11 Best External Hard Drives For Photographers In 2020

By Ann Young 4 days ago Photography Gear

What is the most reliable external hard drive for photographers?

11 Best External Hard Drives For Photographers In 2020

You definitely need an external hard drive if your photos fill up the computer's memory too quickly, and you need to save a portable digital portfolio, or backup some important but sizeable content.

External hard discs for photographers take a crucial part in a multi-stage digital workflow and provide the main stages of photoshoot process: shooting at the site, transferring materials with subsequent editing, backup and storage.

11 External Hard Drives for Photographers

As specialists who deal with considerable volumes of data daily, photographers frequently find themselves in an emergency situation beyond the common use of a digital storage device. They rely on the external hard drive for photos and value a combination of compact size, large capacity and speed.

That’s because working with capacious media files is a difficult task, particularly while being outdoors and out of the reach of power sources. It is important to store the content separately: if the computer crashes, access to primary materials will still remain.


1. SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD

FixThePhoto editors’ choice

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  • sandisk extreme external hard drive for photographers
  • sandisk extreme external hard drive for photographers

    Capacity: 250 GB – 2 TB | Interface: USB-C | Max Transfer Speed: 550 MB/s | Dimensions: 1.3 × 3.98 × 5 inches | Weight: 1.44 oz

    ⊕ SSD with a high file transmission speed
    ⊕ Data secured by hardware ciphering
    ⊕ Resistant to water, dust and impact
    ⊕ Configured for Windows and MacOS
    ⊖ Not found

    It is a thin, low-energy, travel-type SSD. The model belongs to solid-state drives cherished for compact size and absence of motion work inside. This reliable external hard drive is enclosed in a firm plastic case in a rubberized shell, has an IP55 degree of protection, doesn’t yield to water or particles.

    It withstands a fall from a height of 2 m and can resist water flow for 3 minutes. The speedy file transmission lets you move HD pictures in no time and ensures flawless video performance worthy of the rank of the best portable hard drive for photographers.


    2. Samsung T5 Portable SSD

    Samsung V-NAND flash memory technology

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    • samsung t5 best external hard drive for photographers
    • samsung t5 best external hard drive for photographers

      Capacity: 500 GB – 2 TB | Interface: USB-C | Max Transfer Speed: 540 MB/s | Dimensions: 0.41 × 2.91 × 2.26 inches | Weight: 1.8 oz

      ⊕ Very fast
      ⊕ Shock resistance and secure encryption
      ⊕ Ultracompact, nothing extra
      ⊕ 3-year warranty and a mobile app
      ⊖ Cost and capacity could be more attractive
      ⊖ No protection against moisture and dust

      Many users adore the Samsung T5 SSD external hard drive for a classy and glossy case made of metal with a non-slip bottom. The internal structure is built to withstand shock when dropped from 2 meters down. It is also the fastest external storage device.

      Since the model is suitable for transferring massive files such as 4K video, HD shots, games, the model can be called the best SSD for photo editing. The hardware ciphering is an important feature for professionals who take the privacy of their clients seriously and want to protect the sensitive data with a password. The hard drive is extremely reliable, provides ultra-fast transmission speeds, and yet has a miniature body that fits in a palm.


      3. WD My Passport SSD Portable Storage

      Slim solid-state drive with auto backup software

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      • wd my passport ssd external hard drive for photographers
      • wd my passport ssd external hard drive for photographers

        Capacity: 250 GB – 2 TB | Interface: USB-C | Max Transfer Speed: 540 MB/s | Dimensions: 3.5 × 1.8 × 0.39 inches | Weight: 1.44 oz

        ⊕ High file transfer speed
        ⊕ Shockproof and ultracompact
        ⊕ Data protection with hardware encryption
        ⊕ With automatic backup software
        ⊖ Reformat required for Mac OS
        ⊖ No protection from moisture and dust

        For those in need of an ultraportable external hard drive for photos with the stability of a solid-state drive and dainty design, this model would be among the best offers. In the manufacturer’s series of devices, this one combined the fastest drives with the narrowest body even for the standards of very compact SSDs, sitting comfortably in a regular pocket.

        The automatic backup software that comes with it and the self-recharging technology are very convenient. Its beautiful design and the production’s great reputation make it the best portable external hard drive with a low failure rate.


