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The best portable storage drives for your PC in 2019

Get one of the best portable storage drives for your PC and make sure you’re well placed to back up, transfer and take your files with you whenever you need to.

For those of us who need a bit of flexibility, or who really like being able to take their Steam collection with them, a portable storage drive is the perfect solution—on top of installing a hard drive or SSD that will give you all the local extra storage you need, adding one of the best portable storage drives is a worthy exercise and addition to your arsenal of gear.

More and more portable storage drives utilise the much faster USB Type-C Gen 2 and Thunderbolt 3 interfaces nowadays making them much more appealing as the difference in speed between an internal drive and an external one is bow almost nothing. And, as like much other PC tech nowadays, the best portable storage drives are fast-becoming some of the most affordable extra items, and have increasingly large capacities.

The thing is choosing one of the best portable storage drives is somewhat subjective. So, we’ve split our findings into three categories: best portable SSD, best rugged portable USB drive and best high-capacity portable hard drive. Testing lots of drives across these three categories, we’ve found that the Samsung Portable SSD T5 is the best SSD, the LaCie XtremeKey 128GB is the best rugged drive and the WD Passport 4TB is the best high-capacity drive. Read why below. And remember, if you're looking for a smaller drive to take your files on the go, go and check out the best USB flash drives on offer now.

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Best portable SSD

  • Much faster than USB flash drives
  • Easily fits in your pocket
  • Up to 2TB of storage capacity
  • Speed comes at a premium

For the power user who wants it all—speed, capacity, and portability—and is willing to pay a premium for it, Samsung’s Portable SSD T5 is one of the slickest solutions out there. It’s faster than any USB flash drive available, it has the capacity of a hard drive, and you can carry it inconspicuously in your pocket. In hockey, that’s called scoring a hat trick.

This spunky little drive shares the same DNA as Samsung’s 850 Evo SSD, just in a smaller package. It has a USB 3.1 Type-C connector, upgraded now to Gen 2, giving a maximum theoretical throughput of 10Gbps. We pitted it against a 512GB Samsung SM951 NVMe SSD connected over Gigabit Ethernet. The T5 ran the table in all eight CrystalDiskMark benchmarks and proved significantly faster in reading and writing game files and large files.

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Best rugged portable USB drive

  • Built like a tank
  • Completely water tight
  • Strong AES 256-bit encryption
  • Expensive for basic file transfers

What’s that, you're into skydiving and running with the bulls? If you’re a true adventurer, then it might not be speed, capacity, or value that top your list of priorities. What you need is a rugged flash drive, something that can survive horrifying levels of abuse.

There are a few different solutions, though one of the toughest USB flash drives out there is LaCie’s XtremKey. According to LaCie, you can run over this thing with a 10-ton truck without compromising your data. It can also withstand extreme temps from -50C to 200C, and it stays water tight when submerged up to 200 meters.

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Best high-capacity portable hard drive

  • It's cheap, bulk storage
  • Can automate backups
  • Doesn't require external power
  • Slow compared to flash-based drives

If you’re the resident chaperone for your child’s soccer team or school outings, you’re not going to roll up to events in a Ferrari: you’re busting out the minivan or SUV. When hauling kids and cargo, space trumps speed, and the same is true when you’re looking to backup or otherwise transfer large amounts of data from your PC. And for big backup chores, hard drives still offer the best bang for buck.

We like WD’s My Passport. It’s not as compact and fast as Samsung’s T3, and it can’t withstand armageddon like LaCie’s XtremKey, but at up to 4TB for $120, it offers the copious storage space at a good value. We also like that WD (aka Western Digital) fares well each time cloud backup provider Backblaze releases a hard drive reliability report.

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Storage, especially hard drives, has gotten cheaper and cheaper as time has gone by. It wasn't long ago that a 1TB HDD was an achievement. Now, you can fit that much storage in your pocket in the form of high-speed flash memory. After all, being able to easily take 220 DVDs worth of data with you is way more convenient than having to burn and store all of those discs. 

Solid state storage is still far more expensive than a hard drive, but the cost for SSDs is declining. As storage declines in cost, so too will external drives that rely upon those same components. However, an external drive will always cost more than an internal bare drive of the same capacity, since you're paying for the USB interface that talks to the drive. 

If you prefer to roll your own portable drive, there are hard drive enclosures available for both 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch HDDs and SSDs.

Some online stores give us a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Read our affiliate policy for more info.