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Best External Hard Drives for Photos in 2021: 11 Budget Options

In this era of cloud storage and online transferring of files, External hard drives for storing photos may seem like a thing from the past.

We all know that our modern-day lives revolve around Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and whatnot, so collecting and storing media is quite an essential part of our everyday lives. Especially if you are a photographer or videographer working in the media field, you would need plenty of storage space to safe-keep your digital portfolios.

External Hard drive is an equipment that can be connected to a computer to get an intermediate storage space. External Hard disks are storage portable storage devices mainly use to store data such as media files (photos, videos, etc.) and documents. Unlike an internal hard drive, which is fitted inside the computer, an external hard drive is a device that you plug into a computer port.

If we take a look at the top and well-known brands then these brands include Seagate, Western Digital (WD), Toshiba, and Hitachi, while others such as Samsung, SanDisk, and G-tech also offer sleek and powerful external storage including HDD (Hard disk drives) and SSD (Solid-state drives).

Picking the best external drive for photos can be a challenging thing to do.

If you have to store some of your files somewhere else from your PC, you will need an external drive first to free up space in your PC. And another to use as a backup to store important files in case your PC gets physically damaged or runs into some kind of software problems. So you will wish to pick the best external drive for photos in the range of your budget.

External Hard Drives come in a lot of shapes and sizes. These are not just confined to Hard Disk Drives but external hard drives can also mean Solid State Drives, too. The point is to know what are the requirements you have according to your usage patterns.

External Hard Drive for Photos – Factors to Consider

One of the worst things for a photographer is the loss of their materials due to a hardware failure or for another reason. Therefore, get 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 of storage mechanism includes Solid State Drives or SSDs that 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 of an external drive for photos 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 Transfers

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 reading/writing 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 of an external drive for photos 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.

Also Read: Best PC for Editors and Producers

The latest types of interfaces increase the performance and variability of the connection because new interfaces are often backward compatible with the previous version.


If you carry your drive around frequently, you’ll want to pay attention to how rugged the drive is. Some models include plastic bumpers, and some even meet military standards for shock and dust protection. (Look for support for specifications such as IP67 or IP68.)


A desktop drive with a single platter mechanism inside will typically use a 3.5-inch drive inside and comes in capacities up to 12TB, though a few 16TB single drives in external chassis have started to emerge. Most are roughly 5 inches tall and 2 inches wide.

In addition to storing large media collections, these drives can also serve as inexpensive repositories for backups of your computer’s hard drive that you schedule, using either software that comes with the drive or a third-party backup utility.

The next size up for consumer desktop drives is about the same height but twice as wide, to accommodate more than one platter-based hard drive mechanism in the chassis. These larger models are more expensive but also much more capacious—think 16TB or more (in that case, populated by two 8TB drive mechanisms). In the case of these and single-platter-drive products, you’re not meant to swap out the drive or drives inside.

The largest desktop drives are often much, much bulkier than the first two categories, so big that you’ll want to stick them under your desk or in a dedicated server closet. They’re mostly intended for professional use in editing studios, surveillance control rooms, and the like.

Their defining characteristic is the ability to swap drives in and out of their multi-bay chassis easily, so most provide quick access to the drive bays at the front of the device.

Most such multi-bay devices are sold without the actual hard drives included, so you can install any drive you want (usually, 3.5-inch drives, but some support laptop-style 2.5-inches). Their total storage capacities are limited only by the number of available bays and the capacities of the drives you put in them.

The storage industry refers to these (as well as smaller-capacity externals as a whole) as DAS—for “direct-attached storage”—to distinguish them from NAS, or network-attached storage, many of which are also multi-bay devices that can take two or more drives that you supply.

Additional Features

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.

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.

External Hard Drives for Photos – A Detailed Market Analysis

Now, let’s have a look at some of the best hard drives and solid-state drives and their specifications.

1. Western Digital My Book

‘My Book’ is an external hard drive collection made not just for photos, but for all sorts of data storage. It is launched by the world-famous manufacturer Western Digital (WD). There are currently nine series of My Book drives; Essential, Mirror, Studio, Premium, Elite, ‘My Book’, AV Dvr “Live” and the world.

Why call the series ‘My Book’? Because it is made to look like a standard hardback book, that’s why. The original designs of the series hard disks featured vent holes that spelled out a message in Morse code (Named after Samuel Morse, an inventor of the telegraph).

  • Complete backup:

Providing complete backup for your photos and equipped with WD backup which is compatible with both Windows and macOS. You can easily import your photos from the cloud.

  • Password Protection:

The Built-in 256-bit AES hardware encryption alongside manufacturer protection tools of My Book goes long way in keeping your photos secure and out of anyone else’s reach.


