8 Best External Hard Drive for Photographers

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The best external hard drive for photographers and filmmakers depends on the equipment and needs. Cameras and camcorders have a lot of memory these days, and they need it. That can be internal (built-in) and external. The latter is typically a card slot that accommodates an SD or MicroSD card. But there’s never enough storage, and that’s where the portable drive comes to the rescue.

There are a couple of reasons why photographers carry an external hard drive. One is to transfer data from the camera to the portable storage device. That empties the internal and local memory, which they may need on extended shoots. The other purpose is to back up all those valuable files.

WD Portable 1TB HDD
Storage: 1TB
Tech: HDD
Superspeed USB port, backup software, password protection.
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Best Value
G-Technology 1TB SSD
Storage: 1TB
Tech: SSD
Rugged build, 3 capacities available, aluminum core, reversible USB-C port.
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Top Pick
SanDisk Extreme 2TB SSD
Storage: 2TB
Tech: SSD
Water/dust-resistance, 4 capacities, 2 enclosures, Win/Mac compatible.
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SSD Vs. HDD Hard Drives

Traditional portable hard disk drives (HDD) are excellent value. The newer Solid State Drives (SSD) are even better. SSDs are smaller and lighter than their HDD equivalent. That means they need less space in the gadget bag. They also offer much faster data transfer speeds. These extra benefits do have a higher price tag, though, so I’ve included both technologies in the reviews.

What to Look for in a Portable Hard Drive

There are 5 things to consider before you invest in a portable hard drive:

  1. Set your budget based on needs
  2. Decide between HDD or SSD
  3. Transfer speed
  4. Connection type
  5. Practical extras

OK, let’s go over the above checklist in a little more detail.

About My ‘Photographers Hard Drive’ Guide

There’s no shortage of external hard drives for storing photos and videos. The 8 products in this guide are the result of extensive research. These are all worthy drives that sell well and enjoy positive feedback from users. I also considered the views of industry experts before finalizing the list. The first 3 HDD and SSD reviews are the Editor’s picks for Best Budget, Value, and Top Choice.

Photographers Hard Drive Comparison Table

1. WD Portable 1TB My Passport HDD | Best Budget

WD Portable 1TB My Passport HDDView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.7/5

The Best Budget pick goes to the palm-sized WD 1TB My Passport Drive. It’s surprisingly small and streamlined for an HDD. That makes it an ideal portable storage solution for photographers.

  • Best feature 1: Compact, streamlined design
  • Best feature 2: 4 storage choices in 3 colors
  • Plus points: Superspeed USB port, backup software, password protection, extended warranty
  • Minus points: Slow backup software

WD My Passport External Drive Highlights

This HDD backup drive is 1TB, but there are also 2TB, 4TB, and 5TB options available. You can also choose between black, blue, and red colors. The dimensions are the same whichever one you opt for, and the drives easily fit into the palm of an adult hand. Its small size and slim form factor take up very little space in the photographer’s gadget bag.

My Passport HDD comes with preinstalled automatic WD backup software, but it’s not the fastest. The drive also has password protection and built-in 256-bit AES hardware encryption.

The Not So Good

This drive has the older HDD technology and does exactly as advertised. The backup software can take a while to complete, though. It’s not painfully slow, but photographers may need to be patient if they have a lot of stuff to back up from a computer to the drive. It’s perfect for anyone who only wants it as a portable external drive to save photos and videos while on the go.

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Tech Specs
Brand: Western Digital
Color: Black/Blue/Red
Technology: HDD
Max Transfer Speeds: 5GB/s
Capacity: 1TB
Connection(s): Micro-B
Shock Protection: Yes
Pre-Format: NTFS
Encryption: 256-Bit AES
Dimensions: 4.2 x 3 x 0.4”
Product Weight: 4.2 oz.
Warranty: 3 years
The Pros
Compact, streamlined design
Easy to use
4 storage capacity choices
3 colors available
Superspeed USB port
Backup software
Password protection
Long warranty
Excellent value
The Cons
Backup software is slow

2. G-Technology Portable 1TB SSD G-Drive | Best Value

G-Technology Portable 1TB SSD G-DriveView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.8/5

G-Technology gets the Best Value slot with its portable, 1TB SSD external drive. The product sells well and gets lots of praise from those who own one of these portable devices.

  • Best feature 1: Highly durable for a drive in its class
  • Best feature 2: Fast and portable
  • Plus points: Rugged build, 3 capacities available, aluminum core, reversible USB-C port
  • Minus points: Impressive but expensive

G-Technology Portable G-Drive Highlights

G-Technology’s Mobile G-Drive is as small as they get for a product in this category. This one is the 1TB version, but there are also 500GB and 2TB available. Consider the portable G-drive if you need a device that’s fast, portable, and durable. The transfer speeds are up to 560MB/s. It’s an ideal product for storing lots of RAW photos, 4K video, and whatever else you have going on.