        4. WD My Passport External Hard Drive

        A great choice if you rate capacity and cost

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        • wd my passport external hard drive for photographers
        • wd my passport external hard drive for photographers

          Capacity: 1 – 5 TB | Interface: USB-C | Max Transfer Speed: 5 GB/s | Dimensions: 4.22 × 2.95 × 0.44 inches | Weight: 4.2 oz

          ⊕ Backup, password protection and drive management software
          ⊕ Available in large volumes and colors
          ⊕ Bus-powered and social media friendly
          ⊕ Attractive cost
          ⊖ Reformat required for Mac OS
          ⊖ No resistance to moisture, dust and shock

          This model has become the best external hard drive for photos for professionals who prefer mobile storage of a large capacity for a reasonable cost. It meets storage requirements due to its small form factor, durability and built-in power supply. The package includes software for backup, encryption, and connection to social networks or cloud storage.


          5. LaCie Rugged Mini Portable HDD

          Compact portable design in a rubberized case

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          • lacie rugged mini best external hard drive for photographers
          • lacie rugged mini best external hard drive for photographers

            Capacity: 1 – 5 TB | Interface: USB 3.0 | Max Transfer Speed: 130 MB/s | Dimensions: 3.39 × 0.75 × 5.31 inches | Weight: 8 oz

            ⊕ Drop, Splash, Dust Resistance
            ⊕ Miniature form factor
            ⊕ Built-in password protection
            ⊕ Very durable, even when dropped
            ⊖ Speed slightly lower than stated
            ⊖ Must be reformatted for Mac

            If your requirements are cost and durability, this model should seem like a strong option. This option would perfectly meet the needs of a travel photographer. You would have no problems connecting it to either Windows or Mac.

            The type is a regular hard drive and the file transferring happens slower. But there is compensation in the form of a free month of using Adobe Creative Cloud. This hard drive for photos, wrapped in an orange rubber bumper, lets no water or dust through and can withstand rough handling (like falling down from 4 feet or being crushed by a 1-ton car). On top of that, you get a 2-year warranty.


            6. WD My Passport Wireless Pro External HD

            Mobile devices charger with SD card reader

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            • wd my passport wireless pro best external hard drive for photographers
            • wd my passport wireless pro best external hard drive for photographers

              Capacity: 1 TB – 4 TB | Interface: Wi-Fi, USB 3.0 | Max Transfer Speed: 433 MB/s | Dimensions: 5 × 5 × 0.94 inches | Weight: 16 oz

              ⊕ Wireless AC with password protection
              ⊕ Up to 10 hours of battery life
              ⊕ Charging and connecting up to 8 devices
              ⊕ Streaming, cloud storage and Plex software
              ⊖ Bulky and heavy
              ⊖ Not compatible with the Sony XAVC S format

              Out of the many consumers who are looking to buy the best storage device for photos, few would need a wireless device or one that can read an SD card. But for traveling photographers, it’s a necessity since they need to avoid taking a laptop.

              The WD 2TB My Passport wireless external HD with SD card reader was designed to copy to its internal drive everything that’s on a memory card. Moreover, it has an integrated 6400 mAh battery bank that can charge your devices.

              The device is a perfect data storage media for cases when you often stream files to a Smart TV, smartphone or anything else using Plex.

              It is the best external hard drive for photographers and videographers, as it is rather universal and makes the working process easier.


              7. LaCie d2 Professional External Hard Drive

              Enterprise-class drive for auto-backup

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              • lacie d2 professional best external hard drive for photographers
              • lacie d2 professional best external hard drive for photographers

                Capacity: 4 – 10 TB | Interface: USB 3.0 | Max Transfer Speed: 240 MB/s | Dimensions: 7.42 × 2.36 × 5.12 inches | Weight: 49.4 oz

                ⊕ Corporate-class device
                ⊕ Silent aluminum design
                ⊕ Compatible with Windows and Mac
                ⊕ 1-month Adobe Creative Cloud All Apps plan
                ⊖ No data protection and on/off button
                ⊖ Overpriced for an HDD

                The production of this brand is known among professional users as reliable and highly efficient. You will be impressed by the noiseless performance of the hard drive that the designers achieved through installing a unique fanless cooling mechanism.

                The speed of data transfer reaches 7200 rpm. The one-piece aluminum body is a distinctive touch of the brand together with the blue light that blinks when automatically backing up. With a special 5-year warranty that also provides data recovery, this is the best hard drive for photo storage.