Storage Capacity18 TB
Transfer Speed: (MB/s)Read speed = 143.8, Write speed = 138.4
Dimension: (inch)Length = 5.48, Width =1.93, Height = 6.72
Weight:2.12Ib or 0.96kg
Encryption:AES-256 bit
Compatibility:Formatted ex-FAT for out-of-the-box compatibility with Windows and Mac
Warranty:3 years limited

2. WD My Book Duo:

Basically, DUO comes from the ‘My Book’ series. And if you haven’t figured out what is this series. Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane. ‘My Book’ is the collection of external hard drives presented by Western Digital (WD).

There are currently nine series of My Book drives; Essential, Mirror, Studio, Premium, Elite, ‘My Book’ is the collection of external hard drives presented by the world-famous manufacturer Western Digital (WD)pro, AV Dvr “Live” and the world.

  • Huge capacity:

If we compare My Book Duo with My Book then we can see that there is a difference of capacity between the two, Duos provides massive capacity for storing photos.

  • Different Processing Modes:
  • RAID-0:

Duo can be used in raid-0 mode where its speed and capacity both will be maximum.

  • Raid-1:

You can reconfigure the Duo to Raid-1 where Duo can be used for Redundancy (Data Mirroring).

  • JBOD:

Duo can also be used as two independent drives in JBOD mode due to WD Drives utility software.

  • USB Compatibility:

My Book Duo is a universally compatible device with its USB 3.0 it provides high-speed connectivity which supports USB 3.1 gen 1.0/2.0/3.0.it also contains 2 USB 3.0 hub ports for different types of accessories. You can connect any external device to transfer your photos in it so its compatibility is of much use for the users especially for the photographers who find it difficult in most other cases to back up the photos.

  • Password Protection:

The My Book Duo also comes with 256-bit AES hardware encryption alongside the manufacturer protection which is built-in to keep your photos just under your own control.

  • RAID optimized WD Drives:

It comes with RAID Optimized firmware that is made for our 2-disk system with automatic handling of Drive processes to ensure data sustainability.


Storage Capacity36 TB
Transfer Speed: (MB/s)Read speed = 82.2, Write speed = 88.5
Dimension: (inch)Length = 6.3, Width = 3.94, Height = 7.09
Weight:5.2lb or 2.4kg
Encryption:AES-256 bit
Compatibility:Formatted NTFS for compatibility with Windows 8.1 and Windows 10
Warranty:3 years limited

3. Silicon A60 Power:

Silicon Power Computer & Communications Incorporated, commonly referred to as Silicon Power and as SP, is a worldwide Taiwan-based brand. It is the largest manufacturer of flash memory products, which contain a wide array of products and other industrial-grade computer products in Taiwan.

In surveys conducted in the last decade or so, Silicon Power is ranked in the top 10 in terms of growth and number 1 as a semiconductor manufacturer in Taiwan.

If we take a look at the shape of A60 then its amazing slot design for cables is purposefully equipped for convenient cable carrying and storage, by which its users can conveniently fold and attach the cable around the drive.

It has a shape and outside pattern that is not only just good looking it provides anti-slip protection and also promotes resistance from fingerprints and scratches. An ideal external drive for photos.

High-speed USB 3.2 GEN:

Power Silicon A60 possesses high read and write speed with USB 3.2 GEN. It provides storage for HD graphics photos and images that can also be easily transferred due to high speed both read and write, so it’s very much the choice of professional photographers.

As a result, we can say that A60 not only has an incredible shape it also provides high read and write speed and storage for high-quality images.

  • These drives are usually made up of rubber and plastic.
  • They are available in black/green, black/black.
  • It supports Windows OS, macOS and Linux operating system.

Other than these it has its operating temperature and storage temperature.


Storage Capacity5 TB
Transfer Speed: (MB/s)Read speed = 114, Write speed = 104
Dimension: (inch)Length = 5.4, Width = 3.3, Height = 9.1
Encryption:AES-256 bit
Compatibility:Windows 10/8.1/8/7/Vista/XP 64-Bit, Mac OS 10.5.x, Linux 2.6.x
Warranty:3 years limited

4. Seagate Backup Plus Hub:

Seagate Technology PLC (commonly referred to as Seagate) is an American-based company targeting data storage. Since 2010, Seagate is incorporated in Dublin, Ireland. The company has its functional headquarters in the state of California of United States.

