Games are big these days and only getting bigger. This makes expandable storage a must if you want to store a decent portion of your library at any given time. Managing that storage can be a huge pain, so the more storage you have, the less you have to do. Theand can’t run games from external drives, but transferring games between them is fast and efficient. There are also a huge number of high-quality hard drives and SSDs, so it’s easy to find the right one for your needs and budget.
A traditional hard drive or mechanical drive that uses “old” hard drive technology, with mechanical platters and a moving head to read and write to access data, is sufficient for most people due to the fasterand USB 3.0 (as well as ) interface. Prices have come down significantly over the past few years, and even high-capacity, state-of-the-art, and all-around best external hard drive models topping out at 5TB still cost just over $100. SSDs, on the other hand, have no moving parts, giving them up to four times faster read and write speeds, but cost a lot more per gigabyte.
Most of the options in this list of the best external hard drive models will work across platforms—whether you have a Windows PC, Mac, PlayStation, or Xbox—as long as the drives are properly formatted for the right platform. But a lot of the time they will be labeled as working with a specific platform out of the box and sometimes come with backup software that is platform specific. Unless otherwise noted, all PC drives listed here are Windows compatible, but can be formatted for Mac. Many of them include cables or adapters to connect USB-C and USB-A ports. But if they don’t happen to be included, you can easily buy them.
And remember: A single backup won’t cut it. Ideally, you’ll want redundant backups either offsite or using cloud storage for key data and large files (such as family photos) in case of theft or fire. And don’t forget to encrypt your data too.
One important note for console gamers is that newerand consoles are much more restrictive about using external drives. and play PS4 games from an external drive, but not PS5 games; The Xbox Series X can store Series X games, but you’ll need to transfer them to the main SSD to actually play them. Xbox Series X offers a proprietary and now you can install expand storage for PS5 games.
With those caveats in mind, below are our current top picks for the best external hard drive and external SSD. These (or nearly identical models with less storage capacity) have been used or unofficially tested by CNET editors. We’ll update our list of the best external hard drives and SSDs as we test new products.
Western Digital, which owns SanDisk, sells both its WD My Passport SSD and this SanDisk External Portable SSD for essentially the same price. I like the design of this model a bit better, and it is technically rugged with an IP55 rating, meaning it can withstand continuous water spray. It’s also shockproof and has a USB-C interface.
The cheaper “legacy” version has a transfer speed of up to 550MB/s, while the new generation version almost doubles that speed at up to 1,050MB/s (just over 1GB per second) and costs slightly more than the 1TB version. The price for the 2TB model of this external drive jumps to $280 for the newer version.
Your speed will vary if you’re moving a mix of files to or from a USB drive, but if you’re copying one large file, you should be close to these fast transfer speeds.
For better or worse, there’s currently only one way to expand the storage on your Xbox Series X/S for next-gen Series X/S games: the Seagate Expansion Card. Similar to the PS5, you can connect any external SSD or hard drive to expand storage for standard Xbox (previous generation) games, but you can only store native Xbox Series X/S games in the game console’s internal space. memory or Seagate expansion cards.
It slots into a proprietary slot on the back of the Xbox Series X/S and “replicates the Xbox Velocity Architecture” (Microsoft’s internal NVMe SSD technology) with peak speeds of up to 2.4GB/s of raw I/O throughput. Microsoft says that’s more than 40x the throughput of the Xbox One.
The expansion card now comes in a more affordable 512GB version for $140, along with 1TB ($220) and 2TB ($400) versions. The 2TB version is hard to find in stock.
You can expand the storage for PS4 games on PS5 by adding a standard external SSD because you can play PS4 games directly from the external SSD. However, this does not apply to PS5 games, which take up a lot of space and can only be played from the PS5’s internal drive or M.2 SSD, which you install in a special expansion slot inside your PS5.
While the Seagate FireCuda 530 isn’t technically an external SSD, it’s not that different from the Seagate Memory Expansion Card for Xbox Series X/S in that it’s an NVMe SSD with very high transfer speeds (up to 7,300MB/s, according to Seagate, though my The PS5 reported a top speed of 6,800MB/s).
Several M.2 SSDs will work with the PS5 (see our full list), but ideally you want one with an integrated cooler. Otherwise, you’ll need to add one.
The Seagate FireCuda 530 with cooler starts at $140 for the 512GB version and jumps to $210 for the 1TB version (the most popular), $400 for the 2TB version, and over $1000 for the 4TB version.
Read more: Here’s how to expand your PlayStation 5 storage
If you’re looking for a high-capacity external drive for your Xbox One, the WD Black P10 2TB Portable Hard Drive is a good price around $90 (the 5TB version is about $140). It gives you portable storage for your coveted game collection. This external drive also comes with a digital code that will give you one month of Microsoft Game Pass Ultimate if you are a new subscriber. There’s also a standard portable hard drive version that also works with PC and PS4 for a bit less (it’s missing the Xbox branding, but otherwise it’s the same drive). A portable drive can provide speeds of up to 130 MB/s.
