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The Best External Hard Drives and SSDs for Photographers and Artists

Looking for the right external hard drive to help store or transport your work? Here are the best available, from large backup drives to ultra-portable SSDs.

If you’re in the market for an external hard drive to help you manage your photos or other creative work, you’ve probably noticed there are a lot of options out there.

And it’s an important decision. Every professional need a great hard drive to store their masterpieces until they are ready to share them with the world on their online photography portfolio or online art portfolio.

So we’ve compiled a list of the best options for photographers and artists. These external hard drives offer features that will be most important to creators, including speed, reliability, portability, and pricing. Let’s take a look!

Navigate through the article with our easy-to-use table of contents:

Best Portable Hard Drives

This category is for artists seeking the best all-around solution for taking their work on the go, whether it’s just a daily commute or traveling to a new city.

1. Western Digital My Passport (4TB)

Pros: Good capacity-to-price ratio

Cons: Slower than average when writing large files

Cost: $104.99 from Walmart (regularly $130.50)

This portable external hard drive is a great choice if you’re seeking large storage capacity at a fair price. It is also available in models ranging down to 1TB and costing around $60. But since the 4TB model is so reasonably priced, it is the perfect option if you want a portable external drive that you could use to back up all of your photos or work.

According to performance tests, the My Passport 4TB external drive is slightly slower than average when dealing with very large files. But it excels at writing large batches of smaller files and folders—which is what most photographers and artists will be dealing with, anyway.

The My Passport is slightly bulkier than some of the comparable external hard drives on the market, but not enough that you’ll find it cumbersome to lug around. It is 4.25 inches long, by 3.1 inches wide, and 0.85 inches thick. It weighs about eight ounces.

It also features a stylish design with a beveled texture on half the drive, and it’s available in six different colors.

2. Western Digital My Passport Wireless Pro (2TB)

Pros: Wireless transfers, SD card reader

Cons: No USB-C port

Cost: $138.99 on Amazon (MSRP $179.99)

The My Passport Wireless Pro was designed with photographers and videographers in mind. It has a number of features that aim to make it as easy as possible to offload, edit, or view photos and stream high-definition videos. For one, it has an integrated SD 3.0 card reader, so you can skip a step when it comes to getting your photos and videos off of your camera.

In addition, the hard drive’s Wi-Fi capabilities mean you can transfer images wirelessly from compatible cameras. Using the My Cloud mobile app, you can also wirelessly stream video from the drive to your mobile devices.

Best High-Capacity External Hard Drives

This category focuses on the best external drive with enough capacity to back up all your work.

3. WD My Book Duo (8TB)

Pros: RAID ready, large capacity

Cons: Lackluster speed

Cost: $320.99 on Amazon (MSRP $329.99)

The My Book Duo offers exceptional capacity. It is available in models ranging up to 20TB that are currently selling for around $780. But since that kind of capacity will be overkill for most artists, the 8TB model is a more reasonable option.

This external hard drive can be switched to different RAID configurations to either optimize performance or protect your data in the event of a hard drive crash. Since losing all of your creative work is any creators’ worst nightmare, being able to set up that extra level of protection is a very valuable feature.

The My Book Duo also offers decent performance with sequential read speeds up to 360 MB per second. As you might expect, it is not designed to be portable, so it is quite bulky and weighs over five pounds.

Best Portable SSDs

This category is for those who don’t mind spending a little more to get the latest technology in a compact package. These drives are especially helpful when you’re traveling with limited free space in your luggage, such as when taking a travel photography workshop.

4. Samsung T5 Portable SSD (500GB)

Pros: Very compact, fast, wide compatibility

Cons: A bit pricey

Cost: $107.99 on Amazon (regularly 129.99)

This external solid state drive can offer compact size and blistering speeds. In Samsung’s promotions, they’ve boasted that this external SSD drive is smaller than the average business card. It’s also only 0.4 inches thick and weighs about 1.8 ounces.

Since it’s an SSD drive, this external hard drive is not cheap. However, the 500GB model offers a great option. It won’t break the bank and it should offer ample storage for many creative professionals. If you’re looking for a compact drive for simply carrying your photos or work from the studio to home and vice versa, the Samsung T5 is the perfect choice.

If you’re dealing with very large amounts of data, this SSD is also available with capacity up to 2TB. However, that model will cost you $479.99.

It makes a good choice for an external hard drive for Mac and PC, as it works seamlessly with both operating systems. Lastly, this portable SSD drive has a USB-C interface that enables transfer speeds up to 540 MB per second.

5. Adata SD700 External SSD (512 GB)

Pros: Rugged and compact

Cons: No USB-C cable included

Cost: $165.42 on Amazon (regularly $180.70)

The SD700 external SSD is built for durability. It is dustproof, waterproof, and shockproof. It’s a great choice if you know your external drive is going to get subjected to some abuse, such as if you’re going to have to do a lot of traveling with your data for shooting video or photos in remote locations. But it’s also handy if you’re someone who tends to drop things!

This solid-state hard drive is compact enough to slip into a small pocket in your backpack or jacket without even noticing it, and its rugged enough that you don’t have to worry about it.

Performance tests show that his external hard drive is not quite as fast as other SSDs on the market. But if you’re upgrading from a standard hard drive, the SD700 will still be much faster than you’re used to. According to the specifications, it can provide speeds up to 440 MB per second.

The combination of ruggedness and reasonable pricing make this external SSD worth checking out.

6. SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD (1TB)

Pros: Compact size, durable construction

Cons: Not quite as fast as some other SSDs

Cost: $189 from SanDisk (regularly $249.99)

This solid state external hard drive has a lot in common with Adata SD700 External SSD. They both feature compact and durable designs. Where they start to differ is in the size and speed, as this drive is larger and faster. It offers read speeds up to 550 MB per second.

Also, since you can currently find this drive on sale, you can pick up the 1TB model for a very reasonable price.

It has an attractive, unique design and the whole drive is covered in a textured, ergonomic casing. It also has a cutaway on one corner so you can attach it to things like a keychain or a backpack. So if you are looking for an SSD external hard drive that’s good for traveling—and 500 GB of storage just won’t cut it—this is a solid choice.

Best External Hard Drive for Mac

This category covers the best hard drives that are optimized for Apple computers.

7. Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt (1TB)

Pros: Thunderbolt interface

Cons: Less usability on PC

Cost: $128.98 on Amazon (regularly $239.99)

The MiniStation Thunderbolt offers an affordable way to take advantage of the outstandingly fast Thunderbolt interface. It’s not an SSD hard drive, but, using the Thunderbolt connection, it can provide speeds up to two times faster than USB 3.0.

It’s also currently available for a very reasonable price. This external drive is regularly listed as $239.99, but many suppliers are now offering it for around half that. There’s also a 2TB model available that’s regularly priced at $319.99 and is currently heavily discounted to around $220. So if you’re going to pick up this external hard drive, make sure you shop around.

In addition to the Thunderbolt interface, this portable hard drive also has a USB 3.0 connection to offer wider compatibility. So it can be used on PC setups, but you’ll miss out on a few features when you’re not using it on a Mac. For instance, it is pre-formatted for Mac computers and offers support for scheduling backups on Macs using Time Machine.

8. Samsung Portable SSD X5 (1TB)

Pros: Incredible speed, attractive styling

Cons: Expensive

Cost: $449.99 on Amazon (MSRP $699.99)

The Portable SSD X5 is like the Cadillac of Apple external hard drives. PCMag.com has called it the “best external hard drive for Mac creative work,” and it’s easy to see why. While it is very expensive, if you have the means, it offers several top-of-the-line features that earn it a place on this list of the best external hard drives available.

Since it’s an SSD drive and it uses a Thunderbolt 3 interface, it’s able to offer unparalleled transfer speeds. It can read data at up to 2,800MB per second, and can write data at up to 2,300MB per second.

That’s useful for transferring things like large video files. In performance tests conducted by Samsung, the Portable SSD X5 was able to move a single 20 GB file of 4K video footage to a desktop in about 10 seconds. That means you can spend less time waiting and more time being productive.

It also features a shock-resistant design that protects the drive from drops of up to two meters. All of these features combined make this the best external SSD for Mac.

There’s a 2TB model of this external hard drive, but it has a suggested retail price of $1,400 (!). For that reason, the 1TB model offers a much more accessible way to get your hands on its cutting-edge features.

9. LaCie Porsche Design Mobile Drive (2TB)

Pros: Fast USB-C connection

Cons: Lacks extra features.

Cost: $84.99 on Walmart (MSRP $89.99)

When compared to the other recommendations on this list, this external hard drive offers a more affordable choice for Mac users. It allows you to get a 2TB hard drive with a fast USB-C interface at a reasonable price.

This portable hard drive was designed specifically for Mac computers, so it can work seamlessly as a backup drive. It also features an attractive design that’s meant to complement your other stylish tech (including an aluminum finish that’s designed to match a MacBook).

Best Cheap External Hard Drives

This category is for the most affordable hard drives that still provide a reasonable level of performance and reliability.

10. Seagate Backup Plus Slim (2TB)

Pros: Lightweight, great value

Cons: No USB-C compatibility, warranty is only two years

Cost: $69 on Amazon (MSRP $124.99)

The Backup Plus Slim is an external hard drive that offers exceptional value. If you are looking for a decent amount of storage capacity at a low price, it may be the right external drive for you.

Reviewers have praised its speed, reliability, and easy-to-use backup software. According to the Seagate website, this is an external hard drive for Mac and PC that can be used with interchangeably with no need to reformat. However, several reviewers have pointed out that the external hard drive comes formatted as an NTFS drive. So while you don’t have to reformat it to get it to work on Macs, you may need to download an NTFS driver for your Mac.

If you have more money to spend, the Backup Plus is also available in non-slim models ranging up to 5TB. They are currently selling for about $125.

But for those on a tight budget, the 2TB version offers an affordable choice that doesn’t skimp on features.

Curate Your Work

Now you know which hard drives offer the best options for securing your work. At this point, it’s a good time to go through your work and decide what pieces you want to share with the world. That can be a difficult proposition, as creatives tend to become very attached to their projects.

If you’re struggling to choose the best photos or artworks for your portfolio, one thing that can help is getting a second opinion. Try to go to a colleague or friend who knows something about the industry, but failing that, any pair of fresh eyes can help you narrow down your focus.

Another thing to keep in mind is your audience. If you plan to use your online portfolio to attract potential clients, choose to show off projects that are related to the type of gigs you want, whether it’s wedding photography or pet portraits.

If you want some more tips on picking images, check out this guide on how to curate your portfolio.

Get Your Portfolio Up and Running

You don’t have an online portfolio for showing off your work? No problem! Setting one up is fast and easy, so long as you choose the right website builder.

Look for an online portfolio that offers a free trial so you can test it out before making a commitment. Also, try to find a site with a built-in online store. This is ideal for photographers and other artists because you’ll have a single website where you can show off your work and sell it.

With your new external hard drive in hand, your work will be, thankfully, safe forever!

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