If we talk about Seagate Backup Plus Hub desktop external hard drives then these drives are available in storage capacities of 4TB to 14 TB and have a USB 3.0 hub. The Seagate Backup plus possess the properties of compatibility, reliability, high speed, and vast storage space where you as a photographer can save much of your photography work and can also store high-quality stuff

You can store your work of photography in Seagate Drive and safely backup your work in case you accidentally lose your other storage facility where you have stored your work initially. This makes it an amazing external drive for photos.

It consists of two integrated USB portals on its front, you have the option of easily backing up your photos and videos while being connected to your tablet or charging the device, your mobile phone, or your DSLR.

Seagate Plus operates on Windows OS as well as macOS easily. Further, it is easy to use and doesn’t require any complicated method.

You can also connect Seagate backup plus to the router instead of your PC if there is a USB port.


Storage Capacity8 TB
Transfer Speed: (MB/s)Read speed = 195, Write speed = 181
Dimension: (inch)Length = 7.06, Width =7.1, Height = 1.6
Encryption:AES-256 bit
Compatibility:Windows 7, 8, Vista, XP; Mac OS 10.4.6 or later
Warranty:2 years

5. Samsung portable SSD T5:

external drive for photos

Based in the fashion capital of the world Seoul, South Korea Samsung Group.

The Samsung Portable SSD T5 elevates data transfer speeds to the next level and this increased read and write speed gives photographers the best experience they usually try to find. So with a compact and durable design, it is not only good looking it is a good performer too. T5 with its password protection is safe, the T5 is handy in that it is easy to carry and can store a lot of photos and help photographers take their profession to a new level.

Samsung portable T5 contains V-NAND flash memory and a USB 3.1 Gen 2 interface, with USB 3.1 GEN T5 is compatible too.

The T5 provides transfer speeds of up to 540 MB/s, which’s much faster than other external hard drives. Transfers and backups of large-sized data including high-resolution photos will be much quicker and faster. This is beneficial for the users especially for the photographer to keep up the pace and will be helpful to boost up their passion for their profession.

With T5 on your side, you don’t have to worry about internal problems as it is compact in shape, the T5 has no moving parts and a sturdy metal body, so it can handle drops of up to 2 meters.

Samsung Portable SSD T5 possesses password protection, with AES 256-bit hardware encryption keeps your Personal photos more secure and safe.

It’s all confidently backed by a 3-year limited warranty.


Storage Capacity2 TB
Transfer Speed: (MB/s)Read speed = 544 Write speed = 535
Dimension: (inch)Length = 3, Width =2.3, Height = 0.4
Encryption:AES-256 bit, Security Password protection (Optional)
Compatibility:Windows 7, mac OS x10.9, Android 4.4’ (KitKat) or HIGHER
Warranty:3 years limited

6. Samsung Portable SSD T7:

external drive for photos

Samsung Portable SSD T7 is the successor of T5. The specifications of both the models are identical except for the touch built-in fingerprint sensors which are missing in the T5 model. T5 doesn’t have this added security feature instead of this T5 comes with password protection and AES 256-bit hardware encryption and it’s probably enough for most of the users.

The USB 3.2 Gen2 interface utilizes NVME, which will allow it to deliver a noticeable improvement over the T5 model. Whether you’re storing critical business documents, games, or movies, the Portable SSD T7 Touch gives you speed and security in a palm-sized package.

Experience the next level of external storage, available in three capacities to suit your needs: 500GB, 1TB, or 2TB. RoHS Compliance: RoHS2.


Storage Capacity2 TB
Transfer Speed: (MB/s)Read speed = 1050, Write speed = 1000
Dimension: (inch)Length = 3.3, Width = 2.2, Height = 0.3
Encryption:AES-256 bit
Compatibility:Windows 7 or higher, mac OS x10.9, Android 5.1 (lollipop) or HIGHER
Warranty:3 years limited

7. Western Digital MY Passport Ultra:

external drive for photos

My Passport Ultra again comes from Western Digital. It has a metal cover innovative style and is comparatively slim, small, and handy. It features ultra-fast USB 3.0 connectivity, local and cloud, and password protection with hardware encryption to improve the security of your files. Some of its features include,

  • Ultra-Fast transfer rates.
  • Automatic schedule backup software.
  • Local and cloud backup.
  • Works great with windows 8
  • Ultra-sleek design with high capacity.
  • USB 3.0 and 2.0 compatibility.
  • WD drive utilities software.
  • WD security software.
  • Durable enclosure protects the drive inside.
  • USB powered.


