11 different external hard drives in comparison – find your best external hard drive – our test or guide 2021

The computer no longer starts, the hard disk is defective. All data – important documents, private photo collections, music, videos – are irrevocably gone. For most computer users, this is a horror scenario. Such failures show how important it is to have a backup copy of personal documents and files. If you save them regularly on an external hard drive, you are well armed against data loss. Handling is easy, because the storage medium can be connected with a USB cable and the synchronization of the data runs fully automatically with many models. The data media have proven themselves not only for data backup, but also for the fast transport of larger amounts of data from one place to another.

The following product comparison compares the features and functions of 11 external hard drives. We give valuable tips on how to use the data carriers and describe which details the buyer must pay attention to when a new purchase is necessary. In the guide, we explain the advantages and disadvantages of hard drives and what alternative backup options are available. Last but not least, we inform you whether Stiftung Warentest or Öko-Test have tested external hard drives and chosen a test winner and how the respective tests turned out.

4 handy external hard drives in the comparison table

More practical technology products in the big comparison at STERN.de

1. toshiba HDTB420EK3AA Canvio Basics – portable external hard drive with USB 3.0

The Toshiba HDTB420EK3AA Canvio Basics is an external hard drive that can be used with the USB interface via the fast USB 3.0 standard. It is compatible with USB 2.0, so the user can connect older hardware without hesitation. Toshiba’s storage device is a 2.5-inch hard drive with a matte enclosure. It is available with five different storage sizes:

  • 500 gigabytes
  • 1 terabyte (TB)
  • 2 terabyte (TB)
  • 3 Terabyte (TB) and
  • 4 terabytes (TB)

Toshiba’s external hard drive is designed to run on Microsoft Windows. The user does not need to install any software and can use the device via plug-and-play: simply connect the hard disk to the USB port of laptop or notebook via USB cable and immediately save or retrieve data.

The maximum transfer rate of this device is around 5.0 gigabits per second. Power is also supplied via the USB port, whereby the maximum value of 900 milliamperes must be observed.

  • Available in five sizes
  • Only up to 4 Terabyte


2. WD Elements WDBU6Y0020BBK – external hard drive in various sizes

The WD Elements external hard drive with USB 3.0 can be connected to a computer with Microsoft Windows as well as MAC operating systems. However, the drive needs to be reformatted when used on Apple computer. Otherwise, the hard drive is pre-formatted for Windows 7, 8 and 10.

The WD Elements WDBU6Y0020BBK external hard drive is available in a variety of storage sizes, not just 2 terabytes of storage. It is also available in the sizes

  • 500 gigabyte
  • 750 gigabyte
  • 1 terabyte
  • 1.5 terabyte
  • 3 terabytes
  • 4 Terabyte and
  • 5 terabyte

The prices are based on the size of the respective hard disk.

  • Available in seven sizes
  • No LED


Seagate STEA2000400 External Hard Drive with up to 5 Terabytes of Storage Capacity

Seagate’s STEA2000400 external portable hard drive is a 2.5-inch hard drive with a HighSpeed USB 3.0 connection. The hard drive easily connects to the computer via plug-and-play. This means that the user can directly start backing up data or saving pictures and videos to the hard drive. Seagate provides a 2-year warranty on the external hard drive.

  • The hard drive
  • A USB 3.0 cable and
  • A quick start guide

The hard drive is not very different in price from the external storage devices we have compared so far. The model comes in sizes, or storage sizes, ranging from 500 gigabytes to 5 terabytes.

  • 2 years manufacturer warranty
  • Nice design
  • No disadvantages ascertainable


4. external hard drive Intenso Memory Case with SuperSpeed USB 3.0 port

The external hard drive Memory Case of the brand Intenso is a flyweight with its weight of 186 grams and is suitable for on the go. It is ready to go without installation and has a very fast access time of 8 milliseconds thanks to the SuperSpeed USB 3.0 connection. The rotation speed is 5,400 revolutions per minute.

Intenso’s Memory Case external hard drive is pre-formatted with the FAT 32 file system, so it’s ready to go for use on a Windows computer or MAC computer. In terms of price, the Intenso hard drive does not differ from the other models presented so far in the comparison.

