Searching for the best external hard drive for long term storage? We have got you covered. Read on to learn more.
Storing important documents and personal media on an internal storage drive isn’t a great idea, considering they are more vulnerable to data loss. Most people are also not comfortable with the concept of cloud storage solutions, as a single data breach can leak all their sensitive data in an instant.
This is where external drives come into play. They have come a long way since their initial debut, now faster, more portable, and secure than ever before. Nowadays, you can find a high-capacity, high-performance external hard drive for a relatively affordable price as well.
You can store all your personal documents, photos, videos, and other files in a single external drive, then keep it in a safe place. You can also carry it with you everywhere and easily transfer large files between multiple devices on the go, including Windows PCs, Macs, smartphones, DSLR cameras, drones, etc.
If you are looking for an external hard drive to archive your important files in the long term, there are hundreds of options to go through. With that said, navigating an ocean of external storage solutions can be daunting at times– even for an experienced data hoarder.
Lucky for you, we have shortlisted the best external hard drives for long term storage in this guide to help you pick one. We have done meticulous research and gone through hundreds of customer reviews to include only the best models on our list.
- 1 What are the Best External Hard Drives for Long Term Storage?
- 2 What to look for in an External Hard Drive for Long Term Storage?
- 3 Best External Hard Drive for Long Term Storage FAQ
- 4 HDD for Long Term Storage: Bottom line
What are the Best External Hard Drives for Long Term Storage?
Whether you are looking for high storage capacity, longest lasting external hard drive, faster transfer speeds, top-notch security, portability, or ruggedness, we consider the following external hard drives the best for long term storage.
Although the term “hard drive” is generally used to describe older spinning storage, most people mix up the definition for both mechanical and solid-state storage technologies. Hence, we have included not only external HDDs but also SSDs on this list.
1. WD My Passport (4 TB)
- Storage Capacity: 1 TB, 2 TB, 4 TB, 5 TB
- Sequential Read / Write Speed: Up to 177 / 187 MB/s
- Interface: USB 3.1
- Warranty: 3 Years
Western Digital is renowned in the PC industry for some of the most incredible internal and external storage solutions on the market. Its “My Passport” external drives are quite popular for their affordability. For your long-term mass storage, the WD My Passport should make for an ideal choice.
This is a particularly slim external drive, with the 1 TB and 2 TB versions coming in just 11mm of thickness. The 4 TB and 5 TB versions are slightly bigger at 19mm. They are light and compact enough for you to carry one in your pocket or backpack.
The USB host cable is also detachable from the unit, meaning you can swap it with a new one without sending out your entire external drive for replacement. For those wondering, Western Digital provides a 3-year warranty period for the My Passport drives anyways.
The WD My Passport also features 256-bit AES hardware encryption to help you protect your data should you lose it by accident. All you have to do is install the WD Discovery software on your computer, and it will run you through the encryption process.
The 4 TB version of the WD My Passport should be ample for most people. Since its street prices have gone down quite a bit, you can find one for a reasonably affordable price as well.
|Relative compact and lightweight||Slow transfer speeds|
|256-bit AES hardware encryption|
|It comes in three colors: Black, Blue, and Red|
2. WD My Book (8 TB)
- Storage Capacity: 3 TB to 18 TB
- Sequential Read / Write Speed: Up to 200 MB/s
- Interface: USB 3.0
- Warranty: 3 Years
If you are looking for more capacity for your long-term mass storage, the My Book is another excellent option from WD. It’s a monolith-shaped, desktop-class external storage solution that’s not portable at all. However, it offers significantly more storage space in return, starting at 3 TB up to 18 TB on the single drive models.
Granted, the My Book isn’t the best in terms of sequential read and write speeds. It has a bulky enclosure and requires external power from an AC outlet. But what it does offer is reliability, along with a great cost-per-gigabyte value. It’s far cheaper than competing products from other brands and comes with three years of Western Digital’s assuring warranty.
Like the My Passport, the WD My Book supports 256-bit AES encryption and password protection. You can also use the WD Backup software to enable the auto-backup feature. The external drive connects to a PC or laptop via a USB 3.0 port, but it’s backward-compatible with the legacy USB 2.0 standard.
