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Best External Hard Drive for Photographers 2021

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Our Top 3 Picks

BEST VALUE

9. Transcend StoreJet 25M3

Price Range: $$$
Our Rating:

3. G-Technology G-Drive Mobile SSD R-Series

Price Range: $$$
Our Rating:
#1 PICK

1. WD My Passport SSD Portable Storage

Price Range: $$$
Our Rating:

If you are a travel photographer, then you’ll need the best external hard drive for photographers. These allow you to back up your images on the road.

Having a portable hard drive means your memory cards are free to shoot and shoot again. Read on to find out our top 10 picks for the best external hard drive.

An internal hard drive without an enclosure
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Common Portable Hard Drive Questions

What Is the Best External Hard Drive for Photographers?

The best external hard drive for photographers depends on where you are going and what you are doing. Also, the equipment you use is essential, as modern cameras capture increasingly larger file sizes.

If you have access to a hotel room or Airbnb flat, then a static Internal Hard Drive Extension could be a great choice. It offers a lot of power and capacity. It isn’t very portable, except for schlepping it to the room in the first place.

Otherwise, you need a portable hard drive that allows you to store your images until you return to civilization. These portable hard drives are often shockproof, dirt and water-resistant, and power themselves from a USB cable.

Backup hard drives are an excellent choice for the middle ground. They bridge the gap between a one-destination wedding holiday and mountaineering adventure photography.

Is Seagate or WD External Hard Drive Better?

Both Seagate and Western Digital are well known for making hard drives for photographers. Personally, I have both. I use Seagate for internal hard drives (which I connect externally) and WD for the stand-alone Internal Hard Drive Extensions.

As with any two competing companies, there are slight differences between two very similar products. Both make portable hard drives, internal hard drive extension, and backup models.

Some will say that Seagate fails more often, resulting in data loss. Others will say that WD external hard drive is more expensive for what it is. Everyone has a different experience.

Data loss is a potential worry, but it doesn’t need to be. Choosing between these two companies is easy: Do they sell what you want? Are you on a budget? Whichever one you choose, make sure you run a fail-safe system, such as RAID. This will protect your images from any issues.

A lady working on a laptop with a portable hard drive

How Big of an External Hard Drive Do I Need for Pictures?

Digital photography today can capture up to, and surpass 82mb, per shot. A Raw file from the Sony a7R III will reach this easily. This means that with a 16GB card, you can hope to take around 200 images. It calls for more and higher capacity storage.

This could be a few days of shooting if you’re a landscape photographer. Or about 30 minutes for a street photographer. There are 256 GB CF or 1 TB Sd cards that you can use with your digital camera, but who wants to carry around all their images?

What happens if you’re out in the field and away from your backup hard drives at home? A destination wedding can result in thousands of images of a few days. You need a way to store them. Camera memory cards are costly in comparison to external hard drives.

If you take a lot of images, then you’ll need a larger size hard drive. But, will it be a backup drive or a portable hard drive. A portable drive is expensive, and increasing with the size you want. A backup drive is cheaper in comparison.

Price Range: $$$

10. WD My Passport Portable External Hard Drive

  • 1-4TB Storage Capacity
  • USB 3.0 Interface; USB 2.0 Compatible
  • Data Protection with Hardware Encryption
  • Includes WD Backup Software
  • Dimensions: 4.3 x 3.2 x 0.8″
  • Weight: 0.54 lbs / 0.24 kg

Western Digital is one of the forerunners of external hard drives for photographers. The My Passport version has been a popular hit with those who like the bus-powered hard drives.

This portable hard drive can act as both a portable and a backup drive. It is bus-powered, meaning you don’t need an extra power supply. This plastic-encased box comes in a range of colors to fit your style; orange, blue, red white, and the usual black.

You’ll find they are light and compact, although the 3 and 4 TB versions are almost 1cm thicker. There are decent file transfer speeds to be had from this heavy-duty model. It is stuck on

The biggest selling point, apart from the price, is the Hardware Encryption with Backup Software.

Our Rating:
Price Range: $$$

9. Transcend StoreJet 25M3

  • 1TB-2TB Storage Capacity
  • USB 3.1 Gen 1 Connectivity
  • Transfer Rate Up to 5Gb/s
  • Drop-resistant suspension system
  • Dimensions: 5.1 x 3.2 x 0.7″
  • Weight: 0.41 lb / 0.19 kg

Compared to other models, the Transcend StoreJet looks a little cheap due to its plasticy look. But, underneath its exterior lies, a military tested, 3-layer shock-resistant material.