Power is supplied via the hard drive’s USB port, which is also used to connect to the computer and other devices. The maximum data transfer rate for reading is 85 megabits per second, and 75 megabits per second for writing. With these values, this model lags behind the other devices. The disk is available in different storage sizes, up to 5 terabytes.

  • FAT32 formatted for use with older versions of Windows as well as Apple and Linux.
  • Slower in comparison


5 Seagate Expansion Desktop External Hard Drive with 6 Terabytes of Storage

The Seagate Expansion Desktop series is specifically designed to offer users more storage space. And by more, we mean: A lot more. Because the storage capacity of this external hard drive is 6 terabytes. It is not suitable for mobile use, because it is in a 3.5 inch case, which requires an external power supply. The hard drive is ready to use under Microsoft Windows 7, 8 and 10 operating systems.

As with the other hard drives in this comparison, the connection between the hard drive and the end device is done with the USB cable and plug-and-play. The fast USB 3.0 connection is available, so that data can be transferred at a speed of 5 gigabits per second. If you want to use the hard disk on an Apple computer or a Linux operating system, you must first adapt the data format to the conditions.

Another special feature of this external hard drive is the fact that the manufacturer offers a two-year rescue service. So if problems occur and the user can no longer access his data, the manufacturer will step in and rescue the lost data free of charge.

  • 6 Terabyte storage capacity
  • 2 years rescue service
  • External power supply required


6. external hard disk Memory Drive from Intenso with bag

The Intenso Memory Drive has a storage capacity of 2 terabytes. Like most of the external hard drives in our comparison, the Intenso Memory Drive is also pre-formatted with FAT 32, so that every common operating system recognizes the hard drive immediately after connecting it.

  • The 2.5 inch hard drive
  • A carrying case
  • USB 3.0 cable

The Intenso hard drive has a high-gloss piano lacquer finish that enhances the look of the drive. USB 3.0 allows the Intenso external hard drive to achieve transfer rates ten times faster than a hard drive that has USB 2.0. The accompanying bag allows the hard drive to be transported well protected. In terms of price, the device is on a similar level as all other external hard drives in our comparison.

  • With protective cover against dust and dirt
  • Piano lacquer surface
  • Only available with 1 or 2 terabyte


7. maxone NL-K1TK-1CK9 external hard drive in gold – can also be used for PlayStation 4 or Smart-TV

The Maxone NL-K1TK-1CK9 is a portable 2.5-inch hard drive. Storage capacities of 160, 250, 320 and 500 gigabytes, as well as 1 terabyte and 2 terabytes are available with the model. Since the hard drive is a plug-and-play device, the user simply connects the hard drive to the appropriate computer via USB cable and they are ready to go. The hard drive works with the fast USB 3.0 standard.

The external hard drive works via USB 2.0 as it is backward compatible. It is possible to use it on a PlayStation 4 or a smart TV. To use it on a smart TV, the user needs to reformat the external hard drive in FAT32. This is because the device is formatted with an exFAT file system and supports Windows 10, 7, 8 and macOS X (10.6.5 and newer), but not smart TVs, game consoles or other playback devices.

  • Available in stylish colours
  • Small memory sizes for greater compatibility
  • File system needs to be changed for use on smart TVs or game consoles


8 Transcend StoreJet M3 external hard drive with anti-shock feature

Transcend’s StoreJet M3 external hard drive has a durable, shock- and slip-resistant silicone enclosure with anti-shock technology. The hard drive is available with a storage capacity of 500 gigabytes, 1 terabyte or 2 terabytes.

Data backup is done at the touch of a button, although this feature requires the Transcend Elite software to be installed on the computer. An LED status light indicates operation and data transfer. Power is supplied via the USB port.

Unlike most external hard drives reviewed so far, this hard drive from Transcend comes with a 3 year warranty. The data transfer rate is 5,120 megabytes (MB) per second – a common value for the external hard drives in our product comparison. If the Transcend hard drive is not used for more than 10 minutes, it automatically switches to sleep mode.

  • Shock-proof silicone case
  • LED status light
  • Data backup at the touch of a button
  • Only available up to 2 terabytes


9. external hard drive Maxtor M3 with SecretZone encryption

The Maxtor M3 external hard drive has a large storage capacity with its 2 terabytes of storage space. Moreover, the model comes in 500 megabyte (MB), 1 terabyte, 3 terabyte and 4 terabyte storage sizes. Data is encrypted on the drive via Maxtor’s SecretZone system, so it cannot be viewed by third parties.

