You can do a lot of clever things with cloud storage but in many situations, there’s no match for traditional physical storage. Having massive amounts of storage in a pocketable drive is really handy and for some users might be absolutely necessary.
There are plenty of portable hard disk drives (HDD) as well as much-faster solid-state drives (SSD) to choose from and we’ve reviewed and ranked some of the best ones. We are focussing on SSDs here but hard drives like the WD Black P10 get an honourable mention.
Portable USB drives are powered by the connected computer, so you can use them on the move without the need to plug into the mains or use batteries. Some will even connect your phone or tablet and let you extend storage that way, or allow you to transfer or open files.
Find our full chart below and click through to the full reviews if you want to read more about a particular drive. Looking for an internal SATA or NVMe drive? Check out our best SSD chart for something internal, or that you can add to your own casing.
Best portable hard drives & SSDs 2022
1. Crucial X6 – Best Overall
Lacks hardware encryption
No activity light
500GB model slower
From £62.39 | Model reviewed £178.79
SSD, Average Read/Write speed: 836MB/s
It might not be quite as fast as the Adata SE760 but a recent upgrade to the 1- and 2TB models makes the X6 unbeatable in terms of value for money with the 1TB model costing well under £100/$100.
Furthermore, it comes in an ever more portable form factor than its bigger brother, the X8, which is still drop tested to 2m and comes with the same three-year warranty.
As an all-rounder goes, it’s our top pick, even if it lacks things like hardware encryption and an activity light.
Read our full
Review Crucial X6
2. Adata SE760 – Best Value
Type-A & Type-C cables
Limited to 1TB
From £47.99 | Model reviewed £139.99
SSD, Average Read/Write speed: 934MB/s
Adata has come up with an excellent rival to the Crucial X8 and importantly done so at a cheaper price.
Like the X8 there are no features like a rugged design or encryption but there are alternative options if you need those things.
Instead, the SE760 provides a hassle-free way of carrying around a large amount of speedy storage without breaking the bank. It even comes with Type-C and Type-A USB cables included.
A solid choice if you want between 250GB and 1TB of capacity.
Read our full
Review Adata SE760
3. Kingston XS2000 – Affordable Performance
Small and lightweight
Needs USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 for full speed
Limited SLC cache size
No USB Type-A adapter
£84.99 (500GB ); £124.49 (1TB); £247.99 (2TB); £538.99 (4TB)
SSD, Average Read/Write speed: 1986MB/s
If you want the top performance then the XS2000 is aptly named as it offers headline speeds with read peaking at 2092MB/s, though you will need a USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 port to access this level of performance.
That’s around double many rivals if you do and the price here is surprisingly affordable, plus this is a very portable drive.
On the downside, the limited cache means you won’t get sustained performance for larger files and Kingston doesn’t provide a USB adapter to use the XS2000 with older Type-A ports.
Read our full
Review Kingston XS2000
4. Seagate One Touch (2021) – Best Backup Software
Up to 2TB
Free Sync Plus software
Could be more robust
From £79.99 | Model reviewed £134.99
SSD, Average Read/Write speed: 1,007MB/s
As long as you don’t need hardware encryption then the latest version of the One Touch SSD is an excellent choice.
Plug it into the right USB port and you’ll get double the speed of the previous version, matching many rivals. Capacity goes up to 2TB and Seagate provides useful and free, Sync Plus software to make backing up files easy.
It’s also highly portable and although it’s not as rugged as some alternatives, it’s hardly fragile. The main pain point here is the ridiculously short cables, but that’s not uncommon either.
Read our full
Review Seagate One Touch SSD (2021)
5. CalDigit Tuff nano – Best Speed and Durability Combo
£159.99 (512GB) | £229.99 (1TB)
SSD, Average Read/Write speed: 891MB/s
The CalDigit Tuff nano blew us away with its super-fast speeds, which are twice as fast as comparable portable SSDs. using NVMe technology, the 512GB drive we tested achieved Read and Write speeds close to 1,000MB/s!
It’s also robust, being IP67 certified – meaning that it can be immersed in water and is dust-tight. It can also withstand drops up to 3M.
It is compatible with most computers (it comes with USB-C and USB-A cables), and, being USB-C, can also work with Apple’s iPad Pro.
While it might be a little pricy for the casual user, professionals such as photographers and filmmakers will appreciate its blistering speed and tough travel credentials.
Read our full
Review Caldigit Tuff nano SSD Drive
6. Crucial X8 – Good Value Performance
SSD, Average Read/Write speed: 1,015MB/s
The Crucial X8 is a great option for those looking for reliable portable SSD.
It’s well-made, compact and offers excellent speeds via USB 3.2 Gen 2 and offers great value for money, too.
There might not be any encryption but for many users, this won’t be an issue. If it is, then there are plenty of other options such as the Samsung T7 Touch and SanDisk Extreme.
Read our full
Review Crucial X8
7. Samsung T7 Touch – Best Encryption
SSD, Average Read/Write speed: 929MB/s
Samsung has improved on the popular T5 with a portable SSD that’s both faster and is more secure.
The fingerprint scanner works well but the drive is lacking in a simple way to reset it should you not have the registered finger so just be careful. You’ll also need to be using the right port to get the most out of the T7’s potential speed.