                8. G-Technology G-DRIVE USB-C Hard Drive

                Stylish, high-capacity, reliable hard drive

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                • g-technology g-drive best external hard drive for photographers
                • g-technology g-drive best external hard drive for photographers

                  Capacity: 4 TB – 14 TB | Interface: USB-C | Max Transfer Speed: 250 MB/s | Dimensions: 7.72 × 5.06 × 1.39 inches | Weight: 36.6 oz

                  ⊕ Smooth all-aluminum body
                  ⊕ Charges a compatible device
                  ⊕ 2 cables with USB-C included
                  ⊕ Attractive cost
                  ⊖ Windows requires reformatting
                  ⊖ RPM and transfer speed could be higher

                  When searching for the best external hard drive for photos Mac users single out this model specifically. It can boast a classy and elegant aesthetic around a high-performance tool. It charges a compatible MacBook, ciphers all data automatically and requires a password to access it.

                  The G logo glows when the drive is busy automatically backing up. The one-piece, lightweight aluminum case has a handy power button. Mac users have rated it as the best hard drive for photographers because of its hardiness, silence and unfailing performance.


                  9. WD My Book Desktop External Hard Drive

                  Equipped with social media and cloud storage import

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                  • wd my book desktop external hard drive for photographers
                  • wd my book desktop external hard drive for photographers

                    Capacity: 3 – 14 TB | Interface: USB 3.0 | Max Transfer Speed: 180 MB/s | Dimensions: 5.5 × 1.9 × 6.7 in inches | Weight: 46 oz

                    ⊕ Offers massive storage space
                    ⊕ 256-bit AES Hardware Encryption
                    ⊕ Includes WD Backup Software
                    ⊕ Reliable assembly and strict design
                    ⊖ Formatting for Mac OS
                    ⊖ Powered by an external adapter

                    The brand is famous for creating tempting offers. But this particular model stands out because it provides the most space in this price category. It supports external hard drive hardware encryption, automatic backup through the company’s own program, and is supported by Apple's Time Machine.

                    It has a common USB 3.0 interface and an exFAT format that is perfect for working with a PC or laptop that runs on MacOS or Windows. The model is a versatile option with a temperate polycarbonate case, high capacity and operation speed that will remain convenient in use for years.


                    10. Seagate Backup Plus Hub External Hard Drive

                    Solid USB storage and charger for your devices

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                    • seagate backup plus hub best external hard drive for photographers
                    • seagate backup plus hub best external hard drive for photographers

                      Capacity: 4 – 10 TB | Interface: USB 3.0 | Max Transfer Speed: 160 MB/s | Dimensions: 4.65 × 1.61 × 7.8 inches | Weight: 37 oz

                      ⊕ 1 Micro-USB 3.0 plus 2 USB 3.0 ports
                      ⊕ 2-month Adobe Creative Cloud plan
                      ⊕ Backup software
                      ⊕ Power cable and adapter included
                      ⊖ No data protection/ciphering
                      ⊖ Speed could be higher

                      The external hard drive 4TB has been designed with adaptability as the main feature. Being immediately accessible to Windows devices, it provides an NTFS driver that you can install to use Mac as well.

                      During the file transfer, you can also recharge any equipment through the USB 3.0 ports. The convenient backup software will only need one click from you to start the process of saving.

                      The reason why it’s the best external hard drive for photographers is the feature that allows users to put together backups from a number of sources like devices, clouds or social networks. You can install an app and include any phone or tablet into the file transferring chain. This allows you to have all your data from any source saved and protected without having to pay extra.


                      11. Fantom Drives 4TB External Hard Drive

                      For professionals requiring performance and reliability

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                      • fantom drives best external hard drive for photographers
                      • fantom drives best external hard drive for photographers

                        Capacity: 500 GB – 16 TB | Interface: USB 3.0 | Max Transfer Speed: 260 MB/s | Dimensions: 7.7 × 1.7 × 4.7 inches | Weight: 38.4 oz

                        ⊕ Quick 7200 rpm speed
                        ⊕ Works with Mac, Windows, XBOX, PS4
                        ⊕ Sturdy and classy aluminum housing
                        ⊕ Power supply cord and adapter included
                        ⊖ Difficulty waking up from sleep mode
                        ⊖ The interface could be newer

                        The Fantom Drives G-Force 3 Series is designed for heavy-duty users, such as photographers, videographers and gamers. They usually need a lot of storage space with high-speed response and unfailing performance.

                        The model’s sleek aluminum body is meticulously designed and works like a natural radiator to create a virtually silent user experience. It can perform huge tasks with speed and ease. For these reasons, this model is the best for photographers and creatives who deal with audio and video and face a constant need for processing considerable amounts of data.


