External Hard Drives for Easy Data Backup

They’re cheaper and bigger than ever.

Gray external hard drive mounted to laptop.
Plug into your computer for all the external storage you’ll need.Pexels

The hard drive—with a physical spinning disk—has largely been phased out of computers. But that’s only on the inside. When you need something backed up, you still need a hard drive, which are inexpensive, offer massive amounts of storage, and can be used for automatic safety features.

Seagate Desktop 8TB External Hard Drive HDD – USB 3.0 for PC Laptop and Mac (STGY8000400)
Storage ranges from 500 gigabytes to 16 terabytes—more than enough to securely back up all your data.Seagate

Storage steadily decreases in price and increases in volume. An external hard drive with four or eight terabytes would have been impossible ten years ago, and prohibitively expensive five years ago. Today? It’s downright affordable. Generally speaking, these days there’s no real reason to go for less than four terabytes. You won’t save that much money, and hard drive space is like kitchen storage: no matter how much space you have, you’ll figure out a way to fill it.

WD 5TB Elements Portable External Hard Drive, USB 3.0 - WDBU6Y0050BBK-WESN
With no need for a power cable, this small, lightweight unit is ideal for those who move around a lot. It measures just 4.35 x 3.23 x 0.82 inches.Western Digital

You may notice some different connectivity options in external hard drives. USB 3.0 is the newest version of the traditional rectangular USB standard; it’ll work on all your older computers, and many newer ones, with faster speeds available as long as you plug it into a USB 3.0 port (those plugs and ports are usually colored blue.) USB-C, on the other hand, is the next evolution of the USB standard entirely: it’s smaller, rounded and offers more capabilities and speed. You’ll find this in some new computers, as well as some phones and tablets.

LaCie (LAC9000633) Rugged Mini 4TB External Hard Drive Portable HDD – USB 3.0 USB 2.0 Compatible, Drop Shock Dust Rain Resistant Shuttle Drive, for Mac and PC Computer Desktop Workstation PC Laptop
This product is water resistant, but also stands up to crush and drop damage. It’s compatible with most major operating systems.LaCie

Both Mac OS and Windows have software that can use an external hard drive to automatically back up your files. This is a great feature; you don’t have to remember what’s on your hard drive, because your computer will automatically keep all your backups up to date. On Windows, you can use a program called File History; on Mac, it’s called Time Machine. You can simply select your external hard drive and this software will do the rest.