“cheapism helps you find the cheapest "best buys"” — lifehacker
In this review:
  1. Best Cheap External Hard Drives
  2. External Hard Drives Reviews
  3. Portable Hard Drive Capacity, Size
  4. External Hard Drive Backup Software
  5. Discount External Hard Drives Features Comparison Table

Cheap External Hard Drives Buying Guide

With more and more people looking for extra space to store their digital images, movies, and music, interest in cheap external hard drives is growing. Over the past few years, the price of external hard drives has fallen even as the storage capacity has increased and the backup software has improved.

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Now you can find portable devices for as little as $50, but be prepared to spend closer to $100 for one of the best cheap external hard drives.

We identified several hard-working external hard drives priced in the Cheapism niche. To assemble our list of best cheap external hard drives, we focused on data transfer rates, storage capacity, backup software, and ease of use, and balanced user feedback against that of experts. Our top choices are the eye catching Hitachi Touro Mobile Pro (starting at $100) and the tried-and-true Western Digital My Passport Essential (starting at $100). The two runners-up are the Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Ultra (starting at $90), which performs well but is a bit pricey for the amount of storage, and the Buffalo MiniStation Stealth (starting at $79), which is a tad pokey but a good value given its very low cost per gigabyte. Two cheap external hard drives we're passing on are the Toshiba Canvio (starting at $85) due to a design flaw with the data cable, and the Verbatim Titan XS (starting at $86), which doesn't support USB 3.0 connections but carries a price tag near the top of the cheap range, making it a questionable buy.

When it comes to cheap external hard drives, you might think the larger the drive, the better. But that's not necessarily the case. The size of the external hard drive you choose should depend on what you intend to do with it. If you want a hard drive to back up the multitude of videos, photos, and music currently stored on your home PC (or several network-linked PCs), or if you're looking for additional and accessible storage for large files (think video or image files), you'll definitely need a large external hard drive -- at least 500GB. But many consumers, especially laptop users who are often on the go, don't need as much capacity and may be better off with a smaller, slimmer, more portable hard drive. We limited our search for the best cheap external hard drives to those with a maximum 500GB.

Other factors are also worth considering when shopping for a cheap external hard drive. Data transfer rates, for one. Most new devices feature a USB 3.0 interface. If you have a PC with a USB 3.0 port, you'll appreciate the blazing speed with which you can back up or transfer files to a cheap external hard drive. (The drive will still work with a USB 2.0 port, but transfer speeds will be slower.) Most cheap external hard drives also include some sort of "bonus" backup software. If you already have backup software, the bonus software may not seem like a deal. But it's worth checking out because many of these programs are effective and easy to use.

Companies that make external hard drives include Iomega, LaCie, Samsung, Seagate, Toshiba, Transcend, Verbatim, and Western Digital. Most offer a range of portable hard drives with different storage capacities, features, and price points. Higher-end external hard drives generally offer more storage, faster performance, and extra features, such as backup software with multiple scheduling options and the ability to back up a small network. But for everyday home use or for carrying wherever you go, a cheap external hard drive has all the functionality you need. Most external hard drives are compatible with PCs and Macs, although some need to be reformatted for Macs, and in some cases the bundled backup software may be PC-compatible only.

by Michael Sweet (Google+ Profile)

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Best Cheap External Hard Drives

Hitachi Touro Mobile Pro
Gold Medal

Hitachi Touro Mobile Pro

This sleek, attractive hard drive is fast and boasts more storage -- 750GB of hard drive storage, plus 3GB of free online storage -- than its similarly priced competition. Reviewers like how speedy the Hitachi Touro Mobile Pro is, making this external hard drive a winner in our book.

Read Full Review and Compare Prices »
Western Digital My Passport Essential
Gold Medal

Western Digital My Passport Essential

Western Digital has been making excellent hard drives for years, and this one is no exception. The My Passport Essential offers 500GB of storage, comes with reliable backup software, and performs well. With a competitive cost per gigabyte, users and experts give this hard drive high marks.

Read Full Review and Compare Prices »

Good Cheap External Hard Drives

Buffalo MiniStation Stealth
Gold Medal

Buffalo MiniStation Stealth

If you're simply looking for cheap storage, the Buffalo MiniStation Stealth should grab your interest. This 500GB drive offers the lowest cost per gigabyte of any of the models on our list. On the down side, users and experts complain that data transfer rates are pretty slow for a USB 3.0 drive.

Read Full Review and Compare Prices »
Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Ultra
Gold Medal

Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Ultra

The FreeAgent GoFlex Ultra performs well enough, but its trial backup software doesn't impress users or experts and the cost per gigabyte is pretty high. A good buy but not if low price is your top priority.

Read Full Review and Compare Prices »
 

Don't Bother

Toshiba Canvio

It's obvious from user complaints that the Toshiba Canvio has a serious problem with its cable: It keeps popping out of the drive's connector, a frustrating problem that aggravates many users. Although this drive performs well overall, the cable issue can't be ignored.

Read more »

Verbatim Titan XS

Verbatim's Titan XS offers a competitive cost per gigabyte and has pretty fast USB 2.0 speeds. But the drive doesn't support USB 3.0 connections and still costs close to $90.

Read more »

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