The build quality is worth a mention. This Solid-State Drive can withstand accidental knocks, drops, and vibrations. It can survive a 3-meter fall and boasts a crushproof rating of 1000 lbs. It also has overheating protection thanks to a cool aluminum core. The drive is compatible with all newer laptops and Macs through its reversible USB-C port.

The Not So Good

SSD drives make superb, lightweight external drives, but at a price. This one is no exception. An HDD of the same storage capacity is considerably cheaper. Only you can decide whether the faster speeds, silent operation, environmental resistance, and minute size are worth the extra cost.

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Tech Specs
Brand: G-Technology
Color: Black
Technology: Solid State Drive
Pre-Format: HFS+
Max Transfer Speeds: 560MB/s
Capacity: 1TB
Connection(s): Type-C
Resistance: Crush, shock, water
IP Rating: IP67
Dimensions: 3.7 x 2 x 0.6”
Product Weight: 3.04 oz.
Warranty: 5 years
The Pros
Tiny, lightweight, and portable
Fast transfer speeds
3 capacities available
Cool aluminum core
Ruggedized Storage
Shock and vibration-resistant
IP67 (water protection to 1m)
Crushproof up to 1000 lbs.
Reversible USB-C port
Long Warranty
The Cons
Impressive but expensive

3. SanDisk Extreme Compact 2TB SSD Drive | Top Pick

SanDisk Extreme Compact 2TB SSD DriveView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.9/5

SanDisk’s Extreme Compact 2TB SSD drive gets the Editor’s Top Pick. External hard drives for storing hi-res photographs and video out in the field don’t get much better than this.

  • Best feature 1: Small, light, and portable
  • Best feature 2: High-speed transfers
  • Plus points: Water/dust-resistance, 4 capacities, 2 enclosures, Win/Mac compatible
  • Minus points: Expensive, no power light, short cable

SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD Drive Highlights

The SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD is perfect for photographers who need to speed up their workflow. It has a portable, pocket-sized design and 2 available encloses. You can get this device in 4 capacities, i.e., 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, and this one, 2TB. Enjoy high-speed transfers up to 550MB/s. And the USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C let photographers move their files in no time.

It’s a rugged SSD drive with an IP55 rating that provides water and dust-resistance. It’s also vibration-resistant, shock resistant (up to 1500G), and can withstand 2m drops. The drive works seamlessly with both Windows and Mac computers. It’s equipped with cables and connectors that guarantee compatibility with past, present, and future operating systems.

The Not So Good

This series of SanDisk Extreme Portable SSDs are expensive. They do sell well despite the high price tag, though, and tells us plenty. There’s not an LED light to show when the device is connected and active. The last complaint is the short cable this drive comes with. It’s easy enough to buy a longer cable, but there should have been one in the box at this price.

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Tech Specs
Brand: SanDisk
Color: Gray
Technology: SSD
Transfer Speeds: 550MB/s
Capacity: 2TB
Connection(s): Type-C
Interface: USB 3.1 Gen-2
Shock Protection: Yes
Dimensions: 1.3 x 4 x 5”
Product Weight: 1.44 oz.
Warranty: 3 years
The Pros
Small, light, and portable
Made for Mac & PC users
High-speed transfers
Rugged build
4 capacities
2 enclosures available
Win/Mac compatible
Decent Warranty
The Cons
Missing power light
Short cable

4. LaCie Rugged Mini 2TB HDD External Hard Drive

LaCie Rugged Mini 2TB HDD External Hard DriveView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.4/5

Meet the LaCie Rugged Mini HDD. This one is the company’s 2TB hard drive, but other capacities are available. It’s an ideal mobile storage device for adventure photographers and videographers.

  • Best feature 1: Incredibly rugged HDD
  • Best feature 2: High-visibility rubber sleeve
  • Plus points: Win/Mac compatible, fast transfer, 5 capacities, PW protection
  • Minus points: Short, awkward cord, vague instructions in part

LaCie Mini HDD Hard Drive Highlights

It’s tiny but tough, says LaCie. They claim this mini drive can withstand the weight of a 1-ton car. It’s also drop and shock-resistant and has a vivid rubber sleeve for added protection. This product is the 2TB option, or you can choose 1TB, 4TB, 5TB, and 8TB. The data transfer speeds are up to 130 MB/s. It’s compatible with both Windows and Mac systems via the USB 3.0 interface.

Other features include password protection, data encryption, and customizable backups. The rugged build and small size make the LaCie Mini an excellent choice for photographers out in the field.

The Not So Good

The cord with this drive is unnecessarily short. It also comes out easy, so users have to be careful not to move the drive once it’s connected and transferring data. The included instructions could use some improvement. They’re written in a way that assumes all users are at least at the intermediate level. The guide covers all areas but is short on details in some parts.