Maxtor ships the drive with software that works as a backup solution. Once installed on the user’s own computer, the program backs up previously specified data from the computer’s hard drive to the mobile data carrier.

  • Backup solution included
  • Automatic encryption
  • Backup and encryption not for Linux


10 Intenso Memory Center – external 3.5 inch hard disk with up to 8 terabyte storage capacity

The Intenso hard disk Memory Center is an external 3.5 inch hard disk with plastic housing. It is simply connected to the computer via plug-and-play and can be used immediately. Power is supplied via the mains adapter and the Super Speed USB 3.0 connection ensures fast data transfer. The storage medium is downward compatible with USB 2.0.

The external hard drive has an LED indicator that shows the active data transfer. The maximum data transfer rate is 85 megabits per second when reading, while the speed is 75 megabits per second when writing. The storage medium works with the following operating systems

  • MS Windows XP/Vista/7/8/8.1/10
  • MAC OS X 10.6 or higher
  • Linux 2.4 or higher
  • High storage capacity available
  • External power supply required


11. external hard drive Western Digital My Passport WDBYFT0020BBK-WESN with password protection

The Western Digital My Passport WDBYFT0020BBK-WESN external hard drive is available in a variety of colors. The external hard drive is a portable and secure storage that is available with a storage capacity of up to 4 terabytes.

The hard drive is suitable for both local, automatic data backup and cloud backup. Optimized for Windows systems, the Western Digital hard drive can be reformatted to make it MAC compatible. Western Digital gives a warranty of 3 years on the external hard drive.

  • Password protection
  • 3 years warranty
  • Formatted for Windows


What is an external hard drive and why is it needed?

Externe Festplatte Test An external hard drive is a storage medium that is used, for example, on a computer or laptop. But external hard drives can also be connected to the Smart TV.

Files, pictures, videos or documents can be saved on a hard disk. Thus, in the event of a data crash of the computer, the data is not lost. The memory can be used as an archive for older data. Very large files such as films or videos can be stored on them.

The external storage media are small and light. In this way, the stored data can be used anywhere: a hard disk can serve as a storage for a business presentation in another city. It can help in exchanging large amounts of data between two people, or be a tool for backing up photos while on vacation.

External hard drives are available in a variety of storage sizes, and the USB 3.0 standard allows data to be transferred quickly from the computer or notebook to the external hard drive. A size of at least 2 terabytes is one of the most common external hard drives. In most cases, they are sufficient to store files, pictures, videos and the like. In addition, the external 2 terabyte hard drives have encryption to protect the data.

There are other storage media, such as the cloud or USB sticks. The capacity of USB sticks is not as large as that of external hard drives. The internal hard drive of the computer reaches its limits pretty quickly with the update of the operating system, videos and photos and other files.

And the cloud? For many, it’s too insecure to store sensitive data there. To give the computer more capacity again, external hard drives are ideal. These storage media are now available quite cheaply. Sensitive data can be physically backed up: the external hard drive is simply removed from the computer after the backup and stored elsewhere.

Gamers use the external hard disks as a memory expansion for the game consoles. If the gamer connects an external data medium to the game console, there is the possibility of saving applications and games on it. Especially when the console’s own storage space reaches its limits, the external hard drive is a good solution.

Externe Festplatten Test How external hard drives work: they have magnetic platters and a scanner reads the data and sends the read information to the computer via the USB port.

When was the external hard drive invented?

The first hard drive was built back in 1956. At that time, it was a storage medium made by the IBM company on behalf of the US Air Force. The Ramac 305 consisted of 50 aluminum plates, which had a diameter of 61 centimeters. Its storage capacity was only 5 megabytes (MB). The storage medium weighed one ton and had a transfer rate of 8.8 kilobytes per second.

By the 1960s, there were already several manufacturers of hard drives. The first external hard drives did not appear on the market until the 1990s, although there are no exact records of when the first external hard drive appeared on the market.

How much storage capacity does an external hard drive have?