An external drive means you don’t have to worry about managing storage space on your PS4 (you can play lag-free games straight from your portable hard drive). The 2TB version of the Seagate Game Drive is about $30 less at $80. But you can also spend some extra dough and get 4TB for this portable external hard drive.
Note that Seagate makes an SSD Game Drive for the Xbox, but not for the PS4. A storage drive costs around $160 for 1 TB.
You can use any SSD with your PlayStation PS4/PS5 or Xbox One, Xbox One Series X or Series S to store PS4 and Xbox One games and other content and increase game loading speed compared to a standard external hard drive such as WD Black P10 above. Note that with the Xbox Series X, you can only archive Xbox Series X and S games to this drive, you can’t save full games to it (you need a Seagate Storage Expansion Card for that). The PS5 has the same limitation – you can only save full PS4 games to external drives.
So the WD Black D30 gaming drive is not that exceptional on the surface (it has a transfer speed of up to 900 Mb/s, which is basically what limits the USB 3.1 connection on the console). But it’s really its design that sets it apart. It’s thicker and looks sturdier than your typical SSD or flash drive, and includes a removable stand with rubber feet to keep it from moving around wherever you place it. It is an NVMe SSD (Non-Volatile Memory Express) that provides efficient performance and interoperability. It basically looks like a mini hard drive, which is kind of cool.
The standard version works with PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One and One X and S, as well as PC. The Xbox version pictured simply includes the Xbox logo and a $15 month of Game Pass Ultimate for an extra $20. Unfortunately, only new subscribers can use the attached code, so if you already have a Game Pass Ultimate subscription, you’re really paying an extra $20 for the logo.
The 1TB version starts at $125, while the 2TB version starts at $180.
SanDisk makes an Extreme Portable SSD (see above) that provides transfer speeds of up to 1,050MB per second. But if you’re a photographer or videographer looking for an even faster SSD for your PC or Mac, the Extreme Pro Portable SSD is the way to get extra storage space. The latest version is capable of providing read/write speeds of up to 2000MB/s (2GB/s) if you pair it with the right device: To get the maximum speed, you need a host system that supports USB Gen 3.2 Gen 2×2 speeds.
It is compatible with Mac and Windows PCs and is technically rugged with an IP55 rating, which means it can withstand continuous water spray. It’s also shockproof and has a forged aluminum chassis that doubles as a heatsink. It has a USB-C interface and includes a USB-C to USB-C and USC-A to USB-C cable. The 1TB version costs around $190, while the 2TB model starts at $300
The Seagate Backup Plus Slim 2TB is one of the most compact drives without an SSD, making it the best external hard drive for those looking to save space. And at less than $60, this backup drive is also a good value. This Seagate external hard drive can also be connected to Mac computers that have a thunderbolt port. Available in several colors, it’s also available in 1TB ($55), 4TB ($93) and 5TB ($115) versions, but the higher-capacity drives are thicker.
This drive is about as future proof – and backwards compatible – as they come. You’ll pay a bit of a premium for a standard WD drive, but this newer model offers a USB-C connection, meaning it has the latest and greatest USB cable connection for Macs and PCs. Don’t have USB-C on your system? No problem: Western Digital also includes a USB-A to USB-C adapter, so this storage device will work with virtually any computer right out of the box.
The WD My Book desktop drive is available in up to 18TB configurations, but the 8TB is the best value at around $200. It is so popular that it is often out of stock.
Read our WD My Book (Fall 2016) review.
After Seagate acquired LaCie a few years ago, LaCie became the company’s premium brand, and this 5TB external HDD model can be found on many video editors’ desks (including many on CNET). This rugged hard drive uses USB-C, is compatible with Mac and Windows PCs, and is water and shock resistant. For Thunderbolt-equipped Macs, a 4TB Thunderbolt with USB-C version is available for around $250.
Crucial’s X6 external SSD is considered entry-level because it’s simply not as fast as higher-end models that can offer read/write speeds that are two or even four times faster (the Crucial X8 is an upgraded model). Even so, the X6 is about 4x faster than a non-solid state drive, with transfer speeds of up to 540MB/s for the 1TB and 2TB versions, and up to 800MB/s for the new 4TB version, which has one of the lowest prices for a 4TB SSD at around 340 USD.
By comparison, the 4TB SanDisk Extreme SSD, which has transfer speeds of up to 1,050MB/s, costs $700. So you’re basically looking at a $360 savings if you’re willing to bump up the speed a bit (again, at least the 4GB version of the Crucial X6 was boosted to 800MB/s and 540MB/s).