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Tech Specs
Brand: LaCie
Color: Orange
Technology: HDD
Transfer Speeds: 130 MB/s
Capacity Range: 2TB
Connection(s): USB 3.0
Shock Protection: Yes
Dimensions: 3.4 x 0.8 x 5.3”
Product Weight: 8 oz.
Warranty: 2 years limited
The Pros
Incredibly rugged HDD
High-visibility protective sleeve
Win/Mac compatible
Fast transfer for an HDD
5 capacities available
Password protection
Data encryption
The Cons
Short, awkward cord
Vague instructions in parts

5. Samsung T5 500GB Portable SSD External Drive

Samsung T5 500GB Portable SSD External DriveView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.8/5

This review is for the portable Samsung T5. It’s a compact Solid-State Drive (SSD) with 500GB storage, though other capacities are available (see below).

  • Best feature 1: Palm-sized all-metal and rounded unibody design
  • Best feature 2: Choice of storage capacities and colors
  • Plus points: Ultra-lightweight, fast transfer, password protection, data encryption
  • Minus points: Overly complicated SW interface, poor instructions

Compatibility: Windows OS, Mac OS-X 10.9 (Mavericks), and Android 4.4 (KitKat), or higher versions.

Samsung T5 Portable SSD Drive Highlights

Samsung’s T5 comes in 500GB, 1TB, 2TB capacities, and four colors. Its smooth rounded metal casing feels comfortable to hold. Users can exploit the optional password protection and AES 256-bit encryption. The drive includes Type-C to C and USB Type-C to A cables. Transfer speeds can reach 540 MB/s, which is almost 5x faster than most HDD alternatives.

This tiny drive is perfect for photographers and videographers who work out in the field. It only weighs around 51 grams and is small enough to slide into any pocket. Moreover, it’s shock-resistant and can withstand a 2-meter drop onto hard surfaces.

The Not So Good

The software interface seems unnecessarily complicated. Also, users must install the Samsung software on all connected devices to exploit the password feature. Mac users interested in this drive should check Samsung’s software compatibility updates before they buy. The instructions are also lacking, especially for MacBook users.

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Tech Specs
Brand: Samsung
Color: Blue
Technology: SSD
Read/Write Speeds: 540 MB/s
Capacity Range: 500GB
Connection(s): Type-C, Type-A
Shock Protection: Yes
Encryption: 256-Bit AES
Dimensions: 3.0 x 2.3 x 0.4”
Product Weight: 1.8 oz.
Warranty: 3 years limited
The Pros
Small, palm-sized unibody design
Rugged all-metal build
Choice of storage capacities
4 colors to choose from
Fast data transfer
Password protection
Data encryption
The Cons
Awkward software interface
Poor instructions

6. Sabrent Rocket Pro Aluminum 1TB SSD Drive

Sabrent Rocket Pro Aluminum 1TB SSD DriveView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.5/5

The Sabrent Rocket Pro is a plug-n-play aluminum 1TB USB 3.2 external SSD. It’s an ultra-slim drive with type-C connectivity and impressive data transfer speeds.

  • Best feature 1: Ultra-slim design w/ aluminum alloy shell
  • Best feature 2: Designed for travelling
  • Plus points: Plug-n-play, quality build, versatile drive, ultra-fast transfer, upgradable firmware
  • Minus points: Cheap connecting cable, no software

Sabrent Rocket Pro USB SSD Drive Highlights

Sabrent designed its Rocket Pro SSD drive with traveling in mind. It’s small and light, but the high build quality is evident as soon as you touch it. It connects to any computer via the included USB Type-C to Type-A and Type-A to Type-C cables and adapters. This device is firmware upgradeable as well. The data transfer rates are up to an impressive 1000 MB/s.

There are three versions of this portable SSD drive. This one is the 1TB, but you can save money if you don’t need that much space. The other two have 256GB and 512GB storage capacity. All drives are perfect as high-speed storage tools for file transfer and for data backup.

The Not So Good

The cable that comes with the Rocket Pro feels cheap and fragile. No drives in this price category should have low-quality extras and accessories in the box. The Rocket Pro doesn’t include any backup, password, or encryption software, either. However, you can use third-party encryption software that supports NVMe (non-volatile memory express) drives.

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Tech Specs
Brand: Sabrent
Color: Silver
Material: Aluminum
Technology: SSD
Transfer Speeds: 1000MB/s
Capacity Range: 1TB
Connection(s): Type-C, Type-A
Flash Memory Type: TLC
Shock Protection: Yes
Cooling System: Passive
Dimensions: 4.1 x 1.8 x 0.6”
Product Weight: 15.2 oz.
Warranty: 1 year
The Pros
Ultra-slim portable design
Rugged, aluminum alloy shell
Perfect SSD for travelers
Plug-n-play simplicity
Versatile drive for photographers
Ultra-fast data transfer
Upgradable firmware
The Cons
Cheap cable
No password or encryption
No backup software

7. Seagate Backup 10TB External Hard Drive

Seagate Backup 10TB External Hard DriveView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.4/5

The penultimate review goes to a larger, desktop type external hard drive. It’s the Seagate Backup Plus Hub, which is an HDD with a massive 10TB storage capacity.

