External Hard Drives: Expert and User Reviews

Updated March 31, 2014
In this report

External Hard Drives: Ratings of Sources

1. PCMag.com Hard Drives, PCMag.com, As of April 2014
PCMag.com regularly tests external hard drives, and the top-rated products earn its Editors' Choice award. Testing and evaluation are hands-on and competent, but less comprehensive than at some other sites. Tests aren't always head to head, but reviews often mention how a unit stacks up against other models. Reviews are easy for the non-tech-savvy to understand, and they include a list of pros and cons, as well as a concise bottom-line summary for each model.
2. CNET Best Storage Devices, CNET, Updated April 11, 2014
CNET regularly tests external hard drives, giving each a star rating and a written review. Editor Dong Ngo lists the top picks in several categories, including NAS drives, desktop backup drives and portable hard drives. Testing is hands-on, though perhaps not as in depth as at some other sites, and each review includes a handy summary of pros and cons right at the top.
3. Macworld Hard Drives, Macworld, As of April 2014
Macworld, not surprisingly, focuses on reviewing hard drives that are Mac-formatted, or at least Mac-compatible. Testing is very thorough, measuring the time to copy various types of files over several different connections. It's not that easy to compare models, however, as the full list of reviews doesn't show ratings.
4. PCMag.com Network-Attached Storage (NAS), PCMag.com, As of April 2014
Reviews of NAS devices at PCMag.com appear on a separate page from those for external hard drives, but coverage and testing methodology are similar. In the past two years, about 25 NAS drives have been tested and just four of those have received the Editors' Choice rating. Most of the top picks are high-end devices too pricey for most home users.
5. PC World Storage, PC World, As of April 2014
PC World is a counterpart of Macworld, and its hard drive reviews are of comparable quality. Editors test drives' performance by reading and writing several types of files, and an "at a glance" section sums up each model's pros and cons. However, as at Macworld, ratings are not shown on the main page, so we had to rely on the site's various "best" lists to find top-rated models.
6. StorageReview.com Leaderboard - Best Hard Drive, SSD and Storage Solutions, StorageReview.com, Updated March 4, 2014
StorageReview.com frequently reviews external hard drives, along with all other types of computer peripherals. Reviews are hands-on, measuring performance through a series of tests and also evaluating design and usability. The site doesn't provide ratings, however, so the only way to find recommendations is the "leaderboard" page that names the best drives in several categories.
7. TheWirecutter.com External Hard Drives, TheWirecutter.com, Updated March 25, 2014
Editors at The Wirecutter go through a multi-stage process to select the one model they dub "The Best" for portable hard drives, desktop hard drives, and networked storage. They look at professional reviews to identify a few models that stand out for reliability and performance, then test them using a special benchmarking program. They discuss their top pick and a few runners up in detail and briefly mention others that don't make the cut.
8. Laptop Magazine Portable Hard Drives, Laptop Magazine, Feb. 7, 2014
Laptop magazine has reviewed about a dozen external hard drives since December 2012. Most of those drives have received ratings of 4 stars or better, but only a few have earned the magazine's Editors' Choice award. Reviews are complete but not extremely technical, and they include a quick summary at the top.
9. PCAdvisor.co.uk The Top 10 Best Portable Hard Drives: What's the Best Portable Hard Drive of 2014, PCAdvisor.co.uk, March 5, 2014
This article lists the 10 best portable hard drives identified in tests at Britain's PC Advisor and its sister sites, Macworld UK and PC World Australia. Links within the article take you to more detailed reviews for each product, including hands-on test results. Some of the recommended hard drives are from brands not widely available in the U.S.
10. Newegg.com External Hard Drives, Newegg.com, As of April 2014
Newegg.com is a retail site specializing in computers and electronics. Nearly 500 external hard drives are sold here, and several of them have hundreds of ratings and reviews. Because the site caters to a technically oriented customer base, reviewers here are sometimes more knowledgeable than at other retail sites. However, several of the top-rated products here are officially discontinued.
11. Amazon.com External Hard Drives, Amazon.com, As of April 2014
Amazon.com offers the largest selection of external hard drives online -- thousands of them. Some drives have hundreds or even thousands of reviews from owners, but it's hard to find the top-rated models because the main page only shows the overall rating and number of reviews for some models. Reviews vary in length and quality, but the sheer volume of them makes this site useful for getting an overview of user opinion.
12. BestBuy.com External & Portable Hard Drives, BestBuy.com, As of April 2014
BestBuy.com does not sell as large a selection of external hard drives as Amazon.com, but the reviewers here are just as prolific. We found eight hard drives with high overall ratings from 250 users or more. Sorting through the reviews is somewhat awkward, as the same model is often listed multiple times in different sizes or colors. Reviews include separate ratings for value, performance, ease of installation and ease of use.