                        List of the Best External Hard Drives for Photographers

                        Image Name Features  
                        sandisk extreme best external hard drive for photographers
                        SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD
                        OUR CHOICE
                        • SSD with a quick transfer rate
                        • Data security with hardware ciphering
                        • Waterproof, dustproof and shockproof
                        Check PRICE
                        samsung t5 best external hard drive for photographers
                        Samsung T5 Portable SSD
                        FASTEST
                        • Very fast
                        • Shock resistance and secure encryption
                        • Ultracompact, nothing extra
                        Check PRICE
                        wd my passport wireless pro best external hard drive for photographers
                        WD My Passport Wireless Pro External HD
                        WIRELESS
                        • Wireless AC with password protection
                        • Up to 10 hours of battery life
                        • Charging and connecting up to 8 devices
                        Check PRICE
                        lacie d2 professional best external hard drive for photographers
                        LaCie d2 Professional External Hard Drive Desktop HDD
                        PROFESSIONAL
                        • Enterprise-class drive
                        • Silent aluminum design
                        • Supported by Windows and Mac
                        Check PRICE
                        wd my passport best external hard drive for photographers
                        WD My Passport External Hard Drive
                        AFFORDABLE
                        • Software for backing up files, securing passwords, managing the drive
                        • Available in large capacities and colors
                        • Bus-powered and social media friendly
                        Check PRICE

                        How to Choose the Best External Hard Drive for Photographers?

                        One of the worst things for a photographer is the loss of their materials due to a hardware failure or for another reason. Therefore, have more than one external hard drive for photos. The following recommendations, together with the external hard drive reviews, will help you make the right choice.

                        Type of Storage Mechanism & Capacity

                        type and capacity best external hard drive for photographers

                        Type of storage mechanism. Solid State Drives or SSDs use the newer flash technology without rotating parts inside. Therefore, the best SSD for photographers will provide silence, better read/write speed, smaller size/weight, and resistance to external influences. Use SSDs as portable devices and to expand the internal memory of a computer.

                        A familiar hard drive or HDD uses fragile moving parts that are vulnerable to shaking, it is noisier and heavier. An advantage of the mechanical nature of the HDD is its resistance to electromagnetic influences and statics, which will ensure the safety of files near electrical equipment.

                        Capacity is indirectly related to the type of hard drive through cost. The portability of SSDs is more expensive in terms of gigabytes of memory. Therefore, SSDs are put on the market at a higher price and in smaller volumes (max 2-4 TB). Their trump card is not the capacity, but portability, low power consumption, external security and data transfer speed, which are indispensable for travel and editing.

                        HDD offers more storage space at the best price – up to a couple of dozen terabytes. Therefore, an external HDD is suitable for local backup and can be considered the best storage device for photos.

                        Speed and Performance

                        speed and performance best external hard drive for photographers

                        Speed. For HDDs, the concept of rotation speed was introduced, the norm of which is 5400-7200 rpm. For both types of disks, the speed of read/write of files is valid. Usually the first is higher than the second one and is several hundred MB/s, the higher the faster. Due to the direct access to the flash memory cells, an SSD shows several times higher performance than an HDD.

                        None of the best external hard drives for photographers will operate at the peak speed indicated in its specification or determined by the type of connection. Transferring multiple files takes longer than transferring one of equal capacity. The installed OS and software also matter.

                        Performance is closely related to the type of device, speed indicators and the connection interface. With the introduction of fast interface technologies (USB 3.1 Gen-2 with a bi-directional speed of 10 Gb/s, USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 with a bi-directional speed of 40 Gb/s), it became possible to have external storage devices operating as extensions of the internal drives, provided that they are supported. The latest types of interface increase the performance and variability of the connection because new interfaces are often backward compatible with the previous version.

                        Additional Features

                        additional features best external hard drive for photographers

                        Some drives are preconfigured for MacOS or Windows. Reformatting is required for use on a different platform. To ensure cross-platform compatibility, the disks are equipped with additional software in the form of drivers.

                        Many manufacturers supply add-ons, such as backup, encryption or data management software, even free cloud storage. Some manufacturers include the cost of a monthly subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud Plan, which is an excellent alternative to an Adobe Creative Cloud crack.

                        Most of the best hard drives for photographers are powered by USB or Thunderbolt, no need for a dedicated power source. The package includes cables for converting between different designs of USB ports. It’s good if the drive supports Bus-Powered technology. With its help, the drive will be able to self-charge when connected or charge a connected external digital device.


                        Ann Young

                        Hi there, I'm Ann Young - a professional blogger, read more

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