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3 External Hard Drives to Backup Your Desktop (and Stay Free of the Cloud)

From affordable to best-in-class, these hard drives will keep your photos and documents safe.


With so many cheap cloud-based storage solutions, why would anybody invest in a physical hard drive? Well, here are three reasons. 1) External hard drives, with their one-time fee, are actually less expensive — those monthly subscription costs add up (plus they often come with a bandwidth limit). 2) Security. With cloud services you hand over all responsibility for your photos, documents and other data to that storage provider; with an external hard drive, you’re in the driver’s seat. 3) Speed. Even if you have a really fast internet connection, the transfer speeds with cloud services can’t compete with today’s Thunderbolt 3–enabled hard drives. Sure, external hard drives need a little more desk space, and they’re less portable, but knowing the things you need are secure — that’s priceless.

Seagate Backup Plus Hub

Best Overall: The newer version of Seagate’s dependable Backup Plus ($100), the Seagate Backup Plus Hub adds an extra USB 3.0 port (so, two total) and a now rests on its side. Additionally, you can connect and charge two USB devices simultaneously. It’s fast and compact. We recommend using with newer computers that have built-in USB 3.0 ports.

Storage Capacity: 4TB
Interface: USB 3.0
Weight: 2.3 pounds

Buy Now: $110

LaCie 2TB Bolt 3 Thunderbolt 3 External SSD

Best Performance: The Bolt 3 is the world’s fastest desktop hard drive, delivering transfer speeds up to 2,800 MB/s. It utilizes dual Thunderbolt 3 ports and is ideal for professionals editing 4K-and-above video with virtually no latency. That said, this is a premium device and you’ll need to speed nearly two grand for those ludicrous speeds.

Storage Capacity: 2TB
Interface: Thunderbolt 3
Size: 1.7 pounds

Buy Now: $1,999

CalDigit Tuff

Most Rugged Slash Portable: If you want a less delicate 2TB hard drive, the CalDigit Tuff is water- and dust-proof, and can survive a drop up to four feet. It’s portable and fast, able to transfer data at up to 10Gb/s. Also, it comes with two cables and is compatible with USB 3.0 and USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports, meaning it’ll work your desktop that’s a few years old.

Storage Capacity: 2TB
Interface: USB 3.1
Size: 0.6 pounds

Buy Now: $180

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