Editor’s Note: This post has been updated to reflect new selections for 2016.
In today’s digital era of technology, “knowledge is power” has taken on a much broader meaning as data becomes our most valued asset. How we as users go about portably accessing and backing up our personal files — music, photos, financial documents, and third-party software — has proven to be just as critical. Whether it’s the music producer shopping beats around to labels or the accountant keeping tabs of clients’ paper trails, everyone can use a sturdy and high-functioning portable hard drive, especially those who remain adventurous and prone to accidents (naturally or otherwise).
We’re talking an external device that can withstand the daily wear and tear. Something that can handle being tossed in the messenger bag; something that can survive a natural disaster. Need we remind you of Hurricane Sandy, or of last Friday’s party at your place? Didn’t think so. Luckily for you, there’s a handful of damage-proof HHDs available sure to safeguard all your stored data — and we’ve found the best.
– Additional Contribution by Tucker Bowe
LaCie Rugged Raid
Best for Data-Reliant Nomads: Here’s what professional surf photographers use. The Raid has a 4TB capacity in its two hard drives so it can hold virtually all the high-res photos you take. And since it tops out at 240 MB/s (using Thunderbolt and USB 3.0), it transfers those photos to your laptop quickly. As its big orange bumpers and its “rugged” name suggest, the Raid is a hardy device. It’s dust and water resistant (IP54 rated), can survive a 5-foot drop and is password protected with AES 256-bit software encryption. Other than its bulky size (1.2 pounds) and $400 price tag, it’s as dependable as a hard drive gets.
ioSafe Rugged Portable SSD
Best Luxury Heavyweight: ioSafe likens their Rugged Portable SSD hard drive to an aircraft’s black box — if you “go down,” this thing will survive. It can handle 2,500 pounds of pressure, a 10-foot drop and full submersion — in 10 feet of water for 3 days (IP68 rated) — all without losing data. It comes in two capacities, 500GB and 1TB, and utilizes USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 speeds. Yes, it’s pricey, but it comes with what ioSafe calls the “world’s best warranty,” which includes a no-questions-asked data recovery service for the first year — after which time additional warranties can be purchased.
A Cloud-Based Service, With Some Extra Hardware
Best for the Cloud Loyalist: Meet BackBlaze. It’s a cloud-based service system, similar to Google Drive or Dropbox. For $5 a month, PC and Mac users have access to “unlimited” storage. The company offers a “two-factor verification” for extra account security: users must enter their account credentials and a verification code from a second device. And the company will mail you a USB hard drive or flash drive of your data if you request it. It’s an added level of backup, for those who don’t fully trust the cloud.
Samsung Portable SSD T1
Best for the Office Klutz: The T1 is a solid-state drive, so, even though it’s not branded as “rugged,” it’s more durable than similarly sized external hard drives. Its main draw is its speed: Samsung claims the T1’s transfer speed can go as high as 450MB per second, which is 3 to 4 times faster than traditional spinning-platter HDD hard drives. The T1 is compatible with USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 interfaces, and comes in three capacities (250GB, 500GB and 1TB).
SanDisk Extreme 510 Portable SSD
Best for All-Purpose Users: In January 2016, SanDisk (“the “Global Leader in Flash Memory Storage Solutions”) unveiled an upgraded version of its Extreme 500 Portable SSD hard drive, the Extreme 510. Hitting shelves in March 2016, the Extreme 510 is designed for outdoor photographers and videographers. It’s water (IP55 rated) and shock resistant, and it’s small enough to slip into a pant pocket. It has 480GB of storage and a max transfer speed of 430MB per second.
Buffalo MiniStation Extreme NFC
Best for the Sophisticated Data Saver: The Buffalo MiniStation Extreme NFC comes in two capacities: 1TB and 2TB. Yes, it’s tough, able to withstand drops of up to 4 feet, and IPX3 water and IP5X dust resistant. And yes, it’s fast, with a data transfer rate of 480MB per second. But where this device sets itself apart (aside from cost) is its Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. The hard drive, which can be unlocked via password, also comes with a separate keycard (integrated with a NFC chip) for extra security. This way if the MiniStation is stolen, your data is safe, unless the thief steals your keycard are well.
Silicon Power Armor A80
Best Budget Storage Alternative: The Armor A80 can be submerged in 3 feet of water for 30 minutes, or dropped from 4 feet, and still survive. It’s small, easily fitting inside a pocket, and transfers data quickly (maxing out at 5GB per second using a USB 3.0 compatible device). At 1TB for about $70 (plus a 3-year warranty), the Armor A80 is a deal and a half.