Those are just caveats for an excellent drive which has a lot to like. If you won’t make use of these new features then you may as well grab the cheaper
Read our full
Review Samsung T7 Touch
8. SanDisk Extreme Portable SDD V2 – Most Portable
Faster than SATA SSDs
USB-A + USB-C
SSD, Average Read/Write speed: 930MB/s
SanDisk has done a great job of improving its rugged portable SSD with this new model, although the naming is a little too similar with just ‘V2’ at the end which isn’t even on the box.
If you make sure you’re buying this new model, you’ll benefit from double the speed as well as built-in encryption. The Extreme Portable is also one of the lightest drives we’ve ever seen if that’s important and also has an IP55 water and dust rating.
The drive offers both USB-A and USB-C, just note that you’ll need a USB 3.2 Gen 2 port on the device you plug this SSD into to benefit from the fastest speeds.
Read our full
Review SanDisk Extreme Portable SDD V2
9. WD Black D10 – Best Gaming Storage
Short USB cable
Can’t run all console titles
HDD, Average Read/Write speed: 625MB/s
If you’re lacking in space for your console or PC games then the WD Black D30 is a decent option to gain a lot of storage in a small and stylish package.
The metal container style shell is really the only gaming element of this drive, but it is highly portable and ready to use out the box. You’ll get decent speeds from the USB 3.2 standard.
As usual, we’d like the cable to be longer. If you need more space than 2TB and can cope with slower speeds, the
Black P10 goes to 5TB.
Read our full
Review WD Black P10 Game Drive
10. SanDisk Professional PRO-G40 – Best Performance
Headline performance on Thunderbolt
No USB Type-A adapter included
£414.99 (1TB) | £654.99 (2TB)
SSD, Average Read/Write speed: 2682MB/s
Those looking for serious speeds in an ultra-rugged casing that will survive the likes of water, drops and more have just found it.
The PRO-G40 gets close to 3000MB/s in read speeds if you use it over Thunderbolt. With USB 3.2 Gen 2 speeds significantly slower, it’s not worth the high cost of this drive compared to rivals.
That’s the main issue here, with seemingly most of the cost going on the casing, while the drive inside only comes in 1- or 2TB sizes at launch. At this price, a longer cable and some kind of carry pouch would be nice. The G40 will be a better buy once it starts getting discounted.
Read our full
Review SanDisk Professional PRO-G40
How to choose a portable SSD
Even the smallest portable drives are likely to be 128GB in size, which is enough to space thousands of CD albums in lossless FLAC format, or even more in lower quality MP3 or AAC formats. Off-loading your music collection alone from a computer to a portable drive can be a godsend in freeing valuable space if your laptop has limited storage.
Another popular application of portable storage is for keeping critical backups of your data held on a PC or laptop. You may be able to keep a perfect clone of your entire computer’s internal drive, on standby and ready in the event that the computer is lost or its drive should malfunction.
Alternatively, you may choose just to back up the most important files and documents from your user libraries, such as text documents, photos, films, music and stored email. Some portable drives include software that can help automate this process, keeping your selected directories in sync whenever you plug in the drive or by a daily schedule.
Now that USB 2.0 has been banished from all self-respecting storage, we find USB 3 as the standard for connection, letting these portable drives perform as quickly as the little disks inside will allow.
USB 3 is confusing, as USB 3.0 was retrospectively renamed to USB 3.1 Gen 1. There’s also a newer version, USB 3.1 Gen 2. This doubles the potential throughput from Gen 1’s 5Gb/s to 10Gb/s. In megabytes per second, these equate to 625 and 1,250 respectively. Pretty fast, then.
In reality, most SSDs top out at around 1000MB/s (although you can get faster), and this speed is highly dependent on the device you’re connecting it to so don’t automatically blame the drive if you experience slower speeds. Note that USB-C Gen 2 won’t go any faster when USB 4.0 arrives.
Check out the average speeds in the summaries above, and go to the full review for more detailed benchmark results.
A rugged exterior will be handy if you want the freedom of being able to throw around the unplugged drive with less worry that it will damage the unit, and more importantly, lose your data.
Look out for shock-resistance ratings such as the US military MIL-STD-810F 516.5 (Transit Drop Test). This means that it should withstand being dropped 26 times onto a hard floor, once on to each face, edge and corner, from a height of 1.22m.
Flash storage – more commonly known as SSDs – can survive more brutal treatment, and some portable drives are even water-resistant. If you were to accidentally drop a portable SSD drive in water, then as long as the port covers are firmly closed, it will work fine to use it after it has been fully dried.
Some drives have an IP waterproof rating like phones.
It’s tough to say definitively which manufacturer makes the most reliable hard drives. While there’s a big difference between the technology used in traditional hard drives and SSDs, both have a limited lifespan, and this is why warranties are relatively short – typically two or three years.
What’s important is that you have a well-thought-out backup process and you don’t rely on any single drive to store precious files. Ideally, you should have three copies: one on a PC, phone or tablet, one on a backup drive and one in the cloud.
For many users, a portable storage drive may be an unavoidable commodity, and price will be the deciding factor.
Often an older drive will be cheaper thanks to a drop in price so you might get a bargain, but make sure you’re not missing out on new tech you’d benefit from.
Professionals will be willing to pay more for the faster and tougher SSDs out there.
The larger the drive, the more you can store – and the more you stand to lose in the event of losing the drive or having it stolen. This is where it pays to lock down that drive.
There are two ways to ensure the data is unreadable by other users. You can scramble the contents through hardware encryption. Or you can use a software application to encrypt either parts or all of the drive.