For those who are not looking for portability but more capacity on an external drive, the 8 TB version of WD My Book is a decent choice. The higher-capacity versions are sometimes also available at heavily discounted prices, so make sure to keep an eye on those.
|Compact tower design||It will mostly stay on your desk|
|It comes with up to 18 TB capacity||Slow transfer speeds|
|256-bit hardware encryption|
3. Samsung T7 Touch (2 TB)
- Storage Capacity: 500 GB, 1 TB, 2 TB
- Sequential Read / Write Speed: Up to 1,050 / 1,000 MB/s
- Interface: USB 3.2 Gen 2
- Warranty: 3 Years
The Samsung T7 is a successor to the brand’s most popular portable SSD to this date, the T5. It’s slightly bigger and heavier than its predecessor but makes radical improvements to read and write speeds.
There’s also the T7 Touch, which is for those who prioritize security over everything else. It has a built-in fingerprint scanner, supports AES-256 encryption, and comes in up to 2 TB of capacity. The sleek design also makes it quite pocketable.
The Samsung T7 Touch SSD is up to 9.5x times faster than an external hard disk drive. When connected to a USB 3.2 Gen 2 port, the drive can achieve sequential read and write speeds nearing the 1,000 MB/s mark. This portable SSD should be great for transferring large files faster in the long term.
The T7 Touch comes with a high-speed USB-C cable, along with a regular USB Type-C to Type-A cable for better compatibility. To access its security features, you must install Samsung’s “Portable SSD” software. It’s compatible with both Windows and macOS.
The 2 TB model of the Samsung T7 Touch is fairly expensive, but the biometric authenticator makes it far more secure than ordinary external storage drives. It’s also safer to carry than a regular external hard disk drive since there are no moving parts in an SSD. The stylish aluminum enclosure is also shock-resistant and can withstand drops from six feet.
If you can overlook the lower storage capacity, the T7 Touch is an overall solid pick. It comes with three years of warranty and is available in two color choices, black and white.
|Extreme portability and reliability||Available in only up to 2 TB|
|Super-fast transfer speeds||Fairly expensive|
|Built-in fingerprint reader for security|
|Powered by USB-C|
4. LaCie Rugged USB-C (4 TB)
- Storage Capacity: 500 GB, 1 TB, 2 TB, 4 TB, 5 TB
- Sequential Read / Write Speed: Up to 130 MB/s
- Interface: USB 3.0
- Warranty: 2 Years
If you travel often and need a high-capacity external drive, it’s essential to buy a model that’s capable of withstanding extreme conditions. SSDs are the perfect contender for such cases, but they also cost plenty of money. If you want something more affordable, the oddly named LaCie Rugged USB-C is an excellent choice.
LaCie is renowned for its tough and sturdy hard drive enclosures, and the Rugged USB-C is no exception. It’s a portable HDD with a thick rubber cover all around the edges. It helps with dampening shocks from extreme impacts on any terrain. You can drop the Rugged USB-C from up to 4 ft of height and it will work just fine, though we would strongly discourage you from trying it out.
This rugged external drive also has pretty respectable read and write speeds, hitting around the advertised 130 MB/s in our tests. It’s on the lower end of the spectrum, but it’s still respectable for transferring bigger files.
The reversible USB-C port on the drive is also durable than most other connectors and makes it natively compatible with modern devices. You can still use the included USB Type-C to Type-A adapter to plug the drive into an older PC or laptop.
If you do find the LaCie Rugged USB-C interesting, we recommend picking up the 4 TB model. You can get the drive reasonably cheap, and it isn’t even that far expensive from the 2 TB model. LaCie also throws in two years of data recovery services, along with a free month of Adobe Creative Cloud subscription with the external hard drive.
|Tough and rugged casing||Slow read/write speeds|
|Available in up to 5 TB capacity||Slightly on the bulkier side|
|It comes with a 2-year data recovery plan|
5. Sabrent Rocket Nano Rugged (2 TB)
- Storage Capacity: 512 GB, 2 TB
- Sequential Read / Write Speed: Up to 1,000 MB/s
- Interface: USB 3.2 Gen 2
- Warranty: 1 Year
Sabrent is usually known for its high-performance internal SSDs, but it also makes external ones. The Sabrent Rocket Nano Rugged is a nugget-sized, portable solid-state drive that’s small and lightweight enough to be your perfect travel companion.
The Rocket Nano lives up to its name, being only 2.75 inches tall and weighing around 60 grams. The CNC-machined outer shell is made of a high-grade aerospace aluminum alloy and covered by a bumper guard around all sides, giving this Sabrent SSD its “Rugged” title.
