setting up a backup system for your personal or business files.

 

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