  • Best feature 1: Reliable desktop backup companion
  • Best feature 2: Huge storage capacity
  • Plus points: 2 x 2.0 USB ports, charges, connects, backs up, Adobe CC membership
  • Minus points: Only comes in black, not portable, slower HDD technology

Seagate Backup 10TB Hard Drive Highlights

It’s a big piece of equipment for a world obsessed with miniaturization, but it’s smart and ultra-modern. Consider the Seagate Backup Plus Hub if you need massive storage in a single unit. There are 4TB, 6TB, and 8TB options available if you don’t need 10TB. This drive is the ideal backup companion for desktop workstations and laptops. It even includes a 2-month Adobe CC photography plan.

Seagate’s Backup Plus Hub has two intelligent front-facing USB 3.0 ports. The hub allows you to charge other devices or access the content within them. That can include dedicated external drives, smartphones, tablets, and digital cameras. This is an HDD for photographers and videographers who need safe, reliable solutions for huge and still growing portfolios.

The included Seagate software lets you schedule auto-backups at times and dates of your choosing. Seagate’s Backup Plus Hub also comes with a USB 3.0 cable, power adapter, and a Mac driver.

The Not So Good

The negatives are minor, though some may find them significant. Mac users may not like the all-black hub alongside their mostly white equipment. The size of this thing means it’s not very portable, but then it doesn’t claim to be. There’s no ON/OFF button, so it’s always ON when connected, whether you’re using it or not. Finally, it’s HDD technology, and therefore slower than SSD drives.

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Tech Specs
Brand: Seagate
Color: Black
Technology: HDD
Transfer Speeds: 110 MB/s
Capacity Range: 10TB
File System: NTFS
Connection(s): USB 3.1
Dimensions: 4.64 x 1.61 x 7.8”
Product Weight: 37.44 oz.
Warranty: 2 years limited
The Pros
Reliable desktop companion
Huge storage capacity
Multiple configurations
Cross-platform (PC/Mac)
Automated backup schedules
2 x 2.0 front-facing USB ports
Charges devices; backs up data
Multi-device compatible
2 month Adobe CC membership
Excellent value
The Cons
Only available in black
Not travel-friendly due to size
Slower, HDD technology

8. VectoTech Rapid 4TB External SSD Portable Drive

VectoTech Rapid 4TB External SSD Portable DriveView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.6/5

The last external hard drive review is for the US designed VectoTech Rapid. There are five storage capacities to choose from (see below), but only one color. This drive is the 4TB SSD.

  • Best feature 1: Lightweight and portable
  • Best feature 2: Rugged design with aluminum shell
  • Plus points: Designed in the US, 5 drive choices, fast transfer rate, shock & drop-resistant
  • Minus points: Price, no encryption or password protection software included

Compatibility: Most computer systems, i.e., older, current, and future models.

VectoTech Rapid 4TB External SSD Drive Highlights

VectoTech’s Rapid External SSD is a portable drive encased in a rugged aluminum shell. It’s vibration and shock resistant to the equivalent of a 6ft drop. Busy photographers don’t need to wait long to copy or move huge files. The drive uses USB-C and USB-A cables and boasts fast data transfer rates up to 540 MB/s. This high-end Solid State Drive is compatible with Windows PCs and Mac computers.

The drive comes in various other sizes if the 4TB here is not right for your needs. The smallest is only 250GB, then 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB.

The Not So Good

External SSD drives are still expensive and may remain so for a while yet. They are quieter, more rugged, and faster than HDDs, but those features come with a much higher price tag. There are some complaints about failing USB cables. Be sure to check for a cable update if you want this drive. It doesn’t have encryption or password protection software, but third-party options are available.

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Tech Specs
Brand: VectoTech
Color: Silver
Technology: SSD
Transfer Speeds: 540 MB/s
Capacity Range: 4TB
Connection(s): Type-C, Type-A
Shock Protection: Yes
Dimensions: 4.5 x 3.2 x 0.5”
Product Weight: 4 oz.
Warranty: 3 years
The Pros
Designed in the USA
Easy to use
Lightweight & portable
Compatible with old and new computers
Rugged build w/ aluminum shell
5 drive choices
Fast transfer rate
Shock, vibration & drop-resistant
Non-slip rubber at the base
The Cons
Hight cost of SSD
No encryption software
No backup software
0/50 ratings