Calling for Backup: The 8 Best External Hard Drives

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Gadgets BY M. W. Byrne

For most of your data storage needs, a flash drive is enough. On the other hand, there are times when you need to back up your entire computer so that you can wipe it clean and re-install Windows…again. When you do this, you don’t want to lose all your information, your pictures, your work files, or your 4 terabytes of pornography. For these instances you need a bigger storage device. You need an external hard drive.

Even if you back everything up in cloud storage or an off-site drive or server, no one has ever regretted having an external drive as a secondary backup. You might not think you need it, until the day you do.

Western Digital My Passport

Western Digital My Passport

Size: 500GB – 4TB
Cost: $71 – $430

The My Passport series from WD is the jack of all trades, master of none storage device. The smaller sizes will save you money while the larger ones will cover nearly everything a person could want. They are small enough to be portable but savvy enough to be used only at home. They have automatic backup from the moment they are connected to your computer. They work with Dropbox for cloud backup if you prefer. The only trouble with My Passport is it does not play well with Macs unless you completely reformat it. If you are an Apple user, this will not necessarily touch your i-spot. Uses USB 3.0 or 2.0. [Purchase]

Seagate Backup Plus Slim

Seagate Backup Plus Slim

Size: 1-2TB
Cost: $80 – $121

You won’t get the same differential in storage size from the Slim as you would with the Passport, but otherwise it is almost entirely superior. The construction is sturdier and it is smaller, making it great for standard portability. It won’t stand up to much abuse, but it can ride around in a backpack, laptop case, or fanny pack if you’re feeling really sexy, with ease. It uses a Wi-Fi connection or its on-board USB 3.0 port to transfer data. Works with Macs and PCs equally well and with the Seagate Backup app you can have it talking to your iOS or Android device in no time. Also works with Dropbox and Google Drive for cloud storage options. [Purchase]

LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt

LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt

Size: 500GB – 2TB
Cost: $90 – $300

The Slim will give you basic portability, but the Rugged from LaCie will go into the jungle or the sandbox with you and keep ticking. It stands up to shock, pressure, and even rain so long as you don’t leave it out in a deluge too long. The rubber guards and aluminum body help add to the physical safety of the drive. It also has solid password protection and AES encryption so your information is safe from threats both inside and out. You can get either an HDD or SSD version depending on your needs. It uses a USB 3.0 port and Thunderbolt option so Mac and PC users will be able to plug and play. [Purchase]

Seagate Central

Seagate Central

Size: 2 – 4TB
Cost: $129-$200

Don’t need portability? Then the Seagate Central is going to be your pride and joy. It is not meant to be transported, battered, beaten, or even jostled. This is a true “indoor” desktop external hard drive. It creates local cloud storage so that carting it around is a moot point since you can access it from any Wi-Fi hotspot you run across during your travels.

The Central is perfect if you want to stream stored movies, TV, or music from anywhere or use it with unusual devices. Works with Macs and PCs and can be configured to work with most tablets and smartphones. You can use it for simple data backup, but it really shines in multimedia. It can connect to game consoles, Samsung TVs, Airplay devices, or other wireless streaming technology so you can play endless episodes of Downton Abbey wherever you are. [Purchase]

Apple Airport Time Capsule 0

Apple Airport Time Capsule

Size: 1 – 3TB
Cost: $171-$380

Do not be afraid. Just because it is produced by Apple does not mean it is going to have strange interfaces that are not seen in nature. The Airport Time Capsule works entirely without wires, leaving it open to Windows, Macs, and it even works well for you scamps that prefer Linux. It is meant to be a backup hub for a whole house, rather than tied down to just one computer. You can use it as a Wi-Fi bridge, as a router, or just as an external hard drive backup. It carries its own firewall for extra protection against the trolls of the world. It automatically backs your information up in the background if you wish, or will only do as it is told. The cost is higher than most, but you’re getting so much more than just a storage device. [Purchase]

ioSafe G3

ioSafe G3

Size: 1- 3TB
Cost: $300- $500

The ioSafe is to external hard drives as a bank vault is to a wallet. While other drives are so cute with their portability or Wi-Fi compatibility, the G3 is down in the bunker with jugs of water, gasoline, canned goods, and weapons. The G3 is intended to survive fires and flooding and still keep your data secure. It can take temperatures up to 1550° F for 30 minutes and can be totally submerged in either fresh or salt water for up to three days before it takes permanent damage. It can even be bolted down so that thieves can’t take it. It comes complete with $2,500 worth of forensic recovery as well, so even if the bombs land or the Big One hits, you can expect to get your data back. Works with Mac and PC. [Purchase]

Lenovo Thinkpad

Lenovo Thinkpad

Size: 160GB – 1TB
Cost: $79 – $250

If your security worries aren’t acts of God but rather acts of man, then the ThinkPad is going to be the external hard drive you want to trust. It has true 256-bit AES encryption as well as a keypad right on the device so that no one can crack it. It is small enough to travel with you, yet so secure that you can hand it to a stranger and still know that your files are safe. Just don’t forget your PIN. Enter the wrong passcode too many times and it will brick itself. For the ultimate in portable security from thieves and the NSA, there is none better than the Thinkpad. Remember: You aren’t paranoid if they really are out to get you. [Purchase]

LaCie 5Big

LaCie 5Big

Size: 5-25TB
Cost: $500 – $2,500

The 5Big isn’t the most secure external hard drive, the most portable, or the most rugged. Instead, it is – as the name implies – the biggest. This is El Gordo of the storage world. Sizes start at enormous and go up. Usually you will only need this if you are backing up files for a whole business or some weird techno-commune. Works equally well with Macs and PCs and can even be interfaced with older storage devices so that all your data is in one place. It holds a lot of information and can read and write it fast, meaning multiple users or employees can access it simultaneously. Since it is intended for business you can use the RAID controller to choose whether it works more quickly or more securely depending on the project. [Purchase]

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