Sure, cloud storage is one alternative to carrying a mechanism with you, but you need to have Internet access to use it (not always possible when you're traveling), and storing files in the cloud isn't always practical when you're dealing with large files or large collections of files.
Before you shop for a portable hard drive, however, you should know that very few of them provide data redundancy, meaning they don't duplicate the data they store. Now that we've established how useful a portable hard drive can be, let us show you how to choose theA rightA portable hard drive for your needs.
SSDs perform at a much higher level than mechanical drives, but they're also considerably more expensive. PlatformA If you're buying a portable hard drive for a PC, buy one that's pre-formatted NTFS.
Media A platter-based portable hard drive will typically deliver more capacity at a lower cost-per-gigabyte than one based on a solid-state drive, but it will also be slower and more susceptible to damage if it's dropped. Thunderbolt is the fastest hard-drive interface, and it's very popular on the Mac platform.
Firewire (aka IEEE 1394) is fast, too, but it's another interface that was more popular with the Mac community than with PC usersa€”and it's on the way out because Thunderbolt is faster. Some drives have more than one interface, which is convenient if you use the drive on more than one platform. EnclosureA Most platter-based portable hard drives use 2.5-inch mechanisms, so they're generally just slightly larger than the drive itself (typically around 3 inches wide, 4 inches deep, and less than an inch thick). Data securityA If you're security-conscious, consider a hard drive that must be unlocked before you can use it, or one that automatically encrypts the data stored on it (and decrypts it when accessed by an authorized user). Seagate's Backup Plus FastA is loaded with great features, including an attractive price-per-gigabtye of $0.07 (you get 4TB of capacity for $270). Western Digital's Passport Slim drive boasts a low profile and an attractive price per gigabyte. This drive won't take a lot of space in your laptop bag, but it delivers a full terabyte of storage for taking your data on the road (a 2TB model is also available). If speed is your primary need, Apricorn's Aegis Portable 3.0A is our favorite portable SSD.
Elgato's Thunderbolt Drive+ is pricey, but we dig its enclosure and its support for both USB 3.0 as well as the super-fast Thunderbolt. If you absolutely need the compelling speed that an SSD paired with a Thunderbolt interface can deliver (and have a Thunderbolt interface on your PC to support it)A Elgato's Thunderbolt Drive+ is the fastesta€”and most expensivea€”portable Thunderbolt drive we've tested.

Take a look at the above chart, however, and you'll see that the far cheaper Aegis Portable 3.0 outperformed it when reading a single 10GB file. Anyone who carries sensitive information with them should consider storing it on a drive that encrypts the data to keep it from prying eyes. The Wireless Plus features Seagate's USM (Universal Storage Module) A technology, so it can be mated to a variety of interfaces. The SSD versions of the Aegis Portable 3.0 offer far better write performance than the hard-drive models, and are lighter and more rugged. More secure portable storage than a thumb drive can provide, and the on-device keypad provides easy access. For wireless streaming of media and storage, Seagate's Wireless Plus is a polished, fast, and reliable external drive. We give you the scoop on what's new, what's best and how to make the most out of the products you love. You can use one to back up your PC, carry important files with you on the road, store music and movies without clogging the hard drive on your PC, and more. Performance and the features listed below the chart are the factors we take into consideration. Macs use the HTFS+ file system, so manufacturers sometimes offer a different SKU for each platform (or they might provide a pre-loaded NTFS driver for Mac users). Oddly enough, despite being an Intel technology, Thunderbolt ports are rare on the PC fronta€”especially on laptops. All three interface types provide enough electrical power for most any portable hard drive, so you don't need to carry a power brick. Cases are typically made from plastic (ding resistant), aluminum (lightweight), or a combination of the two. And because this is actually two mechanical hard drives operating in RAID 0, you get phenomenal speed.
Ita€™s a good choice for anybody looking to maximize their storage on the go without breaking the bank.
The WD Passport Slim also makes a fine backup drive for home-office duty, either plugged into your PC or shared over a network via the USB port on your router.
The drive inside the $900 Thunderbolt Drive+ is a Plextor SATA 6Gbps model that can be purchased directly from Plextor for just $380.

Apricorn's Aegis Padlock SSD features a numeric keypad to prevent unauthorized access, and it's certified Level 2 FIPS 140-2, which means any tampering must be rendered evident. The DashDrive HV620 from ADATA isn't flashy or faster than average, but it's got a lot of space and average speeds, with a great price-per-gigabyte. In fact, there are countless other applications for portable drives, simply because you can never have enough storage. So don't use a portable hard drive to storeA irreplaceable information unless you have a duplicate copy stored somewhere elsea€”on another hard drive in your computer, on a second portable hard drive, in the cloud, or on a network-attached storage device.
Western Digital and Seagate have lately started offering dual-drive products that are necessarily twice as thick as their single-drive cousins.
It's not nearly as fast as Seagate's Backup Plus Fast, because it's not two drives operating in RAID 0, but neither does it come with the tradeoffs of that arrangement. WD provides backup software for automated backups (you can also back up to a Dropbox account) and security software so you can password-protect your data. While it's come down in price since it was first introduced, you'll still pay $1.09 per gigabyte for this 256GB drive. So you're paying $520 for a very fancy, water- and dust-resistant enclosure with both USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt interfaces and a three-year warranty. A 2TB drive priced at $120, for instance, would have a cost-per-gigabyte of 6 cents (most hard-drive manufacturers advertise 2 terabytes to be equal to 2000 gigabytes, even though 2048GB is more accurate). We connect the drive to a testbed PC and copy a 10GB collection of small files from the PC's internal SSD drive to the portable hard drive (a write test). There are less-expensive portable SSDs on the market, but few that match the Aegis Portable 3.0's outstanding price-to-performance ratio. Given that Thunderbolt is more widely support on the Mac, it's no surprise that the drive comes from the factory formatted HTFS+, so you'll need to reformat as NTFS if you want to use with a PC.
This isn't the best choice for a backup solution, but it's just the ticket when you need to transfer files rapidly.

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