This suspension system is definitely what you need for action or adventure photography. Protected inside is a large hard drive, big enough to make it a backup hard drive. It will also serve as a portable hard drive due to it being bus-powered.

Tests see that the transfer rates beat that of the WD My Passport. It is an HDD, but quick enough to make you think its an SSD. The models top off at 2TB, but it will be more than enough to act as a middle-man storage unit.

Our Rating:
Price Range: $$$

8. Transcend ESD400 Portable SSD

  • 128GB-1TB Storage Capacity
  • USB 3.1 Gen 1 Connectivity
  • Transfer Rate Up to 380MB/s
  • Dimensions: 3.6 x 2.44 x 0.4″
  • Weight: 1.23 lb / 0.56 kg

Portable SSDs are the way to go if you need fast reading and writing speeds in the wild. The solid-state drive is much faster, but expect to pay more for it. The ESD400 is cheaper than the other SSD models here, but only when getting the 128GB version.

If you go for a bigger size, the pricing fluctuates, where the G-Drive or SanDisk becomes cheaper. Is it worth the cost? Is it faster, or offers something special? Sadly, no. Reading speeds are pretty good, but the writing speed was a little disappointing.

This SSD is also a little bigger, making it a little more challenging to take with you. Hard to understand why as it doesn’t have any shock mounts or rugged exterior.

You might like the auto-backup button, making it easy and secure for when you get home. You get the Elite software, which helps make this a sinch.

Our Rating:
Price Range: $$$

7. G-Technology ArmorATD

  • 1TB-4TB Storage Capacity
  • USB 3.1 Gen 1 Connectivity
  • Transfer Rate Up to 140MB/s
  • Rain/Sand Resistant
  • Crushproof to 1000lb
  • 1.2-meter drop protection
  • Dimensions: 3.6 x 2.44 x 0.4″
  • Weight: 1.23 lb / 0.56 kg

The G-Tech ArmorATD is aptly named, due to the silicone bumper that surrounds the HDD. The All-Terrain Drive also has internal shock capabilities, and resistant to sand and water, making it a perfect choice for life on the road. Or mountainside.

It is safe with drops under 1.2 meters, but it is crushproof. 1000 lbs of pressure are what it takes to put this out of service. It connects via a USB 3.1, allowing a Thunderbolt 3 connection to a Mac or Windows machine.

You’ll get a 140MB/s speed. This is more than enough for a portable HDD. For reading and writing photographic or video data, you’ll have no problems in the field.

The only qualm with this is the size. It is a little bigger than some models, which you would expect due to the ruggedness. The cost is a little steep for equivalent sizes when compared to other models.

Our Rating:
Price Range: $$$

6. SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD

  • 250GB-2TB Storage Capacity
  • USB 3.1 Gen 1 Connectivity
  • Transfer Rate Up to 550MB/s
  • Rain/Sand Resistant
  • Shock Resistance
  • Dimensions: 3.77 x 1.96 x 0.35″
  • Weight: 0.56 lb / 0.039 kg

Unlike some other storage options in our list, this is an SSD rather than an HDD. A solid-state disc is much faster, as it doesn’t use a mechanical arm to imprint data on a dis. Instead, it uses microchips, cutting out a lot of time.

Not only is it fast, but you can get a 2TB version which gives you a lot of space in a small, thin package. It is rugged and rated to resist dust and water. A two-meter drop won’t affect it.

Reading and writing photos and videos are no problem at high speeds, perfect for any creative work on the go. It is slower than the Samsung T5 as a portable SSD and works out as more expensive.

The benefit is that the SanDisk Extreme is already formatted for both Mac and Windows.

Our Rating:
Price Range: $$$

5. WD 2TB My Passport Wireless Pro

  • 2TB Storage Capacity
  • Wi-Fi, USB 3.0 Connectivity
  • SD Media Card Slot
  • Up to 10 Hours of Battery Life
  • Charge Mobile Devices
  • USB 2.0 Port
  • Dimensions: 5.3 x 3.4 x 0.7″
  • Weight: 1.0 lb / 0.5 kg

We see a few different models of the Western Digital line on our list. Personally, this is one of my favorites on the list as it sticks out from the others. It is a wireless model. This means you can really keep your editing or storage gear to a minimal.

It comes with an internal battery and a memory card slot. This means you can either upload your images through a WiFi connection or plug your images straight into the drive. You can also power your phone or other devices.