Die besten externen Festplatten External hard disks can now be found in an extensive range in the trade. Manufacturers offer hard disks between 128 gigabytes and 8 terabytes in various sizes. The first companies have already announced hard drives in much larger dimensions, ranging from 50 to 80 terabytes. However, such sizes are not necessary for personal use. 2 terabytes are sufficient for most users and are a good guideline.

How much does an external hard drive cost?

The prices of external hard disks vary: the decisive factors are storage capacity, size and whether it is an HDD or SSD hard disk. External hard drives with 2 terabytes cost between 50 and 100 euros in the lower price segment. These are usually HDD hard drives, as SSD hard drives are more expensive. We describe the difference further down in the guide. Depending on the size, hard drives can cost several hundred euros, there is no upper price limit.

Where can I buy an external hard drive?

Wussten Sie folgendes? As with most computer-related products, there are several ways to buy external hard drives. You can get advice at your local retailer. The range of models is usually limited and the prices are usually higher than at the leading online retailers. In electronics departments of large department stores as well as discounters, there may be offers and promotions where memory disks are offered at low prices.
At online retailers, you will find a wide range of external hard drives and the devices can often be ordered and purchased from the manufacturer itself. In addition, the prices at online retailers are usually lower than in local stores.

A short digression – these storage media exist

There are many ways to outsource or additionally store data – an overview:

  1. The internally installed hard disk in the computer

    Computers are no longer always equipped with an internal hard disk. In some cases, new devices only have an SSD hard disk. Additional internal hard disks to supplement the SSDs can often be ordered from the manufacturer and installed. To install additional hard disks yourself, you need the necessary technical knowledge.

  2. USB sticks

    USB sticks are a smaller storage variant of the external hard drive. They only hold a few gigabytes, but are easier to transport. Photos, music or smaller film files can be transferred from one computer to another with these devices.
  1. SD cards

    SD cards are designed for cameras and smartphones. Due to their light weight, the devices are lightweight and, depending on the model, have a larger storage volume than USB sticks. With an appropriate reader, users can read the SD cards directly on the computer or laptop. Special SD cards in SDXC and SDUC format can store several terabytes, but are not necessary for current devices.
  2. CD, DVD or Blu-ray

    CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs are hardly common today: to back up the data on these media, you need a corresponding burner, which is no longer built into newer computers. The storage space is quite small and ranges from 25 to 50 gigabytes.
  3. Cloud

    Here the user does not store the data locally in one place, but on the online server of a service provider. In many cases, the service is only free for small amounts of data. Data access to the cloud is very flexible, the stored data can be accessed from any location and with any device. The prerequisite is an Internet connection.
  4. HomeServer

    They can be described as the “private cloud”. That is, users store the data on their own server or network hard drive, which is located locally on site.
  5. The external hard disk

    These storage media have a very large storage capacity and can also be used on the move due to their light weight. The connection to the computer or laptop is made via USB.

The advantages and disadvantages of the external hard drive

An external hard drive is flexible and mobile because it is not permanently installed in the computer. The connection is only made via the USB cable. Plug it into the computer when needed and unplug it when the data is backed up. Most external hard drives are plug-and-play to the computer and function like an internal hard drive in the PC. Depending on the model purchased, some external hard drives have additional features, such as a backup program, to completely back up the computer.

External hard drives are helpful for the daily exchange and backup of data: the stored files are always available and relieve the hard drive of the main computer. This is easy on the computer and the computer’s memory, which does not have to constantly access the hard drive.

Disadvantages of the devices: Since the hard disk is not permanently connected to the computer and is transportable, it can also be lost. Then the data is gone. Hard drives can be susceptible to shock and are usually not waterproof, so damage and data loss can also occur in this way.

  • Hard disk of the computer or notebook is protected
  • High read and write speeds
  • Data is always available on the go
  • Simple functionality with most hard drives through plug and play
  • HDD hard disks are susceptible to shocks
  • If the hard disk is lost or damaged, there is a risk of data loss if no backup is available.

Users should pay attention to the following when buying an external hard drive

Externe Festplatte Test und Vergleich When buying an external hard drive, users should first make sure that they buy a 2.5-inch hard drive. This is currently the standard format. Hard drives with 3.5 inches are a thing of the past and can almost only be found in the area of NAS and network hard drives.