Storage Capacity4 TB
Transfer Speed: (MB/s)Read speed = 73.97, Write speed = 71.96
Dimension: (inch)Length = 4.22, Width = 2.95, Height = 0.44
Encryption:AES-256 bit
Compatibility:Windows 10, 8.1, 7, Mac OS uses NTFS drivers
Warranty:3 years limited

8. G-Tech G-Drive:

external drive for photos

G-Technology is a Western Digital brand that produces external storage products. G-Drive consists of a single-drive external storage unit that works with both Mac and Windows PCs. G-Drives offers all the capacity, speed, and reliability.

This isn’t the cheapest drive around but its long-term reliability satisfies the users’ needs. The G-drive is slim at 0.39 inches. Its Aluminum chassis looks good and matches the design of the MacBook Air. On one side, G-Drive has one micro-USB 3.0 port although the port is 3.0 but it also supports USB 2.0. At most it comes in the capacity of 18TB and with a maximum read speed of 245 MB/s.


Storage Capacity18 TB
Transfer Speed: (MB/s)Read speed = 560, Write speed = 550
Dimension: (inch)Length = 5.48, Width =1.93, Height = 6.72
Encryption:Armlock encrypted NVME
Compatibility:macOS 10.9 +, Windows 10, 8.1, 7 (via reformat)
Warranty:3 years limited

9. Western Digital (WD) My Book Essentials:

external drive for photos

When it comes to portable hard drives which are much easier to carry for every photographer, the Western Digital “My Passport” series of external hard drives is perhaps the most successful line of portable external hard drives on the market today. It has a shape that attracts the users, solid build quality, reasonable speed, and good product placement in a variety of stores have made this line very popular.

In terms of the basic design, the My Passport Essential is unchanged from last year’s update to the shape and size of the My Passport line.

My Book Essentials contains a new USB 3.0 cable (compatible with USB 2.0). If we compare this product of WD with previous models then it is surely better in speed and quality and surely the priority for the photographers who require better quality and resolution.


Storage Capacity0.5 TB
Transfer Speed: (MB/s)480
Dimension: (inch)Length = 3.2, Width = 4.3, Height = 0.6
Encryption:AES-256 bit
Compatibility:Windows 7, 8.1, 10 and Mac OS 10.8 or higher
Warranty:3 years limited

10. SanDisk Extreme 510 Portable SSD:

Extreme 510 portable SSD is the master of storage and speed, an ideal external drive for photos. It appeals more to photographers and videographers of all types. Although its capacity is not much like most of the other drives yet its speed covers all of its other shortcomings which will be enough for any on-location professional shoot.

As it is an SSD so it has a compatibility advantage over HDD and it can also withstand more extreme temperatures than its HDD competitors. If we talk about its shape and size, it is like its predecessor, the SanDisk 500, small and sleek.

The top is bright-red SanDisk while the sides are protected by a red rubber bumper and metal lug and on the bottom, there is some basic product information. If we talk about the performance, it is much better than HDD and a great choice for photographers.

Testing 2MB read/write speeds with, we found that the Extreme 510 was able to achieve speeds of 322MB/s read, and 159MB/s write sequentially. In our 2MB random transfer test, we measured 270MB/s read and 159MB/s write. This is a drastic improvement over the Extreme 500, and it narrowly bests the performance of the Samsung T3 (318.95MB/s read and 158.28MB/s write).

Disassembling the unit was quite similar to the process we adopted for the Extreme 500. The striking difference is the special coating for the PCB and the chips on the board. This makes the chip markings quite difficult to read. This coating does seem to affect the thermal situation.


Storage Capacity480GB (SDSSDEXT-480G-G25)
Transfer Speed: (MB/s)Read speed = 430, Write speed = 400
Dimension: (inch)Length = 2.98, Width = 2.98, Height = 0.42
Encryption:128-bit hardware encryption
Compatibility:Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and Mac OS 10.4+
Warranty:2 years limited

11. LaCie Mobile Drive:

external drive for photos

LaCie is one of the best but not least on the list of external drives for photos. The company also has a series of mobile bus-powered hard drives. LaCie’s computer display product line is targeted specifically to graphics professionals, with an emphasis on color matching.

LaCie Mobile Drive comes in small size and huge storage space it can store up to 500K high-resolution photos. It has a diamond-cut design and looks aesthetic.

It is easily accessible with its compatibility for macOS, Windows OS, USB-C, and USB 3.0. One-click backups, schedule automatic backup, and folder mirroring across multiple devices can be easily done through LaCie toolkit-easy-to-use-software.


Storage Capacity1 TB
Transfer Speed: (MB/s)Read speed = 140, Write speed = 140
Dimension: (inch)Length = 5, Width = 3.3, Height = 0.4
Encryption:Safe mobile encryption
Compatibility:Apple Mac OS X 10.5 or later, Microsoft Windows 7
Warranty:2 years limited

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