The Rocket Nano Rugged can withstand drops from up to 3.3 ft., and it’s rated as impervious to dust ingress. The enclosure is built to not only absorb heat but also keep it protected from overheating. Thus, you can expect to use the drive for years to come.
Another key selling point of this Sabrent external drive is the IP67 water resistance. It can survive in up to 1 meter of water for up to half an hour, which is seriously impressive for a storage device.
Performance-wise, the Rocket Nano Rugged offers sequential transfer speeds of up to 1,000 MB/s (~1 GB/s) over its USB 3.2 Gen 2 interface. You can back up and transfer large files within seconds. It comes with both USB C-to-C and USB C-to-A cables, so there’s no need to worry about compatibility.
Sure, the Sabrent Rocket Nano Rugged is relatively expensive for a 2 TB external drive. But its travel-friendly design, tough build quality, and NVMe transfer speeds make the price justifiable. If the LaCie Rugged USB-C is too big or slow for your needs, this is a highly appealing choice.
|Super-compact and durable build||Only available up to 2 TB|
|Fast transfer speeds over USB-C||Pricey|
|Drop-tested, dust-proof, and water-resistant|
6. Seagate Expansion (14 TB)
- Storage Capacity: Up to 18 TB
- Sequential Read / Write Speed: Up to 150 MB/s
- Interface: USB 3.0
- Warranty: 3 Years
If you want to go overboard with a long-term storage solution, the Seagate Expansion external desktop drive is the way to go. While it isn’t portable at all and doesn’t have the best transfer speeds, it’s not too far behind the WD My Book in terms of cost-per-gigabyte value.
With 14 TB of capacity, this Seagate Expansion is the largest external hard drive to get a spotlight on this list. It operates at up to 150 MB/s sequential read/write speeds, typical for drives with spinning platters. It does require external power from its 18W wall brick adapter, but connecting it to a desktop or laptop is nice and easy with the 18” detachable USB 3.0 cable.
Seagate is particularly famous for its long-lasting storage devices, so you can expect to get years of usage from the following external drive. The massive capacity is perfect for storing high-quality media files, whether it’s your Blu-ray rips or lossless music tracks.
The Seagate Expansion is compatible with the “Seagate Toolkit” software for Windows and Mac. It offers tools like backup, mirror, sync, and password protection features. In case of accidental data loss, you can also rely on Seagate’s Rescue Data Recovery Services to get your data back from this external drive.
If you need over a dozen terabytes of space for your data and don’t mind making some room on your desk for an external drive, the 14 TB Seagate Expansion drive is a fantastic choice. It isn’t even crazy expensive given its sheer capacity.
|It’s available in up to 18 TB capacity||Not portable at all|
|Plug-and-play storage||Slow data transfer speeds|
|Reasonably priced||Requires external power|
7. Plugable Thunderbolt 3 (2 TB)
- Storage Capacity: 512 GB, 1 TB, 2 TB
- Sequential Read / Write Speed: Up to 2400 / 1800 MB/s
- Interface: Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C)
- Warranty: 3 Years
If you use a MacBook or a Windows laptop with a Thunderbolt port, the Plugable Thunderbolt 3 external SSD is a compelling choice for long-term storage. It comes in up to 2 TB of capacity and has blazingly fast data transfer speeds.
For example, most external NVMe storage drives can only reach theoretical transfer speeds of up to 1,000 MB/s over the USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gb/s) interface. In contrast, this 2 TB Plugable drive surpasses 2,400 MB/s read and 1,800 MB/s write speeds over the faster Thunderbolt 3 connection. You will barely have to wait around for transferring large files.
The Plugable Thunderbolt 3 is so fast that you can edit high-quality video files right off the drive. The 2 TB version can store up to six hours of raw 4K footage depending on the format. You can even run games off it and never run into performance issues.
Coming in at only 4.5 x 2.5 inches, the drive is small enough to throw in a backpack. Since there are no mechanical parts inside, it’s far more durable than external hard drives. The metal exterior also protects the drive from accidental drops and helps dissipate heat from the NVMe SSD.
Compared to other Thunderbolt-powered external drives, this Plugable model has a far more competitive price. It also comes with three years of warranty. Though before you buy, make sure your PC or laptop has a Thunderbolt 3-equipped USB-C port for the drive to function. It won’t work with older Thunderbolt or standard USB interfaces.
|Lightning-fast transfer speeds||Only available in up to 2 TB|
|Small and lightweight||Compatible with Thunderbolt 3 only|
|Cheaper than competing products||Costly|
What to look for in an External Hard Drive for Long Term Storage?