No external power needed, and no cables either. You don’t even need to take your laptop as its own WiFi connection lets the two devices communicate. The battery will last 10 hours with constant use.

This model is bulkier and heavier, but you don’t even need to take it out of your bag. The benefits for me outweigh the negatives, and if you don’t like to use WiFi, you can use the cable method.

The greatest thing about this is, it stores all kinds of formats. This is a perfect thing to take for a family to access; mom with the pictures of the kids and the kids get to watch cartoons.

Our Rating:
Price Range: $$$

4. Samsung Portable SSD T5

  • 500GB-2TB Storage Capacity
  • USB-C 3.1 GEN 2 Interface
  • Transfer Rate Up to 560MB/s
  • 3-meter drop protection
  • Dimensions: 3.7 x 2 x 0.6″
  • Weight: 0.22 lbs / 0.51 kg

There is no SSD portable hard drive that is more minimal or sleeker than the Samsung T5. You have the option to grab sizes between 500GB to 2TB, which is more than enough to work on the road.

At 51 grams, it is one of the lightest, and 3.7″ makes it one of the smallest. The design will change depending on if you go for the larger or smaller sizes. If you’re looking for something other than black, you’ll need to get the 1/2TB models.

For speed, look no further. We were thrilled with these results. To get these, expect to pay more than the G-Drive and SanDisk alternatives. Transfer does come with the USB-C 3.1 connection, which isn’t surprising.

Here, you also get encrypted software, so your data is safe if stolen or lost.

Our Rating:
Price Range: $$$

3. G-Technology G-Drive Mobile SSD R-Series

  • 500GB-2TB Storage Capacity
  • USB-C 3.1 GEN 2 Interface
  • Transfer Rate Up to 560MB/s
  • 3-meter drop protection
  • Dimensions: 3.7 x 2 x 0.6″
  • Weight: 0.22 lbs / 0.1 kg

The G-Technology G-Drive is the second on our list and an SSD storage unit. This is a premium model, giving you the fastest data read and write speeds. Expect 560MB/s a second for this beast, beating almost every other option in our list.

Surprisingly, it is cheaper than some of the competitors – especially byte for byte. One issue you need to consider is that it is formatted for Mac, and won’t show up on a Windows operating system. You can reformat it if required.

The casing is slightly thicker, providing dust and water resistance and even a 3m drop. On top of these, it is even crushproof, making it a viable option for adventure photography.

G-Technology trusts their product so much that it comes with a 5-year warranty.

Our Rating:
Price Range: $$$

2. LaCie Rugged Mini USB 3.0 / USB 2.0 External Hard Drive

  • 10 Tips For Taking Outdoor Portrait Photography2TB Storage Capacity
  • USB 3.0 Interface; USB 2.0 Compatible
  • Transfer Rate Up to 5Gb/s
  • 47.2″ Maximum Drop Height
  • LaCie Private-Public Software
  • Dimensions: 5.3 x 3.4 x 0.7″
  • Weight: 0.5 lbs / 0.2 kg

The LaCie was the go-to portable hard drive for a long time. They were the leaders of durable material, giving it a rugged look that was also useful. The design of the orange bumper is synonymous and looks great, albeit a little fun.

It is drop resistant up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) and waterproof to boot. If this wasn’t enough, it is also crushproof, making it perfect for action shots and adventure photography.

This is what you want for all the outdoor photography and video storage.

The 5400 rpm speed isn’t as fast as the 7200, but good enough for protecting your images.

Our Rating:
Price Range: $$$

1. WD My Passport SSD Portable Storage

  • 1TB Storage Capacity
  • USB 3.1 Type-C Connector
  • Up to 515 MB/s Data Transfer Rate
  • Shock Resistant up to 6.5′
  • Dimensions: 3.5 x 1.8 x 0.4″
  • Weight: 0.09 lbs / 0.04 kg

The Western Digital My Passport SSD is the best option in portable storage for photographers. There is a reason that this hard drive manufacturer appears many times on our list, where the SSD is the best of the bunch.

It only comes in a 1TB option, but that is more than enough for your traveling adventures. It is bus-powered, so no external power is needed. All you need is your laptop, and you are free to store your images and video.

The data transfer isn’t as large as the G-Drive, but at 515 MB/s, it is more than adequate for fast reading and writing. You’ll find it is more expensive than other best external hard drive options, but you get a lower failure rate.

This means everything when you hold your most treasured images in your hands.

Our Rating:
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