The storage capacity

The larger the storage capacity, the more data can be backed up. Hard drives on the market range in size from 250 megabytes to 8 terabytes of storage – a huge difference. While the small version can’t even fit a feature film, users can back up entire media libraries on the large version and still have room for data. Currently, hard drives with 2 to 4 terabytes of storage space are the most common devices and are available in a good price-performance ratio.

The file system

Achtung: Das sollten Sie wissen! Every data carrier, whether hard disk, floppy disk, USB stick or CD has a certain structure with which it stores data – the so-called file system. Not every device to which an external hard disk can be connected can read and/or write to every file system. There are different systems for different storage media and operating systems. Here are some of the best known and most important ones:

  • APFS: Apple File System, since macOS 10.13.
  • ext4: Fourth Extended File System, used with the Linux operating system.
  • FAT32: File Allocation Table, a file system of Microsoft operating systems
  • NTFS: New Technology File System, today common file system for Windows 10

On newly purchased external hard disks, either the FAT32 system in a further developed variant or the NTFS system is used. However, it is up to the user to change the file system depending on the operating system used or the purpose of use. And for good reason: Some operating systems can read other file systems, but not write to them.

Most users are well served with the NTFS file system, which is used in Windows 10. Those who exclusively use Apple computers should format the hard drive with APFS. Those who need a good all-rounder should use FAT32.

The connections of the external hard drive

The majority of new external hard drives use USB 3.0 to connect to the computer. It is one of the most common and fastest connection types. Every computer has one or more USB ports. There are also external hard drives that connect via USB 2.0. They are much slower. If your computer doesn’t have USB 3.0 ports yet, that’s not a problem. Because USB 3.0 is backwards compatible and the external hard drives also work on USB 2.0 ports.

What other types of connections do I need to look out for on an external hard drive?

If you want to use the external hard drive in your own network so that you can access the data from any computer in the household, you need a NAS hard drive. They have WLAN, or at least a LAN connection, and can be connected to the router. A normal external hard drive, however, only has a USB port. The variants in 3.5 inches also have a connection for the external power supply for power supply.

Size and weight

If you want to use the external hard drive on the go, you have to pay special attention to the size and weight. Meanwhile, most external storage drives have similar dimensions.

What is the difference between HDD and SSD?

Vorteile The biggest difference in construction: An HDD platter has moving parts inside the device. The spinning magnetic platters are audible and the rattling of the read head and write head is also more or less audible. SSDs, on the other hand, do not have any moving parts. Similar to a USB stick, it uses memory chips as data storage.

The advantage of SSD hard drives is that they are silent and insensitive to vibrations. They are also smaller, lighter and faster. In addition, they have higher data rates. Last but not least, the service life also speaks in favour of SSDs: they have considerably more write cycles than HDDs.

On the other hand, the decisive advantage of HDDs is their price. Normal hard disks are considerably cheaper than SSD hard disks. With smaller storage capacities, the difference is not particularly large, from devices with a terabyte, the difference in price becomes clear.

Which are the best known manufacturers of external hard drives?

There are a number of well-known manufacturers who are active in the field of external hard drives. The best known are

  • Western Digital
  • Seagate
  • Intenso
  • Freecom

Is there a test winner in the Stiftung Warentest test of external hard drives?

Darauf sollten Sie achten Yes, Stiftung Warentest has published a test of external hard drives. However, the test is not particularly meaningful, because it dates back to 2010. At that time, the consumer organization examined a total of 30 different external data carriers under the microscope. Of these, 15 were in the 2.5 inch size and 15 in the 3.5 inch size. The storage capacity of the tested disks ranged from 500 gigabytes to one terabyte. The consumer organisation also explains the differences between the two available sizes of 2.5 and 3.5 inches.

The included software, free programs that can be downloaded from the Internet and the noise level when saving data were evaluated in the test. You can read here how the individual external hard drives performed and who was the test winner.

Has Öko-Test done a test of external hard drives?

Öko Test has not yet taken a closer look at external hard drives and has not chosen a test winner. Should that happen, we will publish the test result here. The consumer portal also does not offer a guide or other information about external hard drives.



External hard drive list 2021: Find your best external hard drive

  • Seagate Expansion Desktop External Hard Drive

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