Here are a few things you should look for in an external hard drive for long term storage:
Size and weight
If you plan to carry your data everywhere you go, portable external drives are the best for their compact and lightweight design. Those who don’t care about portability would probably be fine with a bulkier, high-capacity drive.
An external drive must keep your files safe, especially if you need to store years of valuable data. Make sure to go for a model from a well-known brand (e.g., Seagate, Samsung, WD) as their storage solutions rarely fail.
If you travel a lot with your laptop, an external solid-state drive is a much better option than a mechanical one as they lack moving parts. However, they are far costlier than your average hard drives.
Note that there are rugged external hard drives with purpose-built enclosures that can survive drops, vibrations, and high temperatures. They are generally more affordable, but SSDs still come out on top in terms of toughness.
An external HDD or SSD with a capacity of around 2 TB represents a good balance between storage space and affordability. However, if you are willing to pay more, a higher-capacity drive isn’t a bad investment in the long term.
It’s one of the main reasons why you would spend a lot more for a solid-state external drive over a mechanical one. Almost every brand advertises the sequential read and write speeds of their drives as they are more important for backing up and moving large files.
If you are buying an external drive only to use it for mass storage, you should be fine with slower random read/write speeds.
Our recommendations include models that use USB 3.0 (also known as USB 3.1 Gen 1 or USB 3.2 Gen 1) or a faster interface. It has a maximum theoretical speed of 625 MB/s (5 Gb/s), while Gen 2 is twice as fast at 1,250 MB/s (10 Gb/s).
The special Thunderbolt 3 interface can achieve up to 5,000 MB/s (40 Gb/s). It has double the bandwidth rate of the USB 3.2 Gen 2×2, which maxes out 2,500 MB/s (20 Gb/s).
Although the USB Type-A or Type-C port on external drives can allow for such high bandwidth, it’s not the same as the drive’s data transfer speeds. We only provide the information so that you know whether the connection is capable enough to saturate an external HDD or SSD’s maximum read/write speeds.
If you want to protect your sensitive data from falling into wrong hands, it’s essential to get an external drive that supports the Advanced Encryption Standard or AES. Most external drives don’t require software to set up hardware-based AES encryption, although you may need it to enable password protection.
This should keep your data safe from unauthorized access in case your external drive gets misplaced or stolen.
Three years of warranty is the standard for most external storage drives, though there are a few picks on the above list that come with a shorter warranty period. However, all of the mentioned brands offer strong customer service, at least in our experience.
Best External Hard Drive for Long Term Storage FAQ
Q1. What type of external hard drive is best for long term storage?
As we have discussed earlier, external drives come in either HDD (Hard Disk Drive) or SSD (Solid State Drive) form. An SSD is more comparable to a regular USB flash drive, where all the data is stored in tiny flash memory chips instead of a spinning metal platter. It makes them less susceptible to data loss but also adds to the manufacturing cost.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t use a mechanical drive for long-term storage, as they offer significantly larger capacities at fairly inexpensive prices. Granted, HDDs can be slow at times, but it’s fine for those who don’t need regular access to their data.
Q2. Which lasts longer: HDD or SSD?
Solid-state drives are generally more durable of the two as they don’t have any mechanical parts and are more resistant to vibrations and higher temperatures.
That said, an external hard drive can last for years without issues if you take proper care of it.
Q3. Are there any disadvantages of using an external SSD for long term storage?
The answer is usually no. The only disadvantage to talk of is the cost-per-gigabyte metric. Solid-state drives are more expensive to manufacture, therefore you will always get less capacity for your money with an external SSD drive than with an HDD.
Another disadvantage of using external SSDs for long term storage is that it’s not an easy task (often impossible) to recover lost data from them.
HDD for Long Term Storage: Bottom line
The best external hard drives are very convenient storage solutions, especially when you need to move important files off your computer’s internal drive for safekeeping in the long term. You can pick any of the above options in this guide to fulfill your data hoarding needs.
Unfortunately, there’s no way for us to make a top pick among the seven models on the list since they all have at least one flaw– such as bulkiness, slower transfer speeds, limited compatibility, or a higher price. But they all are still good options and available for you to buy.
If you have any other questions regarding the best external hard drives for long term storage, leave them in the comments. We are also open to feedback and suggestions to further improve our list of picks.